13 September 2009

Rerun from Jan 2005, by request...

Things That Make You Go Hmmmmm =or= The Wabbit Is Going To Hell =or= Religion 101 =or= Is She Smoking Crack Tonight? Is She Trying To Offend EVERYONE? And Why Is She So Long Winded?

Some people are so religious they stop being Christian, and I didn’t want to be one of those people.*

Thus, I quoteth myself.

And the quote sprangeth to mind during an IM conversation with Murf, aka Undr, aka the guy who seems to have forgotten that he has a blog. I-Forget-To-Blog-Murf does not understand why I don’t attend church; I remind him often(…ok, once in a while…maybe every 5 years) that I used to, but I came to understand that I did not share enough fundamental beliefs with the church with which I was associated (yeah, I think I mangled the grammar there) to be comfortable, so I stopped going. And there was that incident with the Relief Society Visiting Teacher who screeched into the phone at me, “I am responsible for your soul!” That kinda turned me off. As did the alcoholic Bishop’s wife (she was an alcoholic; I don’t know about him.) And the fact that I am too self absorbed to pass up the Sacrament (communion in most churches) when I know I have all these theological differences with the church as a whole, and I am not comfortable with accepting the sacrament when I feel that way (um, yeah…those of you who celebrate it as “sacrament” instead of “communion” and have a “relief society” and “visiting teachers” now know what religion the Wabbit walked away from so many years ago.)

I’m not going back, so if you’re so inclined, save your breath.

The conversations with Murf inevitably turn to two things: one, when you’ve realized that your religion is not the right religion for you, how do you pick a new one? No one teaches Pick A New Church 101. There is no list that says “if you believe this and this and this, get in line A. But if you don’t believe this, get in line B. If you believe everything in the first list AND you believe in the ordination of women and homosexuals, get in line C. If you qualify for line C but also have issues with the erosion of individual rights, form line D and register to vote.”

Two, with few exceptions (and those exceptions are bright lights and awesome people) the "Christians" I meet (that’s the key here…people I meet…that doesn’t mean I group ALL Christians together. I don’t…) are incredibly judgmental and don’t have room in their little worlds for others who don’t share their vision of what is Right and what is Wrong and what constitutes Moral Aberration. They expect everyone else to bend to their vision of a Moral America (or world) and condemn anyone else’s vision.

Here’s the thing. I find those people—-people who tout themselves as Christian but who don’t make room for anyone else’s credo—-to be very non-Christian. They (being ones I have mostly noticed) have entered into the realm of being so religious that they are no longer Christian, not really. They often wear WWJD bracelets and act as if they know what Jesus would do or say or think (“Tsk. Do you think Jesus would drink that wine?” Why, yes I do, considering what he once did to water. Thank you very much for asking.) They look at someone gay and screw up their noses as if having smelled something really bad, and mutter the word “queer,” absolutely sure “those people” are headed straight for hell. They espouse the sanctity of heterosexual marriage while refusing to acknowledge that as long as husbands are beating wives, people are getting married 4 and 5 and 6 times, Britney Spears can turn herself into the poster child for “it was just a joke,” straight people have pretty much blown the ideal of the sanctity of “straight” marriage right out of the water. And really, are you any less married if the two guys down the street enter into a legally binding marriage? Nobody said it had to be a religious marriage ceremony.

Murf is Catholic. He can’t imagine being anything but Catholic, and he can’t picture raising his kids any other way. I admire that. And we agree on so many things: it’s none of our business what the two guys down the street are doing, and it’s seems very wrong for the government to throw a wall up forbidding them to enjoy the rights the rest of us have simply by virtue of our hardwiring. We also agree that no church should ever be compelled to marry anyone, gay, straight, or indifferent. We both tend to think that, being made of God and by God, each and everyone, that there’s a purpose to our lives—-and nothing made of God and by God could ever be “queer.” We seem to be on the same page when we talk about the mixing of politics and religion, that they should not mix and that the politicians need to stop running on religious agendas and focus on the needs and wants of their entire constituency: a government of and by the People, not of and by the Church At Which The Congressman Has Membership. Neither of us is in favor of organized prayer in schools; we both believe that kids who want to pray should be allowed to.

He has many of the same conflicts of religion that I have, yet he’s entirely comfortable with his church. He attends Mass weekly. His best friend was a priest who walked away from it all, and he understands and agrees with the reasons, but there’s not much that can shake him away from his church.

I walked away from mine.

That isn’t the same as walking away from my faith. I did not do that; I carry it with me because it is mostly who I am. I don’t just believe in God. I don’t just believe in Christ. I know these things. And honestly, if you put my feet to the fire, I can’t tell you why I know these things. Unlike Murf, I didn’t grow up with the routine of church every Sunday. I didn’t go to Sunday School, didn’t have Bible study or catechism classes. It’s just in me.

But in spite of that, in spite of knowing what I believe and think and feel, and for the most part why (whether based on experience or naivety, I don’t know) I don’t have a clue how to go about choosing a church. I am wary of most of them for no other reason than the aforementioned “Christians.” I don’t ever want to be so religious that I stop being Christian. I don’t want to be one of “those” people.

Sound hypocritical?
Of course it is.
We’re all hypocrites of one form or another.

Faith is not a straight and narrow path, even when being “good” is associated with “being on the straight and narrow.” The pathway of Faith has twists and turns and odd side streets that take us places we might never imagine we’d go. It’s what makes life a journey…and I cannot imagine forcing anyone to walk the same path I am on, taking my journey instead of taking their own.

I don’t have to impinge on anyone else’s personal freedoms in order to embrace my own faith. I do think I have to respect his beliefs, even if I don’t agree with them.

I don’t have to take some square peg and bang him into my round hole. I do think I have to mold space around myself to make room for the things that don’t necessarily fit.

I don’t have to hold someone up to the light by which I find my way and deem him to be unworthy just because he doesn’t share my beliefs. I do think that if my way is truly the right way, leading by example is the best thing I can do.

I don’t think it is my place to hold judgment. Someone Else has that right and power.

I don’t think the purpose to life is to find happiness. I think it’s to develop righteousness. Those aren’t mutually exclusive of each other.

If I could find a church that has those things I deeply believe as its foundation, I’d probably be there. It would be the Church Of God Loves You—Period. Not “God Loves You As Long as You’re Hereto.” Not “God Loves You Unless You Cast A Legislative Vote Against Prayer In School.” Not “God Loves You, But If You Take A Drink, Light A Cigarette, Or Have Naught Naughty Sex, He Will Cast You Down To Hell.”

Technically, I could start my own church.
Technically, I am ordained.

There’s nothing technical about God, and faith, and finding in what one believes. Yet it all seems very technical when it comes to finding the right place to worship. I’d like to find that ideal church.

I’d like the sign out front to read just what I’d imagine the message to be.
God Loves YOU. Period.

*Finding Father Rabbit, page 23, if you haven’t read it, you really should buy a copy or 20...


Cheysuli and gemini said...

Find a Sufi community around... the Sufis are the original Unitarians--only they don't care if you are Hindu or Muslim or whatever, you are welcome to worship with them.

April said...

I'm Lutheran, which is basically Catholicism without the guilt. I like my "religion" (I'm with the ELCA senod) but I don't agree with a lot of what the church doctrinates (is it a word? do I care?). I also don't go to church, um, ever. I have thought of checking some out but I enjoy my Sunday mornings with my family right now.

I say church-surf if you are so inclined. I think church is more about being comfortable with the people. Your beliefs are your beliefs, no matter if you go with a sect of Christianity or some other religion. I don't agree with all facets of Christianity, but I figure, I'm not going to exactly agree with anyone else either so why bother changing?

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for writing this. I mean, you know...thank you from ALL of us who feel exactly the same way.

I worked for a Christian family business for a year and I've never seen so much hypocrisy, passive-aggressiveness, and judgment in my whole life. The whole time I worked there, I felt sick to my stomach while listening to "Christians" talk so horribly about others that didn't share their same exact virtues. It made me sick and set me back a few years since I WAS thinking about rejoining a church.

Anydoodle, I totally get what you are saying here. I enjoy my faith and spirituality but wonder what might happen to it if I go to church again. Meh.

Nat said...

Great post. No one prepares you for the backlash either.

The Man, aka my paraspouse, "Basically, we are Christians who don't believe in Christ."

Not sure if I believe in their god either to be honest... but more and more it seems "good Christians" aren't really good people.

The Meezers said...

wow, it's as if you climbed into my brain! I'm catholic and have not been to mass (unless it was for a wedding or a funeral) for about 10 years. I have not lost my faith, just my faith in our local diocese. And, I have too many ideas that are very non-catholic and therefore I am probably not in 'good standing' in the church anyway.

Thank you for this post - it's nice to know I'm not the only one who feels this way

kat4 said...

There IS a sign out front:
Impact Ministries,4420 University Drive, Huntsville, AL 35806:

God's Not Mad You, No Matter What!!

(We've been cursed to the dirt because of that belief and that sign.)

The meeting place is now at 3300 Broad Place, Huntsville, AL 35805, but the huge sign is still there (too expensive to move and we put the money into helping people).

The other motto is: Love God but hate religion?

Please visit impactministries dot com. Live webcasts 7:40 p.m. Saturdays.

Changing the way the world see God for over 30 years.

Angela said...

All I can say is "amen". :P I too walked away from my church a long time ago*. I went through 16 years of Catholic school and it turned out a good little agnostic. Personally I "commune with $diety" far more on my motorcycle than I *ever* did sitting on my butt in a pew at church.

I say if you don't feel like looking for a church then don't.


* I was technically excommunicated at the ripe age of 7 because I questioned the need for the sacraments (which I deemed humiliating.) After all, if God "knows all and sees all" then why to I need to talk to a priest? I never got an answer to that.

Celeste said...

1. With you all the way on the church of love.
2. Someone really needs to create and teach that class.
3. I envy you your faith, even if it's no longer specific to a particular church. I'm one of those unfortunate souls who wants desperately to believe in some caring higher power but doesn't seem able to find that belief in them.


Chicka said...

I feel this way about all organized religion. Enough said.

Heather said...

Thank you. I'm posting a link on my Facebook page. I joined a Metropolitan Community Church two years ago. I was raised Catholic, went to Catholic school, went to a Catholic university and am told by the leaders of the Catholic church that I can only be who I am celibate.
MCC was the first church I've found where I feel like I'm home since the message was and is God and Jesus loves you. Period.
Your post really struck a good chord in me. Thank you again.

Zoe and Indy said...

I really liked this post. I was raised catholic, but after I started questioning things as a teenager it slowly turned into more agnostic/atheist. I just can't go to church anymore and support it. I definitely can't deal with the catholic position on things like birth control, and the harm they cause...but I won't rant. Anyway, I have a lot of trouble getting along with some christian fundamentalists, often spreading misinformation, intolerance and hate. But I have a lot of respect for people like you who have their own beliefs and think for themselves, live in the real world, believe in equality, let others have different beliefs, and aren't out to condemn everyone who won't accept exactly what they believe.
I hope I'm not being offensive. I've been told not to talk about religion anymore. Just really liked this post.

-the cats' mom

Anonymous said...

You should try the Unitarian Universalist church. We sound very much down you alley. We allow each person to believe as they choose and do not discrimnate and judge others for their choices and beliefs.

Anonymous said...

It sounds lide you believe as I do and I'm Lutheran. ELCA brand, as MS is very much more restrictive. The benefit of being a group (church) is that you can help more people more efficiently, through feeding programs, shelters, etc. and it seems to me, that is very much What J Would Do.