Gainesville Ramblings

This is a blog, and thus it barely qualifies as writing, let alone formal writing, so I'd not let it bother you.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Warning: Religious Content

I should start this with a disclaimer: I'm going to be talking about religion. It may be incoherent. You are likely to disagree. These are just my opinions, and are likely to be contradictory at times, which I find to be the nature of religious thought. If you want to talk to be about religion and your own personal beliefs, that's fine. If you want to try to convince me I'm wrong or try to convert me, please keep moving. You're holding up the line.

That being said:

I've been thinking about religion that last day or so. What really got me started was looking at a friend's Facebook profile. I knew he was uber-religious, but what he had in his 'Personal Quotes' section was a lot more religion than I've seen in a while. Also, it was in direct contradiction to most of my beliefs.

My religious background is mangled at best. My dad's a recovering Catholic (called that because, like alcoholism, you may stop going to church, but the guilt stays with you for a lifetime). My mom's family was never particularly religious, but it seems that they weren't unreligious either. When I was growing up, we would periodically go to church because my mom would discover a pastor that she liked. These pastors would inevitably get fired for sleeping with their secretary. I swear to God, every single time. I was baptized Methodist when I was around 7 years old, but I never really went to church after that.

My parents never really talked about religion or God. Or at least, they never started the conversations. I get the feeling my mom was seeking more community than religion in going to church, and my dad was probably religioned out after something like 15 years of Catholic school. But they raised me and my sister in a moral atmosphere. Right and wrong were clearly defined, while still allowing us to develop our own opinions and seek our own paths. Heck, there was a brief about three month period in high school where I was looking into Wicca, and while my parents were initially a little freaked, they soon gave their blessing (or at least didn't stop me). That phase died quickly, and I was back to my ol’ agnostic self.

I've had two really impactful religious experiences in my life. The first was when I was twelve. My mom had sent my sister to a summer Vacation Bible Camp that my neighbors went to. It ends up that these guys were crazy religious. When I was dog sitting their Golden Retriever, I found copies of the Ten Commandments everywhere. On the fridge, next to the TV, the computer, on random spots of the walls, mirrors, headboards, dressers. Everywhere. So it comes as no surprise, in retrospect, that the church that was sponsoring this camp was a very fundamentalist Baptist church. And the family went to it to see my sister's class present whatever they had done in the class.

There wasn't an actual church. Instead, it was in a classroom at the local elementary school. I don't know if the preacher was actively trying to get new members/converts to his church, or the luck of the draw, but his sermon was fiery, and attacked every belief I held at the time. Keep in mind that I was twelve. I was confused about life to begin with, being in the middle of puberty. I was particularly vulnerable that year, as seventh grade was the worst year of my life (still, to this day). I was being picked on constantly, I was feeling awkward constantly, and I had very few friends. So when this preacher knocked down everything I believed, I almost collapsed. I definitely started sobbing. And then he called for the people who were being 'touched by the Hand of God' to come down and 'testify.'

I stayed put. It was hard, cause at that moment I was extremely vulnerable. There was a moment where I almost got up, but I guess deep in my heart, I knew that it would be best to stay seated. I went home, and I thought, and I was able to more clearly define what I believe after that. I've thought a lot about what my life would have been like if I had walked up to the front of that classroom, how my life would have changed. But I'm glad I stayed put.

The second most important incident was when I was 19. I was visiting Tampa to go to a Water Management Conference. I figured while I was there, I would stop by my Aunt Kelli's house, visit my cousins who I didn't see all that often, and get some free food (always important). Aunt Kelli is kind of the anomaly in our family, as she comes from my mom's not very religious family, and found religion in college. She married a pastor, so they're obviously very religious. I don't know how, but somehow we got onto the subject of religion and belief. I'm incredibly grateful to Aunt Kelly and Uncle Dean for that conversation, because it made me realize that it's possible to talk about religion in a very deep and personal manner, while still being civil and friendly. You can disagree completely with someone and still respect them. And that conversation is where I came up with the basis for my beliefs. I call it the faith conundrum, or possibly the problems of God's love.

On that cliffhanger, I’ll stop. The post is already too long, and tomorrow promises hangovers, which is great fodder for religious ramblings. Oh, I can sense your excitement.

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