I used to go to church, every Sunday, for three hours. Sometimes church started at nine in the morning and sometimes it started at noon, or one, or ten, or eleven. I’ve gone to church at all sorts of different times, for three hours, on lots of Sundays. In addition to Sunday, there were also occasionally Wednesday night meetings, Thursday activities, and various meetings for positions I volunteered for at church. There was a lot of church. Church used to be this big part of my life.
I say used to be because it no longer is. I didn’t stop believing. I didn’t convert to Buddhism, Satanism, or Pastafarianism. I didn’t even take a yoga class, that’s how not, not church I am. It’s not that I wouldn’t take a yoga class, or that I associate it with eastern philosophies. I think it’s a form of exercise, but some people certainly do associate it with other religious teachings. That comparison was just to show that I’m not even really flirting with other religions.
If nothing else has peaked my interest, why not go?
There is nothing better than my church. I don’t have an alternative to go to. If I went anywhere, I would go to my church. I simply love some of the beautiful and very spiritual things about my church. I have not found religious teachings more beautiful anywhere else. I have not felt closer to the divine anywhere else, well, besides nature and when I see the beauty of human beings, not physical beauty, the beauty of things that people are capable of.
So why not go, if I have nothing better?
I’m tired. I’m worn out. I’m tired of church drama. I’m tired of following teachings and ending up in bad situations because I did. I’m tired of being told that God cares about sins more than he cares about me. I’m tired of being told that God cares more about men than he does about women. I’m tired of being expected to fulfill certain roles because I’m a woman in a religion. I’m tired of being looked down on because I don’t fit the cultural expectations of my church. If you don’t believe that your church has its own culture that goes above and beyond what your church teaches, you better think again, and think hard.
I’m also tired of not learning anything new. I am a spiritual person. I want to broaden myself spiritually through my worship experience, not hear the same thing over, and over, and over, and over again. Religion is not about repetition; it’s about growth and you only grow, or change, if you do something different. Sure, you could argue that you have to repeat the same action over and over again to form a habit, which could bring about a change, but you would have to make a decision to start the new thing in the first place, which is different from what you were normally doing.
I hated school. I heard the same thing, over and over again. I had already learned it, years previously, but, yet, I had to sit there and hear the same thing over and over again. It never did me any more good than the first time I heard it and it became frustrating. It was a chore. It was a chore to wake up five days a week and go listen to stuff I already knew, all while sitting in a hard chair, in a boring room.
My church attendance was no different. I went to church. I heard the same thing, over and over again. There were no revelations. The teachings I heard, over and over again, which I already practiced, didn’t really do me much good playing on repeat. I took to doodling in a sketchbook, while attending one hour, instead of three, on Sundays. I then took to not going at all. If I was going to take time out of my Sunday to get up early and go doodle in somewhere that wasn’t my house, to learn nothing, why should I go at all?
Moving forward, there were teachings and cultural things about my church that started to hurt. There were so many, “If you follow these teachings in your life, things will be ok,” statements. Yes, really? No, not really. I did a whole lot of following. That following got me a mentally abusive marriage, that not many people associated with the church would label as mentally abusive because of the lack of teachings about such things. Oh, but when other people heard, oh my. They couldn’t believe half of it. My own grandmother was the best voice of reason in the whole thing. She told me that it could be a greater sin to stay in a bad marriage than it was to keep it together. I prayed. I fought. I got out.
It’s so hard to split apart some beautiful gospel, from a culture that can be very flawed. If I adhered to all the things I used to adhere to, because of my church, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I’m in a much healthier place mentally. I am not miserable. I’m not depressed. I am in a great relationship, with a man I don’t fight with, with a man I can do things with, with a man who has shared interests. That man is not a member of my church. He even has qualities that members of my church would look down upon, heavily, but he is a wonderful person, who is very generous and responsible. I would not have this relationship had I adhered to the “only date members” repetition that many church members go about saying, on repeat. You know what I would have? Not much. I would be alone. I am in a relationship with a person I could actually raise a family with and he would be responsible about it. That means so much to me. You know what means more? The fact that he would be happy if we had children, or, heaven forbid, if we couldn’t. He values his relationship with me more than the prospect of passing on his genetic material, unlike the last guy.
I think part of what made my ex-husband so abusive was the fact that he felt entitled to treat me however he wanted because of how he twisted church teachings in his head. It’s not the church’s fault he did that; it’s his, but it doesn’t change the fact that it happened. He thought he could do whatever and I would take it, that I would have to take it, because of church teachings. He picked the wrong woman for that.
Through all of this, I’ve learned that a person’s own perspective about their belief is a lot more important than what that belief supposedly is on paper. Church teachings are wonderful and beautiful, but it’s what you do with those teachings that is either the wonderful thing or the terrible thing, after all, many people have done a great many terrible things in the name of God. I don’t want you to tell me that you are a Christian, or a Buddhist, or whatever, I want you to show me with your actions and who you are as a person. If you truly are whatever religion you claim to be, it will show in your actions with the world.
I’m not perfect, nobody is. Maybe I could benefit from going to church every once in a while, maybe someday. Right now, I’m assessing the good things about my beliefs. I’m tallying up the things I know to be true. I know Heavenly Father cares a whole lot about me as a person and would like to see me happy. I know he cares a whole lot about me becoming a better person through personal interactions, relationships, and knowledge. I know he gave me a brain and the ability to reason, so I could think about things and make my own darn decisions. I know he hopes those decisions will lead me back to the spirit kingdom to be with my family forever. I don’t have to go to church every Sunday to know those things. These are all things I’ve learned outside of church among other people, normal people, probably even some hipsters.
You want to know God? Go see what he created. See the mountains. See the sky. Look at the stars. See all the wonderful things people can do. Be amazed at the talent of others. Think about how photosynthesis works; it’s pretty important.