A Contemporary Tragicomedy

On Christmas Eve, a Filipino white collar pastor stands beneath a single spotlight, on a stage laced with lit candles and dancing Christmas lights. He preaches his weekly sermon with a dash of Yuletide cheer, his steady and coherent voice reaching the ears of a packed hall of eager listeners. He says, “It’s scary to be a follower of Christ in a world that’s beginning to reject him more and more.” I find my mind’s hands building a tower of unsaid rebuttals in the metropolis of my thoughts.

Oh, how I wonder how terrifying it must be to love a deity few people will deny the existence of. How bone-chilling it must be to know someone is always there watching over you, keeping you safe from all forms of evil. How blending into a community of supportive followers must strike terror into the heart of every Christian, and how their fingers must tremble over the Bible’s front cover, laid gingerly atop a bedside table with no need to keep it hidden from the world out of trepidation. How haunting it must feel to be accepted… and loved.

Dear Pastor Sir, you are the most spectacular comedian I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching live. It has never been more clear that my fears as an atheist have a snowball’s chance in hell of holding a candle to those of a believer.

I am the worse-case result of what appeared to be a best-case scenario: raised by a pastor and his wife only to wind up the local disgrace. I am the unintentional aftermath: the apple that fell from the tree into another orchard altogether. I am the less than two percent: my wrists slim enough to slip from the shackles of the Bible. I am the what a shame, she could have been something wonderful: the gift of skill and wisdom that fell apart without the ribbon of faith to wrap everything presentably. I am ostracized, belittled, and made to believe on a daily basis that I stand on level ground with thieves, murderers, and rapists. I am labeled as someone without morals, who is likely to become a thief, murderer, or rapist.

When has it ever occurred that one’s faith in a god led their own family to refuse to recognize them? When has one’s church attendance erased the respect their colleagues once had for them? When has folding hands in prayer prompted the raise of a fist or slice of a verbal blade?

If the life of a believer is to be feared, then my life must be a blockbuster horror flick with billions of people in the audience—yet not one person who cares enough to play my stunt double or watch behind the scenes.