Monday, April 15, 2013

My religion needs a name

I have yet to find a church with which I completely agree. The Catholic church is most definitely out. Other Christian faiths are nice, but steeped in formality and tradition - and when it comes to faith, I'm not really a formal kinda gal.

Non-denominational churches (like the one I attend) are less rigid. There's a more modern, "come as you are" feel to the message and service. Plus there's not a lot of that stand-up, sit-down nonsense, which is hard on the knees.

I don't like a message of a vengeful, angry, judgmental God. Yes, I get that in the end we're all going to be judged for how we lived. But I like the idea of a loving, faithful God who offers forgiveness and grace and guidance in life, if we just ask. I like to think God is there to help us get it right, not set us up to fail.

Most anyone who knows me knows I support same-sex marriage, and that equal rights is something I believe in pretty strongly. Many, many Christian churches don't support that idea, believing that the Bible defines marriage as something between a man and a woman, largely for the purpose of creating a family.

But I also believe in religious tolerance. I'm of the opinion that religions have to be allowed to believe and teach what they hold true. After all, I don't have to agree with your opinion, in order to agree that you have the right to have one. Still, I struggle with the idea that by supporting the church's right, I'm also inadvertantly supporting this belief, which goes against everything I hold true.

I think the church has an image of being a judgmental, closed-minded, and rigid institution where this sort of free-thinking and questioning is not tolerated. I think that image is what makes many turn away from the church, and sometimes the whole idea of religion. I know that's why I turned away for so long. I thought that if I showed any sort of belief, I was at best a hypocrite. At worst, I might be a harsh, judgmental, close-minded person.

It took a while, but I have been able to separate the ideas in my head. I have figured out that I can support the message, and have a relationship with God (which my church encourages) while at the same time maintaining my own politics and beliefs. My church delivers the message that you need to have faith, and believe in God and Jesus. It teaches us to bring them our problems, worries, and obstacles. It encourages us to ask God for help, so that we can be the person He intended. We are each a masterpiece, uniquely created by God in His image with our own talents and gifts.

If I believe that, then it follows that that my feelings about equality and tolerance are a part of God's image for me - and keeping true to those beliefs is a part of who I am meant to be. The only way to stay true to God is to be proud of my beliefs and my faith at the same time.

But I suppose, then, that means I'm not quite a Christian. Or at least, I'm not the "stereotypical" Christian. Which makes sense - most people are shocked to learn that I go to church each week. Let's face it - I don't live my life the way most Christians would choose, or find acceptable.

I've also learned that I don't need to be acceptable to other people, whether I meet them inside or outside of the church. I need to be acceptable to God. He is the only person who judges how I live my life. If I am true to Him, and the image I believe He has for me, than I guess I am doing something right.

That's my religion.

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