When Diane Moore mentions her career path — she’s an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and a religious scholar — it often derails conversations with new acquaintances.
“My life is a strange reaction,” she said, noting that people seem to freeze up when faced with all the things they think they shouldn’t say in front of a religious person.
And when they do respond, it might be to ask about an obscure religious text or faith-related headline they read recently, as I learned while pursuing a graduate degree in religion.
I enrolled in the Master of Arts in religion program at Yale Divinity School because I loved learning about what made religious people tick. It was an opportunity for a Midwestern Presbyterian to learn about New England Episcopalians, as well as the Muslim, United Church of Christ, Methodist and Mormon traditions of my classmates.
At Yale, questions about faith were met with excitement and engagement. However, when I was home in Illinois on school breaks, I came to dread the discomfort that would flash across people’s faces when I mentioned my program.
And so I learned to avoid the subject, like 1 in 4 American Christians.
However, after writing an article on what’s lost when we stop talking about faith in public, I may need to rethink my strategy.