Politics and religion. I've purposely not written much about either subject. Not my expertise or my schtick. Until now.
Organized religion fascinates me. I'm drawn to rituals and traditions. As a child raised in a small midwestern town, I watched neighbors faithfully attend various churches every Sunday. People streamed like little ducks into the Methodist Church, some the Lutheran, and some to the nondenominational Main Street Christian Church -- the church where my family made an occasional appearance [usually on amateur night... Christmas or Easter].
When I was 11, I asked my mother if she believed in God. She said it wasn't important what she believed, what was important was what I believed. She told me all she knew for certain was that there was something deep inside of her -- a feeling -- that helped her discern the difference between right and wrong. She said some other things too, but she supported me when I wanted to attend church, Mass or synagogue with friends, learn about Campus Crusade for Christ, or join the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Most of my friends had a tangible family religion. I wanted one too.
I tried. I kind of felt it, but I also faked it. I tried again. I prayed. I meditated. And I felt it -- and faked it -- again.Christianity Seemed To Be The New Black
After the birth of our first two sons, Chris and I felt compelled to give them religion. Having been raised in an agnostic household like I was, Chris struggled with me on how to accomplish this. We attended a Unity Church in Kansas City for a brief period. I cried a lot when we went, especially when we sang. Church -- corporate worship in general -- typically moves me. It was okay, but still not right for us.
While enduring a very difficult and heartbreaking time with one of our young sons, a Christian friend and neighbor encouraged us to attend church with them. Although I'd referred to myself as a Christian since I'd been a child, I REALLY jumped into Christianity with both feet. I read The Good Book many times, as well as the works of Christian apologists, went to bible studies, conferences, and saw Josh McDowell speak. I wanted to understand, know and feel what everyone else seemed to so comfortably embrace.
I was there. I got it. Chris got it. We believed. It made perfect sense, even with the leap of faith that is a part of all religions... at least it made perfect sense most of the time. In hindsight, there was a little bit of faking it, and an abundance of trying and smiling.No Need To Debate
My goal isn't to change anyone's belief system or disprove a religion. On the contrary, I would never presume to convince anyone of something that I'm not 100% certain of myself. I haven't rejected Christianity in total; I simply can no longer fake... anything. We've met some nice people through the churches we've attended, but I can honestly say that none of those people remained close to us when our church attendance began decreasing. An all-or-nothing approach to social activities and relationships that were rooted in the church began to feel... not right... for us. Not that it's a bad thing, because clearly there are many, many people whose lives revolve around their faith, and it's a positive thing for them. I live in Utah. Remember? I understand.
I tried it on. I wore it until the weight of the fabric became too heavy for me. I unbuttoned a few buttons, shed a few inches from the hem, and finally stepped out of my dress. For me, I could breathe again. Ironically, many of my friends describe that feeling when they step in to their faith. I'm truly tolerant and accepting of the beliefs of others. I don't judge my devout, or non-devout, friends. I suppose because I'm human, I'm prone to a bit of judgment, but my intentions are to understand.What It Looks Like Now
We don't attend church as regularly as we used to. The boys have a foundation in Christianity, but we were beginning to feel like we were brainwashing them. It was time to back off... for us. Not completely turn the bus around, but slow down. Way down.
When I say I'll pray for you. Know that I will. Usually with Chris and the boys. Without exaggeration, we get on our knees every night as a family, give thanks, pray for the needs of others and for ourselves. We talk to God. Together. I also talk to God when I run, when I do dishes, when I'm walking through the mall.
The new phrase seems to be "reverently agnostic". Maybe that's what I am. I'm not sure. Maybe a quiet, questioning Christian. Maybe a phony, maybe not.
We named one of our sons James, although he doesn't go by James, Jim or Jimmy. James is a short book in the bible. I've always liked it. Probably because it was short and easy to understand. I'm also a huge fan of James Taylor. What's not to like? Our son's name will forever be a reminder of the beliefs I straddle and struggle to understand.
In this moment, I find myself spiritually fed by this...