I know, twice in two days. That’s practically a record for me.
As a quick follow-up to yesterday’s post, Why I Believe in God (On My Own Terms), I thought I might address a few things that have come up in conversations since. First, let me say that I’m very overwhelmed and humbled by the number of people who have reached out to me, both via Facebook comment on the original post and individually, to express similar sentiments to my own, as well as the number of people who have shared this post with loved ones. This means a lot more to me than I think you could imagine. Secondly, there are a few points which I intended to make but may not have been absolutely clear on, so here is a bit of clarification:
I do not mean to call out all churches, but rather the church body as a whole. I have been to many wonderful and caring churches and have known, loved, and even been related to many great ministers and advocates of God. My complaint is aimed more at the caricature that Christianity has become, at least here in the US, of a gun-toting, gay-bashing, Middle-Eastern-hating, ‘Murica church that uses religion as a political platform.
I realized something else I did in yesterday’s post that was a little unfair of me–I presented a problem without offering any form of solution. After hearing from my peers, I realized there are a few things I think could help (maybe) make the church more appealing.
As I mentioned before, “honesty saves lives.” I believe this absolutely and in all things, but most importantly in a church. This is what I believe to be the one great thing to come of the Internet–a sense of community and shared struggle. No longer does anyone feel alone, because you can pretty easily find a forum of people dealing with the same or very similar issues to yourself now. We are becoming a lot more transparent, and sites like ScaryMommy and even Reddit are taking away the shame from things like postpartum depression, social anxiety, mental illness, etc. Religion is becoming a farce where only the holier-than-thou can participate, putting on a shiny clean outfit for God, and acting righteous on a public front. Instead, the church should act like the internet. We should consider shame to be a thing of the past, because we’re all struggling, we’re all hurt, and we’re all just trying to cope. No one is any worse than any one else. Equality in all things, right?
I would like to go to church where the minister doesn’t tell me that he’s given up cable because he found himself staring a moment too long at the women in bikinis on CSI: Miami. I would like to go to a church where instead the minister can say that he/she struggled with a porn addiction, and here is how that hurt his/her relationships, and here is how they overcame it. I want to see a church where someone can come back from a trip abroad and explain the things they learned and saw, maybe even how their religious views changed or expanded, without fear of treading on sacrilege. I would like to see a church where we work together to try to reduce our own inevitable hypocrisy, shining a light on our flaws so that we can heal. I would like to see a church where mental illness, depression, addiction, low self-esteem, abuse, criminal history, racial issues, and testimony are all talked about, shared, and explored without aggression, hostility, judgment, or defensiveness. Our humanity is in our brokenness. I want to see that brokenness reflected in my church.
So maybe it’s just the one thing I would like to see changed. I want church to be a place of healing where we are challenged to create our own path and follow our own faith journey. Maybe this falls too far outside the dogma of any one religion and maybe it’s not in the cards for Christianity, but this is what I think we need as a community. We’re all a beautiful kind of ugly. We shouldn’t have to hide this from each other. We should celebrate it.
As for my own personal dogma, I have mentioned it before and will likely mention it again, but here is part of the introduction to Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman, which sums up nearly everything I believe to be true.
“This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.”