I have never been religious. I grew up sporadically going to church - a very liberal United Church of Christ community, where honestly I still felt out of place. I went through the confirmation process through the church, and then decided I didn't want to go again, so I didn't. I haven't attended church regularly since I was confirmed. I'm not sure what that says, but it is what it is. Through my childhood I also went to Awana's meetings with some neighbor friends. Awana's and the summer camps we went away to, were probably my only real life encounters with evangelical like communities. I was asked to invite Jesus into my heart, and I did, but only because everyone else seemed to think it was super important and they really wanted me to do it. Looking back at those experiences - and there were others with different youth groups that came into my life through my teen years, it makes me cringe. That was not a path to god for me. It certainly may be the path to god for some people, but it wasn't for me. I have no qualms with people using religion to get closer to god, but I've made peace with the fact that religion is not my avenue to get there.
My journey has led me to a place where I can see god in everything and in everyone. I don't need to go to a church every week, and read scripture to tell me that there is a god. I know in my heart that god doesn't need me to be able to recite scripture, or to live by a certain set of firm rules to love me either. I feel closest to god when I'm in nature, when I look at my kids, and when I feel the love I have for others and that they have for me. Some people might say that I will go to hell because I don't fully abide by a certain religion's rules, but I don't buy that for a minute. It is okay for them to think it though, I don't need to change anyone's mind. I know that the god who created me, and everyone else in the world did not do so out of spite or with a large test looming that I need to pass. I'm enough just as I am, and while I do think there were struggles placed in front of me so that I would finally see what god is - or a glimpse of what god is anyway, there was no test in any of my experiences either. We are all given trials in this life, and we either learn from them or we hide from them. When we learn from the trials, our minds expand, and we do gain a greater clarity of what it means to be human though.
|A bad picture of a wall hanging I have|
It is great that for many people their paths to god come through religion and scripture, I think that is the whole point. Not all of us will follow that conventional path though. There was never any god in church for me, I only found static words on a page that had very little meaning for me personally. I can look back at my experiences in church with a different view now though. I think that at least in the Christian church where I have some exposure there are lots of great messages in the scriptures. I believe that Jesus was a very enlightened thinker, and he understood that god was in everything. Regardless of whether or not I believe he was the messiah, I do believe he gave the world a gift which was shifting from a view of a vengeful god that we see in the Old Testament to the loving and forgiving god we see in the New Testament. Ultimately scripture cannot give us the only way to find god, but I understand why people want to use it that way. Faith can be scary at times, because really what if we are wrong about all of it? I feel as though many people today want to interpret scriptures literally because they are afraid of what it means for them if they were meant to be fluid. I won't pretend to be a religious scholar, and my goal is not to offend anyone here. It is okay if you read this and you think I'm going to hell, I promise I won't hold it against you.
We are all on a journey in one form or another, and finding god for me has been incredibly joyful. I have no intention of telling others that god can't be found in a church, because I don't think that's true. I just know that church was not the way for me to find god, and maybe it never will be. I don't know what all of the hateful venom about Rob Bell is all about, but I do think that whatever is spewed says a lot more about the person spewing than it does about Rob Bell himself. I am not a follower of his, but from the brief glimpse I've had it appears as though he was a rising Christian star, and then walked away from it and found his own path. Maybe his early followers feel betrayed that he left the comfortable path they know. I do know that I never would have heard of Rob Bell if not for Oprah, and if his message was strictly from quoting scripture I wouldn't be all that interested in what he has to say. He may have deviated from the traditional Christian leadership path, but continuing to recite the same lines from religious texts was never going to get me to suddenly start going to church. I suspect is it the same for many others. Seeing the message that underlies all of the scripture is the ultimate goal isn't it?