Come All Ye Faithful

The topic for this weeks Spin is Religion.

God made so many different kinds of people. Why would he allow only one way to serve him? ~Martin Buber

I have never doubted God’s existence in my life. However, I was raised with an unhealthy concept of religion. I was not brought up in the church. My father was always grumbling at his mother for trying to shove her religion down his throat. His family did not belong to a mainstream church. I went with my aunt and grandmother to their meetings sometimes. The congregation preached at us with damnation, but they did not practice all of what they preached. There was much hypocrisy among the members, and they seemed more interested in getting one another in trouble for their sins rather than lifting one another up when they were down. The clergy made fun of the beliefs of other people and churches. Mostly, they lectured with “holier than thou” attitudes about the end of the world which scared me more than anything.  I think the thing that confused me the most was their utmost disdain for the Triune God of other religions. Their leaders depicted Him as a three headed monster. This also frightened me. (It took me many years to undo that and actually understand the Trinity.)

My mother’s father belonged to a Methodist church. He spoke calmly of a kind and loving God. He never condemned us or forced his religion on us. This God was the one that lived in my heart. We were always told to be respectful of anything my Grandfather said, but never allowed to attend his church services.

All religions must be tolerated… for… every man must get to heaven his own way. ~Frederick the Great
 
I did go with my neighbors to their Baptist church for vacation bible school. My mother warned me not to let them to put me on their church roster. I had been told that churches only wanted my money. Of course, I was too young at the time to understand the concept of tithing. I was told that they idolized the cross and not God. I suppose I had been somewhat brainwashed before I went there. I was scared and had a hard time easing into the fun, games, and singing. By the time the week was about to end, I found that I liked it. On the last night we had to go forward and receive some sort of paper from the preacher. I threw mine away before my mother could see it because I feared I had been added to their church roster. For a long time I carried the guilt (and the secret) that I might have been made a member of the Baptist church. I didn’t know if I had been or not, but I feared that I if I had been and my mother found out I’d be in big trouble.

In high school, I attended services with my friend at a Methodist church. She played piano for the small congregation. It was there that I fell in love with hymns. I felt a sacredness and completeness in lifting my voice with others in unison to something much greater than I understood yet trusted.

A faith of convenience is a hollow faith. ~M*A*S*H, Father Mulcahy, “A Holy Mess,” 1982
 
When I left home, I was happy to leave all the hypocrisy and battle of religion behind. I carried God away with me. I always felt the comfort of His presence wherever I was. It wasn’t something I talked about to anyone. However, I did always pray every night, and I talked with him often during the day. I did not have one of those “If you do this one thing for me God, I promise I will never….” relationship. I did not barter with Him. I confided in Him and sought solace and guidance.  I was embarrassed by the concept of “religion”. I viewed religion as a thing that people hid behind or used to counteract the bad things they did in life.

There did come a time when my children were small that I felt we should be teaching them religious values. I didn’t want them to grow up with a skewed view as I had. The funny thing was that we thought we were doing this for our kids and ended up benefiting greatly ourselves. We became active in our church. We taught Sunday School for ten years. We were active in missions, youth, healing ministry, and many other organizations. We loved our church and our church family. It was a wonderful time in our lives. Our children thrived in our church community as well.

The churches must learn humility as well as teach it. ~George Bernard Shaw, St. Joan

We were invited to attend Emmaus. In case you don’t know what Emmaus is, it is a weekend retreat focused on your relationship with God and knowing that you are loved. It’s purpose is to equip you with skills to go back and serve your home church. It was a wonderful experience. I came back renewed and able and willing to support my church even more. However, later I went back to an Emmaus retreat and served, and that was a horrible experience. Helping others was good, but what was not good was getting involved and in the middle of a big clique. If you know anything about me, you know I don’t do hypocrisy and I don’t do cliques. I never felt more of an outsider as I felt that weekend. I won’t go into details as much of the Emmaus routine is not discussed, but it involves much self pride which takes the focus away from God. I totally dropped all ties with Emmaus after that.

Not all religion is to be found in the church, any more than all knowledge is found in the classroom. ~Author Unknown

A few years ago, there was a lot of controversy in my church. There seemed to be many good people all caught up in their own agendas rather than God’s agenda. I got tired of the politics and stopped attending services. Since this time, I have grown tremendously spiritually. My walk with God is much closer. You’d think I’d feel closer when I am reading and studying His word, but that is not the case. I’ve stopped focusing on what other people tell me about Him, and am finding Him within me. I suppose my biggest problem with institutionalized religion is the self-righteous behavior of many. I think as the body of Christ, we should work together to help one another. Many do this, but many do not. I guess this happens in many areas of life, not just religion.

Though I am not currently attending my church, I do not regret for a moment the years I spent there. I learned things in bible studies that I probably would not have learned on my own. I met many wonderful people and had some fabulous experiences. I grew as a Christian and as a person. I think that we provided our children with a solid belief system that will guide them in life.

Because I do not attend church regularly, I suppose many would not consider me religious. Nor am I hypocritical. What I am is faithful.

I feel good about where I am right now. I don’t feel that I must be involved with institutionalized religion in order to serve God or have a relationship with Him. Nor do I feel that I must explain myself to others, though I often end up doing just that. I am content with my relationship with Him. Sometimes, I feel guilty that I am not involved in the church, but I remind myself that what is important is my relationship with Him. My beliefs and my walk is mine to call my own. And in this realm that was once strife-ridden for me, I have found peace. Someday, I might return to church, but for now I am content.

*****This is not meant as a bash on anyone or any religion in general. I realize honesty can be hurtful, but this is not my intent. This is my experience, and others around me may have viewed the same circumstances differently than I did. This is how religion appeared through my eyes growing up and my views today. I harbor no resentment to anyone from my past. Even if I did not agree with their beliefs, I still learned much from them, and love them all the same. I’m sure the things that I mention happen in all churches and not in only one particular religion. Growing and learning is very much a part of the walk. I am thankful for all experiences I have had, for these have helped me choose my own way. Not to say my way is the right way or anyone else’s way is wrong, that is what is great about America…the freedom to practice the religion of our choice, and the freedom to speak of it.

33 thoughts on “Come All Ye Faithful

  1. We did have a poor example of this in our upbringing didn’t we? I am still mulling this around in my head and it’s going to be a very hard post for me to write. But I guess I will do it!

    • I wish you luck in being able to be honest and not stepping on any toes. This was probably one I should have skipped. Whatever you write is your experience, and I think you should be respected for that. Love you.

  2. I have often found churches to be very political and clique-ish. It is sad but true. Nice to hear you are on your own path and sense you are growing closer to God.

    Thank you for sharing a bit of your journey.

  3. A hard topic, a great post! Thank you for sharing something personal like this, Suzicate. Religion is, after all, a personal subject. You wrote what you feel and believe very eloquently.

    • You are welcome, Amanda. It is not an easy subject. It is very controversial and personal. We never see things the same way. I think each of my five siblings have different perceptions as we have each taken different paths in life and in the way of religion.

  4. i’m the opposite.
    i was raised with the church.
    But now i don’t have a thought in my head about whether god exists.
    instead i question will i lead a good life.
    Great post, got me thinking

  5. Hello Suzicate, I read your post as I do often. I just want to say to you that Jesus is the church. When He lives in your heart then the church is with you no matter what you do or where you go. You don’t need a building to serve God. I love what you said in your post below. These are what is important Suzicate not a building where everyone go to meet. God bless you my friend and I pray you are having a good Tuesday. Love and Hugs Viola

    I feel good about where I am right now. I don’t feel that I must be involved with institutionalized religion in order to serve God or have a relationship with Him. Nor do I feel that I must explain myself to others, though I often end up doing just that. I am content with my relationship with Him. Sometimes, I feel guilty that I am not involved in the church, but I remind myself that what is important is my relationship with Him. My beliefs and my walk is mine to call my own. And in this realm that was once strife-ridden for me, I have found peace.

  6. Thanks for sharing your experiences. It is a shame that humans can take Christianity and mess it up with their own selfish desires. But I guess Jesus told us that would happen…

    • I have found in religious institutions we end up judging others, the very thing we are taught not to do. I think we each have to choose our own way, and what’s right for one person might not be right for another.

  7. I see this Spin as nothing BUT respectful for how you were raised and how you raised yourself. Bravo! I also found in synagogue that cliques exist there too. Also, membership is extremely high, which is why I don’t belong to one. I wouldn’t call myself a lapsed Jew, but others in my faith do.
    This is a difficult topic, you’re completely right. I don’t think I would have proposed it if I didn’t have my own questions.
    You’re linked!

  8. Bless you, Suzicate. I, too, have had a struggle with religion, especially organized religion, so I can truly empathize with you. I grew up being subjected to “hellfire and damnation” sermons and experienced severe anxiety because, as a child, I worried about my eternal salvation to the point that I wouldn’t sleep at night. Now, I see that God is not an angry God, eagerly waiting to reign his Righteous Judgement down upon all us sinners, dangling us over the pit of hell with a thin little string. Now, I see that God is kind, loving, and above all, merciful. He loves every one of us, no matter how we choose to worship Him. And, after years of feeling lost and searching, I have finally found a church that I am happy with, although it’s a different branch of Christianity than from what I was raised (I was raised southern Baptist, and there’s nothing wrong with that… but it’s not for me, ya know?)

    You have inspired me to write a post about my own religious upbringing one day! It’s just a matter of when… it can be a touchy subject to talk about and I don’t want to make my parents feel bad for how they raised me. They only did what they thought was right and what they believed in, and I hold no judgements for that.

  9. I grew up in a Methodist church, and singing the hymns was (and still is) my favorite parts of the service. It’s calming for some reason!

    I have moved away from that church (it’s an hour drive one way), and my husband is Catholic. We actually both enjoy watching the midnight mass on t.v. on Christmas Eve with all the music – puts the whole holiday in perspective for me!

    Great writing as usual!

  10. SuziCate, to me your words here embody the true meaning of religion — compassion, forgiveness, goodwill. Church is in the heart and soul, yours is filled with willingness to do good things, and love others. That’s what it’s all about, I think!!

    xoxo

  11. I had a similar experience in the past forcing me to leave the church due to the politics aspect and this has made it hard for me to find a church home now.

    “Because I do not attend church regularly, I suppose many would not consider me religious. Nor am I hypocritical. What I am is faithful”

    I am faithful to my beliefs and I know that I will go to heaven whether I find a church home or not.

    Excellent Post Suzi,
    Thank You

  12. I was raised in church and forced to go and saw all the craziness you wrote about. This had a huge impact on who I am today, but more on that when I get my post written.

    You really did do a great job writing this. I know I am going to have a hard time with it.

  13. Susan…Wonderful words! I think you will find that yours is a ‘non denominational’ view, but no matter what you will always find politics/cliques…unless you are a hermit. Continue to stand up for your beliefs no matter who or what you may come up against….it won’t be an easy road but you will be following some mighty big shoes belonging to those 12 men….and I bet, knowing you, that you can do just as good a job as any of them.

  14. Thank you, SuziCate! I feel better about the fact that my hubby and I left the ‘organized religion’ (and actually I like your phrase better ‘institutionalized religion’) after having a bad experience with members who were focused on themselves and not on God, and it seem more of a ‘business’ rather than a place to grow closer to God. Like you, there was so much hypocrisy going on it was disheartening. And like you, I’m not hypocritical, but I certainly am faithful. 🙂

    Great Spin!


    SC: Confessions of a Non-Bible Thumper

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