Election season is upon is, and a huge theme for the candidates is religion. I always have a hard time bringing religion into a governmental elections, and to government in general. I’m a firm believer in the separation of church and state, not because of any religious beliefs I may or may not have, but because that’s the way our constitution is written. The First Amendment says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” Now, if I had been raised in a country that had different laws concerning this, I might have a different view on the matter. Since this is the USA and that’s the way things are, I have a problem with religion as a political platform.
But this post is not about my political views regarding religion. As this is a personal blog, I want to talk more about my faith, spiritual needs, and what it all means to me. Readers who have been around for awhile may remember that I was a regular attendee at a local church, and blogged about the first day worshipping in the brand new building. I no longer attend church regularly (at all, really), and I’ve spent some time thinking about what I need, what I believe, and how I want to express that.
I’ve always been uncomfortable with religion being in my face. I hate prostyletizing, because to me it’s worse than a pushy salesperson trying to sell you something. Prostyletizing is pushy believers trying to sell you an entire belief system, and I’ve noticed in recent years that it’s become almost like a MLM scheme – you become born again, then go out and try to convince others to become born again. I just don’t think religion should be sold like that.
My religious upbringing has been inconsistent, at best. My parents split when I was very young, and the Sunday visitation schedule was not conducive to church attendance. I don’t really recall my mom bringing us to any faith-based activites, except for a bible study group for a few months when I was maybe 8 or so. I didn’t really get it at all. My stepmother was a bit moodier when it came to religion. I remember short-lived stints at Jehovah’s Witness meetings and Saturday evening services at the local Catholic church (until my sister dropped a hymnal from the balcony during service). I didn’t question why we were going because with my stepmother, you didn’t question anything. As a result, I didn’t really understand what was going on and didn’t find much meaning in it. The only desire I had as a child to participate in anything faith-based was the desire to go to either one of the Catholic schools in town, because their blue and green plaid uniforms were way better than the thrift store wardrobe that I had to wear that brought me much ridicule. Yep, I wanted to go to Catholic school so that I could wear the uniforms.
Halfway through high school, I moved out of my dad’s house and in with my mom. My mom is Lutheran and went to church on a fairly regular basis, the same church I was baptized in as a baby, so I started going. I found a pretty decent youth group, made friends, and we served breakfast to the congregation once a month. The rest of the month we’d go out to breakfast when we were supposed to be learning about the bible. We took to calling ourselves “The Breakfast Club.” If we did get much in the way of religious education, it didn’t really stick. I’d also go to service with my mom, and while I can recite a lot of the liturgy from memory, a lot of what I remember was sitting or standing there wondering why things had to be recited in exactly the same way every week, what it meant overall, and what the heck it was supposed to mean to me. The thing I got the most out of church was community.
I went through on/off phases over the next few years in regards to church attendance, but whether I was going regularly or not, I was always uncomfortable with overt displays of religion. But, when I moved to Las Vegas, one of the first things I did was look up the local Lutheran churches. My motivation was to start meeting some decent people and putting down roots, and to avoid getting in with the wrong kind of people. I didn’t go to fulfill any spiritual needs, because I didn’t really have any at that point. It took me a couple months to finally show up, but I found a welcoming community. I got involved with the praise team (singing), decided I didn’t like being on display like that and quickly turned my attention to the understaffed A/V team. I ran the powerpoint show at services for something like 2 years. I met lots of cool people, and even met my old boss Mad Scientist there. I’m convinced that had I not gone to church, I would not have found the same happiness here in Las Vegas and would have left long before I met Mister.
The church here in Vegas was different from the churches back home. While my church back east is housed in a somewhat contemporary building, the services are very traditional, closely following the liturgy and format outlined in the Lutheran Book of Worship. And while I question all the why’s of it and wonder what it’s supposed to mean to me, there’s a certain comfort in it, like a favorite old sweater. I was reminded of that when I went back for Grandma’s memorial service. Church here in Vegas is following a more modern, free-form format. Sure, there are certain parts of the service you can count on being there nearly every week, but the language is more casual and modern. And as time went on, I realized there was more evangelism there than I was comfortable with. Back east, we didn’t get together on Saturdays to knock on doors in the neighborhood and invite people to services. There is also way more focus on putting your faith in Jesus as the answer to pretty much everything, and that kind of blind faith I’m not comfortable with. Back east, there is a quieter restraint to the worship.
Around the time I met Mister, I took the opportunity to take time off from going to church. Basically, I pretty much stopped going. I didn’t miss it, either. Mister doesn’t attend church, not after 8 years of Catholic school. I don’t even think I could get him to attend Christmas Eve candlelight service. When we met, he was very upfront about his spiritual beliefs. He did a lot of soul-searching and found that the Wiccan religion made the most sense and best met his spiritual needs. We talk about it from time to time, and while I’m not necessarily considering adopting Wicca as the religion that I practice, knowing more about it and being exposed to it on a daily basis has made me question a lot of the Christian teachings and their place in my life.
There are a lot of other things that get me thinking. Certain Eastern philosophies make a lot of sense to me. For example, while I’m not a huge follower of the theories behind it, there’s quite a bit about feng shui that makes sense to me. And as for reincarnation, I don’t think that idea is off base at all either. I think that if I could find a way to explore that with some validity (as in, not the street-corner psychic), it could explain a lot about me and open some doors in the way of personal growth. I think that’s what religion and faith is all about – fulfilling that deeper need within yourself, beyond the physical or emotional needs that everyone has.
I’ve done a lot of thinking on this topic, and I’m nowhere near done. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what my spiritual needs are and what form they should take. For awhile there, I wasn’t even sure that belief in God made sense to me, but over time I have realized that I do believe in God. But a lot of other spiritual beliefs make sense to me too, so I’m trying to figure out how to make it all work for me. There’s still a lot of thinking I need to do. Maybe I’ll even write about it from time to time, but for now, right this minute, it’s time for me to stop agonizing over a nice, neat conclusionary sentence and wrap it up for the day.