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The Church Question

Sunday, October 25, 2009

“Why, you no go to church?”

This is a question that gets asked of me by my mother every couple of months or so usually after she’s bemoaned her future as a grandmother and quickly follows up with the question, “Why you no have boyfriend?”

You see, her question doesn’t have anything to do with my spiritual health or any type of proselytism on her part, it’s that she assume’s that church is one big meat market and once I find a good church to go to, meeting a nice boy and marriage will inevitably follow.

The logical solution would be to simply tell my mother that I don’t want to go to church but I can see that conversation quickly leading down a slippery slope where I finally blurt out, “I don’t think I believe in God.” I’m not ready for that conversation yet, mainly because it’s still not a conclusion that I’m all that comfortable with. I don’t consider myself a hardcore atheist and every now and then I’ll slip back over to the more comfortable agnostic side of the line. Like many other humans, I’m simply a product of all my experiences and the sum of all my “church” experiences have been bad.

I’ll begin by rewinding the tape back to when I was a child. Growing up, I was never indoctrinated (as many children are) with whatever religious doctrine is dominant in the household. I grew up in an extended family, which meant that, I grew up in my grandparents home with my mother, aunts and uncles and a pretty steady flow of relatives constantly cycling through the house and nobody pressured me to think any which way. It all depended on where I wanted to go that weekend. Sometimes, I would go to to mass with my grandmother who was Roman Catholic. Other times, I would attend church service with my uncle, who was Evangelical Christian or more often, I would go to temple with my great-aunt who was Buddhist. I would go to temple with my great aunt quite frankly because it was much more fun than any of the other options. The Buddhist monks were very indulgent of the children that attended, and I have yet to meet any other monks willing to play tag with a rowdy group of kids. My grandfather did not attend church and he went fishing incredibly early on Sunday mornings, I remember only being able to go with him a handful of times because the rule was if I wanted to go, I had to wake up my myself and be ready to go when he was. I never was a morning person especially at that age.

But each visit was a time for me spend some time with that particular family member as well and there were aspects of each service that I really liked. I loved the theatre and pageantry of the Catholic church, I loved how sociable everyone at my uncle’s church was, I loved the aesthetics and how calm/quiet things were at temple. I loved pulling pranks on the monks even more.

We eventually moved out of my grandparents house and came to the United States and in an attempt at assimilation my parents started forcing me to attend a christian church every Sunday. When your younger it’s not too bad, classes are geared more towards entertaining and fun so that you don’t run off crying but when you start getting older, middle to high school and you start being shuffled through those groups called Young Disciples of Christ, etc. it gets a little bit more complicated. Specifically, I remember having questions, lots and lots of questions. I attempted to find the answers to those questions on my own and being frustrated and so I started asking people that I knew starting with my parents, who directed me to the youth pastor, who in turn, directed me to the head pastor and the solution I received was, “to pray about it.”

I’ve condensed my quest for answers into a few sentences but it spanned a period of about 6 months and so after all of my soul searching and reading and debating to be told that I should “pray about it” was a little frustrating. I do remember telling Pastor Rigsby, “what do you think I’ve been doing all this time?” to which he replied, “Well, this time, your going to pray with me.”

Cue eye roll.

Since then, until I graduated high school, I dutifully went to church on Sundays but kept my questions to myself (unless I was in an argumentative mood). To make a long story short, my church going experiences culminated with a church called Living Faith Fellowship when I was a student at WSU, it’s probably the closest I will ever get to to being in a cult. I’ve been hearing that the church is no longer like that but the things that happened there, while I was there, have still left a scar. After that, I didn’t want anything to do with any kind of church, organized religion, whatever.

Fast forward to today, and I’ve continued my boycott of churches and unfortunately it’s no longer become about doctrine or even belief.  I feel bad and small minded for saying this but it’s become about the people now too.  It’s incredibly hard to find a church that’s accepting of other points of view.  For example, I believe in gay marriage, I’m pro-choice and I have no problem with evolutionary theory and the biggie is that I believe that there isn’t simply one right path to salvation/heaven/nirvana/enlightenment/whatever.  Keeping my mouth shut and my head down are no longer an option. I just don’t want to do that anymore.

Ironically, I can’t bring myself to tell my mother yet even though I suspect her spiritual leanings are somewhat close to mine. Keep in mind, this is the woman, when I was 19 years old finally had the “sex” talk with me.  Our conversation consisted of her saying, “I don’t care if you have sex, just don’t get pregnant.  You can have sex with whoever you want to but if you come home pregnant, I’ll break your legs.” I nodded, and the subject changed.

And she wonders why I haven’t given her a grandchild yet.

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