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I Don’t Care What You Call Me

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By Sean Dietrich

 

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 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.

 

A Christian.

 

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.

 

A Christian.

 

Yes, by God, I guess I am.

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