September 28, 2006

Follow Up

I made a comment in the post below about Religion, and after posting it I realized 2 things.

1) I didn't feel very good about it, as it stood, and
2) I felt it needed a bit of explination, so:

Let me start by saying that the word that best describes my religious views is agnostic. When I was younger (say around until the time I was 16 or 17) I was very involved in my local church and did all sorts of things with the Youth Group, and Church Camp and the whole nine-yards. Then I started too actually look around me and see what the people in my Church were actually doing, and I realized it was some pretty un-Christian stuff. The last straw for me was the bully-pulpit one Sunday about how we all needed to tithe more so we could have an elevator put in the Church. I stopped going shortly thereafter. Last year I was stricken from the membership rolls because I hadn't attended services in over 10 years (duh, I've lived in VA for the past 10 years, not OH). I actually got a letter informing me of this, and that if I wanted to keep my membership I could either "come to a worship service, or give the traditional tithe to the church".

I also became dissillusioned with the Church when I realized that I was gay. I read lots of books to see if my faith and who I am were compatible. I eventually had to decide to be true to myself, because no matter what I did that wasn't going to change. Things might have turned out differently if I had access to the books that have been published since the 1980's and the internet, but I worked with what I had. And what I had wasn't very helpful. There was one particularly good book -- I've long since forgotten the title -- but amidst the sea of fire and brimstone, it wasn't enough to help me keep the faith. As I did then, as I do now, I refuse to believe that just by being who I am that I am a sinner, and the only way to get to heaven is for me to be something, somebody I'm not.

After much exploring, I settled on the view that every human has a spark of the divine in them. And if you listen close enough that spark can give you guidance and direction in life. It's kind of like deified self-reliance or spiritual individualism. Maybe it's just Senor Holy Ghost talking to me in my mind. It's kind of hard to explain, but it keeps me centered.

The long and the short of it boils down to: I've seen (and experienced) how institutioanlized religion is used to marginalize, demonize and manipulate people, so I'm always very mistrustful of it. I hate seeing whole Churches use Bible passages they don't even put in context to vilify whole groups of people. Even more, I hate seeing politicians using people's religious beliefs to further their own goals.

A person's relationship with the Divine should be personal and private, and not used to steer public policy. And I respect every person's relationship with their Faith.

So, if my previous post came across as being antagonistic towards Religion, now you know why.


Pisco Sours said...

No worries, AJ. As you know, the Anglican Communion is tearing itself apart because half of it is welcoming converts and the other half is looking for heretics.

But at its best, religion, for me anyway, has gotten me a family to replace one that's pretty much broken up. So, my mileage does vary.

khouria jen said...

what? you think you're special because of this?


we all have people who have been @$$es and make church into a crappy place to be!!!! i'm a pastor's wife and half the time i hate worshipping with my peeps because i'm waiting for them to stab me in the back and screw over my husband!

so stop apologizing! it's where you are right now and that's fine!

AJ said...

I wasn't really apologizing, nor do I think it makes me special. (Unfortunately, I think my experiences are way more common than they should be.)

I was just trying to provide some insight into my thought processes. :-D Such as they are these days, smacked out on muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatories.

khouria jen said...

muscle relaxants are the nectar of the gods, especially when said gods are trying to shove things into places that they shouldn't be shoved. (but enough about pelvic exams...)

basically, my point was that crap happens in churches. if you read my journal archives and can torture neil into giving you my password, you can see how f*cked up people can be.

AJ said...

I'll have to bother Neil then :-D We'll have to swap stories. And sometime I'll have to tell you about Pastor Paula. I'm not sure how other churches work, but I'm from the United Methodist camp. Our ministers/pastors are swapped from church to church every 4-5 years or so. Paula is the new one. And definately not an improved one.

khouria jen said...

ah yes... the umc. umc = "u move constantly" for clergy and clergy kids. our organist at my husband's internship site was the son of the associate pastor at the umc across the street. chad was great -- more of a valley girl than me if that says anything! (this is central oh, btw.)

i'm elca so basically pastors can be there anywhere from 2 years to 40 years depending on the pastor, the congregation, and the congregation's budget. :) (my husband serves a 3-point parish in montana where 3 churches share a pastor and believe me... things are stretched tight financially.) ask neil to explain the "khouria" part of my name. :)