Sunday, December 12, 2010

Tangent to the last post:

Second location/situation that makes me feel isolated from "the black community", especially the black Princetonian community, probably to an even larger degree than do black parties: The Black Church. Well, okay, the Princeton University Gospel Ensemble concerts, which is basically the same thing. I only know of one other active member of the black community here who is's hard out here for black non-Christians!

I basically feel socially obligated to go to PUGE concerts. There were approximately 3 people on stage tonight with whom I am neither friends nor acquaintances. I want to be able to treat a PUGE concert like I treat one of K's Glee Club concerts. In fact, no offense to K, but I want to be able to appreciate it even MORE, because gospel is much more closely related to the kind of music I enjoy listening too. I want to be able to go support and appreciate my friends' musical endeavors. But when the first words out of the emcee's mouth are Praise God, and when she says (like they always say) that we are not here to enjoy a concert, but to praise and worship our Lord, all I feel is isolated. I don't know about the rest of you, but I came here to enjoy a concert, and I don't want to be made to feel like an outsider and a bad person because of it.

I'm sure it's hard for people who were raised in the church, or at least with religion as an active part of their household, to understand that the act of entering a church is hard for me. It is difficult for me to sit in a pew within inches of a Bible. It is difficult for me to sit awkwardly as the congregation stands and bows their heads in prayer. It is difficult for me not to jitter my leg and fidget with my hair and my bracelets as the women sitting behind me shout Hallelujah! and Praise Jesus! and pat me on the shoulder saying "Blessings unto you." It is DIFFICULT, and every muscle in my body is tense for the majority of my time there. It takes nearly every measure of my patience and self-control to fight the urge to take flight. 
But I do this. I do this regularly, for every concert PUGE has. Because these are my friends. And I owe them my support...especially when my support doesn't cost any money. But, correct me if I'm wrong, I always thought churches were supposed to be welcoming places. So when a performer, who happens to be a good friend of mine, asks the audience if we love gospel, and when not everyone raises their hands, he says, "Some of y'all lookin real hesitant; I don't know why you're here," I. don't. feel. welcomed. I ducked out before the invitation this year, but Preacher, despite your best intentions, inviting me to join your church and feel the love and warmth and the spirit of Jesus is unwelcoming by its very nature--you are assuming that your way of life is better than mine and that I should want to take up your way. Your Bible recognizes that people should come as they are; I would like you to give me the honor of leaving that way as well, if I should so choose.

I have problems with the black church. I have problems with "the church". I have problems with Christianity, and with Islam, and with Judaism, and with religion as a concept. I have problems appreciating songs that make relationships with God sound like celebrity obsessions or abusive domestic situations. But I try very hard to make these problems take second place to my love and support for my friends, and I hate that my aversion to the isolation and judgment inherent in the invitation makes me miss the reception that would let the friends I came to support know that I was even here. It makes me wonder why I even put myself through this.   

No comments:

Post a Comment