Title: Confessions of a Prodigal Daughter
Author: Sarahbeth Caplin
Release Date: July 20, 2014
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In a bittersweet twist of fate, I started out “too Jewish” for my Catholic friends in elementary school, but not Jewish enough for the kids I met at summer camp, with their youth group logos and wristbands. In Israel, I didn’t feel I had the right to call myself Jewish at all. Now I was too Christian for Jews everywhere, but still too Jewish to completely fit in with my new bible study friends.
In my most pessimistic moments, I wonder if I’ll never fit in anywhere, with anyone. It’s interesting because Christians are called to be pariahs, to go against the ways of this world. But I am a special kind of pariah.
My days of trying to fit in with my college ministry can best be described as a fish learning to fly. I was making friends, but I also felt extremely inadequate, surrounded by Christians who had been Christians since diapers. Outside of that, when I met new people who knew nothing of my past, the cross necklace I wore gave the impression that I was a “cradle Christian” as well.
That’s not wrong or anything. It just bothered me because that isn’t me at all: I’m not and probably never will be someone who fits the curious, cultural Christian ‘normal.’
I’ll never forget my first day of Sociology class my junior year, and the odd series of events that happened after that. I arrived a few minutes early, so after selecting a seat at the back of the auditorium, I quietly read my bible. Soon I was interrupted by a tap on my shoulder and a voice that chirped, “Whatcha readin’?”
This intrusion by a complete stranger felt rude and startling. Upon turning around, I’m embarrassed to say my annoyance quickly evaporated when I saw that the person who interrupted me was a guy, and he happened to be quite attractive. From the get-go, he assumed I was one of those nerdy Jesus Freaks. He nicknamed me “Christian Nerd,” which eventually got shortened to just “Nerd.” I couldn’t come up with any clever nicknames for him so I just called him by his given name: Ryan.
Every day he would sit next to me, and every day he would greet me with, “What’s up, Nerd? Save any souls lately?” I always brushed him off, but was oddly flattered that my spiritual devotion was recognized in such a way that didn’t make him want to run in the opposite direction. When I used to tell people I wanted to be a rabbi, one of two things would happen next: they would be very interested and want to know more, or wonder what planet I just landed from.
Ryan seemed to have me all figured out within the first week of class. He thought I was from a family of devout Christian Republicans who home-schooled me, forbid me to wear makeup, listen to secular music, go on dates, or see any movie rated higher than PG.
I didn’t have the heart to tell him I was descended from a long line of liberal Jews who always voted Democrat, drank, cursed, and believed the only unforgiveable sin was rooting against the New York Yankees.
He was funny at first, but the constant heckling about my apparent prude-like ways was starting to get old fast.
Then one day he asked for my number, which led to asking me out for lunch after class. I let his good looks get in the way ofmy good judgment by saying yes.
Meeting for lunch at Wendy’s after class became a tradition, until one day he informed me that, while I was cute and all, he didn’t see me as a potential girlfriend because I was…wait for it…too Christian for him.
From “too Jewish” for Simon at Hillel to “too Christian” for Ryan in the span of a single year. Go figure.
Beth holds a bachelor's degree in English Literature from Kent State University. It was during college that she first saw her name in print as a columnist for her campus newspaper, The Daily Kent Stater. Now living in Denver, Colorado, she can be found in various microbreweries when not chained to her laptop working on future books.