LOST FAITH… AND THE JOURNEY BACK
By Sappho on December 12, 2009
BlogHer Original Post
Lectori Salutem! or L.S. (Greetings to the Reader!)
We all knew it wouldn’t be long before religion reared its head in this forum of my self-expression. Much to some people’s disbelief this will not be the blog where I take out my axe and chip away at the organized forms of expressing religious beliefs and the very existence of God or spout from the handbooks I have read in recent years like Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion or Ravi ZachariasThe End of Reason. Instead, I am going to start out slow with this subject and introduce you first to the side of me that was formed into the being I am today with a few stories of my early life in churches and my experiences there and at some other date soon my journey back inside the doors of a place of worship almost 25 years later with a freedom of belief and a renewed outlook on fellowship and communion in the broadest sense of the word among parishioners.
To be perfectly honest, growing up my recollections of my parents’ religious beliefs are few. My senses tell me from a young age that my mother has a strong faith in something greater than herself, God if you will, as she has been through more before the age of 10 than most people go through their entire lives and yet she emerged the most loving, giving, spiritually centered, confident, empathetic and emotionally healthy person I have yet to meet in this life. Perhaps we all say these things about our mothers but it is the people around her that flock to her for emotional support, to tell her their secrets, to get one of her soothing hugs and a kind word, and to feel special as the center of her attention which she gives with abundance. With all of this love and godly behavior, I only remember attending church with her on very few occasions and even fewer with my dad. It just wasn’t part of our lives.
It wasn’t until I was in junior high school and one of my best friends Jennifer attended a Methodist church with a great youth group called Methodist Youth Fellowship or MYFthat I attended with any kind of regularity. Here I would become familiar with the tunes that accompany the hymns of all the Christian religions, regardless of the words. There are about 10 or 12 heavily relied upon ditties that seem to make the church choirs sing in jubilation the most. Anyone who has gone to more than one religious institution has surly heard their favorite hymn, only sung with different words. Back at the Methodist church, MYFwas involved in everything. We went on day trips to the parks around Houston as well as places of interest in the surrounding area; parents who had lake houses in the Hill Country and Piney Woods would volunteer their places for weekend getaways; every year a major musical production, of G-rating of course, was put on for the congregation (this is what really drew me to the church in the first place); and in the summers there was the great tradition of church camp where boyfriends were found and new best friendships were forged. What 11 or 12 year-old could resist?
It was in the halls of Terrace United Methodist Church that I first learned to study the Bible, both the New Testament and Old. I must say that all that remains in my brain solidified from those early days seems not to be the new stuff I have educated myself with today but the old King James Version lessons that were told from a similar place that I believe them to be intended today, regardless of whether or not I am a Christian. I am proud to say the Methodists did not plant hatred in my heart, fear of the devil, dancing, a drink, or making mistakes. I don’t remember ever hearing anything anti-anybody back then but gays were not knocking on the church door asking to be married at the time either. All I can say is that when you read what became of me and by belief and trust in God Almighty you can be sure I was taught by some loving people, but here is where the cookie started to crumble and the logical and exploratory side of my brain took over.
One bright and sunny Sunday afternoon in MYF class as we discussed Christ and lessons of the Bible and our cool, hip younger leaders answered our religious questions as they came up I opened my mouth to speak and asked a question that I guess in football terms would be called a technical foul. I went outside the box of Christianity as my brain just leads me where it leads me and said, “What about reincarnation? I mean if energy is neither created or destroyed, do our souls come back and reinvigorate another being?” I hadn’t read anything about Buddhism or the concepts of Einstein’s theory of relativity, I just put to things I heard about together from a magazine or a science book or TV or wherever. The room fell quiet and no one said anything for about 30 seconds. Then, the woman I had looked up to as a mentor for the last two years simply said, “we are Methodists. We don’t believe in reincarnation.” As a 14 year-old I was not about to go knocking on the pastor’s door and get a second opinion. One was enough. Within a month I was no longer a follower of the Methodist faith or any religion for that matter. I became a religion of one.
This just demonstrates how precarious faith is and how expansive a child’s mind can be. I cannot go back to that place and get back my innocent belief that their was something out their that encompassed all my questions. I work very hard to find meaning and substance in this world and in life to fill me up spiritually and give me a little piece of faith. It is not organized religion that is the problem as we are pack animals and the idea of meeting around central themes or ideas (see my WHOSE COMMUNITY blog) is so natural. It is what each individual perpetuates as the idea of the whole. In my opinion religious ideas have to evolve as we, a society, do or it will become redundant and irrelevant. It has already happened. People used passages from the Old Testament at one point in history to keep women down or subservient to men and to keep the races from mixing and civil rights legislation from passing. All that was done in the name of religious mandate and those mandates have changed and adapted however the text hasn’t. Go read your King James Bible around the same place you can find the famous “thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind; it is an abomination” passage in Leviticus 18:22. You look it up. There are free Bibles online that are searchable. Try http://www.online-literature.com/bible/bible.php. Do I have to do all the work? It will be a good exercise in religion, community, and political commitment. I'll just list two that are listed in the same passages as this is an order from God. You cannot allow cows to be in the field with other animals or put different crops in the same field because that is an ABOMINATION before GOD. Yet somehow we are not persecuting the farmers and ranchers (except those who sued Oprah in Texas; they felt a little persecuted) and keeping them from getting marriage licenses and equal rights and protections under the law and it specifically states in the BIBLE that they are doing wrong according to God’s laws. It has always fascinated me that we never ask the big questions? Who is it that gets to decide what moral laws we follow from the Old Testament and what moral laws we don’t. I mean God didn’t think homosexuality such a sin to put it on the Ten Commandments or anything. And why aren't those crazy religious fanatics picketing ranchers and farmers disobeying God's laws? It states it IN THE BIBLE IN BLACK AND WHITE no more stringently than the part about homosexuality. Someone, anyone, defend this obscene, inane way Christians pick and choose which laws of the Old Testament are worthy of still following and which are archaic and maybe I'll learn a little respect for your point of view. OK, OK... my blood pressure is rising so I better stop for now.
This of course is just the beginning of my take on religion and I am sure many of you disagree with little ol’ me and my thoughts. That’s what the comments are for. Have at me!!!
Inspired by Sappho
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