Ethan's Age

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Losing Our Religion

In my old age, I've taken to listening to oldies (which for me includes the wonderful genre of 90's pop girl groups... Hellllllo Spice Girls, I'm talking to you!) but also to listening to NPR.

I tend to forget about NPR unless I'm zipping about in my husband's car.  Typically this only happens on Sundays, on the way to church.  Nothing better than hearing a banter about abortion or collaborative fiscal management on the way to church (or if I get up early enough I can laugh along with Car Talk with Click and Clack.)

Today I discovered an interesting series which actually caused me to be late to my 1 pm service.  Ironically, enough, entitled "Losing Our Religion."  If you happen to be able to spare about 45 minutes, you can listen to the entire 6 part series. 

One of the basic premises that this series is based on is the fact that the amount of people who are unaffiliated with organized religion has grown in the past decade, rising up to 20% in general, and 33% in young adults (people under 30.)

I recently started to attend church again.  I posted a blog post a few days ago, sharing my story... but it felt so raw that I decided to bring it back down.  I'm unsure if my story is ready to be out there in the permanence of the  internet, but suffice it to say... I was strong affected by an act of violence in the church, followed by several acts of spiritual violence and the cutting of familiar ties of a parent. 

Going back to church was facing my demons, literally.  After I left the church (where I was planning to make my career as a pastor of youth) I struggled with my identity as a spiritual person without a safe home to practice. Upon walking into church just a few months ago, I was full of trepidation.  I had (and still have) my guard up.  I can't feel safe  going anywhere alone.  I have major anxiety with anyone sitting right behind me.  I facebook chat with a friend during the entire time just to keep me grounded, every Sunday. 

My former youth pastor is one of the key reasons I struggle so much with religion.  The sad part of belonging to a church is often the pastor becomes the voice of god.  This sets them up to be a failure in anyone's eyes, because who could honestly live up to that sort of stature?  But put them up on a pedestal, we do.. and fail they will. The cycle continues.

I sit in each sermon with a feeling of skepticism.  I miss the days of my early faith when I embraced it all... but since then major life changes occurred.  My innocence was stolen in one act, and my belief in several others.  Three people, including my best friend Chelsea, have died since I left the church.  One from Leukemia, two from CF.  All of them in their mid-twenties, and all way before their time.  Today in church they showed a video of a couple who lost their 8 year old to cancer.  This evening I listened to a friend talk about her loss of her mother and how she couldn't figure out how could god allow this to happen? Hell, honey, me either.

I have no answers.  I don't know.  And I sure as hell don't buy the basic answers of "god's plan" or anything in that vein. 

I battle with my belief.  I battle with the basic tenants of my faith.  I question whether I do, or have believed... and if there is a Scantron belief test at the end, should I just attempt to draw a picture with the dots?  I'm pretty sure I'd be just as accurate at guessing that way. 

Another reason I find it hard to fit into a church, is that I'm not a typical churchy person.  Here are just a few reasons:
  • I am pro-choice, and have made that choice.
  • I am pro-gay marriage, and by gosh I will argue that point.
  • I am democratic.
  • I swear and I'm generally argumentative and contrary.
  • I'm married happily.... to a non-believer (GASP)
  • I'm married happily to a non-believer whom I will never attempt to convert ( DOUBLE GASP!)
  • I'm mother to a child whom I will also not convert.  In fact, I'll take him to any religious service he'd like to try. (Barring groups that are blatantly not helping the general good of humanity.)
  • I sit and critique every sermon I hear and pick apart the catch phrases and keep the gold nuggets of love and acceptance.
  • I HATE "Love the sinner, hate the sin," "Tolerance," and any other line that causes social strata.  
 I think that I have a long way to go.  But, I also think that I'm the typical non-church goer. 

I leave you with this quote, from the NPR series:

"If the church was known more for our efforts to welcome the stranger than keep them out, I think the church would have greater credibility with rising generations," says Baughman. "For example, on immigration policies, we've taken the wrong stance on that, and they know. The thing is they're smart enough. A lot of them have grown up in the church and then rejected it. They've read the scriptures that talk about the importance of welcoming the stranger, they've read the scriptures about the importance of caring for the poor, and when they see that no longer on the lips of those who are in religious authority, they see that the God we present is bankrupt, and that we're theologically thin in our ability to even speak our own story."

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