Coming Out as a Christian

Rolling Rock

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to live transparently — especially when it comes to my digital life. For as long as I’ve been on social media (and I first got on Facebook in 2005), I’ve oscillated between expressing myself honestly and expressing contrived personas that I broadcast on Twitter, Instagram, and everywhere else.

Take, for instance, my well-documented love of Rolling Rock. Anyone that follows me on any website knows I’ve posted endlessly about the famously watery beer for the past three years. My Instagram feed was once a veritable shrine to Rolling Rock. My friends gave me four cases of it for my birthday last year. Heck, my Twitter fan club (yes, it’s still weird to me, too) uses a picture of Rolling Rock as its header image! I know how to advertise my love for a product.

But here’s a confession: I don’t really like Rolling Rock all that much. *Horrified gasps from the audience* It’s true, people. I mean, I do enjoy pale ales, and I love Rolling Rock’s trademark green can, and I have a natural affinity for anything from western Pennsylvania, but there was never any special place in my heart for Rolling Rock until I moved to New York City and decided that loving such a crappy beer would be a funny way to brand myself. So I started professing my love for it both online and in real life.

And it worked! People know that I love Rolling Rock now! (Even if I really don’t.) A tongue-in-cheek storyline that I created online became a tangible identifier in my real life. That’s a pretty troubling trajectory — and it’s one that I’m noticing is far more pervasive in my life than I ever originally thought. At some point, I got into the habit of projecting a digital version of myself that wasn’t totally true. And at some point (probably for much longer, actually), I began to do the same thing in person.

We all do this to some extent. We tailor our words and adjust our images to please different groups of people, and while this can be an effective communication technique, it can just as easily become a nefarious trap that breeds dishonest living. Suddenly, we find ourselves presenting completely different realities to each one of our different audiences — oftentimes, as with my Rolling Rock posts, just to be funny. We begin caring about our own reputations above all else. We begin living without conviction. I’ve been especially struck lately by the way I’ve lived a double life in neglecting to express my Christianity to pretty much anyone outside my immediate church community. This was definitely true at my old job.

When I worked at Entertainment Weekly, I hid almost every aspect of my faith from my co-workers. I was okay letting it slip that I attended a church, but I didn’t like to go any deeper than that. I preferred to be thought of as a dorky square rather than an explicitly religious person because I was terrified I’d be rejected if I actually expressed my beliefs. Obviously, it’s no secret that most people in the media — especially entertainment media —  are very liberal, and as a brand new college grad getting my first taste of the New York working world, I didn’t want to rock the boat by fully owning my identity as a Christian man. I assumed people would equate that with being an arrogant Southern conservative, so I kept my mouth shut.

I completely regret this way of thinking.

Not only did it make me feel as if I had to maintain a contrived persona in the workplace, but it fostered within me a genuine shame about my faith. My status as a Christian embarrassed me at work — and on social media, too. Granted, that feeling did have some basis. Some staffers would scoff at celebrities who spoke about converting to Christianity or forgoing sex before marriage. An editor (who no longer works at the magazine) once called me into his office and snarkily asked me to brainstorm “fantasy movies” like The Passion of the Christ. Comments like those really shouldn’t bother a grown adult, but I reacted to them like an insecure sixth grader who was endlessly worried he was being labeled “uncool.”

That said, I was never told I that couldn’t express what I believed! In fact, I’d bet that a handful of my co-workers would have gladly listened to me talk about my faith. I censored myself, and at the end of the day, I am the only person to blame for me feeling uncomfortable identifying myself as a Christian at work. I want to be clear about that. I was consciously presenting my life differently to my work community (and to my meager online following) than I was to my friends and family, who know that my faith holds utmost importance in my life.

This worked out well at first. I was able to strike up genuine friendships with co-workers, who would have been turned off by an outspoken newbie that hadn’t put any effort into getting to know his environment. Anyone would be turned off by that! But years went by and I never even shared one of my Christian values out loud! I preferred to tweet vaguely redemptive lyrics by Switchfoot or NEEDTOBREATHE and just hope that astute individuals could read between the lines. Talk about beating around the bush. I was living a lie in hopes of being popular around the office, and that’s pretty sad.

If I really believe that the Bible is true and that the gospel is the best thing for humanity (which I do), then I should be bold, willing, and excited to share my perspective. That’s not to say I should shove it down people’s throats without gentleness or respect — that’s been done enough over the course of Christian history. But at the very least, I should be completely willing to offer my opinion. The last thing that this world needs is another wishy-washy Christian, one that would rather cast a silent, judgmental glare than speak clearly about his beliefs. I think that so much of the tension our culture feels toward the church these days is a direct result of Christians being unwilling to say what they think out loud, which creates constant false impressions and completely understandable resentments.

But what if we didn’t mince words? What if we actually said what we thought — after carefully thinking about what we should say? What if we reconciled the people we are at home with the people we are at work or pretend to be on social media? What if all Christians offered their opinions clearly and unabashedly, so that the world might actually know that the vast majority of churchgoers are not, in fact, much like those Westboro protestors at all? I want to do this. I want to be a more transparent person, who identifies himself, without shame, as a Christian at all times. That would be a more kind, honest, and loving way of treating my neighbors than to tacitly lie to them while guarding my own reputation. I’m ready to drop the facade — both in person and online.

Now somebody get me a Rolling Rock. (Kidding! I’ll take a Magic Hat.)

21 thoughts on “Coming Out as a Christian

  1. Grady, Tom Garvin here. Loves your thoughts – they were indeed transparent. I’ve always felt that, in general, Christians have masqueraded as non. Some of it a natural desire to be ‘liked’, a lack of confidence,,,not intentional disrespect to God. I’ve been thinking upon this for many a year and though not profound, being ourselves, just as we are, is the most powerful us we can be. I consider the moon and the stars that are said to ‘day after day declare God’s glory’ and I realize that they do this by being themselves. Any cloaking or hiding of ourselves steals away from others the very thing they need/desire to see– and that is of an imperfect child of God, treating Him as He Is and He completing a work in us…..Rolling Rock in hand or not….we, as we are, not as we pretend to be, is His communication of Himself to those around us. Well said.

  2. easily my favorite blog of yours– thank you for the thoughtful words, and who you are…

  3. Hey — thanks for this. I really appreciate your honesty and willingness to be transparent. I know many would scoff at the notion of calling this post courageous, but so many persons of faith in media feel oppressed and vilified, it’s always comforting to hear people step forward and acknowledge religion. As a TV writer, many of my friends and I who fret over when to “come out” to our co-workers because like you, we’re worried about being mocked and ultimately our careers negatively affected because of people’s pre-conceived notions about Christians and Christianity.

  4. Excellent post! It was Christianity that saved mankind and its civilization. Without it, men are reduced to animals.

  5. This is so awesome. I feel the exact same way in college- all of my fears of rejection and judgement have led me to create the very distance that I dreaded others would establish if they knew just how seriously I take my faith. Instead of owning up to my beliefs and living transparently, I formed an outward persona that sought almost entirely to please other groups of people. This resulted in both parties getting jipped- I was unhappy because I wasn’t being my whole self and they could sense that I was hiding something and that I didn’t actually enjoy what I’d claimed to love. Thanks for putting so eloquently what thousands (probably way more, I have no idea haha) of other Christians are feeling, and even more for recognizing that the very thing we are afraid of is self perpetrated and easily changed. You’re salt to the world.

  6. There’s a problem with Christians being unwilling to say what they believe out loud? In contemporary American society? I am genuinely confused. Is this actually happening? Are there things that they believe that they’re NOT saying?

    To be honest, this makes me think of the part of Chick tracts in which the people being witnessed to say something like “what is this Gospel message of which you speak?”, as if it is something new and unfamiliar.

  7. Not feeling comfortable evangelizing to co-workers at work and feeling potentially threatened at work are two entirely different things.

    It’s funny, most Christians I work with do grasp the difference, and refrain from imposing their values and their interpretation of their particular church’s dogma on co-workers.

    Why do some Christians think it’s appropriate at work to talk about their religion any further than mentioning they went to church Sunday ?

    I don’t get it. It just seems to me that too many Christians want to have a right to do something with impunity that they know they shouldn’t do, and would certainly not tolerate anyone else of another religion doing – proselytize and evangelize at the workplace.

    Nobody wants you to “share your perspective” of what YOU think The Bible tells you at work. You’re not coming out as a Christian here, you’re coming out as a dishonest zealot trying to cast himself as potentially persecuted for wanting to do something that is entirely inappropriate, disrespectful, and unacceptable to most people.

    As for you struggling with your homosexuality within the context of your interpretation of your supposed Christian Biblical beliefs – that’s your problem, why torture everybody around you with the innate conflict between a particular dogmatic sectarian interpretation of The Bible specific to your particular Christian sect ?

    Keep your religion where it belongs. In YOUR church. And on YOUR blog.

    But please, keep it out of the workplace. We do not want to hear it.

  8. Since when has admitting you are a member of the majority been considered “coming out”? The perceived potential persecution exists only in your head. There is a difference between people knowing you are something and being in their face about all the time. Big, big difference. Try that as an atheist and see what happens, or better yet, a gay atheist. See how that goes over.

    I don’t care what people want to believe it, as long as they keep it to themselves, their places or worship and not anywhere around those who don’t share their particular belief system.

  9. When I dumped the closet and my Southern Baptist God in 1986, it was a huge weight lifted from my chest. It was exhilarating! I hope that one day, you too can relinquish your bronze-age god to the past where it belongs and live honestly, as a homosexual man. Good luck.

  10. Good. It’s about time for the whiny christian goons to have to live in fear. Why not toddle on off to heaven right now? You could be going down on Jesus this very day!

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