Even when no one is listening…

Thoughts on Church-Faith-Religion from the Perspective of the “Black Sheep”

Lately, I’ve been attending a church that message and actions are centered on one basic principle – Love one another. This message is a constant subtle reminder as it hangs above the pulpit on a wooden sign. The real evidence of this heartfelt message comes from within the actions of the people who attend. I’ve only been to this church a handful of services, however, everyone (and yes I mean everyone) shows an attitude of love. These are the people who I first encountered as complete strangers helping me in the middle of the night during an intense time of need. They not only speak a message of unconditional love they live it wholeheartedly. And although, I disagree with organized religion I still choose to attend church services here. Why? To learn… but more on that later.

Today, however, I decided to visit my former church. Contrary to popular opinion I do care about the people at Merriam even if I disagree with them on some issues. There are a lot of well meaning folks there. I can recognize that; and would like to make a point of it since so many people have taken my last post as a personal attack on Christianity or even Merriam Christian Chapel altogether. Needless to say, I never made any such claims and was careful to be specific about what exactly I was and was not saying. Guess illiteracy plagues the best of us 😉

Anywho. Here’s a breakdown on my church experience today…

We (Jenna, Ben and I ) decided to attend Sunday School, as well as, service. To make a long story short we were running behind and ended up arriving just as prayer was in full swing. Not wanting to be rude we waited outside the room with a handful of others until prayer was finished. Jenna’s lovely mother had three seats just chilling with our names on them so we quietly slipped in and had a seat. After a few moments of awkward glances from some folks who seemed strangely uncomfortable by our entrance, I spotted the white board with prayer requests written across its surface. Okay, normal run of the mill prayer requests….hmmm…wait? What?

Rachael S. – Spiritual Needs

Bold. Misspelled. Vague.

Gee. That must be why everyone is looking at me funny. They just finished praying for me and low and behold their prayers are answered! (okay I am poking fun now) I anticipated a swarm of overly concerned people eager to see how I was doing after Sunday School, since they apparently think I am in desperate need of spiritual direction or at the very least to see if what was being suggested about my spiritual state was factual. One person. That’s it. Not even my family, who I can only logically suspect put me on the prayer list, cared to even look me in the eye. This doesn’t upset me. I’ve come to expect this sort of behavior. However, it’s the principle of the matter that infuriates me. A group of people will pray for me but when they have the opportunity to actually do something about my (fictional) spiritual needs they look the other way. And they say I am the delusional soul. If that’s not an example of why religion is screwed up then I don’t know what is.

I am not offended though. So don’t walk away from this blog post thinking that I am. I understand completely why my name was on that list. Empathy is a life skill that I make a point of utilizing. These people honestly think they are helping me. In fact, my appearance today probably brought a tension of discomfort. After all, if I’m in desperate spiritual trouble then why the hell would I be at Church? I’ll tell you why – I am seeking the truth. I’m not afraid of having beliefs that are uncommon. I’m not fearful of emotionally uncomfortable answers. Sure, I may find what you have to say completely irrational but I will still patiently listen. And if you ask (because I don’t go around shoving my beliefs in people’s faces) you better believe that I’ll have the balls to explain why I think you’re wrong. That’s because my actions line up with my message. I’m not trying to make anyone believe what I believe. Believe what you want to believe. The truth does not require belief to be true. Facts are facts. Reality is reality. You can’t change that no matter how hard you try.

My quest if anything is personal. I want to provoke free thinking – starting with myself. That’s all – an attitude of learning, curiosity, questioning and a heavy dose of humility. I don’t have a personal agenda that involves gathering people to my belief system. Free thought isn’t something you enter into half-heartedly. It would be so much easier to just shut up; keeping all the controversial opinions to myself. Sadly enough, I was rather fond of my irrational belief system because it didn’t require much effort on my part. Ultimately, my conscience won out over my emotions.

My goal is to live a life of transparency. So ask me anything you want. If you use irrational &/or emotional argumentation I will still listen to you; but I won’t defend my beliefs against any point that is NOT based in fact &/or reason. I’m sorry if that offends you; as I suspect it will frustrate many (Trust me. I’ve been there). I respect those of you who have dared to enter into my realm of thought; even though some of you may find my beliefs offensive and ridiculous.  That takes real courage and humility. Kind of like an atheist setting in on a church service with an open mind. Which yes that does happen. I’ve witnessed it on many occasions. Who knows maybe I’ll end up changing my mind? Or maybe I’ll end up changing yours? Opposing views both have something to bring to the table; and if we are really being selfless free thinking individuals we can and will actually learn something.

I’ll be the first to say that if I walk away from a discussion having learned nothing that’s my fault not yours.

I’d also like to thank the Christians that have come to me out of genuine concern for my well being – Those Christians, who see that my character has not changed. Ironically, my moral standard is relatively the same. I just come to the same conclusions using a different path. A path that makes more sense logically. We don’t need religion to be moral people. Religion often works against morality. Why can’t we be motivated to do good because it is the right thing to do? Not because someone claims it to be the right thing.

I care about people. I believe in doing good out of selflessness. I believe in unconditional love – the message Jesus preached. I suppose I could adhere to Christianity and do good but I’d be doing it out of fear and blind faith; effectively canceling out the unconditional selflessness of love.

One last side note: I’m astonished by the amount of feedback that comes from a defensive attitude; making assumptions based on what I’ve stated. Please do not read into my words. I’m not beating around the bush so there’s no need to go sifting through the leaves looking for hidden meanings. There aren’t any. What I say is what I mean. What I mean is what I say. If you are having troubles grasping the meaning behind what I’m saying then there’s a simple solution – ASK. It’ll save a whole lot of time and energy.

Slightly Over Dramatic Girly Optimist

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