Being Religious Does Not Make My Opinions Less Valid

I made the personal decision to get baptized a year into my university degree. After playing around with the idea of baptism for a couple of years, I finally made the jump in April 2017. Prior to deciding to reorient myself towards my faith, I held discussions about sex (https://www.hercampus.com/school/concordia-ca/i-have-not-had-sex-year-my...), gender, politics and social inequities with my friends, co-workers and classmates on a daily basis. The second I made the jump from kind of Christian to full-on practicing, people around me started taking less and less interest in my voice. Soon enough, I realized that being a religious person had turned me into this devalued element of society. My opinion was no longer valid because it was rooted in a faith. It was hard enough to be black and have an opinion or to simply be a woman with an opinion. Now, I had pinned myself with another heavy tag.

To see if anyone else was experiencing what I felt, I binge watched The View on YouTube and scrutinized the comment section of each clip. The talk show is hosted by four, or sometimes five women from different races, social status and faiths. Sunny Hostin, a law graduate, journalist and social commentator, from The View is an excellent example of an educated, Christian woman. I have read almost all the comments threads on these segments. When Hostin is asked about her political views– she is applauded in the comments for her eloquence and strong argumentative skills. However, the moment the discussion topics are related to marriage, children’s education and contraception laws, the same eloquent educated woman gets a crazy amount of backlash in the comments. The backlash is not for being close minded or disrespectful, but for mentioning her faith has a factor for her different vision for those specific elements of everyday life. She is called “stupid,” “brainwashed,” “naïve,” “irrelevant” and so on. I watched tons and tons of videos to make sure that was not just a “one topic” incident. The same was done to Candace Bure (actress, former co-host on The View) when she was on the show. She was constantly bullied in the comments section and on social media for her Christian views. The truth and the matter is, your opinion only  seems to matter if you follow everyone’s version of what marriage, relationships, sex, womanhood and manhood should be. It does not matter how “educated” you are, the second you bring faith into the discussion, it feels as though you are as credible as a cavewoman.

If I express my desire for marriage and I link it to my faith, I receive an automatic dismissal or passive-judgmental comments. If I express the same desire for marriage, but use a different set of arguments, it feels as though then my opinion is validated. There is also an assumption that because certain Christians in history have claimed certain beliefs, then somehow, because I follow the Christian faith, I am to be associated with these people. A story that comes up often is the church’s silence during times of oppression and tragedies: the destroying of aboriginal culture, the mistreatment of women and the assault crimes committed by church leaders. When I proudly talk about my catholic views on a certain topic (without attempting to evangelize or delivize anyone), I am often hit with questions like “Ok, but what about the priests that raped these girls huh?” regardless or not if my initial take was related to this issue.

Society is filled with doctors, lawyers, diplomats and activists that happen to be Christian, proving that “intelligence” and faith do not have a specific correlation. In 2005, a study conducted by the University of Chicago presented that 76 per cent of practicing physicians have religious beliefs (chronicle.uchago.edu). According to CNN, successful, well-respected celebrities like Mayim Bialik (Big Bang Theory, Jewish), Chris Pratt (Christian), Ja Rule (Christian), Justin Bieber (Christian), Julia Roberts (Hindu), Natalie Portman (Jewish), Prince (Jehova’s Witness),  Orlando Bloom (Buddhist), Dave Chappelle (Muslim) are religious. They stand for different non-profits, have political and social awareness and simply live the best life they can. Religion does not mean you are a hateful person who has crazy judgmental views on life: it means you have made a committed decision to follow a life that requires obedience to a faith you believe and care about.

Just like we are careful about the media’s views of race and gender, we should be attentive to not let the media dictate our views on religious individuals. The next time someone tries to validate their argument based on their faith, take the time to listen free of judgment and maybe you can learn a thing or two. The earth is big enough for all of us to collaborate and treat each other with respect.