I’m a Profiler

Grand Teton in Winter - By NPS [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“If you have God all over your profile and I don’t follow back, it’s not that I don’t like you. I’m just trying to avoid an argument.”

This was a tweet that I wrote a few days ago, but never sent – partially because it may be a tad inflammatory, but mostly because I really didn’t want to hear it. People get very uptight about religion and a clenched bunghole isn’t the ideal posture from which to begin a dialogue.

Someone from a dad blogger group that I belong to on Facebook followed me on Twitter. As usual, I clicked over to his profile to see if we had anything in common. There it was. Right at the beginning:

“I am a follower of Christ,…”

Uh oh.

My eyes glazed over. Elbows on the desk, I cupped my chin in my hands.

This can’t end well.

Now, I knew that my apprehension was based on a lot of assumptions. That’s not fair. If you’ve read my blog for any period of time, you know that I’ve preached against that sort of thing, so I visited his blog. I discovered that just about every post began with a bible verse.

Damn it. I knew it!


Tonight, unrelated to the above, I saw a tweet from another member of the blogging group. It seemed like it might be a trick question, but I was feeling adventurous. I decided to play along.

#dads are you concerned with teaching your kids your views about god/faith?

My views? No, not concerned. We’ve talked about where the church and I differ. They are encouraged to decide for themselves.

And you’re ok with whatever they decide? Like you don’t think there is a right/wrong view. Or a good/better view to have?

There it is. That’s what he was going for. It is his raison d’etat. Here comes the sermon, but before he delivers it, I’ll give him this to chew on for a minute.

I am okay with it. Assessing right/wrong in terms of religious choice is pretty subjective, don’t you think?

Game over!

I’m currently struggling with what used to be my religious affiliation. But I feel pressure to teach my kids about God.

What? Wait. This wasn’t a trap, and he’s not out to convert anyone. He’s just a guy looking for answers.

Oh boy.

Pressure from whom? Just as you are deciding, they will too. Introduce your beliefs, but know it’s not necessarily permanent.

Pressure from myself. From my upbringing. #faith #fatherhood

What we learn isn’t always what we should teach. My parent’s beliefs are not mine. Only you can decide what to teach yours.

That’s how it ended. He went on to tweet a related question to the world, but I didn’t join in.

It’s not an easy thing to realize that the trouble I anticipated was just in my head. I could blame previous encounters with hyper-preachy people for my mindset. Yeah, I could do that. Or I could write this post, complete with a mea culpa. It’s clear that I should have gone into the conversation with an open mind. I’m sorry now, that I didn’t. At least it seemed to go well.

The Rest of the Story

I went back to that first blog. This time, rather than flee at the sight of scripture, I stayed a while and read his last three posts. Turns out, he’s just a guy trying to live a good life. That life, for him, is rooted in his faith. His posts may play off of the selected bible verses that precede them, but mostly he just writes about being a dad.

And from what I have read, he’s working hard at being a good one.

I’m following him on Twitter now, and I’ll direct him to this post when it’s published.

I don’t know how he will react when he reads this, but I wouldn’t want to put my foot in the presupposition bucket yet again.

I’ve had my fill.

Neither one of these two men would have ever known that they had been profiled, by me, unless I told them. But I couldn’t tell my story honestly or completely without them.

I hope we can be friends.


01/13/2013 – Mark Vander Ley has written a response to this post. He was the first of the two men who I wrote about last night. You can read it here:  I’ve Been Profiled

Published by

Ray Colon

He works with numbers for a living, but don't judge - boring accountants need love too. His blog has no niche (unless writing about things that are important to him is a niche). Some folks cringe when he gets “all political” on them, but he does it anyway when he's in that kind of mood. Sometimes, he writes something nice about someone, but you shouldn't get used to that. His first book, the one he hasn't written yet, is not available on Amazon. Subscribe to Ray's Blog via RSS  or Email.

27 thoughts on “I’m a Profiler”

  1. Ray,

    Wow! I have to say that I appreciate your honesty. Most people would never admit that they profile, let alone post it on their blog if they have one. Everyone profiles to some extent. We have to process, discern and judge. However, sometimes we end up doing it too soon, not giving others a chance to express their thoughts. At that point, we really put ourselves in a place that doesn’t allow us to grow, to learn or be influenced.

    I have to admit, I was doing it a bit as I was reading this posting. Why? Because I am a Christian and have experienced people shutting me down at the first reference of God, let alone a scripture reference. I had a fear that at some point I would be subjected to the same fate. I also had to shake it off and laugh when I realized I was doing the same thing as I was reading.

    I want to thank you for your honesty. It is so refreshing and it adds into your writing by volumes. You cause me to think.

    Janice recently posted..Looking Ahead: Achievement In LifeMy Profile

    1. Hi Janice,

      First let me say, thank you for breaking the ice. Sometimes, I’ll write a post on a sensitive issue and people are reluctant to comment. I understand the impulse, but wish that it weren’t so.

      I agree that we all do it — profiling, prejudging, and the like, but we seldom talk about it. Last night, I saw an opportunity to try to change that. By letting me know that you were going down the same path that I was writing about as you were reading this, you’ve shown that we can talk about it. I’m glad that you continued reading to the end. Last night, someone tweeted their displeasure with my post. I doubt that that person read the whole thing.

      I’ve communicated with both of the people who I wrote about. They each told me that they liked the post; one of them is writing a response post today. He’s indicated that he will comment here with a link to that post when he’s done.

      People are often reflexive, as when you mentioned, “people shutting me down at the first reference of God.” The sense is that we’ve heard it all before, or that the other person is trying to sway us. The same thing occurs with all hot-button issues. People become entrenched in their views, so everything counter that them is considered meaningless and not worthy of discussion. As you said, it closes us off.

      Thanks for your comment and for your tweet. They are appreciated.

  2. Wow! Just wow! I often have the same reaction.

    You know, because sometimes I feel like I’m the only Jewish girl in the room.

    But I like to follow good writers. And some of them SOMETIMES include scripture. I’m okay with sometimes. But I prefer folks like @LizMcLennan who I know is a believer, but she writes stories — and she never preaches. She draws me in as a human being and makes me feel welcome. Through her words, I feel I have come to understand Christ a little more. As much as a Jewish girl with her own reservations about organized religion can.

    Great post!

    And your site looks great, too!
    Renee Schuls-Jacobson recently posted..Lessons From A New York Vagrant #SoWrongMy Profile

    1. Hi Renee,

      Those snap decisions are probably the norm — and it’s not only about religion. For example, I have the same reaction when I see that a profile is overly political. Even if we belong to the same party, I think, “Do I really want to see tweets about that every day?”

      Like you, I like to follow good writers. Those writers who challenge their readers instead of playing it safe. They don’t have to do it on every post — we all can use some lighthearted fun too — but often enough that they make me want to come back to find out what’s on their minds.

      You’ve written so glowingly about Liz. How could I not pay her a visit?

      Thanks — about the post and the look of the site. It was nearly midnight when I finished. I considered sleeping on it, but didn’t want to risk changing my mind, so off it went.

          1. It is so weird to be reading a conversation about me. Weird but fun. Thank you both for you honest and kind words, here and on my blog.

            I must say, I don’t consider myself a “Christian writer” or anything of the sort. I’m a mum. I gave birth to two miracles and in the moment when I held both of them for the first time, I believed in God. I had not done so for many years, so it took awhile to be reacquaint and assemble myself around this belief, but…

            Thank you for seeing the good in what I write, Renee (and Ray) and for reading. You hold my heart when you do…and in doing that, God is holding you.

            1. Hi Liz,

              Now that you’ve mentioned it, I guess that could seem weird. 🙂 Sorry if it freaked you out a little.

              Oh oh, even while recommending a label made an appearance. I wonder, are they unavoidable in our everyday communication?

              I have two gifts of my own. Even though I only played the stand-there-and-don’t-get-in-the-way role in their delivery, the miracle of life and sense of awe was incredible.

              Nice touch there at the end.

              Thank you for reading and for sharing.

  3. Despite being a practicing Catholic, I have some fairly liberal views on religion. So I will read overtly Christian blogs, but I don’t engage on them. Too many folks on the Internet are not looking to broaden their perspectives. And in print, it’s hard to tell just where a dialogue will go.
    Lisha Fink recently posted..NOLA SeasonsMy Profile

    1. Hi Lisha,

      It’s true that there are risks associated with engaging on the Internet. It doesn’t take much (or many) to turn an experience sour. It’s not uncommon to find blogs with their comment sections awash with irrationality and vile — many of the “debates” having been sparked by nothing more sinister than an opposing opinion.

      It is because of my liberal views that I am no longer practicing. I’ll attend services, but not on a regular basis. I think that religion often gets in the way of solving problems because everyone seems to pick a side. The original problem is then ignored while the merits of each side are debated.

      Thanks for being willing to comment here.

  4. Hi Ray! Thanks for checking up on me on Twitter while I was having that forced hiatus from blogging. It meant a lot.
    Now onto your topic. I think in some ways it’s human nature to profile a little bit. It doesn’t necessarily make it right, but it happens. You see it in sales all the time. In fact, I would warn my employees to be careful not to pre-judge or assume that they knew how much someone wants to spend.
    I get where you were coming from, though. I don’t consider myself a really preachy, but I have a faith…and occasionally it will seep into my blogs. I don’t try to push it on people, it’s simply a part of who I am and how I feel. I have thought long and hard a few times, though, about following certain people’s blogs when they’ve done me that courtesy because the first blog post that I clicked on was significantly doused in religion. Most of the time I’ll follow back anyway and find it’s just a part of who they are…much like me. Sometimes I find the person behind the posts are suffocating with how they try to ram their beliefs down other people’s throats. I don’t like that any more than I like people who do that with their politics.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that first, you’re not alone. Second, it’s human nature. Third…often you’re absolutely right…there are other interesting people on the other end…but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t times where what you see is exactly what you get. 🙂
    Kitt Crescendo recently posted..Back From The AbyssMy Profile

    1. Hi Kitt,

      My pleasure. I was worried for you. And you know what? I checked to make certain that my site was being backed-up properly because your blog disappeared like that.

      I agree that human nature plays a part in it. Your example of pre-judging customers is a good one. I’ve been followed around many stores due to judgement of a slightly different nature. (wink, wink) So even if we don’t mean to do it to others, we certainly don’t like it when it happens to us.

      I think that people should feel free to express themselves, but there shouldn’t be an expectation that everyone will be receptive to what they have to say. Unlike politics, the reason that I find religious conversations confounding is that they are not quantifiable. At some point, the discussion devolves to something like, “Because the bible says so, or because that’s the way God wants it.” Where does one go from there? Usually to the mattresses.

      Your faith “seeps” into your blog, eh? I suppose that mine does too, even if it’s not explicitly stated in religious terms. It’s part of us, so it has a way of showing itself.

      You’re summation, well, sums it up… nicely. Check, check, check.

      Thanks for contributing to the discussion.

  5. Hi Ray,

    Amen to everything already said! Ha ha, pun totally intended 😉

    I admit this post made me feel a little uncomfortable until I finished reading. I was worried that I come off as preachy when really I’m just posting about my beliefs because they are a part of who I am. I’m like the other commenters – my religion is a part of me and therefore seeps into my posts.

    Profiling is human nature. We all do it to some degree even though we know we shouldn’t. But I think that it’s ok to be judgmental in some ways. As long as we don’t close off our minds completely. I mean, we have to be aware of our surroundings and keep ourselves safe or sane or whatever the case may be. However, I think most people have your experience where we wanted to avoid someone and once we allowed ourselves to get to know them we decide our first impressions were wrong. That was a long sentence!

    Personally I get annoyed with niche anythingers online. Most niche tweeters or bloggers seem so shallow because they can’t seem to ever talk about anything else. There are some diabetes bloggers I have stopped following because they tweet and blog every. single. day about how diabetes is 24/7 blah blah blah. To me they come across as obnoxious victims even though they claim every day to be heroes. Good heavens! My pancreas stopped working. It’s that simple. I’ve moved on. But then there are the diabetes bloggers I like to follow because their posts let me know who they are; and they’re more than just another diabetic.

    That’s the joy of meeting new people, whether it be in person or online. We get to choose if they will be an important part of our lives or if we’re better off without them. I just think we need to keep an open mind and get to know someone well enough to make that judgment.
    Piquant Storyteller recently posted..The Fleecing of WeekendsMy Profile

    1. Hi Tristan,

      Yes, amen to that. 🙂

      You know that I’d never want you to feel uncomfortable, but I was telling a story, so the missteps had to come first. Unfortunately, not everyone hangs in until the end. To them, I’m probably “mean Ray” now.

      I never thought that you came across as preachy in your posts. Has that ever come up on your blog?

      Even though the consensus here, so far, is that we all do some profiling, it still felt weird at the moment I realized that I had the agenda; not the person who I was tweeting with. Even though I didn’t tweet anything bad or ugly to him, I suddenly felt like Jimmy Carter lusting in my heart (or plotting in my brain, in this case). The duplicitous intent that I brought to the conversation left me feeling icky.

      First impressions are often wrong, but we rely on them because we have nothing else to rely on in the beginning. I remember that we had a discussion about that on a prior post.

      Re the niche bloggers: I know! Many are like robots. I follow a few and can’t believe that they play that one note every time — even when there is major breaking news that could/should divert their attention.

      I enjoy meeting new and interesting folks, checking out new blogs, and thought that I was a fairly open guy. I guess that we have to take a look and make adjustments from time to time, so that we don’t fall into a rut of seeing things just one way.

  6. If it weren’t for 2 deeply Christian friends whom I’ve known since teens, I would be profiling alot more of religious folks. I am amazed the very strong reaction of people against faith believers who don’t push their views hardly at all. While prosthelyzers are just not helpful at all, there are others who practice their faith discreetly who don’t deserve to be treated like poison.

    Guess, I’m lucky because I’ve had some great friends, who were just that –good friends.

    Now I realize there’s another a friend who is a believer but 99% of the time I’m not really aware of it.

    1. Hi Jean,

      I think that some of that “strong reaction” that you mentioned has to do with the grouping of others that people tend to do. We may not make a distinction between those who proselytize and those who don’t. At first glance, how could we? This isn’t right, of course, but it may be a partial explanation for why it happens.

      I grew up going to church, attended Catholic school for 12 years, and was an altar boy (I know, it’s called altar server now) for two years. The difference between that experience and what I experience today is that it all feels much more “in your face” now than it did then. For example, although I was not a Romney supporter, I told anyone who would listen that I didn’t think that his faith had anything to do with his credentials. A Christian friend of mine, who is a Republican, told me that he could not vote for Romney because of it. For me, that reasoning just did not compute.

      You’re right, most of the time, a person’s faith is a non-issue for me. That’s how I remember it being for many years. That’s how I’d like it to be in the future.

  7. Ray,

    I was surprised to get your tweet this morning expressing your desire to apologize and sharing this post with me. I was a little nervous to click on the link. I really enjoyed the post and am thankful to have had the opportunity to reflect on how Christian’s are perceived in society. I have posted a response on my blog and hope that it will add to the conversation.


    Mark Vander Ley recently posted..I’ve Been ProfiledMy Profile

    1. Hi Mark,

      I’ve just read your post and commented. I encourage my visitors to head on over to read what you had to say. I’ll also append the link to my post.

      I can imagine that you were surprised this morning. The tweet contained an unusual message, I know, so the nervousness is understandable. I’m glad that you enjoyed this post and that you’ve taken the time to write a response. I enjoyed reading your post as well.

  8. Ray, just wanted to say that I think what you’ve done here is admirable and valuable. The worst of human interaction and, of course, internet interaction involves people who have no charity for the person across from them, who refuse to see the good in someone else no matter the differences. It’s going to happen to all of us…maybe it happens every single time we interact, to some extent, because we ARE all very different. But the person who can re-evaluate their own biases and extend a hand in greeting, and appreciation, to someone else, is the kind of person who binds society together, rather than tearing it apart. The worst kind of person, I think, is the person who refuses to admit they can ever be wrong. And often, I am that person.

    Anyway, I just wanted to say that I really appreciate the thoughtful, and self-reflective way you go about your relationships with other people, especially in a medium so easy to abuse as online commentary.
    neal recently posted..On kids asking why and cruel interrogation techniquesMy Profile

    1. Hi Neal,

      I’m blown away and humbled by your comment. I appreciate your kind words and the sentiments that you’ve expressed. Thank you.

      I don’t wish to give the impression that this type of reflection occurs all of the time with me, because I can get caught-up in seeing the world from an “all things me” perspective as well as the next guy. Despite the evidence that exists to the contrary, I think that most people are reflective of the things that they say and do — if only in a less public fashion.

      As to the worst of human interaction: it is so draining to become involved in that type of anger-fueled, hateful, and unthinking discourse. I’ve been fortunate enough to not have received that kind of attention on my blog, but I have worried about that possibility when I’ve written about certain subjects. I’ve learned to stop reading the comment sections of news articles because of the predictably vitriolic responses that are found there.

  9. Very impressive conversation here, Ray! You obviously touched something in many people.

    I am a Christian, but I’m not comfortable with the religious right. I’m much more in the St. Francis of Assisi camp: Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.

    I have atheist friends, liberal friends, conservative friends (and gay friends, if anyone’s curious) … people from all different walks of life. I’m not interested in putting any of them on the defensive by coming on like gangbusters about faith. On the other hand, I always enjoy a good theological conversation, not of the “who’s right, who’s wrong” variety but of the “what do you think?” variety.
    Peter Faur recently posted..Grammar FridayMy Profile

    1. Hi Pete,

      Thanks! It’s an interesting thing. The number of visitors from one post to the next doesn’t vary much, but the number of comments does. Readers seem more willing to comment on personal posts than on those that touch on sensitive issues. This one was both, so I didn’t know what to expect.

      As always, I’m delighted with the tone of the conversation that goes on here.

      I really liked that credo you shared: “Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.” It seems familiar. It’s sensible. And it’s pithy.

      The Internet can be the wrong choice of a setting for “what do you think?” conversations, and that’s a shame because it has the potential for that and for so much more.

  10. Loved this post Ray. A firmly lapsed Catholic, I have for years accompanied my husband to a (liberal) Presbyterian church, even though I’m more or less an atheist. For me God is the process that made us, a process that is currently way beyond our understanding. God is humility. Not a being. Not anything we comprehend, although we have made some breakthroughs. Maybe. Church is where you go to be reminded that we aren’t the masters of the universe, and to get to know and support people of all ages, stripes, incomes, and to sing. I love to sing. You know how Jewish friends say they are not religious but are culturally Jewish? Bingo. Funny though, very, very often, if someone hears I go to a church, their eyes glaze over, and I know they don’t hear another word about my views on God. If I go to church, I must be a good Christian.

    YET. I do the same thing you do. If I come across a scripture-laden tweet or blog, I think phew, don’t need to look at that one. Checked your friend’s responsive post. He wonders what people like me imagine we’re going to find. Tea Party politics? Anti-abortion? Creationism. Yeah, actually. Maybe even worse, thoughtlessness, not in the rude sense, but in the sense that important things in life are just turned over to … something. I admit, my early years at Catholic school where honest questions were artfully dodged left me with a Christian gag-reflex.

    But you are right. Among Christian writers, there are many who are everything humans should be and more. Hard to look over that fence, but we’d better. Thanks.
    Julia Whitmore recently posted..Do 4 Things. Achieve Your Goal. (Update 104 rides in 52 weeks)My Profile

    1. Hi Julia,

      Thanks! I like that reference to “masters of the universe.” It would be difficult to imagine entering a house of worship with that belief and leaving with it still intact. I’m sure that some do, but they’re probably the ones who aren’t listening. It is humbling, if only from the moments that we sit quietly and reflect upon what it all means.

      I think that the glazed eyes have more to do with how we feel about organized religion than the rejection or acceptance of any particular god. I’ve attended services at different houses of worship and inter-faith gathering — leaving each feeling just fine. It’s not the message that I run from, it’s often the messenger. As in a game of telephone, there always seems to be something lost in the translation.

      In Catholic school, I also remember the scripted or half-answers to questions. I finally did get some straight answers (and some genuine doubt of his own) from a Priest during my freshman year of high school. You can imagine how refreshing that was to me at the time.

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