The Tale of Why I Occasionally Lie About Being a Christian

As I’ve previously covered, I don’t follow a religion. I’m not some atheist bludgeoning the world with their lack of religion, however. I respect religion. I have prayed on several occasions, I talk to my dead parents sometimes when I really need advice, and I’ve witnessed things that I cannot explain other than to call it a miracle. I’m actually a fairly spiritual person, but I just don’t dig the whole religion thing.

Long story short, I’m not comfortable pretending I know the answers to the universe. I enjoy the vastness of what I will never know. I like not knowing. Was the universe and the earth created in seven days? I don’t know! Probably not, but hey, who am I to say?

Now can we talk about music or books instead?

But some people insist upon talking about religion. Some people insist on coming to your doorstep to talk about religion. Some people are actively looking to prey upon you to convert you to their religion.

Religion makes some people ravenous to save your soul.

I happen to be a nurse. I haven’t been a nurse for terribly long; less than ten years. But ever since my first year of nursing I have regularly lied about being Christian. I even have all of the answers ready. I say I attend a United Church of Christ, I have favorite Bible verses, I know all of the typical prayers…I am prepared to pretend to be a Christian at the drop of a hat.

But why lie? I never used to lie. I used to be able to tell people respectfully that I do not follow a religion and I would prefer not to talk about it. Being a nurse changed all of that.

In nursing, you tend to spend a lot of time with strangers when they are at some of the darkest moments in their lives. Nurses take care of everyone from all faiths, races, cultures, classes, and age groups. This means that I have, in my journeys as a nurse, taken care of some aggressively evangelical christians. And my care has been no different when taking care of these people. What is different is the interaction.

In my first month of nursing, I was working night shift on a post-surgical floor. While doing my initial medication pass and assessment on a patient when they asked if I was a christian. I smiled and politely told them “no.” Naturally, they demanded to know what religion I followed. I told them I did not follow one. This person had just had their knee replaced. They were bed-bound and had their leg in a device that rocked their knee gently back and forth while they laid flat in bed. There was a drain with a tube inserted into the wound in their knee, sucking the excess blood away from their new knee. They required pain meds and wound care.

This person decided that they would receive no such care from anyone who was “absurdly godless.”

This was a woman in her sixties. The moment occurred at about 9pm. Despite being called “absurdly godless,” I recommended that she take her medications and allow me to provide the appropriate post-operative bedside care. I was polite.

She, on the other hand, screamed at me to stay away from her until security was called. Eventually, she got her wish. Another nurse who was christian, but decidedly less militant about it, took over that particular patient’s care. What was sad was the fact that this was not the last time a situation like this came up during my first year of nursing. The reactions varied. Some just gently requested a christian nurse “if one was available.” Others kept me in the room for as long as possible, lecturing me and trying their best to convert me and save my soul.

Ultimately, what resulted time and time again from my being honest was typically a rejection of care, an unnecessary rearrangement of staff assignments, and/or a long-winded and shift-long attempt to save my soul from the iron grip of satan.

Near the end of my first year of nursing, my brain made a decision. I went to a catholic grade school, so I knew the Bible fairly well. I married a christian who attended a United Church of Christ, so I knew a little bit about that. And, I knew several prayers. On top of that, I had been the lead in several plays and musicals in high school, so I could pretend that I could act for extremely brief periods of time. When I was changing the dressing on a cute little old lady’s knee one evening, my moment came.

“You seem like a good christian boy.”

I smiled and maintained composure, although I knew the potential storm brewing within that little old lady. She was testing me. I held my smile and my silence. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. My focus was on her wound and keeping her new knee infection-free, but I knew that she had bigger things on her mind than making sure she would be able to walk again after an intense surgery.

“Have you accepted Jesus as your lord and savior?”

How many times I’ve been asked this question throughout my nursing career is strange. The circumstances during which I have been asked this question have varied from cleaning someone up post-bedpan poop to being in the middle of CPR (yes, this happened when I worked ER and a family member was running around yelling at us all to accept Christ just to make sure their dying family member stood the best chance of surviving).

And I have learned not to say that I do not follow a particular religion when asked if I’m a good christian. The exchange is a little more along these lines:

“Have you accepted Jesus as your lord and savior?”

“Lord be praised, yes.”

“That’s a good boy.”

And it usually ends there. I am suddenly a 36 year-old boy, and I have done something good. I can resume my work and help someone get better so they can get home and, hopefully, get better. Sure, I have to respond to questions about what church I go to and I have to join in prayers occasionally, but I have no problem with these things. I can still provide care and help people. That’s my thing. And telling people I don’t participate in religion usually prevents me from doing my thing for no good reason.

Telling people I am a christian has kept me out of some potentially troubling situations, too.

Most recently, I was at a patient’s house for a house call. This call came in just before midnight, and I had to go see them right then and there, of course. I rolled out of bed and drove to their house on near autopilot as the woman from Google Maps just told me what to do and how to get where I was going. When I parked in front of their house, I thought to myself, “what a nice little country cottage.” I completely ignored the strange sign about a flood right outside their door.

Once inside, I saw no reason to panic. Their house was nicely laid out and quaint, and I had no reservations in telling them that I liked their home. The woman was my patient, and she was concerned about certain symptoms she was having. I won’t go into detail, but they were not highly concerning symptoms that required hospitalization, but considering her medical history, I completely understood the reason for the call and the need for a visit. I assessed her and gave her advice, and she was happy to receive my advice. The transaction should have ended there, but it did not.

I had noticed during my assessment that the television was still streaming Fox News. Now, I’m not trying to get political at all. I tend to be leery of anyone willing to tune their television to any continually-streaming news station, no matter the political lean of that station. The reason why Fox News has become important is that I’ve noticed that when a patient asks me awkward questions or engages me in bile-worthy conversations, typically Fox News is playing in the background. But seriously, don’t get me wrong, if a patient has any 24-hour news station playing in their room, I know to make sure I engage with that patient as little as possible, as they are already most likely filled with some intense paranoia.

With my assessment complete and advice given, I packed up my equipment and prepared to return home. That was when the question left the woman’s lips. That question that has left me in a moral quandary regarding my response throughout my nursing career:

“Have you accepted Jesus as your lord and savior?”

Damnit. We were having a nice visit, lady.

“Lord be praised, yes.”

“Oh, wonderful. What church do you go to?”

“Um, I go to the United Church of Christ.”

I said the “um,” and I think that’s what got both the patient as well as her husband suspicious.

“United Church of Christ?” asked the husband. “What is that?”

Shit. This is what I dreaded. I picked the United Church of Christ as my go-to response because it’s my wife’s church, and they are progressive in their approach to christianity, making my lie a little easier for me to swallow. One internet search and this Fox News-watching couple would know that, although I might be a christian, I accepted some things that they might not view as christian. This was confirmed by the husband’s next statement.

“That isn’t one of them churches that is pretending to love Jesus but doesn’t mind sodomy, is it?”

I relied upon everything I learned from my time playing the lead in high school musicals not to look absolutely horrified in that moment.

“I’m not sure what you mean.”

“Have you accepted Jesus as your lord and savior, son?”

“Lord be praised, yes.”

“Then please, recite the Lord’s Prayer with me and my wife.”

I honestly think he was testing me. I really think he was hoping I would flub the prayer and be revealed as a heathen. It felt tense. And if you think about it, the fact that I came to their house to help them and they did their best to make me nervous is kinda strange. Of course, you could argue that I should not have lied, but if that is your argument, I would like to present the rest of the exchange as evidence for why I am right in lying about being a christian.

As we finished the prayer, the wife/patient spoke up, saying she was happy that I was raised right as a proper god-fearing christian. She and her husband then went into a ten minute-long rant as to how they were doing their best to convert and save any non-christian who came into their home, and how it was their mission from god to save people from satan. They went on about how the entire world is going to hell because of the acceptance of sodomy and how they believed these are the end times because our country allowed gay people to get married…and on and on and on.

None of this had anything to do with why they called me out to their home that evening, but it took up 90% of the time I spent there.

Just imagine if I had said that I did not follow any religion and that I believed in equal rights.

That might sound as though I was being cowardly in my stances, but remember: I was working at the time. I was representing an entire hospital system. I know better than to bring up any sensitive topics while I am working. That doesn’t mean that my patients think the same way. Had I told the truth about my lack of religion or my support of the gay community, I have no doubt that my night would have turned into something well beyond the reason why I was called in to a patient’s house at midnight, and unnecessarily so.

Therefore, I lie. I’m a christian.

Unfortunately, I only do this as a christian. I’ve been asked by a couple of patients over the past few years if I was jewish. I never felt the need to pretend to be a jew, so I felt comfortable saying I was not. And I never had a problem with anyone when I said I wasn’t jewish. I still got to care for that person without guilt, accusation, or argument. In one case, I was welcomed by that patient because he hated jews.

But, like I said, I take care of everyone from all faiths, races, cultures, classes, and age groups. And even though I’ve taken care of plenty of outright assholes, that has never meant that I would neglect them in their needs or care. If there’s ever been any neglect in my care, it’s been by request because I’ve admitted to not having a religion.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not condemning christianity in any way, shape, or form. Every religion has their nuts, and being prepared to say that I’m christian is my only way of dealing with christian nuts while I am clocked in. It works. It’s crazy and stupid, but it’s necessary.

And that night, when I was leaving that patient’s house at about 1:30am, I felt reaffirmed in my stance of being a fake christian at times. Not only was I shocked at their strange approach to potentially condemning someone willing to come to their house in the middle of the night to help them, but I was extremely tired. I was so tired when I arrived, apparently, that I neglected to notice, right next to the gigantic sign by their front porch about flooding, the 15-foot-tall cross illuminated by flood lights standing on their front lawn. The cross could not have been more unambiguous, yet I passed it right by in my tired haze.

I was lucky I didn’t automatically catch fire when I crossed the threshold into their home.

Christian or not, I still helped them, and that is something worth lying for.

3 thoughts on “The Tale of Why I Occasionally Lie About Being a Christian

  1. I’d also consider myself a spiritual individual who is loosely affliliated with the church; I’m not a nurse, but I have had my fair share of run-ins with ravenous soul-saving Christians (though admittedly, none as colorful as yours.)
    Christians come in all stripes and hues – it strikes me as funny (as in odd) that a woman would refuse to be taken care of by anyone who was “absurdly godless” – perhaps she hasn’t read the story of the Good Samaritan where the absurdly godless Samaritan (the good one, as opposed to the rest of the lot which were all bad) takes pitty on believer in God, binds up his wounds (he’d just been waylaid by a band of thieves on Jericho Road), gives him some clothes and takes him to a nearby town to rest up in at an inn. Had he refused to be treated by such an absurdly godless person, he would have been in real trouble. Two very pious God-fearing indiviudals, a Levite and Pharisee by trade, happened to see that he was in need and just walked right on by. Perhaps she skipped the Sunday where that sermon was being taught.
    The truth is, you really can’t win with these people – particularly if you run into all kinds of them out there. It’s not enough for you to be a believer who attends a church, but you have to belong to their denomination, too. It’s not enough for you to belong to a church in their denomination, but you have to have the correct theological beliefs that mark a true believer. It’s not enough for you to have the correct theological beliefs that mark a true believer – but there’s some new hoop that they want you to jump through in order to be Christian enough – and they keep on setting the bar higher and higher each time you pass one of their tests.
    I’m not surprised that Fox News is the typical t.v. “news” source for these Christians; they’ve been told to believe that all the other news sources are un-Christian; tools of Satan meant to stoke up fear by misinformation. The more fundamental and conservative Christian they claim to be, the more likely they’re a Fox News-watching, NRA-card carrying member, life-long Republican, Young Earth Creationist, Five-Point Calvinist (TULIP), etc. and these are some of the most ardently obnoxious sorts you’ll ever have the …um, pleasure … of meeting. If you ever run into these sorts – you’ll have to find a different denomination to claim to belong to – saying something like: “I belong to the Reformed Movement of the Southern Baptist denomination; when I’m not glorifying God by healing and helping others, I spend all my free time in the Word of God.” Saying you’re into a progressive denomation sends up the red flag that you’re a left-wing Democratic liberal who’s likely a heretic who doesn’t believe a word in the Bible.
    Hopefully the next time your interaction will go smoother. Think of it this way, you’re already lying to some extent, it’s perfectly fine to make it a bigger lie if that patient thinks that you’re a conduit through which God is working to heal them.
    Like the time this woman came up to me and said: “I just wanted to thank you.”
    “What? Why?”
    “I’ve been in the hospital with cancer and i just knew that you were praying for me. I really believe that your prayers helped God to pull through for me.”
    “Oh, o.k. I’m glad that you’re winning the fight. And I’ll keep on praying for you.”
    The truth was, I hadn’t prayed at all and certainly not for her health, but she believed that I did and she believed that because I (and many others) had prayed for her, God healed her. I figured, who was I to correct her? When it comes to something like that, she needs to believe that she’s surrounded with people who are pulling all the strings to help her get well, from the random cashier at the register to the nurse administering her care. Sometimes people don’t really need the whole truth; a good lie might be just the thing – particularly for the right reasons. Or, there are some things that you shouldn’t lie to a patient about, but there are some things that are exceptions.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I appreciate you lending your perspective. Christianity is diverse in and of itself, so the waters are always different when you dive in. I couldn’t push myself to the point of pretending to be anyone other than a UCC member. When diving with sharks, you don’t have to pretend to be a shark, you just have to pretend you aren’t dinner.

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  2. Lovely post, very well thought out. Every religion or philosophy worth following comes down to “don’t be a butthead”, which I think includes not telling people they are going to Hell. Not that I believe in Hell – I’m with you on the atheist thing, but I don’t let that stop me from trying to be nice.

    Liked by 1 person

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