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Reflecting on Religion and Politics and Hearts Open To New Ideas

As I was watching some of the Kaleif Browder documentary this morning (I can only watch a little bit at a time because it’s so very difficult) I was thinking about how I would definitely add it to my List Of Material To Help You Open Your Heart To Systemic Racism. I thought those exact words and it hit me: I used to talk like that after I had been dunked/baptized into a Southern Baptist Church.

If you didn’t know about that part of my life, know that is was VERY VERY SHORT-LIVED.

I was struggling with my own past choices and mistakes made and I was in a marriage I should not have been in and I was trying to pretend like it was working when it was not and I was 20? 21? In college with a small child and poor and trying to find my way in the world and I went to a Revival at a friend’s church. A friend who I really loved and wanted her approval. I was kinda swept up in the talk of salvation and forgiveness and love and the talk of filling holes in hearts and soothing pain and I answered the alter call at the end of the service and was dunked/baptized a week or two later. That church and those words soothed the pain I was in and made me feel loved. So, for a few weeks I was reading the bible and going to bible studies and talking about how my Heart Had Been Opened to the saving power of Jesus’ love and for a few short weeks the pain subsided and I felt like I had purpose and direction.

But nothing built on pain can last and I quickly realized there was more to this world I had submersed myself into, and there was a lot of negative mixed in with the love and prayer. And I started being truly honest with myself and seeing I was only there and only participating because I wanted that feeling of love from my friend and her church. And that love was given to a person I had to fake being and that took too much energy and the holes in my heart were still there and the pain was still there and I was still truly lost so I quit bothering. I did still continue my quest for a church – as I spent a good portion of my early 20s thinking that if I just found the right church everything would fall into place. But I never went back to that church or anything like it again.

It was a very short span of my life, but I reflect on it often as I do truly understand the appeal to those type of churches. You can easily get wrapped up in the community and the love and the service and the prayer and the music and just silence the part of you that questions certain dogma you may not actually believe. Kinda like how I was so faithful in the Catholic church, and just ignored the voices in my head that were constantly questioning the value of a dogma that made my wonderful Father feel like he wasn’t worthy to receive Communion because he had been divorced. If the majority of what you feel gives you joy and love, you can easily silence the questioning voices that say, “But don’t these people feel like your gay family member is going to Hell?”

If you’ve never been absorbed by the positivity of a church community you may not understand how you can ignore that negative aspects of it, but I understand. I also understand – as I felt this way for awhile about the Catholic church – how you can love a church so much you want to be part of the change. That you think, I love this church and I want to be part of the wave that pushes acceptance of LGBTQ families so that they can love this church as I do. Big changes in churches don’t happen overnight, so I totally understand and even admire my friends in the Catholic and LDS churches who use their good standing in the church to preach love and support for LGBTQ people.

I don’t regret any of my religious journeys or the religious paths I traveled down. I don’t regret trying to connect with a Buddhist Sangha in Tennessee, I don’t regret being baptized into a Southern Baptist mega-church, I don’t regret my decades as a Catholic because all of these experiences help me truly understand religion and not feel hatred toward it like many of my political counterparts do.

And I often find myself reflecting on my openness to all of those religions is also what has allowed me to be open to other kinds of learning and change. I didn’t stand fast when someone explained that using the word “retarded” casually was offensive. I didn’t fight (too long) to understand the prevalence of systemic racism in our society. I didn’t resist learning the real history of race in our country and how we gain power on the backs of people of color. The openness of my heart that made me receive religion time and time again, has also helped me receive all sorts of cultural and political understanding that I have seen others resist.

4 thoughts on “Reflecting on Religion and Politics and Hearts Open To New Ideas”

  1. Miss Zoot we need more people in the world like you.

    I often nod along in agreement to your posts, recently the one when your daughter called you out about “mean girls”. I’ve never agreed with this term really, as like you, most of my bullying came from boys as well and I meant the casual, everyday bullying experience in school, walking too and from class, in lessons y’know I’m sure the sexist and general verbal abuse you receive on a day to day basis growing up. Sigh. Sure girls could be catty, but I stayed away from the tiny amount of mean ones and I don’t recall them ever going deliberately out of their way to make your life hell, like some of the boys could.

    Your post today resonated with me too, which is why I’ve never been batisted or ever belonged to a organised religion, even though my parents were pillars of a small Baptist Church whilst growing up and the pressure was on to conform. I always thought part of me was bad for not being baptised, for not excepting god into my life but I just couldn’t fake my belief, you can’t do a massive thing like that to please others. Now, I know i wasn’t bad. My reasons were sound, much about religious teachings didn’t sit well with me, the representation of women, the assertment that Christianity was the only true God etc. No one would discuss things with me either I just had to eat what was “fed me” as that was “right and true”. I know know faith and religion are two different things entirely. Things fell into place more when I read about “Blue domers”. 🙂

    P.s. My straight laced upbringing led me to becoming part of a very warm and welcoming LGTB community in London as soon as I left my home town.

  2. I am so confused by this comment. Are you implying that I’m sounding preachy? What am I preaching? I didn’t mean to be preaching anything.

  3. I guess one point I would like to address is I really feel like you can be a Christian and not adhere to any church doctrine. I personally don’t go to any church. That’s just a building and man made doctrine and “religions” are not for me. I believe in Jesus and it does give me peace, but it’s a personal relationship that I have. My God doesn’t make mistakes and I feel that He loves all of us just the way we are. Man made rules are just that, man made. I believe even the bible has been manipulated by man. So… I guess what I’m trying to say is, the man made message gets a human spin and it can turn people off and make them angry. But to me, that’s not God’s message, that’s that human’s message and their take on God, especially when someone makes God political. I don’t think God is a conservative anymore than he is a liberal. Maybe I’m wrong, but I believe in a power greater than myself, and I find peace and love there. I’m a left leaning Christian, which has become an oxymoron in this world. Just my take on it.

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