I was raised Southern Methodist, which isn't the end all to be all, but has instilled in me certain beliefs (and prejudices). Church life was simpler back then as a child. I wasn't concerned with moral codes or eternal damnation because I left that to my mother and other adults in charge. I excelled in Sunday school and Vacation Bible School, participated throughout year on various programs, and enjoyed my time in church.
I don't think I consciously sought to rebel against anyone or anything when I relocated to the East Coast. I just didn't make the time or felt the need to go to church (hopefully Granny Gums isn't turning over in her grave). As I aged, I began asking questions that were difficult that no one was able to answer to my satisfaction:
- How old is the earth?
- Were there dinosaurs on earth?
- Did we evolve from other creatures?
- How do we know that the bible is accurate?
- Is God male or female?
- How can there be a God with all the murder, mayhem, and chaos in the world?
I fell out of love with church because of some of the hypocrites I encountered back in Houston. How can a minister who's then current wife seduce him away from his previous wife preach and/or lecture on the sanctity of marriage? I believe that all humans are flawed, and it takes more than a public apology by a televangelist to erase the fact,too, that we are all sick with sin, lust, jealousy, insecurities, and thoughts of revenge.
Navigating the bible, churches, religion, and faith can be a very daunting task. What do we believe? Who do we believe? Where do our beliefs end and another's begin? Do we need to see God once, twice, or three times to accept that He is real?
And on the question of gender. The bible tells us that God is masculine, however I recently attended a church in Harlem where some of the assistant pastors repeatedly referred to God as She. Is it subjective based on our personal tastes or belief systems? This same church has a system in place for membership that includes a personal interview and a Saturday class prior to joining, which seemed rather corporate to me. I've not been back since. I visited this church several times because it's within walking distance of home, and I had the intention of joining. I expected I'd have to provide personal and contact information, but not attend a class on how to join their congregation. Is there a certain type of personality or educational background that would count against a perspective member?
My primary goal in attending was to find a public place of worship, not be rallied to protest local, national, or international political and social injustices. I went to congregate, not apply for an office in the religious black panthers.
Over the years in NYC, I've asked friends and colleagues about faith, religion, and spirituality. It's been a mixed bag of responses: I'm more spiritual than anything else. I'm agnostic. I used to go to church, but not anymore.
My southern identity is concerned that some will look at this entry as sacrilegious; that I'll burn in hell for posting this public query. I watch nature programs and think humans are no better than leopards, lions, tigers, or bears that hunt and kill daily. Humans are just as ruthless and savage in corporate America and the inner cities. Maybe I'm still naive in my thinking that the world ought to be a safer, kinder, friendlier place, and that carnivores should start eating vegetation and fruits. Leave those poor gazelles, wildebeests, and deer alone. The child in me thinks and shudders: God created predators and prey. Don't these creatures deserve to live their life in peace (without being chased at breakneck speed, dodging, bobbing, and weaving) just as I aim to do daily?
My search will continue for a congregation that shares enough of my core beliefs, not necessarily religious, that my soul would feel light and free to rejoice at the mysteries of life, earth, and the universe. There's a place of worship in Midtown Manhattan that has evening and regular Sunday morning services that I'll next investigate. Wish me luck. Feel free to join me!