So, when we left off, our intrepid heroine (me) was heading off to college. I had planned on going to college in CA, but I changed my mind at the last minute. Instead, I ended up going to St. Olaf, which was closer to home–but not too close. For the first time, I lived away from my family. For the first time, I wasn’t being given rules and regulations to follow. For the first time, I had to make all my own decisions. It was scary as hell, but also a bit thrilling.
I became good friends with a few girls in my corridor (we had corridors our first year, and each corridor had to Junior Counselors (JCs) who helped us first-years navigate the waters), and I became tight with many guys. In my younger years, I found it easier to relate to boys than girls. My female friends in college used to ask me how I got to be friends with so many guys. I said, “I treat them like people.” Most of my female friends never quite understood what I was saying.
I quit going to church the minute I went to college. I had to take a few religion classes, but I dealt with that. I really liked one of my religion profs, John Barbour, if I remember correctly, because he had fun questioning the creeds and the tenets. I had him my junior year, and he told the class that he liked to start out his first-year classes with this thought: “God committed infanticide.” The minute he told us that, he had me hooked.
Anyway, back to my faith and life in college. God was pushed to the periphery, if he was ever central to me at all. I went about my merry business flirting with the boys, going to class, being a front desk monitor as part of my work study program, and in general, living it up. I didn’t give much thought to God, except as a built-in guilt tester. I didn’t drink, smoke, do drugs, or have sex in my first year of college. I was, quite frankly, a prude at the time–even though I no longer believed in the Christian God.
I have to take a break so I can describe to you the casual hypocrisy I found at the Bible School camp I attended. Yes, it’s just one incident, but I found it sadly indicative of the mindset of Christians I knew in general. In fact, I don’t think much has changed. Look at the so-called Christian folks who prance around in the spotlight. Would you want to break bread with any of them? I sure wouldn’t. The far-right religious wingers remind me of my early vision of God–steely-eyed, pursed mouth of disapproval, and a checklist of all the things you do wrong.
So, at the camp, we had a Bible verse competition in which each kid tried to recite the most Bible verses by memory. It was divided down the gender line so boys only competed against boys and girls against girls. On the girls side, it came down to me and one other girl. I was 16, and she was 14 . I was Asian and gawky, and she was white and cute as a button. The rules were that each girl had to recite the verse perfectly by memory (probably from the King James Bible, but I’m not positive on that) without any prompting or help from the counselors.
When the other girl, let’s call her Mary, started struggling, the counselors began feeding her a word or two. When I protested, they said that it was fair because she was younger. I got no prompting or cues, and she eventually ‘won’. The prize was a camera, and I was mad. No coaching means no coaching, except, I guess, when it means coaching. Sound familiar? The rules are set in stone, unless we do something against the rules–and then it doesn’t count. Yes, I’m still bitter about it.
Ok. Back to college. My first year, I still hung on to the trappings of my religion, even though I no longer bought the tenets. Even though I no longer believed in a God who sits up in the sky and judges me, I still acted as if I would be struck dead if I wavered from the path of righteousness. I would lecture anyone else who drank as if I were some kind of moral authority. It’s funny in retrospect, but I was probably a big, fat, pain in the ass at the time.
Second year. I was a little bit older, and not a whole lot wiser. I was dealing with an eating disorder, and I was pissed off about not having a boyfriend. In addition, I started to realize that I was Asian, and I was pissed about the racism that surrounded me. I started dating a Sri Lankan I’ll call D (because that’s what I called him), who was himself a Christian. He told me from the beginning that he couldn’t marry me because he had to marry someone Sri Lankan, but I ignored his caveat. I knew he was the man I meant to marry. He was my soulmate, the man God had sent for me. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I didn’t believe in God, but that didn’t mean I didn’t still cling to my old beliefs.
I started hanging out with his friends who were mostly Indians from India and Hindu. It was the first time I had been around people who weren’t Christians, and it was an eye opener for me. I immersed myself into the Asian community, and I started divorcing myself from my upbringing. I watched as a Christian pastor told my Hindu friend that she was going to hell. I watched as people partied hard Saturday night, only to show up in chapel with blood-shot eyes the next morning. I did go once in awhile. I hated the fact that every sidewalk led to the chapel, but as someone pointed out, all the sidewalks led away from it, as well. I realized it was true, and it was like a weight had been lifted from my heart.
That same year, I started questioning the idea of children. I quickly concluded that I didn’t want them, and I moved on to the idea of marriage. That was a little more squishy for me because I loved D, and I thought the natural progression of a relationship ended at the altar. Early in our relationship, he wanted to have sex with me. He was a virgin as was I. I demurred for several reasons. It was only after we had broken up once (over the summer) and gotten back together the next year that we finally had sex. You know what? I didn’t get struck by lightning, nor did the Hand of God did not come down to smite me. Instead, I found out pretty quickly that I really liked sex. A lot. It was one of the best things I’d ever done. It got me thinking as to why I hadn’t done it earlier.
Ok. We are running long again. I’m going to wrap this up for now and return to it tomorrow.