When I was married the first time, I married a man who had strong family ties in the RLDS church. (No, not the Mormons, the other ones.) I tried to be a ‘good girl’ and fit in, even being baptized in their faith. I went to church, went to church camp, and tried to find out more about their religion. When my then father-in-law started giving me books and talks about how their religion was tied into UFO phenomena and the desert drawings and cave paintings… well, they pretty much lost me there. It’s not that I don’t have an open enough mind to believe that UFO’s are a possibility, but when you mix that up with my image of God, it just doesn’t work. Neither did the marriage, for various other reasons.
Although I’ve had my go-rounds with organized religion, I’ve always still had my faith in God. I’m not sure if He’s a He, a She, or an It, (for our purposes, I’ll stay with He), but I know He’s there. How? Too many examples to mention, from the premature birth of my eldest child and subsequent health of all of my children, to my almost eerie luck in finding my current husband. I tell, ya, all the moons and planets were aligned that night! They had to be…
My second husband and I were married in the Lutheran church, by a minister I’m almost positive was a fake. Just kidding. He did like his wee nip of liquor, however, and he really seemed to enjoy our rehearsal dinner and reception maybe a tad more then I felt was a good thing for a man of the clergy… just sayin’…
After that, we didn’t see much of the church, as my husband has the same attitude about organized religion as I do. This became a bone of contention in his family – especially with his mother – when we did not baptize our two younger children (the older ones were already baptized by the previous family.) Again, he and I don’t believe that God was going to send our children to hell if we were wrong in our beliefs… and we felt when they were old enough to make their own choice, then we would support them in whatever they chose.
We didn’t pray at mealtimes, we didn’t go to church, but we tried to get across the story of Jesus at Christmas and Easter and we tried especially to raise our kids with the one important message, “do unto others”…
When our youngest daughter started looking into religion as a college student, we supported her and when she went gung-ho into it in a big way, we tried to keep up. It made me sad when I went to a meeting where she was going to speak and she got up and told this room full of strangers that she was not raised in a Christian home. Ugh. Knife. Heart. Stab. Pain. Boy, kids know right where to get you, don’t they? This led to a lot of discussion and further realization that perhaps we’d not done enough to lead our children into Belief.
I began going to an E-Free church that my daughter had gotten pretty chummy with. She was singing in the choir, and at first I just went to hear her sing – she has a beautiful voice. I liked the way I was treated there and began going on a pretty regular basis. Finally, deciding it was time to change my membership out of the RLDS church that I’d not been with for years to the E-Free, I took a big leap and went in with what I thought were eyes wide open. Our daughter even went so far as to be baptized – making her grandmother finally happy that she wouldn’t be going to hell.
Things went pretty smoothly for awhile. I was getting involved in some of the teachings and joined a bible study group. Things were fine until the church decided they needed a bigger church. Mind you, the one they already had was huge and had all the modern do-dads – big screens, etc. Now I was suddenly having flashbacks again because all the sermons began to circle around “we need money” …”land”…”building”…”money”…”money”… arrrggghhh!!!
In frustration I began skipping the services. Then I had trouble facing the bible
thumpers studiers and the lesson-givers. My daughter hung on… until the straw that broke the camel’s back. She met a man. The man who she is now happily married to. The man who was raised Catholic so in the eyes of the E-Free people was a demon. WTF? What are they talking about? The head pastor got her off to the side and told her they were not happy with her choice and that she should stop seeing him. They got cold and bitter with her. She tried to tell them she had even dated someone in their church who treated her horribly – but they didn’t want to hear that.
After much soul-searching, she, too, left the church. Not having lost her belief, but having seen what her father and I had been trying to explain for years about the organized religion part of it all.
I don’t know why, but it seems the people who are in the church who are supposed to be the most loving, forgiving, (turn the other cheek??) are the ones who can be the most spiteful, hateful and unforgiving. When I was going through my divorce and the court send out a social worker (we were undergoing a custody suit) the people who said the worst things about me were the church people who didn’t even know me! I was so stunned and hurt by that. With our daughter, once she stood up for this loving, kind, sweet young man she had met and saw no reason to break up with simply because his family raised him in a different church, she too was given the down-the-nose look of the almighty church peoples.
When they got married, it was by a judge. They were married in a beautiful room on the college campus where they met. It was a lovely service and in my heart I know a blessed service. Why? Because I believe God is everywhere. God doesn’t belong in a stone palace. God is in the face of my children, the face of my love. You can’t look at the perfection of a single flower or a single snowflake – or the face of any one of my cats – and not see God had a hand in it. That’s not to say I’m not a believer in science or medicine – I feel God has to have had a hand in that, too. I don’t know if I believe in the creation story – I guess I have a theory that it may just be a creative way to describe evolution.
Too many things have happened in my life for me not to believe in God. He, She, or It will always be with me. The Church? Sorry, but you can keep it. My church is my garden, my children’s laugher, my kitties snuggled up next to me purring, my pups being silly, my beagle giving me a big hug, my husband’s eyes. That is my church. Amen.