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Reply to "Tolerance of Intolerance?"

Originally posted by HonestBrother:
Originally posted by kresge:
Is there a particular situation or circumstance which you have in mind with this question?

Kresge, that's a good question. I suppose the immediate context is Melesi's accusation that I don't give his posts a fair reading.

But to be fair, it goes far beyond that. As a single non-Christian, who has just moved to a new town, living in the Bible belt, in a place where the first thing people ask you when they meet you is "Where do you go to church?", in a place where even in the online dating community the women all declare "You can't love me if you can't love Jesus", I frankly find the Christian presence oppressive. There really is no other word to describe my response. They're the overwhelming majority. They create a social hell for those who don't share their views. Then they call you intolerant.....

I'm a professor - a mathematician - the very first African American in my school's department. I've recently experienced an extremely disturbing incident at work which involved a white colleague trying to force not only her views about religion on me but race and politics as well. The result was a hostile/strained/stressful work environment. I wound up in the emergency room under the stress. And the response from the Hyper-Christianized black community - who by the way badly need mathematicians - in the way of moral support? Nil. Nada. These fools are more worried about people going to the right church than they are about the fact that math and science are among the top barriers to African American academic success in higher education.

It's really wearisome. There are huge issues at stake and too large a portion of the black community is too strung out on Jesus (or crack) to be useful.

In fact, the black Christians here have been worse than the racist white folks

I am grieved to hear about your experience. I spent 12 years in academia as a college/university chaplain. Before my theological training, however, I obtained a B.S. in physics and mathematics, and an M.A. in physics. So I think that I might be able to relate to your situation from several positions.

With respect to the AA community, I think that science and mathematics, little priority seems to be given to these disciplines. There seems to be much more of a connection with arts associated wth cultural production as opposed to natural sciences. So there is a sense of isolation if not ostracization of those who pursue vocations in this area.

With respect to religion in the AA community, I find it often to be a reflection of the worst of the dominant culture. To the extent that the majority culture promotes a "Christianity" that might be characterized as simplistic, biblicistic, anachronistic, and oppressive; the state of affairs seems to be exacerbated in many black communities.

Again, even though I am a Christian, I can relate to being a religious outsider in a community. I came to Houston, TX three years ago from Michigan to pursue a Ph.D in philosophical theology. I was shocked by how regressive and parochial the churches were here. I had assumed that in a large metropolitan area, that I would find a progressive faith community. I was wrong. There is one American Baptist Church (the denomination of my ordination) in town. It is very progressive, open, affirming, inclusivist, but it is all white. I have attended a Unitarian Universalists church that is more diverse from a racial ethnic sense, but there are certain aesthetic/religious sensibilities that are not met there as well.

Further, I have found it easier to say that I am working on a doctorate in philosophy than in religion and I likewise tell few people that I am a minister. I made this mistake with one physician, and things got very weird, very fast, as he was some extreme pentecostal.

Unfortunately, much of the non-Christian AA community is not much better. Most of the non-Christian religious expression that I have seen here, still tend toward an exceptionalist and exclusivist posture.

I hope that your situation improves. I wish you well also on the social front. Despite the lack of understanding and marginalization I feel in the community, I have been blessed with a an open, intellectual curious spouse.