This is yet another Toddy English Faith and Religion post, bear with me (haha)…
2009 has been quite the learning experience for me. That in and of itself was so very necessary, however. 2008 grew me up. 2009 was about reflection. One very important lesson that I’ve been privileged to discover in this school called life is that all: people, places, things, and situations are seasonal. Everything good, bad, or indifferent is fleeting. If you believe that any given circumstance is eternal just give it time and it will be but a memory. Now, onto why I’ve decided to share this, my personal epiphany…
This year I’ve chosen to no longer attend the gay affirmative church that I’ve congregated within for the past several months. There are a myriad of reasons (reasons that prompted me to write this latest dissertation) why but the ultimate is simply that I no longer have any inkling of faith in Christianity (nor any other organized religion for that matter). Some Sudnays I’ve thought to myself, “What am I doing here?” I’ll watch the people pray, sing, praise dance, and testify and it inspires nothing for me. Granted, I am happy for them because their faith is quite important in their lives. Yet, I feel indifferent to it. I no longer need Jesus in my life to give me happiness and fulfillment.
Ultimately, my decision has been provocated by the fact that the pastor is vacating (and the church itself is in a state of disarray). He was the penultimate reason why I enjoyed attending, regularly. Here is the reason why. Although his message was based in Christianity he delivered it in a way that was relatable to everyone (not just the faithful). The pastor rarely mentioned ‘God’ in the sermon until it was complete. Instead he provided, what I felt, was sensational motivational speaking. I liked him because he gave me advice that I could apply to everyday life. Since he hasn’t been preaching for the last few Sundays I’ve found the services lacking because, in the tradition of a Christian church, everything is centered on Jesus (lol)…It left me empty. Needless to say I am now disillusioned by the idea of continuing. Yet, I am thankful for my disillusionment. It is telling me that it is time to move on and begin something new. I needed to attend the church when I needed to. Now, there is no longer a need. It helped me realize, definitively, that I no longer believe in religion. Furthermore, it solidified in me that belief that all power for positive change starts from within.
Now, I feel comfortable in accepting and embracing my humanist view towards life. When I started writing this blog two years ago it was a struggle. I was quite angry (although I refused to admit it), confused, melancholic, and distressed. I was trying very hard to understand the world during that period. While trying to be the perpetual optimist (a natural component of my personality) I was coping with a great deal of anguish and anxiety.
When I embraced my faith, years ago, it was because that was expected. Everyone went to church and had Jesus (even drug dealers and gang bangers) When I kicked my faith to the proverbial curb it was to spite everyone else. I transformed into the belligerent warrior atheist that had to trash everyone who believed in ANYTHING supernatural. During that period of my life there was no middle ground. The pendulum swung either left or right (and got stuck on both sides) and that was that. I never gave myself the oppurtunity to mourn my Christian faith. Instead I tried to replace it. Yet, the wonderful thing is when you leave something alone for awhile you can comeback and look at it in 3rd person…
That season of discontent has finally stationed itself in the past…
As I’ve grown up so have my views on the matter. I’ve outgrown my former beliefs. However, I refuse to disparage anyone else their own. I know how important it is to have a refuge, an escape. Everyone needs something to believe in, I think. While some believe in the concept of an anthropomorphized diety I believe in the power of the human spirit. The reason I believe so strongly in it is because of what I’ve seen in other people and myself.
While reflecting on the trauma and tumult that was my life in recent history one thing always stood out. Not once did I fall to my knees and pray. Sometimes I had the inkling to do so; yet, because christianity no longer factored into my world view it ceased to matter. Instead, I turned inward.
Growing up I was unwittingly taught that image was the ONLY thing. My family was (and still is) dysfunctional as all hell; however, from the outside everyone thought we were perfect. In order to perpetuate the facade I learned to suppress my emotions. No one was allowed to see me sweat until I got home. It wasn’t until recently that I stopped doing that to myself. In retrospect whenever I felt anything deeply (despair, sadness, pain, and etc al) my mother (and everyone else in my life) told me to “Just pray about it.” For me that was the worst thing; because I was already a masochistic perfectionist. If I prayed and still felt those emotions it would make me feel worse because I’d think, “I don’t have enough faith in God!” It was almost a sick form of torcher that I, a child, was committing against himself. Moreover, “Just pray about it” made me a passive spectator in my own life. Always waiting for something good to just happen I spent more time being sad. I felt like a fake person, an android if you will.
What I know now is that all emotions and feelings are valid. To be human is to feel and experience. Fairly recently I’ve wept profusely, laughed hard, wept some more, screamed with anger, and cried again and again and again. In the end it was nothing short of total catharsis. All of the emotions that I’ve ever pushed down came swimming to the forefront. It was frightening to confront them because that meant having to take time out to care about myself…which I was always taught was selfish (a SIN) and a sign of weakness. The true sin was denying my emotions their right to be expressed. True weakness lied in hiding from my emotions instead of acknowledging my pain. Yet, they were not to be denied. The more I tried to push them (my sensations) down the more those motherfuckers wanted to float…
After honoring them I was able to push through so many issues of my life. For so long I felt stagnant, as if my circumstances would never change. But, in the end, all I had to do was keep living. There no longer a need to pray because my belief in the promise of a new and better day got me through everything I was going through. Because I wasn’t praying I found: wisdom, love, and courage that felt elusive.
As I’ve said before organized religion is no longer a dire need for me. It is now akin to my security blanket that I carried up unto age nine. When I was born I carried around a blanket that he been with me since leaving my mother’s womb. I took it everywhere, except for school. It was literally like an extension of myself. My church and family members nicknamed me “Linus”(from Peanuts) because of it. In addition, I also sucked my fingers while carrying my blanket. It was like my blanket made my fingers taste like candy(to this day my left middle finger has a not in the center from where I sucked on it). So, still carrying it by the time I was nine, my mother began secretly cutting it away. It was getting smaller and smaller but I still carried it. However, one day some woman my mom hired to baby sit me threw it away while I was at school. When I came home and couldn’t find it I felt like a crack fiend going through withdrawals. I tried substituting another blanket but it would not do. So I suffered for the next week…Until finally it just didn’t matter.
At this moment the idea of God the father and Christianity are my blanket. I feel like I’m finally able to put it away for good. I still learn a lot from religion and apply it to my everyday life. But there is no longer a need for literal immersion or a “relationship” with an invisible being with all power. Moreover, I don’t have to attend church just to fit in with everyone else. I’ll only go when it makes me happy. Spirituality, for me, is about appreciation and gratitude for everything in my life. I feel like I’ve found my own spiritual path which is to basically be kind and loving to myself and others (that makes me happy).
I still embrace the church for what it does for the community but alas it no longer fulfills me in the way that lifts my spirit. To quote that Bible verse, “To everything there is a season.” My time for religion and church is over. Perhaps it will come again; however, this is the time I am in at this moment.
It is odd for me not being religious. I have a fantastic and often overactive imagination. So, the concept of ‘God’ for me was easy. Now, I’ve allowed myself to imagine the possibility that there is not a literal shaper of all worlds. Maybe there isn’t a grand puppeteer playing us all like marionettes. Maybe, just maybe, we are in this ‘alone?’ Yet, we aren’t alone. We all have each other on this planet.
So, I’ll never shut the door on the possibility; but, for now, I choose to dwell inside of and embrace this three dimensional construct in all of it’s beauty and wretchedness.
Life makes a lot more sense to me now.