Perhaps this will seem like an extended complaint. So be it. In the past few weeks, I have heard more statements prefaced by the title’s phrase than I care to tally. Regardless of the topic at hand, it seems a Christian will eventually place a hand upon the heart, adopt a mask of yearning anguish, and say,
“As a Christian, I feel that…”
Most egregious of all is the frequency with which this phrase seems to fly from my English professor’s faithful lips. My British literature class is currently studying Christopher Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus,
a story deeply entrenched in Christian lore; naturally, much of the resulting analysis involves discussion of biblical stories. I have no problem with this; as the story draws largely upon the Bible, it would be impossible to fully dissect themes and symbolism without mentioning Christian dogma.
My problem, however, arises when objectivity leaves the classroom and scholastic discourse morphs into religious promotion. As we were talking about the frequent usage of Latin in the play, one student asked if that was the language used when people “spoke in tongues.” I had to restrain myself from immediately condemning religious hysteria; I know my words would have been misinterpreted and only brought condemnation down upon myself.
Suddenly, the classroom was an open forum for various students’ stories and experiences about “speaking in tongues.” Fortunately, no student spoke up with a personal account or I fear I may have let forth an offensive peal of laughter. However, several students were quite adamant that people did indeed speak in unknown languages while under the influence of the almighty divine and that there were even “special” people who could interpret what the hysterical babbler was saying.
Fine. So there were some religious crazies in the classroom, big deal; everyone is free to express their own opinion. But then the professor decided to make her inevitable, dramatic declaration. With pining eyes and a manicured hand clasped to her breast, she offered:
“As a Christian, I feel that while I have never experienced it, I will respect anything to do with the Holy Spirit. If God chooses to speak to people in that manner, then I will never speak out against it because I am afraid of speaking out against God. I figure that it is better to allow for the possibility, just in case.”
Just in case of what? Aside from this mangled version of Pascal’s wager, I had to exert some serious effort to withhold my laughter. If God is so infinitely powerful and wise, is speaking in tongues really the best way that he could devise to communicate with the human race? How much more inefficient could he have been, to babble incoherently through a hysterical devotee while another semi-hysterical person is required to translate? Really?
But the primary part that concerns me about the professor’s statement is its prefacing condition. “As a Christian…” What does that even mean? Is it a warning that the subsequent statement is probably not grounded in reality? Perhaps a more accurate preface would be, “As an adult who clings to unsubstantiated fantasy and imaginary friends…” However, I assume that this is not the intent. More likely, the phrase is meant to invoke the social etiquette which deems the direct criticism of a person’s religion to be improper. Any further questioning on my part would be considered antagonistic, offensive, and hurtful; by violating the immunity of respect assumed by religious mouthpieces, I would instantly be the cruel and ruthless atheist.
But how is this appropriate in any sort of real debate? How can anyone possibly carry on a meaningful discussion when one side adheres to emotional pleas and calls upon ludicrous cultural decorum to silence any opposition?
Wait, I just discovered my problem…I am attempting to have meaningful debates with religious people. Silly me. But in my defense, as a community college student in the middle of evangelical Texas I am not left with much of a choice.