Here follows a list of things real people have literally said to me upon learning that I study theology, in order from most to least common (including for each an itemization of my internal reactions):
Oh, so you know a lot about rocks and stuff?
THhhhhhhhhh… AND now I’ve spit on you.
Wow, I really don’t know much about that.
Wait, were you thinking I was going to give you a test? Are you secretly planning to give me a test on law/medicine/construction later? Or are you asking me to tell you about theology? I can tell you about theology. It’s not so much about what you “know”, per se….
That’s very cool! What do you think about [topic that is absurdly general, obscure, or controversial]?
This is a trap! ABORT!!
Oh, well, I’m Catholic/Jewish/not religious, so...
So… what? So we can’t be friends? Please tell me we can be friends even though you perceive me to be useless to you.
Also, I don’t have a pet, but if someone told me they were a veterinarian, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t say, “Oh, well, I don’t have any pets, so…” Seriously, what does “so” mean?
*They begin backing away slowly, either conversationally, or even worse, literally.*
I’m sorry! I’m so sorry, it’s just that you asked and I WON’T HURT YOU, I PROMISE!
But why would you do that?
The hint of confused betrayal I see around your eyes tells me that you believe it’s self-evident that women can’t be pastors. But for all you know, I could be studying for my own edification while I’m waiting for the cookies to come out of the oven! So, you see, it’s kind of a rude question.
You know, I believe in God, but I also believe in science. And I just think religion has done a lot of damage to people’s lives over the years. I mean, people should be allowed to believe what they want; everyone doesn’t have to think the same thing or believe the same way, so I get upset when people try to make other people believe what they believe. We have a lot of problems in this world without people inventing religious problems and starting religious wars…[etc]…[etc]… I expect we will colonize the moon in the next few decades….
igh-hughhh… errrrrrrr……ah sheuuuuuuh…..o kaa……………………………………
[Um, you are a more interesting dental hygienist than most.]
For a few weeks I thought I’d just say I studied “ethics” (because I do), thinking it would be a more neutral subject than “God”. This was false. There were only three reactions to “ethics”:
*Long explanation of personal philosophy of near-complete moral relativism, followed by smug or dismissive look*
Wow, your argument just invalidated my entire field of study. I will need to be excused now to go look for a new one.
*Immediate, apparently uncontrollable confession of recent minor unethical decision or activity *
1. Wait, did I accidentally say therapist?
2. Has someone given people the impression that ethicists are also highly skilled in detective work, that we will discover what you have done, so this will all be easier if you just start talking now?
3. Um… are you testing me? Do I look like a judgey person?
* They begin running away at full speed, either conversationally, or even worse, literally.*
Come back! I’m so curious. I won’t judge you. WHAT DID YOU DO?!??
Next time someone asks what I study, I’ll probably say something uncontroversial, like “The Bible,” “Religion,” or better yet, “Your Mom”.
Lyndsey lives in Boston, MA where she is pursuing her Master's in Theological Studies at Boston University. She enjoys Community, Mad Men and Beauty and the Beast and her spirit animal is a sloth. She would like to know if this is some kind of interactive theater art piece. You can follow her on Twitter @lyndseygraves and you can find more of her writing at her blog To Be Honest.