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Dear Godinterest, I’m Jewish

Today I got an invite to Godinterest, the Christian social media site.  It’s been around for a while (there was a HuffPo article about it back in May), but for some reason, they spammed the Internet today with enough Godinterest invites to get the site trending.

I think it’s lovely that Godinterest exists.  The Internet is a semi-infinite space: everyone should be able to find a You-shaped space on the Internet to call home.  We need some people to create those spaces so that other people can join along.  So I applaud Godinterest in creating that space; it fills a need for a population of people.

But Godinterest, you sort of struck a nerve with me.  Because, you see, I’m not Christian, therefore I likely have little to no interest in a Christian social media site.  I looked at what you had trending on your front page, and it is most definitely applicable to Christians.  Again, I’m not Christian, so not really applicable to me.

I get blindly pitched a lot of stuff on a daily basis.  I think it’s sort of amusing that the term is “public relations” since that would imply that the person is building a relationship.  But no, there is clearly no relationship going on between myself and the people doing the pitches.  If there was, they would know not to directly send me requests to review baby items and pregnancy products.  They would know that this kosher vegetarian wouldn’t want to try out pork products.  And they would know that this Jewish woman who doesn’t even like Pinterest all that much wouldn’t want an invite to a Christian-themed social media site.

I know what you’re going to say: It’s not a big deal!  Just delete it!  It’s a bigger deal that you took the time to write out a whole post about it!

It is simple to delete emails, and that’s what I do.

But this is all indicative of a larger issue, one that you only think about when you’re in the minority whether that is being childless in a child-centric society or being Jewish in a Christian-centric country.  It really sucks when the majority assumes that everyone is just.like.them.  I mean, it doesn’t suck if you’re in the majority.  Then, you don’t even think about it.  But if you’re in the minority and you need to constantly be navigating the assumptions of the majority, it gets really old really quickly.

It’s funny what bothers me and what doesn’t.  It doesn’t bother me that in America, from October to January, we are in Christmas season.  I think it rocks that you guys have this big holiday in the winter, and I really like your candy canes.  I even like going over to a friend’s house and helping them celebrate the holiday.  I don’t mind navigating shopping traffic or having Christmas music playing in the stores or having Christmas programming on every television station or having everything shut down when I finally have a day off.  I really don’t mind having my life impacted by someone else’s religion.  I even participate to make Christmas more special for other people, volunteering on that day because I can volunteer on that day since I have nowhere else I have to be.

What I do mind is the assumption that I am Christian, too.

I write this because it would behoove us all to spend five minutes thinking about which majority groups we belong to — because we all belong to majority groups — especially the somewhat invisible ones.  And then think about the assumptions we make as the majority group.  And then stop making those assumptions.

Let’s not assume all women are mothers.  Let’s not assume all women want children, or if they don’t have children, that they don’t want children.  Let’s not assume that all couples are married… or want to be married.  That all people are heterosexual.  The list could go on and on and on.

Godinterest, let’s not assume all people are Christian.  Because while you — in the majority — may think there is no harm no foul in sending out these emails to people outside of your audience, I’m telling you that those of us in the minority are negatively impacted by your actions.


1 earthandink { 10.22.14 at 1:10 pm }

Okay, I have to comment on this.
I so agree.
A site like Godinterest assumes I’m Christian and straight. (I actually went on their site and put in the search term ‘gay marriage’ just to give them the benefit of the doubt and the things that pop up are homophoic and insulting.)
I’m a vegetarian pagan lesbian. My girlfriend is Jewish/Buddhist. (Her own designation of herself.)
So I hear you. I truly do.

2 Donna { 10.22.14 at 1:42 pm }

I’m with you. Any assumption that we fit into an assumed box- whether it’s married, heterosexual with living children or part of the prevailing religion of an area- keeps us from being seen for who we are. It’s insulting and diminishes all of us and what we could be noticing in the world.

3 a { 10.22.14 at 3:40 pm }

When they hit a nerve, I don’t mind letting them know about it. Like Shutterfly earlier this year or last year…

4 Working mom of 2 { 10.22.14 at 3:58 pm }

Yes yes. Agnostic over here with a Moslem father. And hate that the extremely majoritarian Christians claim to be persecuted b/c people say “happy holidays”. Yes we get a tree and presents but still. We consider it a holiday to celebrate family. Can’t believe that in 4th grade in public school we sang religious Xmas songs in Latin. Today there would be a lawsuit.

5 Keiko { 10.22.14 at 4:36 pm }

“I’m telling you that those of us in the minority are negatively impacted by your actions.”

Specifically, how – by striking a nerve? I’d call that an annoyance before I’d say it negatively impacts me as a Jewish bisexual female.

The creation of a Christian-centric social media site isn’t exactly making life harder for other non-majority groups, and there are plenty of minority-specific places of online gathering, too. It’s not like Godinterest is suddenly reinforcing some crazy notion that Christianity is the dominant religion in America at the expense of everyone else. It’s a place of celebration in common interest. Just like the infertility blogosphere itself, Kveller, or even J-Date.

I’m not negatively impacted by it at all. It’s more of a batting an eyelash and saying, “Oh, good for them.”

6 Keiko { 10.22.14 at 4:38 pm }

Hit submit too soon. I could get my knickers in a knot over this, or I could invest that energy into fostering the communities in which I already engage.

7 Mel { 10.22.14 at 4:39 pm }

Their existence doesn’t have a negative impact on my life, but contacting me directly does. People calling my home, sending mailings to my home that I need to recycle, knocking on my door, and emailing me are all entering my life. Vs. simply existing and waiting to be found by people who seek out that sort of site.

Now we can disagree on whether or not spammers negatively impact our lives. For me, spam negatively impacts my life and wastes my time. You may feel differently about spam.

8 Battynurse { 10.22.14 at 4:53 pm }

I would have been annoyed with the email for many of the same reasons you listed. That and I admit to being overly sensitive to the whole idea that everyone must believe and live just like (whatever group) that is pushed so strongly by so many Christian groups lately.

9 earthandink { 10.22.14 at 6:20 pm }

I would respectfully disagree. The encouragement of homophobic thought directly impacts you and me directly, just as it would directly impact us if it were anti-Semitic thought, even when expressed on a ‘special interest’ site.

10 Guera { 10.22.14 at 7:54 pm }

Right or wrong and I won’t go into what I think or believe….the fact that you are NOT Christian could very well be the reason you received the invite. Christianity is made up of many denominations and most of them believe that recruiting/witnessing/attracting/engaging and ultimately converting non-Christians is central to their faith. While they would not be thrilled to know it had the effect it had on you I can guarantee you that they don’t intend for their audience to be strictly Christian. And if they send out 1000 invites to 1000 non-Christians and one converted they would consider that to be a success. My point being…I don’t see Christians limiting their invites to only Christians anytime soon.

11 Joan { 10.22.14 at 9:06 pm }

Godinterest, no thanks. I am a member of a mainstream, liberal protestant Christian church that embraces people of any sexual orientation or cultural background. We don’t try to change people. And, contrary to popular belief, not every Christian church is actively trying to convert people.

12 Becky { 10.22.14 at 9:45 pm }

I loved the final 3 paragraphs. I was talking to my students about the slippery slope of making assumptions, holding up stereotypes and succumbing to fear and stigma today. I wish I had your words when we were talking earlier!

13 Mali { 10.22.14 at 9:58 pm }

I’ve often wondered what it must be like to be a non-Christian in the US, simply because (from the outside) it seems to be such a strongly religious (read: Christian) society. It wouldn’t always be easy here in NZ, but at least here no-one really cares what religion you are, or whether you actually have a religion or not. It plays zero part in our politics, we’ve had/have Muslim, Buddhist and Rastafarian members of parliament, the world’s first transgender MP, an atheist Prime Minister, and our current PM had a Jewish mother, but doesn’t practice (as far as I know) any religion. It simply doesn’t come up.

Still, I think that could make us complacent – so thanks for your exhortation to “spend five minutes thinking about which majority groups we belong to — because we all belong to majority groups — especially the somewhat invisible ones. And then think about the assumptions we make as the majority group. And then stop making those assumptions.” I love this, and I’m going to think about it more.

14 Tiara { 10.23.14 at 9:39 am }

Thought provoking post & comments. Thank you for making me really think about this.

15 Mijk { 10.23.14 at 9:59 am }

Really interesting reading this because as a liberal christian in the netherlands i’m a minority and people interested in this kind of sites are way more of a minority… America is so different ( and yet it seems so full of people who think their way is the only way to live)

16 Bronwyn { 10.23.14 at 12:16 pm }

I do bristle against the assumptions sometimes. It wouldn’t be hard even to pitch it in a way which gave a nod to the fact that you might not be part of their target group after all.

We can’t know what’s going on with everyone all the time and for that reason we should act as if… we don’t know what’s going on with everyone all the time. Reserve a little judgement, flag assumptions. You know.

17 Justine { 10.26.14 at 9:31 pm }

This reminds me of that conversation a while ago about “checking your privilege.” People were so reluctant to admit that yes, they were part of a group that had power simply because it was the majority …

18 Kimberly { 10.27.14 at 12:08 am }

I’m a little late to the game but I felt the need to comment. I love this post because it’s a great reminder. My pet peeve is that many on the Internet assume that everyone they talk to who speaks English is automatically american. I’m Canadian and if anyone took one second to look at anything about me, it’s generally one of the first things you learn about me, aside from my love of owls. Yet I’ve lost count how many assume I am. I posted one day about the weather, and since we track it via Celsius here, a person rudely commented saying that, you must be crazy if you think that is warm. I had to not only remind them that I’m Canadian, but that we track our temps via Celsius and the picture clearly indicated that.

I always try to keep an open mind and always ask for that in return.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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