Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Religion and politics. Politics and Religion.

True story, just about everything my kids know about religion
they learned from Christmas decorations.
So here is something I think about a lot: religion. And here is something most people don’t want to talk about: also religion. (well, they don't want to talk about it with me anyway.) Because, you know, religion and politics. Which is why I’m going to start talking about it right here. Because I can. I know this is mostly a sort of mom-blog, with kid stories and parenting book reviews. But I think this topic is still relevant. Something about starting a family seems to make things like religion and politics feel more urgent. Like I need to know where I stand because, I don’t know, babies. (Also, I might start talking politics here too. I will mostly be posing questions and avoiding crazy rants though, so hopefully it won’t be offensive. Or too offensive. I don’t know, maybe it will be offensive anyway.)

So here is the background. I was raised Southern Baptist. For the uninitiated (i.e., not from the South), it is a pretty conservative protestant denomination. I grew up being told women shouldn't be leaders, homosexuality is wrong, and the key to salvation is never drinking or having premarital sex. I mean, God’s grace and all that, but no drinking or sex, you guys, I’m serious. One of the crazier things I heard (that is in no way doctrinal, instead were just Southern Baptists speculating) was that mental illness was “of the devil” (as in, you are hearing voices because you don't have God/you opened yourself up to demons and such. No joke. An interim youth pastor proposed that when I was 17. True story. Satan just crawls right into those enlarged lateral ventricles of a person with schizophrenia. Makes total sense.) That nonsense aside, there were also a lot of really great things about the church I grew up in. Like the fellowship. If something bad happened (a death, illness, etc.), you had tons of people bringing food, doing whatever they could to help, and generally just reminding you that you are not alone. There is a lot to be said about having a church family. But like any family, it comes with its fair share of bickering and drama and black sheep. But still.

My first twinge of doubts came pretty early. Like early elementary school. We were on our way to Wednesday night church and I asked my dad a serious question. Basically, I told him, I was going to this church and I believed in God because I was born into a family that did. And a kid in, I don't know, China might believe in something else because that is what his family believes. Pretty much. So why would God punish somebody (via an eternity in hell) for, more or less, being born into a family? I think he said something about God not punishing kids, and missionaries. But in my head I was like, eh, I still don’t feel that good about this. Not at all.

My second round of doubts came a little later. We were talking about how homosexuality is a sin (because that was so central to Jesus’ message and all. Oh wait, no. No, it wasn't. Not at all.) I asked, if a sin is a sin, then someone who is gay is no bigger of a sinner than someone who is a liar (i.e., all of us) so why do we spend so much time hating on gay people? The question that would come up next was, is homosexuality even a sin? Is loving someone tantamount to lying or stealing?! I no longer think so. But that is a whole ‘nother post.

During college I took a couple religion courses for fun. Instead of clearing things up, it sort of made things worse. It seemed like the bigger my questions got (like, patriarchy and all its dangerous/awful correlates; also a whole different post), the worse the answers became. I felt like all I could get from people who shared my faith (and were willing to discuss it outside of a Bible study) were regurgitated platitudes that made it pretty clear they hadn't put much thought into the issues and didn't intend to. As somebody who is big on questioning and considering things, this (refusing to put much thought into their beliefs) seemed like a worse offense than taking some of their beliefs to their logical conclusion. (although, I have to say, I did appreciated their willingness to even discuss it...) Interestingly, some of the most thoughtful answers about religiony things I've been given have been from people who have abandoned their faith (some of whom later went back to reclaim it, but only after a lot of careful reconsideration). So I figured, maybe the best way to make sense of religion is to start from scratch. And here I am.  I’ll be posting from time to time on how that is going for me.

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2 comments:

  1. I can relate to a lot of what you said. I hope you can find peace with religion in whatever way feels right to you. All religions have great people in them and not so great people in them; along with random people who decide to preach their own ideas as scripture when they aren't. So that sure makes things even more confusing! I think it's great to questions things rather than follow blindly. You were a smart kid (and adult).

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  2. Thanks, Tiffany. That means a lot. And it makes me hopeful to see other smart people (like you) who have found peace with religion.

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