Despite the fact that most of my friends on Facebook are adult missionary kids (AMKs), for the most part, I am out of the loop when it comes to the Evangelical, fundamentalist missionary community. This makes sense, since I myself would likely be a topic of missionary circle gossip, being a lapsed Christian. Still, I have always found it hard to imagine that folks would find me an interesting topic for a conversation (or gossip, as the case may be). Sure, I find myself interesting, but what person with a (semi)healthy ego doesn’t? I don’t find the vast majority of my AMK friends in the least bit interesting. In fact, almost all of them are the most boring people I have ever encountered: most of them don’t care about literature, art or any music other than the kind that serves the utilitarian purpose of worshiping their god. Most of them pathologically read their Bibles and parrot verses and platitudes as a way of life. They are all the same–they have become sheep for the shepherd.
I had always assumed the feeling was mutual on the other side, that I would be seen as uninteresting due to my difference, so it came as a big surprise when I recently discovered I had been discussed in a missionary circle by someone I didn’t even know. What was said about me was not something I was expecting. If I had to imagine what Christian AMKs would say about me it would go something like this:
Sheep One: “Have you heard about Clamence?”
Sheep Two: “No, what about him?”
Sheep One: “Well, he’s turned his back on God and is this really arrogant atheist, and he even has this website where he talks about everything that’s wrong with God and Christians.”
Sheep Two: “Oh my goodness, that’s terrible!”
Sheep One: “I know! He was always so funny and friendly. It just goes to show how much energy Satan will put into attacking the children of those who carry out God’s most important work.”
Sheep Two: “Amen! So tell me more of the evil things he does…”
Since some variation of the above dialogue is what I expected, I steeled myself for this when a Christian AMK friend of mine (currently living in Africa) offhandedly mentioned that I had been a topic of conversation. Instead of reporting what I expected, he told me a Christian missionary had expressed admiration at “how you’ve taken all the ICA bastards under your wing,” and have “become the godfather for all those who have finally escaped fundamentalism and were rejected by their own families.” I received these thought-provoking comments a few months back, and I really didn’t know what to make of them. Here is what I said in response back then:
That’s interesting what you said about my being the Godfather of the fugitives. Haha! It’s interesting to hear about me when things trickle down the missionary grapevine. From my perspective, I’m just a guy who is shameless and outspoken about my worldview. Most MK non-believers I have observed have decided to simply extricate themselves from missionary and MK circles–they seem a little cowed into silence, from my perspective. I have always thought I have just as much of a right to hang out with MKs and missionaries as anyone else. The non-believing minority of MKs shouldn’t have to feel like they are social pariahs because they aren’t passing the missionary circle’s litmus test. I do realize some missionary circles will never be welcoming to a secular minority, but that just helps to emphasize their lack of tolerance. I don’t know about the accuracy of the mother hen metaphor; I don’t really know too many non-believing MKs, and I haven’t ever felt like their leader, or anything like that. I’m also not aware of anyone I know who was rejected by his family (unless “rejection” is meant in a less severe manner than I am imagining).
I think some of my confusion, resulting from all the “Godfather” and “ICA bastards” talk, was due to why this person (a missionary) who had admired the role I was supposedly playing had seen it in such a positive light. It took me awhile to figure out that this person is self-identifying as a moderate, non-fundamentalist Christian. In other words, this missionary is agreeing with me that fundamentalism is a negative thing, and he thinks that his form of belief is non-fundamentalist and (therefore) healthy. It was difficult for me to recognize that he was implying this, since I make little differentiation between types of Christians. To me, if you’re a Christian, the very root of your paradigm is absurd; any house built upon the sand of a falsehood will result in a way of interpreting the world that will collapse at the faintest wind of reason. The only real difference I see between a liberal Christian and a fundamentalist Christian is that the liberal ones have more of a live and let live attitude (and they’ll drink a beer with you); the fundies, on the other hand, have much more of a Hitler complex: they know the way the world should be, and they are damned sure going to try their hardest to force others to share that vision. To summarize: 1) Liberal Christians=enjoyable to hang out with, but preposterous ideas about upward-sky floating zombies and invisible creatures, 2) Fundie Christians=assholes.