6th place: High school essay contest 2022 — Maya Michalski
FFRF awarded Maya $1,000.
By Maya Michalski
To the boy who hit me with a bible in the 6th grade: We were in our social studies class discussing world religion when our teacher said, “Most of you probably already know a lot about Christianity.” I did not. You said God did not love me because I didn’t know him. I didn’t grow up with him. I was not indoctrinated, like you were. I was fine without him. I didn’t even notice he was missing until you pointed it out.
Even in his absence, without his “guiding hand,” I was no criminal. But, you looked at me like I was, almost like I had offended you by not being a part of your group. So, you hit me over the head with your pocket bi-ble. The irony of it all is almost hilarious — “God tells me to do good, so I will use him to harm.” You said you did not want to be my friend anymore because I was not a good person. Were you a better person than I was?
Sophomore year, you told me you were disappointed in me, that I had lost my way. All I had done was cut off my hair. I was no longer tolerable to you. I was all the things you were told not to be. You hated me for it. Was it because I wasn’t part of your little group? Or is it because the girl you had a crush on had a crush on me?
You told me that everyone sins, but being gay is morally the worst. Morally. That word stuck. What made you so morally righteous? Your use of slurs? Your bible smacks? You told me Texas wasn’t the place for me, that I made too many waves here. I was “too much” for it. Everything is bigger in Texas — the hypocrisy, the judgment and the piousness, too.
Before we graduated, you told me getting into heaven is like a point system. You made a joke that I was “too far gone.” With your theory, you get points for helping someone up, opening a door or spreading his word. You lose points by disobeying God, committing crime and harm-ing others.
I challenged myself that day. I will get more points than you. I will continue to love, not because someone told me too, but just because it is right. I will continue to give, not because someone told me too, but just because it is kind. I will continue to live, not because someone told me too, but just because it is fun. I will do it how I want to do it. Your religion does not make you a good person. The way you use it actually makes you a bad one.
Thank you for hitting me. You taught me how to live. Not because you “showed me the light,” but because you pushed me further from it.
Maya, 18, is from Fort Worth, Texas, and attends Marymount Manhattan College, with plans to major in musical theater.
“I would love to become an interpreter for the stage,” Maya writes. “I am a costume designer and performer and have been in theatre since I was 8. I was VP of my chapter of National Honor Society. I’m an amateur chef and, according to multiple sources, one of the coolest people of all time.”