Thursday, August 24, 2006

On Christianity, Kristianity, and Church

While I am sure I can't solve the world's problems or even a majority of my own problems, it can never hurt to start a little discourse. As many who know me can attest, I have gone through my share of struggling with the whole religion question. It has been at the forefront of my life since I was a small child.

I grew up in a family that was very conservative in almost every way. We went to a conservative protestant church. Our church was not at all like the megachurches of today. This was a small local church that felt more like a family. I didn't feel it was plagued with fanaticism. It was a basic Bible believing church. That's it.

If I have any negative feelings about religion from my childhood, it was that I was teased endlessly for going to church. The majority of my neighborhood was Catholic and recent immigrants. Why this made me a target, I don't know. I guess because I was different. They all went to church, just not my church.

When we moved out to the suburbs, we started going to a bigger church. This church was a bit more, how shall we say, evangelical. It was in fact, an Evangelical Free Church. Initially, all this was supposed to mean was that they had broken away from the very formal and organized Lutheran church, but somewhere along the line, it stopped being another church for Scandanavians and became a church for people with right-wing political beliefs.

I have to say, I was good with all of this all the way through high school. I fell for it hook, line and sinker. I will also say that I did have a period of rebellion my first two years in high school, where I refused to take part in the youth group, until I "got caught" and was forced to go. I genuinely enjoyed the youth group for a couple of years. I was full-force evangelical Christian in my beliefs. Ask poor Lulu, she had to live through me trying to "save" her on multiple occasions. What was I thinking? Why she still talks to me, I don't know. I would have run away very quickly in the opposite direction.

Oddly, the thing that set me off on my own was going to a Christian college. I chose to go there. I wanted a small private school and chose Calvin because although it was a Christian school, it was not as militant as many. It was here that I began to see the hypocrisy. It was here that I realized that judging others was a bad idea. It was here that I was exposed to some amazing scholars that challenged my beliefs of what it meant to be a Bible believing Christian. The professors at Calvin were very different from the student population. I still miss some of my professors from Calvin. They were Christians in the same way that I guess I would like to categorize myself now. They were worldly-wise, open minded, intellectual people that never let "religion" get in the way of the truth. I have learned over the years that religion is VERY different from faith. Religion puts things in little boxes, faith sets you free.

For years after college, I didn't set foot in a church unless I was home visiting. I didn't start attending again until I had children. I guess I felt I needed to give them a starting point. We attended a small church in California, much like the church I grew up in. I had minor issues with some political issues, but never felt it was a point of contention and never felt that I was being judged for holding different beliefs. We were very good friends with the pastor and his family. He was an Australian and had been a race car driver before becoming a pastor. They were very real people who were not hypocrites in any way. They openly admitted their struggles as humans. The sermons were usable discourses on life and its difficulties. I still miss them now that we have moved. That, and Sweetness is still minorly in love with one of their boys (they fell in love playing hide and seek under a table at church). We'll discuss arranged marriage another day.

After we moved back to the Chicago area, we started going to Harvest Bible Chapel. Originally, this church was a breakoff of my parents church, which didn't want to follow the same stale path. I do love the pastor, James McDonald. He is an extremely intelligent and funny man. Smart and funny, just like I like them! It's the congregation that gives me the hives. Many are just average people struggling with life. Many are Kristians. I don't like them. I don't want to be seen with them. And I don't agree with them. In my mind, faith and politics do not hold the same space. If they share space it is in a positive, help humanity kind of way. Certainly not in a "we are the only ones who are right" kind of way. We have been going to church less and less, because I struggle all the time with what I am willing to tolerate. We are probably going to switch to the local presbyterian church because the people who attend do not hold the hideous political beliefs that too many of the people at Harvest do. I hate that I have to leave a church because of the people in it.

So, what does all of this mean? I'm not sure. The older I get, the more I realize that it is part of who I am, but I am not willing to sacrifice my integrity for it. I have come to loathe organized religion and I think that's sad. I don't think this is how it's supposed to be. I think we are mere mortals struggling to make it through this world and not one of us holds the answer to anything. Life is a journey of discovery and anyone who claims to hold the key to all of life's mysteries is only fooling themselves. We are imperfect. Thank God.

14 comments:

Tenacious S said...

Disclaimer-I am not a militant Christian and I am not a republican. I check Lulu's counter every day waiting for the fucker to check out. I am also not very good at any of the church stuff. Not only did rock and roll ruin my GPA, I'm pretty sure it is my religion of choice.

Tenacious S said...

Disclaimer #2- I will not be offended by anything anyone says and I realize I am a ball of contradictions. I confuse myself. Any and all beliefs, non-beliefs and opinions are welcome in my world.

Echo said...

No need for disclaimers, T. You strike me as a straight shooter.

After years in catholic school, I'm now a recovering catholic (Hi, Echo!) who's more agnostic than anything else. I'm not an absolutist, so atheism and religion pose similar problems for me.

It's not the faith, it's the way religion is used as a weapon. When the sheeple discover it's a weapon they grab their torches and pitchforks and...holy shit...here we go again...

Increase the peace and spread the love...

Dale said...

I'm with Echo and have even used the term recovering Catholic many times. Christ, my sister's a nun! Whole other story.

You have it so right Tenacious, religion puts things in boxes and asks you to put things in boxes, namely your money.

I'm glad you're a contradiction too because that means I'm in good company.

Tenacious S said...

Thanks, guys. I am so gunshy from being immediately lumped in with the rest of them, that I am afraid to say anything. It's frustrating and sad. I almost pulled the post out of fear that I'd get myself pigeon-holed. I don't like boxes. They scare me. Oddly, my conservative parents raised two non-republican kids. They taught us to think for ourselves. Best lesson on the planet.

lulu said...

You know my feelings on all that shit.

As for why I didn't run screaming when you tried to save me? Because where would I get my stories? The Shar saving Lulu story is a classic. I've een telling it for years.

Coaster Punchman said...

Shar, I would like to think there must be a church out there that you would fit into. Especially in larger cities, where left-leaning people of faith gather to feel the same kind of excitement & enthusiasm about their faith, minus the Kristian factor. I personally have been to one church in NYC that I would put into that category.

Note of interest: my parents live across the street from the Harvest Bible Chapel.

Coaster Punchman said...

Also, I thought you might think the following is funny: For some strange reason (it is early for me on a Saturday and I still have not made coffee) when I first clicked onto your blog this morning I was thinking I had gone to Echo's blog. I was like "Kristina.... hmm, did Echo get that from me?" Then I was reading about Echo's religious upbrining, and was thinking "gee, Echo and Sharon have so much in common!" I'm not sure how much longer I read until I finally realized I was not even on Echo's blog.

Yep, borderline retarded.

Coaster Punchman said...

Should those of us whom you have not tried to save be offended? I don't know, but I feel kind of like Elaine, when Putty didn't try to save her.

"I'm going to hell! The worst place in the world! With all the smoke, and the caves, and ragged clothing! You should try to save me!!!"

Tenacious S said...

We still love you! You're special!

Shroom-Monkey said...

Ohh crap, I think I stumbled into Footloose...

Get Kevin Bacon out here right now, I am about to have a Lori Singer moment........

lulu said...

mmmmmm Bacon

Beth said...

What a wonderful post. I felt as if I were reading my own thoughts, from my soul. Like you, I'm a liberal Christian. I'm a blue person stuck in a red state, a state where everyone believes Christianity = Bush fanaticism. I feel lost in the church I attend. I just don't fit. A good friend who's a comparative religion prof (and a former minister now converting to Judaism) has been listening to my spiritual rants and questions. He suggested that I try the Metropolitan Community Church, which is more open-minded and liberal; I plan to try it out post-Labor Day. I'm sure there's a congregation in your area.

Good luck with your spiritual journey. I'll check in regularly to see where you're headed.

Tenacious S said...

Thanks, Beth. I refuse to give up my spritual life because some idiots hijacked my church. Time to find a place where I belong. I'm thinking God is not digging this either.