Kidding. We think it’s great. Shine on you crazy diamond. But there are a few things you should know about your Presbylutheran potential or current ladyfriend from the outset, and the Dykes are here to help. Having been raised Protestant, I’d like to help the cradle Catholics among you navigate this charming community.
1. Know Your Protestants
Oh, they take many forms, these Protestants. To keep it simple, I have categorized them according to the convenient definitions and sweeping generalizations below.
a. Liberal Protestants
As with many things, you, as a dyke, are generally safe amongst liberals. You may proceed confidentally if your ladyfriend:
–Avoids gendered pronouns for God even, or perhaps especially, when doing so results in painfully awkward and contorted syntactical constructions.
–Is pursuing ordination. Oh, irony of ironies! If she is openly queer and a lady and yet her options are such that she has the option of pursuing ordination, then y’all are good to go. Plus, you might get to be, like, the preacher’s wife, and bake gluten-free brownies for liberal church bake sales. Church bake sales! In a queer way! Think about it.
–Volunteers at interfaith things, or gay things, or Planned Parenthood.
–Exhibits such dykeisms as: veganism, facial piercings, tattoos, socialism, asymmetrical haircuts.
Liberal Protestants are often found in mainline denominations, including the Episcopal Church USA, the United Church of Christ, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, the United Methodist Church, and the Presbyterian Church USA.
b. Hipster and Touchy-Feely Protestants
There are Protestants whose combination of exuberance and fashion-consciousness, while it gives us pause, does not necessarily indicate deep-seated psychological issues. These Protestants are not quite threatening but will probably make you uncomfortable. They are found in greater concentrations in more touchy-feely and hip forms of Protestantism, in churches that cater effusively to the youths. Proceed with caution if she:
-Refers to Jesus as “J.C.”
–Claps above her head at church (the Megachurch clap).
-Listens to Christian rock or talks about “Praise music.”
-Reads books by Shane Claiborne or subscribes to Sojourners (also popular amongst liberal Protestants).
–Exhibits such dykeisms as: acoustic guitar playing, tattoos, dreadlocks, facial piercings, NPR.
Hipster and Touchy-Feely Protestants are often found in evangelical churches, especially Megachurches full of bright shiny technology. Especially churches that have Starbucks inside–I shit you not.
c. Fundamentalist Protestants
If you find yourself pursuing, or semi-involved with, a dyke in this category, you best turn back, ma’am, because it’s only a matter of time before she has a religious crisis, attends an ex-gay wilderness adventure program, and goes AWOL with your car/beagle/adopted child.
Go with your gut on this. To help, here are a few concrete cues to look out for. Politely remove yourself from the situation if she:
-Exhibits extreme forms of traits listed in “Touchy-Feely” section above.
-Uses the terms “Bible-believing Christian,” “Biblical womanhood,” “inerrancy of Scripture,” “Intelligent Design,” “Father God,” or “Supply-Side Economics.”
-Doesn’t celebrate Halloween and/or Christmas.
-Attended Oral Roberts, Regent, Bob Jones, or Liberty University.
-Belongs to an enormous church with a pastor who, while youngish, is nonetheless too old for his hair gel, soul patch, and designer jeans.
–Volunteers at the “crisis pregnancy center” advertised on billboards in low-income areas across your state.
-Talks about inviting Jesus into your relationship. Get. Out. Now. Because you must not–I repeat, must not–get pulled into the “3 way with Jesus” thing. This is perhaps the most intensely uncomfortable form of the Protestant Jesusisms (see 2.a., below).
–Exhibits such dykeisms as: acoustic guitar playing, interest in Africa, tattoos.
Fundamentalist Protestants are often found in evangelical megachurches of various denominational affiliations or no denomination at all; small store-front churches; churches with long names that include the words like “tabernacle” or “seraphim”; the Assemblies of God; the Southern Baptist Convention; some Baptist churches; the churches of Christ; the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
2. Passing for Protestant: Meet the Family
So you’re visiting her Protestant parents for the Protestant Holidays, and you want to blend in. But how?
Here are some tips for understanding and conversing with her schismatic relatives:
a. It’s all about your close personal relationship with Jesus Christ, your pal.
Our Protestant friends are not quite as hierarchical, anal retentive, and sacramental as we. The core of their religion involves lots of feelings and personal relationship talk, all focused on their best friend/brother/boyfriend Jesus. Helpful phrases: “I love Jesus”; “Jesus saved me”; “Jesus changed my life”; or any discussion of a “close personal relationship with Jesus.”
b. Prayers should be long-winded and extemporaneous, filled with gratuitous use of the word “just” (as in “only,” not as in “fair”), and should conclude with “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory” or “In Christ’s name we pray.”
If you are awkwardly called upon to say grace at dinner, you must remember this rule, dykes: anything memorized (except the Lord’s Prayer–don’t call it the Our Father–because it’s right out of the Bible) is suspect.
And don’t cross yourself. It’s like when some secret Canadian lets slip a “sorry” or an “about”–dead giveaway. Plus, it is a prime example of Catholic emphasis on suffering and death, which brings us to…
c. Death is icky.
Catholicism, with its affinity for crucifixes, transubstantiation, and saints’ relics, appears morbid and semi-pagan to the tidy and modern Protestant. The Protestant is likely to feel discomfort with the following features of Catholicism, which I have oh-so-cleverly dubbed, the Three C’s.
The Protestant prefers the plain cross, with its clean geometrical lines and understated elegance, to the rather gory and explicit crucifix. Celtic crosses are acceptable; they symbolize sunshine.
Protestants dislike the cannibalistic implications of Catholic eucharistic theology. Moreover, some Protestants object to booze and fear foreign microbes. Accordingly, you may receive your own personal thimble of grape juice.
Dead people are dead and gone–not to be seen, or heard from, or prayed to, or prayed for. This, of course, means that Protestants:
Do not see apparitions of the Virgin Mary.
Do not pray to saints or for the dead.
Do not travel 3,000 miles to a cathedral in Northern Italy to see St. Catherine of Siena’s incorruptible foot on a satin pillow. For example.
3. Cultural Differences: Understanding Your Protestant
a. Excessive Cheerfulness
Mass is serious, introspective, death-centered, and at least a little depressing. Regular exposure to this particular form of religious expression discourages the vice of excessive cheerfulness. It is precisely this vice which Protestant churches, with all their talk of “freedom” and “redemption” and “getting saved,” encourage, and nurture, and reward, as though it were a virtue. Indeed, hard work and disproportionate happiness are considered not only virtuous, in some Protestant circles, but also as evidence that one is predestined to eternal salvation.
Anyone who has ever partied with a group of Roman Catholic nuns knows how freely the boxed wine floweth. But Protestantism, unlike Catholicism, has a history of teetotalism. It wasn’t Catholics, dykes, who championed Prohibition, and that is a fact that you may proudly pass along to your adopted or in vitro fertilized child someday, in moments of Catholic chauvinism/insecurity. While most Protestants drink, I would argue that they take the more restrained approach of people who value self-control as much as they distrust pleasure.
Catholics do not own guilt, dykes. Protestants, too, experience guilt. Oh yes. See, for example: the shenanigans at the Province of Massachusetts Bay, total depravity, limited atonement, or Jonathan Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” for insights into the peculiarities of Protestant self-flagellation.
To put it rather too simply, Catholic guilt springs, primarily, from feelings of personal inadequacy, whilst Protestant guilt springs mostly from the charmingly egalitarian notion that we are all horrible and/or the fear that we have been predestined to eternal hellfire and have no way of knowing for sure. The fine distinctions, dykes! The fine distinctions. These forms of guilt often play out differently in life, which is what makes it all such a wild and exciting ride on this crazy merry-go-round.
What do y’all think? Have you dated any lovely Protestant ladies? What have we left out?