Posted in The Tough Stuff

Right, Wrong and Jesus

I’ve not written about my faith – or my constant evolution and struggle within it – on this blog before, but I’ve wanted to. I guess it’s been hard for me to put words to that story beyond, “I have been really mad at God.”

Recent political news has set a new stage, however. Considering both the Supreme Court rulings in favor of equal rights for couples of all genders and Texas Senator Wendy Davis’s filibuster to kill an oppressive anti-abortion bill fill me personally with a great deal of joy, they also highlight my hesitance with organized religion.

You see, I hold fiercely to my right to make my own decisions for my body, and I’d like all women to maintain that ability as well. It is also my very firm belief that we should all be able to love whoever we choose. I mean really, have you taken a look at the world we live in lately? The very last thing we should be limiting is love, regardless of who it comes from and to whom it is aimed.

So when progressive ideals experience some political wins, Bible passages spouted on social media to back up the religious right’s agendas, I suppose, is expected. But religious leaders supporting “traditional family values” {not mine!} by spouting such ridiculous statements as gay marriage will lead directly to bestiality is exactly the closed-minded judgment I want to avoid in any organization to which I choose to belong.

I was raised in a pretty religious household. We prayed before, and sometimes after, every meal. Our minister lived across the street and his daughter is still my best friend. Youth group, Sunday school and catechism taught us to avoid drugs, alcohol, premarital sex and grinding on the dance floor and rap music. We were taught to seek a relationship with Jesus, keep a strong faith, and trust that He would make our paths straight.

It was a tight little cocoon we were privileged to live within, so it was easy to go along with it. {At 16, I didn’t know any gay people and I certainly did not believe abortion would ever be an issue that would affect my life.}

Unfortunately, I never questioned these things – the church’s authority on what is right and what is wrong – until far too late. Until I had led the life I was taught to live, and still found myself in a shitty marriage filled with cruelty and accusations facing a painful separation and divorce. I’m not saying that the education I received from my church was wrong, but it certainly wasn’t the entire story. Honest conversations on moderation in all things and healthy sexual and interpersonal relationships would have served me – and I daresay many other young Christian adults – much better.

Throughout my challenging marriage, subsequent separation, and for years after the divorce, I didn’t have much need for religion. In my mind, it hadn’t helped me navigate the more rocky territories in life, and I was real salty with God. The religion I was raised within all of a sudden felt very unfair. When I was most broken, God seemed to abandon me as swiftly as my husband. Truth be told, though, I didn’t fight that hard in the end for either relationship; I was hurt and I was angry, and it seemed like the best plan for my life was to start doing absolutely everything differently.

I have returned to a more personal relationship with God, and I’m even a member of a church… a very progressive church, clearly. I will never be a part of a movement that dictates how best to live my one shot at this life, nor one that judges me for wanting control over what happens within my own body. It makes me very uncomfortable to align myself with a larger philosophy that demeans human freedoms by listing slippery slope scare tactics as a valid defense. I believe most Christians are smarter than that, and I hope I’m right.

I believe in loving one another and in being a good person. I believe we all know what it looks and feels like to be a good person, but Jesus is an amazing example too. When my minister preaches about the life of Jesus, I listen to stories of generosity, lessons of living judgment-free, loving one another unselfishly. I believe God is within all of us, and that we can trust our intuition. When I question what is right and wrong, I check in with myself and determine which I can best live with. I’ve never felt okay with judging someone else’s choices or limiting someone’s personal freedoms. At the end of the day, I want to live in a way that both Jesus and I can be proud of. That is my only prayer for myself; for the well-being of others and an end to suffering, well, that prayer is much longer.

** If any of this concerns you, please know: I am familiar with the sacrificial foundation of the Christian faith, and the encouragement to embrace sacrifice (and I do!); the story of Job’s hardships and steady faith; and more Bible stories than you, probably. This is a brief (although, not really) and far from comprehensive description of my experiences and feelings. I think we all can admit, faith is a journey.

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