A good person is good, a church goer is better (apparently!)

ignoranceOVER THE WEEKEND I worked to support a client with autism on respite, giving his parents a much needed break. The cost of a mere two days away from home for myself and another support worker to assist the client was well over £600. This is on the back of recent news that autism costs an estimated £1.5M over a person’s life time for the parents and organisations involved in care (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-27742716).

Well the crux of the anecdote isn’t the cost of autism care, it is about breakfast the following day at the hotel. As myself and let’s call her Lucy and the client who we’ll call Robert got into the lift an elderly American began to talk to Robert in a kindly way which was nice. She complements us on the good work we are doing – how nice.

Later on at breakfast she talks to Lucy about the work we are doing as she is trying to get her breakfast at the buffet. More pleasantries and she divulges that she also works with autism back in the states – very good.

Then as American Woman was leaving, while all three of us were eating breakfast, she came over and started rubbing the back of Lucy. Thankfully this was accompanied by some chat as well which went like this:

“You guys are doing an amazing job. Really, You must have hearts of gold.” Rub, rub.

And in typical American fashion, without missing a beat, she asks, “Do you go to church?”

“Not me,” I say. Lucy makes a face. Robert is wondering what’s going on.

American Woman continues, “Well, either way you are good people. You’re doing a great job.”

Cue exit.

What pisses me the fuck off, other than the need to bring religion within spitting distance of autism in this scenario, is what she was insinuating was that were we religious we would be doing an even better job. Somehow religiosity would enhance the goodness of what myself and Lucy were doing for Robert. American Woman was saying, “You’re great people, but if you went to church you’d be even better, despite the fact that religion has zero impact on the quality of your work (and shouldn’t).

Classic American ignorance and small mindedness. I don’t think anyone from anyone other nation would be so brazen as to mention church going in relation to support work. Bizarre.

 

 

23 Comments

  1. I liked your post but then “CLASSIC American ignorance and small mindedness.” I think you need to withdraw the projection, as I am often having to correct Americans who are ignorant and small minded that the French are not rude, and the English are not boring, and the Germans are not Nazis, and, and. . . . she was really just a religious zealot. To lable Americans as classically that way is actually to do what several readers suggested you were doing.

    In the states we are in the midst of a war against fundamentalism, but that doesn’t mean that “Americans” are small minded and ignorant. I don’t personally know one of them, and that includes my elderly family members and neighbors.

    I’m not a church-goer. And i have decided to become extra vigilant as the small-minded-right-wing-taliban-thinking-hating-women would like to divide us and make us all hate each other. Now when I am writing about an incident like yours, I am careful to avoid doing the exact same kind of generalizing or labeling that you did. I like to call them religious zealots or right-wing nutjobs or fundamentalists — which they are. but don’t let the experience catch you into their kind of thinking.

  2. I agree that this is a terribly common and unfortunate stereotype, that charity work MUST somehow be joined to a religious movement. That said, statistically speaking, a majority of the charity work does seem to be religiously motivated. I don’t suppose it makes up for all the harmful sides of religion, though.
    Thanks for sharing.

  3. I’m trying not to be offended over being called an ignorant American, but in this case – unfortunately – when it comes to our elder generations, it is painfully true. Being a non-church goer, like myself, is running a constant risk of landing right into the same situation you’ve described in this post. I’m very much looking forward to the day when people can be acknowledged for being a good person, regardless of their beliefs or social status. Which is the great point you’ve made here, so, I guess I won’t hold the ignorant comment against you this time…

      1. No, but that would be a hilarious comment to read! Just, for future reference, though, making blanket statements like “classic American ignorance” is the same as calling each individual American ignorant. 🙂

      2. Well I agree, blanket statements are generally poor as are stereotypes, but this particular woman represented it to the T. She reminded me of the smalltown mentality that I came across travelling through America for over a year.

      3. Sorry you had such a bad experience, it’s very unfortunate that there are so many just like that woman here. But there are a million and one church-going people around the world who couldn’t handle working with autistic individuals, so no matter what they say, you’re already making a better difference than they are.

  4. I’ve never come across this sort of thing myself but I know people who have. Sad! But of course many people are prompted to do good things because of their religion. It’s also sad to think that religious people (as they call themselves) sometimes do pretty awful things too. I suppose one must ask the question: are “good deeds” and religious belief really connected at all?

  5. Please. That is par for the course in Jamaica and it applies to EVERY line of work, not just charity. You’re a better bank clerk, air hostess, doctor, security guard just for going to church. Christianity has a huge superiority complex.

  6. I ignore all this sort of crap on two grounds. Firstly, I’m a heathen and the Good News keeps failing to get through to me. Secondly, we’ll all be dead soon anyway, so what the hell.

  7. I don’t like hearing blanket statements about how Americans are morons, being one myself. BUT I’ll be damned if I don’t know the very person who said that to you! I am embarassed to admit that I probably know about ten and they nauseate me. We aren’t all that awful. I don’t think…

    Meh. Maybe we are. :-/

    1. Well, I agree I generally try to avoid statements like ‘all Americans…’ or things to that effect.
      But it is a VERY american thing to do what the woman did. I’m not saying all americans are like that at all, but it does seem to be the source 🙂

      1. I would say elderly female Americans are most prone to THIS sort of behavior (my mother would be top of the list there, unfortunately), BUT the rest of us probably engage in all manner of other unsavory social interaction tendencies simply because we are oblivious! I worry what people elsewhere see in me when I am traveling that is completely normal behavior here. It was a great post!

  8. You’d be surprised. I’m Canadian. I work with the deafblind and because I do support work, some people assume I’m religious. I also get subjected to the ‘I have no basis for morality’ garbage like most atheists probably do if they’re not scared to admit they don’t believe in god.

    1. Thanks for stopping by. It’s crazy that doing a good deed, or being good, for some people boils down to religion.
      Like being religious entitles people to feel superior in their (perceived) morality to someone who doesn’t believe in 2000 year old fiction.

      I can imagine you get it even worse in Canada than here, where religion is for the most part a highly generational thing.

      1. I don’t think it’s nearly as bad here as in the States. They seem almost loony in their devotion to ancient mythology down there.

        But there are certainly times when being an atheist can be frustrating.

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