I am able to use the word “God” with a certain amount of ease now, especially in Arabic, but such was not always the case.
I was deeply uncomfortable with the ubiquitous presence of God in all these everyday phrases. In the humanist-centered Unitarian Universalist congregation and Wiccan-leaning religious education program where I came of age, we were actively discouraged by adults from using the Bible, invoking God, or even saying the word church. That was what “those people” did on Sunday, but we attended a fellowship. Rev. Kathy helped me understand that many of those adults had been traumatized by conservative Christianity and Judaism, as I had been bullied by Evangelicals in school.
When my Jordanian neighbors asked ‘How are you?’ in those early months, I answered any other way I could: good, fine, well, excellent…. God had been a blunt instrument wielded against me and people I loved throughout my childhood, and invoking his name with every person I met felt hollow, hypocritical, even painful.
I thought it would be subtle, that I could fly under the radar as an atheist by just avoiding the word ‘god’ in everyday interaction. Instead, it became a joke in the village where I taught.
This is a story about the power of words – their power to hurt, to alienate, and to bring us together. You can read “Say Praise God: Learning to be a gracious guest in someone else’s language” in its entirety in Issue #2 of BLYNKT Magazine on the theme “individual/society.”
I am deeply grateful to my Peace Corps colleague and friend, the amazing photographer Andy Lehto, for the use of his photo to accompany this piece on BLYNKT’s site. Maybe next time I’ll find us a paying gig!
The editors say, “we found it informative and interesting and we know that our readers will too!”