I wasn’t going to write this. But I did anyway.
Yesterday, I got accused of being a Christian. It was an odd insult. He said the word hatefully.
I didn’t answer.
So he said it again.
I paid my tab and walked outside to get some air.
The first thing you should know is that I had it coming. Earlier that evening, I’d asked the perfect stranger not to shout the F-word at the restaurant TV. He was watching a game. I don’t even know which one.
My pal’s six-year-old daughter was in a nearby booth. “Daddy,” she said. “Is the F-word really Jesus’ middle name?”
So I asked the man if he’d keep it down.
“Who the hell’re you?” he said, standing. He towered over me by at least fifty thousand nautical miles. “You some mother #%*!ing Christian?”
It surprised me.
I’ve never been called that before. If he’d truly wanted me to wound me, he went about it all wrong.
This is the deep South. If you want to get a man riled, you call him a “no good sumbitch,” then strike a beer bottle briskly against an unforgiving surface.
I won’t lie. I’ve spent a lot of time in church. Religion was in my drinking water. I’ve even attended services where snakes were handled. My cousin held one with both hands and said he felt the power of the Almighty vibrate his bones.
He sells used cars today.
Anyway, this fella wasn’t just insulting me. He was referring to my heritage. The peanut-fields, the sod cabins, summer revivals, and clapboard houses of my ancestry.
The word “Christian” was engraved on my grandaddy’s dogtag. And when the bullet struck him, he said the medics hollered his rank and denomination.
This word represents the best memories of my childhood. Sunday school with white-haired ladies who taught us to love fellow human beings—whether red, yellow, black, or white. Gay, lesbian, Muslim, Jew, Latino, left-wing, right-wing, or short thigh.
The word is also potlucks on the green, old-fashioned song services, women who make Nobel-Prize-winning fried chicken.
It’s who I talk to when I’m alone. It’s hymns I know by heart. It’s my childhood pastor who once told me, “I’m sorry, son, your father’s gone.”
It was in my wedding.
It was with me when I sat in UAB’s waiting room, red-eyed and puffy-faced, waiting on results from my wife’s biopsy.
It’s Granny—who read a beat-up Bible each morning. It’s Mama, who still does the same.
Don’t misunderstand me, please. I really don’t have that much faith. But then, I understand it doesn’t take much.
Yes, by God, I guess I am.
Maureen - January 9, 2017 8:09 am
and, by God’s grace, so am I!
J - January 9, 2017 12:05 pm
Warmth across my shoulders. Amen.
Carol DeLater - January 9, 2017 12:25 pm
I used to be a Christian. Then I became Agnostic. Now am not religious at all…but I am Spiritual. I used to be almost embarrassed to admit it. So what kind of person thinks it’s okay to use that kind of language in public..or anywhere for that matter. When I was young a man would not allow another man to speak that way in front of a woman…much less a child. When called out about it, most often there would be an apology. But back then men didn’t wear bare chests in front of a woman that was not his wife. Or wear hats inside a building much less at the family dinner table. We have come a long way. My 21 year old grandson tells me it’s my liberal generation’s fault. In some ways I agree. I always say the pendulum always swings back. Perhaps with a different leader of the conservative party in office that would be true. However, that pendulum will not take a wider swing.
Good story. Calling someone a Christian as an insult…I am shaking my head.
Carol DeLater - January 9, 2017 12:29 pm
Should have proofed my comment BEFORE I entered. I meant to type ” that pendulum will NOW take a wider swing.”
Denise - March 18, 2017 2:19 pm
Love your comment!
Judy - January 9, 2017 1:51 pm
Oh. My. Gosh!!! I cannot even imagine a situation like that. In a public place? Mercy! Did your church have ice cream socials–with home-made ice cream, from those crank buckets? Or was that just a Methodist thing?
Gerald - March 18, 2017 12:32 pm
sherry k. - January 9, 2017 6:53 pm
all day singing and dinner on the grounds. once, a visitor took the mike from the quartet and wailed out a verse of “Stand By Your Man”. I can still see the stunned expressions.
whoa on the confrontation. some people cannot handle their football and alcohol….the medical term is jerkface. hope YOU had some backup…cant imagine somebody acting like that around here anywhere short of a biker bar without catching major blowback. …the south still being the south and all.
Cherryl Shiver - January 10, 2017 7:19 pm
Praise Him, Praise Him all ye little children. Thank the Lord for good parents and Grandparents, Thank you for standing up for that little girl. Shame on her Daddy.
Peggy Black - March 18, 2017 12:41 pm
What a wonderful insult! I miss the days of more restraint in verbal and dress codes. I thank God for my church childhood and present!!
Beverly - March 18, 2017 1:13 pm
Yes, you are right….it doesn’t take much……..but alot of faith is needed more days than not. These are times that try men’s souls …..
Nancy Gilbert - March 18, 2017 1:58 pm
It’s so sad how our world has changed. Christians are now persecuted in all different kinds of ways. But the haters just make us more determined to hold fast to our faith.
Kay Paul - March 18, 2017 2:52 pm
I didn’t think your posts could get any better than some of the others you’ve written recently. But you just outdid yourself (to borrow a phrase from my mama) with this one. This piece needs to be read from every pulpit in every church tomorrow morning.
You possess a rare gift with your ability to move the reader’s soul with your words. Never stop writing……or admitting that you are a Christian. Please.
Catherine - March 18, 2017 3:56 pm
Amen, Kay Paul…Sean calls it out and goes straight to the bone of all decent humans’ souls, Christian or not. ♡
Brenda Gibson - March 18, 2017 3:26 pm
What I saw from you is a man of respect. Something very uncommon these days. What the man said back to you as an insult, gave you the up most compliment. How many of us “Christians” stand up anymore? Your upbringing reminds me a lot of mine. The Bible was read and taught to us and now I find what they read to me as literally speaking to me personally as well as showing me when I fall. I thank God for my heritage but much more since they are no longer here, the Word that goes on forever. My faith came when I realized that I am a sinner, saved by grace. No way perfect but depending on the Word to guide me. I praise you for taking a stand and hope as a Christian, I would do the same. By the way, I love your writings.
Jana - March 18, 2017 9:08 pm
…and don’t for get the Pound Cakes at ‘Dinner on the Ground’ (which was actually always inside) and instant Maxwell House coffee with powdered milk as creamer with toast at the morning Bible reading at the kitchen table. Sean, sir, you do not stand alone.
Boudreaux Golly Nutcracker - March 23, 2017 9:11 am
This article reminds me of a Mark Twian white wash experiment crossed betwixt a hell’s angels shoving match, and I loved every moment. In particular the fact it was shared with me from my best friend, a gay man who is raising two Christian boys and is the epitome of a southern gentleman, as is his gentile partner. And the commentia underneath as good as gold. Thank you sir, for the courage to stand up to a physical giant and no doubt mental shoe heel, and then expouse a well stated idea that arouse from the ash of conflict. May we all have such presence of mind and font of forgiveness. God’s speed.
Charaleen Wright - March 20, 2019 5:02 am