A new study from Duke University medical center found that mainline Protestants tend to have bigger brains than evangelicals, Catholics or those with no religious affiliation. In an article published last Friday by USA Today, we find it’s actually the hippocampus that’s bigger, not the entire brain. Dr. Amy Owen, the main writer for the study said “There may be more factors responsible for the correlation”, which is doctorspeak for “We have no real idea why this is so, but it is.” The article goes to say that it may be part of belonging to a minority, which causes stress that floods the brain with hormones that can damage the hippocampus. It then points out that, in the U. S. at least, that evangelicals may be a minority, but not by much. They make up 40% of the population and, especially in the southeast, they aren’t exactly stressed out. I don’t know about that. Stress is one of those things where perception is just as important as reality. If you believe you’re an oppressed minority, then you’re going to be stressed. Evangelicals are bombarded with messages that everyone is out to get them, the government is being co-opted by atheists and other groups that would love nothing more than to do away with Christianity, that they’re right and the majority is wrong and that majority resents them for it. And, we in the majority play into those feelings.
I’ll admit that my first reaction at reading this article was one of satisfaction, vindication even. The first thought that popped into my head was “Ha ha, I knew we were smarter than those retards!” My second reaction was one of shame. Shame at feeling superior to my brothers and sister (however misguided I think they are), shame at enjoying that feeling so much and shame at using the slur “retard”. I did this because I like feeling superior to others. It’s a way to hide my insecurities and make me feel better about myself. Do you see the problem in those actions? They’re all about me. When I feel this way, I marginalize others to make myself feel better, which is something that I rail at evangelicals for doing. I’m going to tell you something right now: this is one of the hardest entries I’ve ever tried to write for this blog. It’s pointing out things about me that I don’t like, things that are making me very uncomfortable. But, they are there and need to be dealt with. Being humbled may be necessary from time to time, but it feels like shit.
If there’s something to be learned from my discomfort, I think it’s this: those loud-mouthed, rude, judgmental evangelicals that so get under my skin are just as much my neighbors as the poor people, the homeless people, the gay people; all those that I climb up on my soapbox for and berate any who would oppress them. It’s looking like I need to climb up there and berate myself a little, too.