Unless you pay this blog undevoted attention, or stalk my foursquare check-ins, you might never guess that I attend a (non-denominational) Christian service every week. I don't really discuss the services with anyone. In fact, I barely even mention that I go, unless it's in passing (if someone asks what I did on Saturday, I might say "I went to church"). I'm certainly not your stereotypical Christian.
One of the messages we get a lot is that we should not be ashamed of our faith. That we should be proud of our relationship with God, and spread his word.
That isn't the only message I've ever heard at church with which I disagree.
Religious people often wonder why others dislike religion so much. Well - as a person who spent most of her adult life shunning religion - I'll tell you: It's because religious people often come across as pompous, arrogant jerks.
I'm not talking about a Pastor. If people know your job is to spread God's message, and they show up to your service, or read your book or your blog, or watch your service on TV - then obviously, they're looking for the message.
I'm not even talking if you share the occasional message on facebook. If you're doing that, your friends know your deal, and they either accept that about you, or they've hidden your updates. Either way - I say rock on.
But even I - someone who actively seeks out God's message - have very little patience for sneak-attack preaching. You know what I mean - sending people links in email, texts with bible versus - particularly those that question my own faith or my own actions.
That's what "non-religious" people dislike about religion. The in-your-face, my-way-is-better attitude is, quite frankly, a turn-off.
See, I don't agree with everything my church says. In fact, there have been several times when, if I hadn't been trapped dead-center of a packed aisle, I would have gotten up and left in the middle of a message.
I think a relationship with God is, to an extent, a relationship with yourself. It's private - and I think it works differently for everyone. I believe in the overall message of my church - helping the community, finding strength through faith, building hope, treating others with kindness. Those are good things, and messages I can get behind.
But a lot of the message is washed in traditional, Christian beliefs - with which I most definitely do not agree.
The God I know is one of love, compassion, and forgiveness. He did not create us to judge or oppress or be unfair to one another. He would not want us to force our personal beliefs on each other. He would want each of us to use our own talents to shape and share His message. He would expect each of us to do that in a way that blends with who He has created us to be.
In other words: He expects the underlying mesage to be the same - but also expects it'll be delivered in different ways by different people.
He would not expect all of us to "preach" or "teach" His word. Some get that calling, and study and learn and then share. But most of us don't know His word well enough. The truth is, His word comes from the Bible, which is really just a collection of stories that are left open to interpretation. So no one is really an "expert." To say you are is to say your relationship with God is stronger or more imporant than someone else's.
There's that pompous arrogance I was talking about.
If you're shoving His word in people's faces when they didn't ask, and using it to pass judgment, then in my opinion, you're actually doing His word a disservice. The God I know would not want us judging one another - because that's His job. The God I know has a personal relationship with each of us, that works in its own way. He knows our heart and our mind and our intentions, and that is what He will use to judge.
Not the opinions of others.
I do and believe in a lot of things that the Bible (supposedly) says I shouldn't. My God created me this way. That is His image of who I am, and staying true to that is how I stay true to Him.
It does not make you right and me wrong. It makes us different. Which is OK - because the God I pray to created both of us that way.