By Rebekah Hertzberg, for more of her work visit her website.
“What would you like to work on today?” Dr. B asks after I settle into the antique patterned sofa.
“I don’t know.” I respond, a usual response for me until I decide to divulge my new goals and life objectives. My mind changes at every new meeting. We have discussed almost all of my plans for the near future, the future that will ensue in June once I obtain my master’s degree.
Dr. B and I share some experiences. We have both traveled abundantly and have both, during our travels, traveled to Israel. He suspects my Jewish heritage because of the spelling of Rebekah, not to mention my very German surname. We have spoken about my heritage at length on two separate occasions, at least spoken as much as my small knowledge of my heritage allows.
I tell Dr. B that I am an Atheist during my visit to him last month. I had already divulged my nonreligious nature during one of our first sessions, some nine months prior, after I relayed my childhood background that included confirmation in the Methodist church and attendance at an Episcopalian high school. I broached the subject myself, in the beginning, admitting not only my nonreligious preference but my sexual preference as well. I guess I was hoping he might refuse to serve as my therapist, and I would have the perfect reason to avert my personal issues.
When he did not refuse me service, I decided to continue meeting with him on a mostly regular basis. Dr. B works with his wife at Complete Counsel Associates. In the waiting room, there are numerous plaques, posters, and other religious propaganda and memorabilia. The business card I am handed by Dr. B for each of my follow-up appointments even has a scripture on it: Acts 20:27 NKJV, which when I looked up, reads: For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.
My current residence in Danville, Virginia should not go unmentioned. For someone who avoids church, religion emanates at every nook and cranny of this small city. Danville is part of the Bible Belt, and though mostly unimpressionable, I have noticed the plethora of churches and religious organizations in the city. As a lesbian living in a small conservative city, I tend to isolate myself. I abandoned religion long before I came out during my freshman year of college. My distrust of religion runs deeper than my sexual orientation: I just never felt comfortable in church, reciting scripture synchronously, singing hymns, and praying profusely. The fact that I am a lesbian and shunned by many congregations, especially in Danville, only intensifies my distrust.
To accentuate the Christian-minded community of Danville, I also have contact with a tattoo artist, who is involved in his own ministry, God’s Gift Ministries. He attends a local church and paints portraits of Jesus during an allotted time after the sermon. Despite our differences, he has been supportive of my zine, Fractal, for quite some time, purchasing ads and agreeing to display them in his shop, even when I had a picture of Obama on the cover of the November 2012 issue.
Coming into contact with people like my therapist and the tattoo artist is commonplace in Danville, and, although it has taken some time and inner strength and resolve, I support my religious and sexual preferences. It can be isolating to live in such a narrow-minded, conservative community like Danville. I share the perspective of the community (as narrow-minded and unsupportive) with the tattoo artist, and we share a love for art, though we differ on religious preference. I seem to be surrounded by an automatically infused Bible Belt landscape but accept myself and maintain a mostly content frame of mind.
I have actually lived in two cities noted as being “buckles” in the Bible Belt due to the number of churches and religiously affiliated institutions. I graduated from college in Springfield, Missouri, home of Evangel University (I went to Drury University), a city that is almost 88% Caucasian and only 4% African-American due to a lynching in 1906, where all three men were determined innocent of their alleged crimes.
I also attended college for a short period in Lynchburg, Virginia, home to Liberty University and the late Jerry Falwell, at what used to be Randolph-Macon Woman’s College (it is now coed and called Randolph College). I came out my freshman year. For now, my plan is to move to Nashville, Tennessee post graduation, and even though it is another reported “buckle” of the Bible Belt, I appreciate the culture of Nashville, albeit its Christian associations and Christian university, Belmont.
I am a secular lesbian, two traits that are not evident by my appearance. I look normal, act normal for the most part, and choose to present myself in a fairly conservative manner. While I can respect the nature of religious organizations and some of the people involved therein, like my psychologist and the tattoo artist, I will not change my own perspective to appease the consciousness of the sometimes seeming majority, which, given my current, prior, and future locales, is indeed the majority.