The knowledge of her salvation made Gifty feel special, and she was perturbed when she told a classmate about it and learned that this classmate—who had showed her budding breasts to another kid—had been saved two years earlier. But she tried to hold onto the feeling of specialness.
Unfortunately for Gifty, the special feeling of her transformative spiritual moment is difficult to hold onto. She compares herself with a classmate who she judges to be less holy than herself—since Gifty would never have unchastely showed her developing body to a classmate—who has already been saved. The comparison suggests that Gifty might feel that others claim salvation too easily, while she herself waited and waited until she was sure that she heard Jesus calling her. But in a time of familial upheaval, her salvation gives her something to hold onto for herself.
Gifty tried to put her salvation to use volunteering at the church. She was usually the only person who went with P.T. to the soup kitchen, but lots of the teens liked going to the fireworks stall that the church, for some reason, owned. Neither the teens nor P.T. really wanted her there, so she kept quiet, reading books and judging P.T. for shooting off merchandise without paying.
Gifty continues to compare herself and her salvation to the other members of her church, who she thinks behave less charitably than she herself does. For example, everyone likes volunteering at the firework stand, because it’s fun. Conversely, very few people show up to do the harder and more thankless work of the soup kitchen. Even as she’s trying to show off her new-found salvation, however, Gifty can’t resist judging others like P.T. who follow the rules less scrupulously than she herself does.
P.T.’s protégé was a kid named Ryan Green, whom Gifty didn’t like even though she didn’t yet know that he was the high school’s biggest drug dealer. He would ask her about Nana’s recovery, since the basketball team was suffering without him. In front of P.T., Ryan was “prayerful” and respectful. On his own, Ryan was mean and belittling. Ryan made Gifty wonder how there could be a place for her in the Kingdom of Heaven if God also allowed duplicitous people like Ryan in.
Ryan Green’s behavior, from his mean and subtly racist attitude towards Gifty and Nana to his drug selling, isn’t particularly in line with the values of Christianity. Nevertheless, he doesn’t have a hard time acting out a faith that he doesn’t seem to practice. Gifty’s hard-earned and honestly-felt faith doesn’t seem to count for as much in her church as Ryan’s physically effusive but shallow beliefs. This suggests that it’s not just her religion’s opposition to science that alienated Gifty, but also a certain amount of hypocrisy among her fellow churchgoers. The pastor’s response to his pregnant daughter earlier in the book suggested this hypocrisy, and Ryan begins to show that it might run deeper than Gifty had originally realized.