The following is a guest post written by AK Lawrence: An author and blogger who enjoys contemplating, well, everything. Raised in Michigan, a traveler at heart, she spends her time chasing adorable animals around her Florida home while meditating on the different stories that take over her brain in a demand to be shared.
(All civil comments and discussions will be entertained and, hopefully, entertaining.)
I will freely admit that I had to call my Grandmother to find out what denomination of Christianity my family follows. I should have known this information already. As a child, we did the church thing on the major holidays, and any weekend that we stayed at Gramma’s house, and yet every year I have to ask all over again.
I’ve had a mixed relationship with religion, and God Him/Herself, since childhood. I have conscious and unconscious biases based on events and thoughts and realities from the time I was three and on. As I grow older I think of them more often and how they affect my worldview.
I was born with a heart defect. This was a common occurrence in 1976 and, from what I understand, they blamed it on the milk. Years later, my uncle on my father’s side found out he had the same defect, untreated, until he was in his 60s, so that theory was incorrect, and that’s completely beside the point.
The church my mother’s family attended rallied around the family cause. They prayed for me every Sunday. From what I understand they still do, and I appreciate those prayers every day. Because of the defect I wasn’t allowed in grocery stores, churches, or many other places until after I was 5 years old. The doctors were worried about germs causing my heart to enlarge and thus potentially killing me.
So my early exposure to God was pretty limited. It’s easy to fall out of the habit of attendance, and after 5+ years, I imagine my parents sort of threw up their hands and dealt with the real world implications of a sick child.
My parents had no money. Looking back now I’m pretty sure we didn’t have health insurance or if we did it was closer to catastrophic coverage. My parents are/were blue collar, definitely salt of the earth people, and they did the best they could.
When it came time for my second heart surgery, one that had to take place in Detroit so we had the proper surgeons, it wasn’t the church, ANY church, that stood up and offered them a place to rest their extremely weary heads. It was McDonalds. Yes, the fast food conglomerate stepped up with their Ronald McDonald House charity and provided when the Good Lord could not. Or would not. Or whatever.
Many people will tell me that God made sure the Ronald McDonald House existed so that my parents had that option. Other people would use that information to buff up their arguments that the church is less than helpful.
I make no judgment on that. I share it because it was one of the things that added to how I viewed religion as I grew older. When it came time to pick my first charitable causes, it wasn’t my church that came to mind but the Ronald McDonald House charity. I had seen real world benefit to their actions as opposed to my church’s words.
I’m not saying the prayers didn’t help, I’m pointing out what I took away from my childhood experiences.
When I was somewhere in the 4-6th grade we had new neighbors move in. Their daughters became our friends as we were all in the same age range. There were between 2 and 8 of us roaming around the neighborhood at any given time.
The new family was different than the rest of us. They went to the local Catholic schools and talked about sins. Every moment of their life they worried about sin. Thoughts, actions, everything had a base in this thing that sounded horrifying.
“I swore so I’m going to have to burn in Hell for some arbitrary time unless I beg to forgive my weakness. I looked at that guy’s butt, I have to go to Confession. Sex is dirty and gross and only meant for procreation.”
Never mind that we didn’t even know what sex was at the time but for my new friends it was the ultimate sin to be avoided at all costs.
In middle school we had a sex education class. It was pretty basic. It was not abstinence only education, and that’s something for which I could kiss the school admin’s feet. My friends didn’t have a course like that. Not even biology in a science class.
So my friend, who is 2 years older than me, has to ask me if it’s possible to get pregnant while having anal sex instead of vaginal sex, because she can’t ask her parents, teachers, etc. She knows vaginal sex is a sin but they never said anything about the butt so she and her first boyfriend were going to try it. I was all of 12 years old, and I was supposed to answer this moral dilemma?
I’d like to imagine my common sense approach helped her that day, as we sat on the swings of an elementary school playground, and she tried to explain why anal was okay with her God.
Yes, at the time it was her God because even then I thought that whole conversation was ridiculous. As an adult I see it as far more dangerous than ridiculous.
So, being the precocious child I was, I submitted that question for our teacher to answer. I feel so bad for that man today, having to answer any question 11-13 year olds can throw at him, with a straight face, and without alienating anyone. Everyone knew who submitted questions. It was obvious because the asking party would blush furiously.
The answer, of course, is yes, you can get pregnant that way.
Side note: years later this same friend tells me homosexuality is wrong because they have anal sex. I didn’t say anything about that hypocrisy and now I wish I had spoken up. I doubt I could change her beliefs but I’d like her to see that reason can open our eyes sometimes.
Like any high schooler I went through that questioning stage. I discovered Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Repair, the Tao of Pooh, and the Te of Piglet. I truly talked to a Jewish person for the first time. I met a Muslim when I went out West after high school. I thought Buddhists were the shit and that Christians were destined to ruin the world. Not rule it, ruin it.
All of my reading at the time, including trying to read the actual Bible cover to cover, told me that organized religion is a sham. Not an intentional sham, but one all the same.
Have you ever played Telephone? A person whispers a phrase to the first person in line and they lean over, whisper it to the next and that person does the same until the end of the line is reached. The final person tells everyone what they heard and then everyone has a huge laugh because it’s never the same as what the phrase began.
So tell me, when oral histories were passed down, was that not the ultimate game of Telephone? Man is fallible and it was Man passing these stories down and it took generations, not minutes to complete. Is it any wonder that some of the stories and rules may not be what the Lord intended? (S)He wasn’t down here with a giant red pen and slashing incorrect phrasing and helping to edit the final manuscript.
And then I looked to the Church’s version of the aristocracy. These were men who sat down and had a conference to mutually decide what God intended. They negotiated in an attempt to make separate factions come together and ended up with a mishmash that treated people who loved God differently, based on their sex or skin tone or whatever.
I don’t remember any part of any thing that told me the Bible was something that could be negotiated. This was the Word of God, after all, and God’s Word is absolute.
This “Good Book” was then, and continues to be, used to justify atrocities, including genocide, sexism, racism, and most other -isms that make me cringe. Wasn’t the whole point to be a good person who treats others as they would want to be treated? Isn’t it supposed to be a book of the Ultimate Love?
I’m not anti-religion. I’m not pro-religion. I feel it’s something that is between each person and their version of God. Some people need the words every week, some don’t. Some hate the idea enough to dismiss other people, including their own family, because of one facet of their lives. I just don’t get it.
I often tell people that I’m throwing my thoughts out to the Universe and I have long awaited an answer. Is that praying? I suppose it is, though I honestly don’t expect an answer – not a voiced one, any way.
I don’t worry about Hell, not one a separate Being could put me in. Hell is the cacophony of my own thoughts as every situation in my life is judged by me. “Am I doing harm? How many ways can this hurt someone else or myself? Is it justified? Does this decision offer any good to the world?”
I don’t worry about Heaven, not one a separate Being could put me in. Heaven is staring into the innocent eyes of a child and making them laugh, teaching them that’s it’s more fun to share the good rather than hoard it as defense against the bad.
When my friend started this blog, I didn’t feel I had a contribution and I stayed mum. But she had me wondering, What kind of Christian am I? My response? Maybe I’m not one.