There is a perceived, and mostly real, cultural norm in the military:
conservative and Christian.
There are many shades of red, from deep scarlet to more of a purpley-red, but almost everyone that I have met as a military spouse falls somewhere on that spectrum.
Almost everyone I’ve met as a military spouse attends a Christian religious service at least once a week. The specific church affiliations range from non-denominational to Southern Baptist, from Roman Catholic to Seventh Day Adventist. Heck, we even have a Christian chaplain bless each and every military event.
But I almost never go to church and I don’t really want to go either.
Now, this next part may or may not come as a surprise to some of my military spouse friends. I’m sure they had inklings about my utter lack of conformity to the stereotype, but they probably dismissed it.
Here’s the truth: I have been a closet liberal and potential agnostic for years now.
The Start of Hiding
I started hiding when we moved to base housing about 5 years. I was a brand new military spouse with no connections and nobody to call a friend.
Slowly I built a community of neighbors and people from the unit. These ladies were my only support system in my new home and I didn’t want to lose them. All of our spouses were deployed or getting ready to deploy, so we had similar situations. We were also all very new to the military lifestyle, since all of our husbands had joined in the previous 2 or 3 years. For the most part, this was the first real duty station that any of us had been at; the others were all training locations.
In short order, however, I started to realize that my politics and religious beliefs might not quite line up with those of my new friends. They would rant about how President Obama was doing X or Y, and it would ruin our lives. Whether it was the changes to health care coverage or removing DADT, or perceived attacks on the Second Amendment, almost everything Obama did was wrong.
Agree to Disagree
Over the years, I’ve heard that liberals are destroying America, that liberals are eroding Christian values, and that liberals are outright discriminating against Christian religious freedoms.
I’ve heard people say that they would disown their own child if he were to be gay, that being a homosexual is a choice and is not biology, that evolution is an outright lie concocted by liberals.
I’ve also had offers to be “saved,” and reminders that “Christ died for my sins.” I definitely don’t believe any of that. And none of the churches I tried out supported my values.
I didn’t want to lose my friends, my only support in this new place, this new life. I was terrified that if they knew how I really felt about politics or moral issues or religion they would run screaming from the room.
Or that I would be their token “liberal” friend, baited with loaded questions about Obama’s latest perceived snafu.
I also didn’t want people to be on a constant quest to save my soul through Jesus Christ.
So I hid.
Hide and Seek Beliefs
When politics came up, I would brush it off.
It wasn’t really a debate to begin with, since everyone was getting angry about how the terrible liberals were ruining the country.
If put on the spot about something, I would fall back on humor.
“Oh, you know us New Englanders!”
became a repeated phrase when trapped.
“I really liked McCain in ‘08, until he tapped Palin as his running mate.”
I pretended that I could see both sides of the issues. I also stopped “liking” political statements on Facebook, especially once the settings were changed and everyone could see what everyone else “liked.”
During religious discussions or church talk, I would claim that I was still searching for a church to call my own. Even when I had no intentions of doing any such thing. I would try to dodge offers to attend services, unless it was Christmas time. I love a good reading of the Christmas story by candlelight followed by “Silent Night.”
At Bible studies, when the talk turned to moral issues, I kept my mouth shut.
And disagreed vehemently in my mind.
It is hard to be the only one who questions something, like veracity of the Bible or whether gay marriage is acceptable, or even the process of being saved by Jesus. It was easier to just keep my mouth shut or downplay my liberal tendencies.
Politics and religion were mostly background noise to my friendships with these ladies and their families. We had more in common than things we disagreed on, but the disagreements were kind of a big deal. I didn’t want these issues to overtake the other stuff that we liked to do together. Hiding my true feelings about politics and religion helped me to do that. It helped me to make and keep friends, to build a community.
I didn’t want to be alone, so I made the choice to conceal certain parts of my liberal identity to other military spouses.
Now, my hiding is over.
I am out, of my own free will.
I am declaring that I am politically liberal.
I am declaring that while I believe in God, I have some serious questions about what organized religions entail.
Maybe other hidden liberal or questioning Christian military spouses will join me. Will you?