Originally uploaded: 4th December 2018
My whole life I have grown up in the church.
My Sunday could never be whole or complete without going to church; the songs, the prayers, the preaching. I did all the things that you do when you go to church as a child: go to Sunday school, the weekly kids programs and summer camps that eventually turned into youth programs and youth camps. I served on the prayer team and the worship team and the youth team.
Looking at my church life written down on paper you could say that I was the perfect poster child to advertise the church. Always did everything I was taught, never questioned anything and kept my head down and eyes closed when it was time to pray.
Then I went to university.
You see it is really easy to go to church and take part when you’re parents are the ones taking you. It’s easy to go when you’ve known these people your whole entire life. It’s easy to go when you don’t know a world without it.
And the world is scary.
Going to university as a Christian was difficult and I don’t think anyone could have warned me or explained to me how difficult it would be.
Nobody can warn you, no one.
A massive hole was created inside of me when I left home and I left my home church and my church duties. It wasn’t obvious at first because I adjusted to student life very, very (huge emphasis on the very) nicely. I was able to do whatever I wanted because I was in control; the reins had been cut loose and so I rebelled, I was reckless. I am still fairly reckless.
But I felt so lonely. It felt so alien, this feeling of being lonely surrounded by people that wanted to be my friend. On a Saturday night I could feel the weight of Sunday approaching and I wanted to go to church but something had shifted, something was different. Even after finding a church where I felt comfortable it was hard to bring myself to get to church.
You see I realised church for me, my whole entire life, had been a routine, it had been a chore. I never said anything out of line because I didn’t know anything that was out of the line. Church wasn’t a choice, it wasn’t my choice. But now there were no parents to nag me into going to church, it was my choice and it was an easier choice to go out on a Saturday night rather than go to church on a Sunday.
Another thing is that I didn’t exactly know what I believed because I just followed whatever my parents said. That doesn’t work in university because people will come at you and ask you to justify your beliefs. And I couldn’t, I couldn’t justify my beliefs or my morals because they weren’t based on anything concrete, they were not rooted in anything. I simply followed them because I was told to, like a sheep. And as Octavia E. Butler said in her novel Parable of the Sower “A tree cannot grow in its parent’s shadow”.
When people question you, you question yourself. Why do I believe this when I don’t have anything to account for it? How do I justify my actions when they don’t exactly follow the ‘standard Christian ideals’? Do I even believe in those ‘standard Christian ideals’? Why do I pay into this institution that is filled with all these imperfect people? Why when they are hateful and filled with pride?
I looked into the underbelly of the church and I didn’t see mindless sheep following a shepherd I saw wolves. I saw judgement and hypocrites and privilege and hate. I felt disgusting because these were the people that were nurturing me, bringing me up and when I looked in the mirror at myself I realised I looked just like them.
I lost my religion. I’m not a Christian anymore.
It would be easy to stop the blog post right here and say that I am now an atheist but religion is separate to faith.
The first definition of faith as a noun is: complete trust or confidence in someone or something. Faith is relational and it a two way streak; it is not merely about mindlessly following a higher being. It’s about doubt and disagreements and finding common ground. It’s about developing your own ideas and morals rooted in what you know and experience rather than what other people have said.
I don’t agree with some of the teachings of the bible. I don’t agree with how the church handles certain situations. And if I’m honest I think that religious people need to get down from their high horse and stop segregating. I think some Christians believe that they are holier than even Jesus. I think a lot of things that would estrange me from the church because at the end of the day it is an institution that is ran by imperfect people leading other imperfect people. They have no right to cast the first stone.How can you doubt and yet still go to church and believe in God?
Because I’ve found that my doubts have been a catalyst for my faith; is it not greater to doubt something and still believe in it than to just mindlessly be ignorant and follow? That’s faith. Actively exercising my freewill and choosing to follow Him despite my doubts and fears. But God’s love, to me, is real; that’s the thing that is consistent when I read my bible - even while reading about the wrath of God I can very (very, very) slightly see a father’s love. When I look at the beauty of the world and learning about how it has evolved, I see God’s love. When I look at the difference between the people in my life, I see God’s love. Religion is exclusive, segregated and controlling but faith is accepting, unique and liberating. Religion is one sided but faith is a relationship. I lost my religion to pick up my faith.