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In New York, image is everything.  All transplants to the City (like me 10 years ago) quickly feel the pressure to market a persona that prospective employers and “friends” will buy.  As a youngish single guy living in Manhattan, I donned my share of masks.  When I first arrived, moving from a rural Western New York town that, at Population: 3800, is 7 hours and a world away, I imagined my recent graduate degree from a British institution would be my key to fame, so I presented myself as anglophile smarty pants, until I discovered that nobody here thinks I’m smart and landed my first job as an assistant making $10 an hour.

Next, I became the aspiring actor who, if truth be told, rarely made it to auditions, performed miserably at them most of the time, and, if I was lucky enough to get a gig, vacillated between potentially adequate and just plain awful.  Briefly, I was a hipster wannabe, until I decided that staying in really was the new going out and being in by 9 pm was best.  I even attempted the metrosexual thing (you remember—straight boy, well-groomed), but a preference for Pepsi over Pilates, a tendency toward bad hair days, and a mountain of student loans snowcapped by credit card debt soon overshadowed my desire to be the svelte, product-pampered, cool-clothes-buying hottie who gets the girl.  (Incidentally, an old girlfriend did once call me hottie, but I’m sure she was flattering and, anyways, she’s since married someone else—a fat lot of good that did me.)

So, while my type, as my former acting teachers would call it, is still unclear (I’m hoping before it’s too late to be Young Daddy, the nothing guy who marries the beautiful woman who bears children who take after their mother), I’m nonetheless certain of who I am.  I am, forgive the apparent non sequitur, a Christian.  Not necessarily a very good one, and, because I’m a bit of a weenie, not always a public one, but a believer in Christ all the same.

“Christian in the City” may seem like a novelty or even an oxymoron to some, but my sense, be it perceived or real, is that I am not alone here.  There seem to be, all around me on this wonderful island of concrete and steel, a growing number of others who confess Christian theism as their dominant worldview.  And these are not your father’s Jesus people or your grandfather’s holy rollers.  I’m talking about orthodox believers who, while they may have been Bible-thumping Jesus freaks or bong-toting preachers’ kids in the high schools of middle America, have somehow ended up thriving in NYC not just as a religious subculture but as likeable, grown-up members of society.

I don’t mean to overstate the case or frighten happily agnostic Gothamites with predictions of a Christian invasion, but I suspect you already know of whom I speak.  The copywriter in the cubicle next to you, though up for a pint on Thursday night, left the pub after one round for a meeting he eventually admitted was a Bible study.  The lead actress in the Broadway show you see thanks her “Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ” in her Playbill bio.  Tacky sentiment, you think, but, no worries, it’s probably a southern thing, and, besides, she’s damn good.  And the young Wharton grad renting the apartment next door?  Though he can be as cocky as all kids close to making their first million, don’t be surprised if, when you break your ankle next week and he brings you a meal, the card attached suggests he is “praying for you,” and you get the sense he means not just “thinking of you” but literally getting down on his Brooks Brothered knees and mentioning you by name to a divine Person who, he believes, is listening and wanting to aid your recovery.

These Christians I speak of, your co-workers, acquaintances, neighbors, may not be packaged the way you’re used to thinking of their ilk.  They may not bear the image of the anti-intellectual, bigoted, politically-driven prudes obsessed with waging a culture war against the “liberal media” and Britney Spears’ belly button.  They might be regular folks who have, some against their best intentions to the contrary, fallen in love with a Man they believe to be love personified.  Yes, evangelicals are, by definition, evangelistic.  From time to time they may want to talk about their faith, just as all people tend to discuss things that are most important to them.  Humor them and listen if you want.  Or nicely tell them to cork it.  Perhaps they’ll understand, as an old jock-turned-youth-pastor once explained, that Christians are called to love all people, not just to manipulate them into our kingdom, but because we posit a God who loves all people—even average-IQ dilettantes, overweight metrosexuals, ex-hipsters, out-of-work actors, and juvenile Christian writers.

@LScottEkstrom is a freelance writer living in New York.

Article and photo credit:  Copyright 2013, L. Scott Ekstrom.  All rights reserved.