Top Photo: Kara Gunter, Middle Photo: Emily Purcell, Bottom Photo by Leslie Gilroy
She is 64, a native of Ohio who grew up in Michigan. He is 20 and a native of Columbia. They join hands across the table and prepare to have the molding putty poured out and spread over the tops of their hands, moist and cool on their skin.
Christine, raised in the Catholic faith, said she was an introvert as a child. “I was the only girl,” she said. “I had three brothers. I spent a lot of time in my room reading. Then I went to journalism school, where you have to approach people. It took a while to get used to it. Now I don’t care who you are. Now I am beyond curious. Now I am just plain nosey!”
Joshua, who was raised in a traditional Southern Baptist family, is the youngest of three children. He says he also was introverted as a child and is still somewhat quiet.
Christine moved to South Carolina in the 1960s, as the civil rights movement was escalating. “The first week we lived here, there was a Klan rally on Main Street,” she recalled. “There were dogs and kids and adults — all in hoods. My first impression of the South wasn’t so great. Where I lived (up North) was all Polish, all white. I never saw a black person in my town. … My parents were very open. My dad’s job was to help integrate the South.”
As devout Christians, Joshua’s family was decidedly conservative. “They were very private about their willful ignorance. I am more of the fighter,” he said. “I study religion. I’m a third-year student. People in the South associate religion with Christianity. That’s not my field of study. I study Islam.”
Joshua’s parents are working class. His father sells insurance, and his mother is an administrative assistant. They made sure all of their children knew the value of an education. In fact, they were insistent that their children get a good education. “My parents have high standards. They believe educated people are better.” he said. “I have always struggled. I initially wanted a trade degree. That didn’t happen, so I went to a four-year university.”
Christine and Joshua nod in unison as they agree that misconceptions about religions are rampant. Christine recalls reading a newspaper article that failed to distinguish between Catholics and other Christians. “I guess I’m a ‘Catholic Christian,’” she joked. “I have five children. People would ask me: Don’t you know what causes that? Don’t you know you can stop that?”
“There are many misconceptions about Islam,” Joshua said, noting that the fallacies are grounded in both politics and religion. “I won’t say that there isn’t very strong homophobia or aggression toward women. But they are not all terrorists. … I admire a lot of things about a lot of different religions. I think my interest in Islam came from my protective nature. I saw this religion being unfairly attacked, so I wanted to defend it.”
When he was about 15, Joshua rejected Southern Baptist doctrine and set out to explore other faiths. “When you have a bad thought, that is society’s voice speaking for you. I have always felt that I wanted to fight back against that voice,” he said.
So Joshua ventured out and listened to many different voices expressing different beliefs. “I couldn’t shake my belief in God. I could get away from religion but the one thing that kept me was that nugget of belief in God,” he continued. “So I tried to find a religion that I could believe in. I was Mormon for a while, and that was a good time. I don’t try to convert people. … I am not Muslim. I am a theist. I believe in God no matter what.”
Next they discussed the idea of tolerance and how it seems like there has been less of it lately. “People don’t speak with wisdom anymore,” Christine said. “They don’t listen to understand. They listen to respond.”
“I see an increase in an emphasis on tolerance, but I don’t think people actually practice tolerance,” Joshua responded. “The appearance of tolerance seems to be more important than actually exercising tolerance itself.”
The age difference between the two spans decades. Could either of them have age-related prejudices? Does the younger generation have the same ambition and work ethic that older people have? “There is age discrimination, especially if you are a woman,” Christine asserted.
“I am definitely an outlier,” Joshua clarified right away. “I only date women 20 years older than me. I don’t think you are really old. Age isn’t a determining factor for old. I really don’t have a problem with old people. … Well, maybe their judgment of younger people” could be an irritant.
“The young people who annoy me have a complete lack of curiosity. They just aren’t interested in things not immediate to their needs or wants,” Christine said. “I hear through my children (ages 26-37) that their contemporaries don’t want to work hard or read. They are looking just to be comfortable. I don’t understand why you would want to be complacent and unadventurous in your 20s. … It’s like those who do good things when no one is watching. There has to be people like that. I don’t want to believe people are innately bad.”
February 18, 2017