Thursday, August 8, 2013

Honoring the Struggle, a guest post from Kate

Part of on ongoing series honoring the struggles we go through surrounding faith and belief. (If you'd like to write a guest post too, let me know!) Today's guest post is written by an really amazing woman who I am lucky to count as a friend. When Cork got sick and I started freaking out about life and death and making sense of all of it, Kate was one of the few people I felt like I could really be honest with about how I was feeling and what I was struggling with. Kate is just really smart and compassionate in a way that challenged me to reconsider the way I look at, and how I value life. The sense of peace and understanding she felt after deciding there was no God, seemed like what you were "supposed to" feel when you accepted God as your personal savior. To get an idea of how awesome she is, you need to read this.

My name is Kate. I am a full-time mother, an infrequent writer at Sick and Tired, and I was once in a documentary called “Godless” where I look EXACTLY like Pat from SNL. (You can just imagine how excited I am to have that fashion disaster preserved for all eternity.)

How would you describe your religious upbringing?

I was raised a Missouri Synod Lutheran, which I believe is a more conservative branch of the Lutheran Church.  Unfortunately for the church, I was raised by an extremely liberal mother in a very liberal college town. It wasn’t long into my teens when my real life started clashing with church teachings.

My mother had a lot of gay and lesbian friends and it never occurred to me that they were different in any way than her straight friends. My mom, who was widowed early in my childhood, was quite “social” which left me feeling that the idea of saving oneself for marriage was a bit antiquated. In addition to these factors, I was raised to be a good person, to do good things because it was the right thing to do, not because I could expect an eternal reward. Because of this, the idea of heaven and hell seemed silly and judgment based on baptism or confirmation seemed cruel and (dare I say it?) stupid.  Although, for the most part we went to church infrequently (holidays), I was baptized, confirmed, went to a Lutheran summer camp, and attended the LCMS National Youth Gathering when I was about 14.

What did you like about it?

For almost my entire childhood my mother was the part-time church secretary and so I had a real fondness for the church. Also, and this probably screams that I need therapy, I have always wanted to be seen as a good girl. I liked that there were very definite rules of how to act and that by following them I would be praised

What did you dislike about it?

I remember when I was in catechism class asking a question about the idea that we are to love and fear god. It seemed strange to me that I could love completely a being that I also feared. The pastor of the church was my instructor and gave me a curt answer about fear meaning something different. Honestly seeking clarification I asked again and he shut down my questioning, giving me the pastor equivalent of “because I said so.” I felt that no one cared if I bought into the idea of god and that maybe this man, the head of our church, didn’t buy into it. It seemed that I was just supposed to blindly follow, that no one cared enough to even try to sell the story. That moment was like a tiny chip in a windshield that one day, years later, began a spider web of cracks that led me to where I am today. (Ugh, what a terrible analogy.) Also, I found is super creepy that god was ALWAYS watching me.

What would you consider the low point/turning point in your faith/religious beliefs?

Before I answer this I’d like to say that I’m sometimes nervous about answering questions like this because I feel like, at least in my particular case, that it makes it look as though I lost my faith because something bad happened to me, that I’m just angry and that I haven’t really considered my position. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

When I was fifteen or sixteen my mother “lost” her job at the church. I can’t claim to know the complete truth not just because I heard only my mother’s side, but also because I loved her so much I would have fought anything for her. In her version, she was ousted by the pastor who replaced her with a younger, blonder secretary. That may or may not be the case, looking back now I imagine that some parts of her story were right and other parts were wrong. What I do know is that I sat in a church meeting where the changes were discussed and that at one point, when my mother pleaded her case saying that the church was her family and asking how they could do this to her, the pastor said that the church was not a family but a business and that it needed to be run as one. I was floored, as was she. It was one of a handful of times in my life when I suddenly felt as if everything I thought I knew was wrong.

The second event was when my mother died of a brain aneurysm when I was seventeen. I was suddenly without parents and furious at the omniscient, omnipresent, all-powerful god I’d been raised to believe in. Within a year my anger had cooled and reason had begun to take over. When I stopped to really think about it, it became clear that the pieces of the puzzle had come together, and that they revealed not an uncaring, spiteful god, but no god at all.

How would you describe your religion/faith now?

I’m not religious at all and haven’t been for more than two decades. That said, although I have my beliefs figured out, I do let my kids attend vacation bible school in our small town because they want to and because I want them to understand that they get to make their own choices. I am as right as I can be right now, but that doesn’t mean that my choices are the right ones for my children.


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