Nothing Without You (But I Don’t Know Who You Are): Loss of Religion & Faith
I’m usually a happy Agnostic with Christian leanings. I celebrate Christmas, I celebrate Easter. I listen to Palestrina’s and Bach’s sacred masses on my iTunes and I am a sucker for Gregorian chant. I pray sometimes. I love old churches and cathedrals, especially getting to sit inside something so majestic and massive. And sometimes I hate the entire thing.
It’s not even that I came from a bad religious background. Nothing about my indoctrination into the Church was in any way traumatic. My parents baptized me Anglican, but I was mostly raised in the United Church of Canada, an extremely liberal sect of the Protestant Church. Though at the time they were quite a bit more traditional, the United Church’s present mandate is that they are welcoming AND affirming. I have found it interesting over the years that in the face of the Catholic and Southern Evangelical Churches strongly resisting welcoming people from all walks of life and orientations to worship, the United Church has been the one church that has maintained a strong and clear stance. You are welcome here. God welcomes you here.
So what reason at all would I have to hate the entire thing? It’s not the United Church. It’s not my parents, who raised me to be open, strong, and accepting in my faith. It’s the fact that while I was raised in a loving environment, I was not raised to handle the open hatred of many within the Christian sect. Together, though they shouldn’t have been able to pierce my faith-forged armour, they contrived to take me down and grind me under their heel. And they very nearly succeeded.
First of all: the “they” I refer to are people who would tell you that they don’t have any specific denomination they belong to. They are God’s children and that’s all that matters. And really, it doesn’t matter what denomination they belong to, or what they really believe. One of the main tenets Jesus taught was to love thy neighbour as thyself. And they don’t. They still don’t, to this day.
I’ve said before that if you need to “love the sinner, but hate the sin”, you’re actually just being hateful. At the time, I had not come out as bisexual, but I knew there was something different about me, something that I perceived as dark and shameful, mostly from hanging around these people. But because they didn’t know it, they couldn’t drive me away using the “sin” of being gay. Instead, they decided to attack my knowledge of religion, my clear and innocent (at the time) faith, and through much twisting of Scripture and “Jesus-speak”, the special vocabulary some churches must go out of their way to teach their members from infancy, they told me I wasn’t good enough. Would NEVER be good enough.
And that’s where I started to hate the great and powerful institution of the Church.
One little pinprick feels like nothing at all. But days of pinpricks, of twits and laughter at your clothes and jewellery, of the sharp intake of breath when you walk into a room, of little knots of people standing in hallways, waiting for you to come closer – it starts to pierce through any self-preservation you might have. It starts to hurt and sting. Eventually, you start to bleed. And they slowly wear you down.
“You’re standing on the fence between heaven and hell. I think you’re probably going to fall straight into hell.”
“That’s a demonic symbol you’re wearing. God sure isn’t looking down kindly on you.”
“Why are you talking to that gay kid? Being gay is a sin. You need to witness to him and tell him where he’s going wrong. A good Christian would . . . aren’t you a good Christian?”
They would line up, lie in wait, start to carefully turn the conversation around to their agenda of trying to convert me – or because I wasn’t good enough, and never would be good enough for their perfect society, maybe they were trying to just put me in my place. I eventually decided that a God of a religion like this was not a God I wanted to believe in. I didn’t want any part of their religious bullying. I didn’t want to call myself a Christian.
I struggled for years with this. I had such a clear, pure faith in God. I genuinely loved going to church. I spent a retreat right before Confirmation completely communing with the Holy Spirit, or so I thought. And then this happened.