(DISCLAIMER: Before you read this, I want to make it clear that while, the writing is mine, the rantings are the opinions of a man I overheard on the train. Whatever mistakes he makes about the constitution are not mine. For authenticity’s sake, however, I will not change his words.)
I boarded the train in a bit of a funk, still somewhat traumatized by the nightmares I’d woken up from that morning. I stood against the door, trying my best (and failing) to concentrate on the book in my hands.
The NYC Transit Authority—particularly the subway—is both the worst and only public transportation (besides taxis) in the area. Because of this, the humid underground trains are a veritable swamp of every type of person imaginable. Mumbling, yelling, breathing and sneezing. In surround sound. And they are completely unavoidable. Being somewhat xenophobic myself (and very misanthropic) I spend most of my time on the train trying to ignore those around me.
For whatever reason, angry and fed up people often view the subway as a stage and its occupants their audience. This time of year in particular seems to bring out the boldness in people. Bums are more frequent and aggressive, religious zealots are constantly trying to spread their misery to everyone else, even the everyday Joe—who normally has nothing to say (and is generally uninteresting himself) is voicing his opinion more often. You can imagine how frustrating this is while trying to read.
So, when another particularly outspoken Joe came onto the train that day, I buried my nose further into my book and managed to read the same paragraph about three times before realizing what he was saying.
“Religion and politics do not make a holy union!” he yelled. “You should be ashamed of yourselves! You Christians! Is that what you call yourselves? You should be ashamed. Religion and politics do not mix.” “Those of you who call yourselves Constitutionalists?!” He spit the word from his mouth.” Have you ever even looked at the constitution? It says ‘Separation of Church and State!’ Right there on the page! So why are you trying to make the two mix? How does that make you more of a Christian? If you have to hide behind politics to make you feel like a better Christian, then you’re doing something wrong.”
“And how does two men getting married make you less of a Christian? In the Bible, when the people brought Mary Magdalene before Jesus and threw her at his feet as a harlot, he respected her! Jesus said we need to love everyone, regardless of their disposition. I’m a Christian, too! I know the Bible! Who are we to judge? That’s God’s job!”
What he said next killed me, because he said it with such conviction. It hurt me that he believed this about himself and that there were others around me who probably did too. “People sometimes discriminate against me because of my skin, sometimes people hate me for my skin, but I can’t help the color I am! I was born this way!… and there have been times when I’ve looked down at my skin and wished that it was a different color, that I wasn’t black. But it’s not something I can change, this is how I was born. Leave them alone! You don’t know what make a man gay or a woman a lesbian! You don’t know if they can change that! I can’t change my skin!”
By then I had stopped reading entirely, though I still held me book, too cowardly to look him in the eyes. But I wanted nothing more than to hug him.
“How does it make you less of a Christian for them to marry? If anything it makes you more of a Christian because it shows such great love. I’m a Christian too! And I don’t think it’s wrong for gays to marry. Leave them alone.”
The train doors opened then, it was his stop. On his way out, the last things he said were, “Religion and politics don’t mix. You should be ashamed of yourselves.”
I couldn’t agree more.