This letter to Salon‘s advice columnist Cary Tennis will be familiar to a lot of readers:
I am an African-American male who, after several years of being a conservative, evangelical Christian, now considers myself to be a “Jesus-admiring, agnostic humanist” who also attends weekly church services at a predominantly African-American Missionary Baptist congregation with my conservative Christian wife. In light of this, I have long agonized over the idea of announcing my philosophical position to my Christian spouse, family and friends.
He’s risking a lot by coming out. But perhaps he’ll be worse off if he keeps this to himself.
Tennis actually has good advice at first:
Now, of course, in a way your wife does love exactly who you are. I feel sure that there is something about your questioning nature, your rational mind, your courage, your clear-eyed vision, that she does love deeply. Nonetheless, when we reveal who we really are, it changes the nature of love. It changes how we are loved, and for what. She can no longer love you as a churchgoing man if you stop going to church.
And there is the frightening possibility hovering at the edges that our lover might not love us at all, but only the false self we have presented. We do love characters in movies and books that are not real. Why should we not fall in love with other invented characters? For that matter, how could anyone love our true self if we have kept our true self secret?
So you risk a lot. But you risk it for the biggest prize of all: to be loved for who you really are.
Of course, Tennis screws it all up with his last couple paragraphs.
… I know how gut-wrenching such a separation will be because the black Protestant community is not just a place one goes to worship, it literally can become the social center of one’s life. Voluntarily cutting himself off from his religious community is like suffering a cherem. It’s worse than excommunication; it’s literally a social exclusion which could seriously damage his marriage and literally leave him isolate…
So how would you advice this person?
Should he come out and be honest?
Should he suck it up and keep his cultural ties to church even if he doesn’t believe in God?
Normally, I’m all for people coming out as atheists. This twist makes it a lot harder, though, and I’m not so quick to think I know the answer.
(via Racialicious — Thanks to Eliza for the link!)