Wednesday, February 9, 2011

One of those subjects we should avoid ... Religion

Grams has spent several days writing and re-writing this post.  I realize that it will not be popular and will probably tick some people off to the extreme. But I'm going to publish it anyway, because sometimes you've just got to say what you've got to say. This is one of those times.

Grams was raised in the Southern Baptist Church. When I say that I mean, if the church-house was open, we were there. We went to Sunday School and church services on Sunday morning. We went to training union and evening services on Sunday night. And we went to prayer meeting on Wednesday night. As teenagers our entire social life was centered on the church. We had youth group on Tuesday and sometimes Thursday nights, youth choir on Sunday afternoons, and youth fellowship on Sunday nights. We went to church camp in the summer and usually one or two weekend retreats during the year. Most of my friends were from the church and virtually everyone I ever dated I met at church. By the time I was in high school, I started teaching Sunday School.

Grandad was the only guy I ever dated who was not Baptist. Grandad is Roman Catholic. He never misses mass on Sunday or on Holy Days.  He goes to confession regularly and has, at various times, served as a lay minister and director of several parish programs. He even went to the minor seminary with the intent of becoming a priest. Basically, he's as Catholic as I was Baptist.

After we married, we tried attending both churches but it was short-lived. Honestly, every time Grandad walked into a Baptist Church, he acted like he was about to be struck by lightning. After a couple of years, I realized that the basics are the same, it's the trappings that are different. Baptist churches are generally plain and unadorned, Catholic churches are ornate and highly decorated. Catholic priests wear vestments, Baptist ministers wear suits.

As a young bride and before we had children, Grams converted to Catholicism. I just couldn't see trying to raise kids in both churches. I think religion is confusing enough if you're getting the same message all the time. Trying to teach both to a kid ... that's just too much. So after a few months of instruction from a priest, I was confirmed in the Catholic Church on Palm Sunday in 1978.

I said all that to say this, I have spent my life around people who profess faith in God. Most of my friends and acquaintances are self-professed Christians. But I can't help but wonder if they really believe what they claim to believe. Do they practice their religion because that's how they were raised or have they really thought about what they believe and why they believe it?

For example, Catholics believe in "transubstantiation." That means they believe that when the bread and wine are blessed by the priest during mass, they actually become the body and blood of Christ. Let me be clear, they don't believe it represents the body and blood, they believe it becomes the body and blood. But, it has long been my contention that most Catholics don't really believe in transubstantiation. I think that if they really believed that transubstantiation was real, churches would not hold everyone who would want to receive communion. If the faithful really believed that they could receive the actual body and blood of Christ, they would not be able to stay away.

With the exception of about a year in 2003-2004, there has never been a time in my life when I didn't attend Sunday services of some type every single week. Over the past several years, I've come to realize that I'm a product of both my birth and my circumstance. I worship as I do because that's what I've been taught and where I've been, not because of my own investigation or understanding.

I know there are many other religious groups who believe many things and follow different doctrines ... some I agree with and some I don't. But, what I have come to believe in recent years is that modern religion is mostly designed as a control mechanism. It's all about someone controlling someone else. Whether it's birth control, abortion, dancing, or any of a plethora of other subjects, it really is about control.

I'm trying to become more conscious of my own beliefs and my own thoughts. You see ... the bottom line is that I have my own brain and my own conscience and I can think for myself. I don't need the church or anyone else telling me that I have to do this or not do that. Maybe I'm just burned out on church ... or maybe I'm just moving on to the next step. I wouldn't go so far as to say that I've lost my faith, but I'd willingly lose my religion!

8 comments:

  1. Vicki, Very good post, AGAIN.

    I never could understand how someone could attend a church, tell others where they attend, thereby saying 'I believe what that church professes'. As I got out on my own, I realized that there many folks who attend a particular church because of family tradition, obligation, or simply because they don't want to take the time to 'think for themselves'.

    I'll never forget the arguments with my former father-in-law who attended the Missouri lutheran church. We argued and argued over their beliefs and one day he finally said, 'Just because I go there doesn't mean I believe it!'. What is that all about? I just could not go to worship my God in a place that did not represent me.

    Every Sunday during my confession of faith (public group) I listen to the words and find comfort knowing that I believe every word I speak.

    I also find comfort that over time I have learned that the same gospel story or passage will mean different things to me at different times. AND what I learn from it might be completely different than what YOU might learn from it.

    That's the wonderful thing about our God. He gives us the gift of continuously learning about him and about ourselves.

    Guess I've written a blog myself.

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  2. Faith is my core and I never, ever doubt it. But like you, it sounds, I do doubt some of the trappings of the religion. I'm LCMS, so fairly close to Catholic, but was not raised that way. I grew up in the very most hypocritical of worlds -- Dad would sing in the choir, Mom would teach Sunday school, we'd all sit and recite the Lord's prayer together in the pews. Then we'd go home where Mom would get drunk off her ass and Dad would beat the hell out of her and we kids would scatter and pray for divine intervention of our hell on earth. After the divorce (cheers to divine intervention!), the churches we attended depended on which had the longest VBS; sometimes we'd attend several over the summer to take advantage of every VBS in town just so our then-single mom didn't have to pay daycare for seven. So faith, religion and all of that didn't mean much until my husband and I began a family and looked for a church that worked for us, our beliefs, our needs. LCMS it was and is and continues to be. Our now-grown daughters choose what works for them, having had the foundation laid. Regardless of where they go, what they do -- and the same for me, the same for my husband -- the "religion" and "fellowship" isn't what matters all that much, it's the never wavering knowledge that we have God on our side and there's no doubt that we'll one day be in heaven. Between now and then, we try to be good stewards of the life, opportunities, blessings and people we've been given. What more really matters?

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  3. Great post. I once wrote a story and the headline has stuck with me all these years – God's not the problem, it's the church. I think you can believe in a god without having the control of the church.

    LisaDay

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  4. PS - I got so caught up that I forgot to say thank you for popping by my blog on my SITS day.

    LisaDay

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  5. I think every person of deep faith comes to this pass. It's the realization that the ritual you've spent a life following doesn't match your deep understanding and belief in God. This is a good time to recognize your faith in of itself for what it means to you and how it anchors your life. Separate from that, you are realizing that going to church isn't really why you believe. It is the ritual that creates community, the place where neighbors go and share and help each other. Many people don't reach a point where they can separate the two. They rely on the dogma and doctrine to tell them how to believe. But when you understand and accept your faith more deeply, the rituals tend to look more superficial.
    It doesn't mean they are, it only means they will have a different place for you. See your church, your rituals and your congregation as the flawed community that it is, similar to the souls who gathered with Christ looking for direction, understanding, and acceptance. Everyone finds and sees it at their own pace.

    Just some thoughts from an atheist.

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  6. Stopping by from SITS.

    I liked your post, I often like to know how other people view faith or religion, which are very different things in my opinion. For me, what's most important is having a real relationship with Christ, knowing that he is my Savior. I believe that churches and all the divisions they have can create problems, but churches are also important places to create fellowship amongst believers and can be beneficial. I guess with anything you have good and bad...

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  7. Church is made up of flawed, imperfect people . . . especially if I'm attending that day!

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  8. I think your post was very courageous. Talking about religion is hard. As for me, after surviving 8 years of Catholic School in the 50's and 60's (with a very strict religious order of nuns) I spent many years considering myself a recovering catholic. I studied many religions trying to find a good fit and finally realized that I didn't need the trappings. It became clear to me that all religions started out basically saying the same thing, but that power in the hierarchy corrupted the message and that spirituality and religion were not always or even necessarily synonymous. Now I don't worry about how I get to God. I know that she's only a heartbeat away when I feel the desire to honor her.

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