This article, and hopefully those which will follow it on Sacerdotium, is an introduction to a series which will have to do with my personal antipathy for the majority religion in the United States: Christianity. I have chosen the term “antipathy” because I have found other synonyms to be too strong. It is not a “loathing” or “hatred” for the Christian majority. “Repugnance” was a close synonym, but again was too strong. Instead, the best word to describe it was “antipathy,” a term which I think captures the psychological aversion to and the emotional sense of being against the Christian cultural hegemony. What follows is a personal and truthful depiction of the internal anger and dislike for Christianity because of what can be best described as its hegemonic cultural role in the United States.
I was inspired to write about this topic based on a series of conversations I have had over the years with my close friend Adam von Friedeck, a citizen and ally of my micronation, who is also a Mormon. I have often asked him about the Church of Latter-Day Saints, and he periodically asks me about Buddhism. I have also shared similar conversations with many others, like my roommate, Mark—raised in the evangelical and charismatic church of Sovereign Grace Ministries—, and my close friend from Second Life, Pet Karu—a mystic Christian pastor and counsellor. This emotional “antipathy” often arose when discussing Christianity or religion in general, but I practised to transform this anger and frustration into a meditative practice to cultivate understanding and remove ignorance.
Full disclosure: I was not always successful. I often became angry and I often let that anger fester, instead of nipping it in the bud.
But, in my religion, the practising of the Dharma is a path, and I am still afloat in the Ocean of Samsara, so it would be wrong not to acknowledge that there were some setbacks.
This series of articles is intended to discuss this antipathy for a wide-ranging audience, but often couched in Buddhist terms. (like “practising the Dharma”) After all, I know I am not alone in this antipathy—and, ironically, I know that there are even some Christians who face it too!
First, however, I must describe my personal story and context, since this is very much a personal story and commentary. Then, I want to try to capture in writing the internal logic and reasoning of this antipathy by providing some notable examples from my own personal life. Next, I will address the topic of abuse by evangelicals, well-intentioned or not, and how good intentions are nice but not the complete barometer by which actions are measured. (This goes both ways.)
Finally, this antipathy is in many ways a tool for future development. I have often found that this anger and frustration can be transformed into a personal and social tool. It has been a tool, for example, by which I have formed my own independence as a young adult. It can also be a meditative tool for Buddhists to better understand and cope with the world around them—a world sometimes hostile to the sangha or often just ignorant of the Buddhist community. Finally, the last two elements of this “tool” of antipathy are social and political. Like conflict in general, this antipathy can be used as a tool for solidarity with other minority religions and to be used as a platform for future cross-cultural and interfaith work. But this does not mean that Christians are barred from the circle, because the following article addresses a wider picture of “Christendom.” (a concept some Christians still use!) Instead, this small series will finish with a discussion of breaking down monolithic “Christian” narratives. In part, I will have to address some denominations’ and theologians’ exclusive understanding of the term “Christian.” As an outsider looking-in, I will tend to lump together different Christian sects into the name “Christian,” but a few radicals speak fervently against this practice of lumping Orthodox, Catholics, mainstream Protestants, Baptists, Methodists, and some other fundamentalist and charismatic churches together. Understandable—given the incredible divergence in beliefs—but this antipathy is a useful heuristic device for religious outsiders and minorities AND a good political tool when “Christianity” is used as jargon by the Religious Right.
I have decided to write about my experience for a multitude of reasons. First, I think this sort of journalling is good practice for writing and for collecting one’s thoughts. It helps me to think more clearly and to express myself more coherently with others. Second, I am sure I am not alone in this antipathy. I think I have “sensed” it in other religious minorities like me. Third, I hope that others will connect my personal experience to other social phenomena to broaden my own social scientific awareness. Finally, if this personal commentary on my own life growing up as a Buddhist convert can be of benefit to anyone, I hope that it will help others who are struggling or who have struggled with these same emotions and sentiments and that it will help others of the “religious majority” to think about about their prejudices and assumptions.
- My personal story
- Why Antipathy? and How a few Well-Intentioned Abusive Evangelicals are self-defeating
- Using this Antipathy: Start by Claiming your Independence
- Using this Antipathy: Antipathy as a Meditative Tool
- Using this Antipathy: Forming Interfaith, Minority-Religious Solidarity
- Using this Antipathy: Breaking down Monolithic “Christian” Narratives
- I do not completely vouch for the implications of everything I write, but I am willing to discuss them to hone my meaning. I caution against extrapolating meaning and applying to other contexts and other people. Life is complex and people are difficult to understand.
- This series is not meant to place blame on Christians or any religious majority, but instead is my own personal discussion of my experience as a Buddhist convert. I may use the term “Christian privilege” or “privilege of the religious majority,” meant here to mean the same thing. But, as all/most conceptions of “privilege” go, this does not negate lack of privilege in other areas.
- I do not avow that these articles will be high-brow. Those of you familiar with my more academic musings might be thoroughly disappointed. This is more of a think-piece.
- I will only tolerate some abuse and trolling. Once I reach my limit, I will freely delete, block, and ban as needed—on whatever medium. Sorry.
About the Author
Gaius Soergel Publicola is the Sôgmô of the State of Sandus, a micronation in the United States of America. Það is the leader (Sacer Flamen) of the Collegium Sacerdotum, of which Sacerdotium is a publication. Soergel Publicola was raised in the Episcopal Church of America by a Catholic-raised mother and a Presbyterian-raised father, but rejected the faith at a young age. As a young adult, the Sacer Flamen decided to convert to Tibetan Buddhism in April 2009 after three years of searching for a religious path.
A month later, það founded the State of Sandus.