"Oh so you must think I'm going to hell right?"
That was the acerbic response I once received from a former colleague when she realised I was a Christian.
It's reactions like that, coupled with snap judgements about the views I might hold, which has meant in the past I found it easier to simply keep schtum about my beliefs. It just wasn't worth the aggro.
These days, I'm more than happy to chat about my faith, although generally won't do so unless someone expresses an interest. But if I'm asked what I did on Sunday, I've no problem saying I went to church. Of course there's a time and a place for this sort of chat, but I'd say this extends to plenty of areas of your personal life.
Occasionally, however, the nerves do creep back in and I get a little bit worried that people might respond with. What if they think I'm some sort of fundamentalist nutter? Or worse, what if they think I'm judging their every action and they have to change how they behave around me? The memory of that ex-colleague turning and snapping at me because I wasn't quite the person she thought I was still sometimes bothers me. I thought she was a lovely woman and enjoyed chatting to her but she clearly felt that something had changed between us after that.
I don't think I face anything like the level of abuse that people of other faiths do, especially people who aren't white. Maybe other Christians do, I can't speak for them, but I think things like the recent rise in crimes of an Islamophobic and anti-Semitic nature show that there are certain groups who are more likely to face abuse and even physical harm because of their religion. But there is still a great deal of vitriol directed towards Christians, particularly online - just look at the comments directed at Theresa May when she spoke about her faith in an interview with the Sunday Times last weekend. The fact that I even questioned whether or not I should even write this blog is testament to the fact that it can be a scary subject to talk about.
So I did think Fiona Bruce had a point when she said in the Commons on Tuesday that some Christians find themselves scared to talk about their faith in public. But where she stumbled, for me, was when she said Christians were scared to mention Christmas.
I'm just not sure I buy the idea that there is some sort of 'war on Christmas' in the UK and, to be honest, I'm not sure how many Christians actually do. I get so irritated by the claims people are angry about Starbucks just having plain red cups or whatever the argument is this year. I don't care if Starbucks have red cups, green cups or serve me my flat white in a hollowed-out coconut with a tiny umbrella. Starbucks is a coffee shop not a church.
If someone wants to call them "icicle lights" rather than "Christmas lights", they can crack on. Call it a Winter Festival if you want. Not. Bothered.
If you want to celebrate Christmas without visiting a church, referencing the Christmas story or sending up any sort of request to the Big Man, fill your boots. For me it's a religious festival, but you do you.
I'm just not convinced the 'war on Christmas is a thing' in this country and I so I don't think it's helpful to bring up when discussing freedom to discuss your beliefs. It dilutes the argument and makes what is actually a serious issue into something ridiculous.
Freedom of expression and not being afraid to talk about your religion whatever it may be (or absence of religion, for that matter), is really important. Being kind and respectful to each other and open to talking about things that form an important part of our lives is something I would really encourage. But let's not get it mixed up with talk about a "war on Christmas" that I'm really not convinced exists.Suggest a correction