I love God but I hate religion. A common slogan these days. But I really mean religion.
I hate the routine of it all. I hate the rules we put on ourselves. Let me explain.
I hate the once a week praise, the once a week message, the once a week fellowship of people plastering on smiles, dressing to impress and quoting scripture to each other. No, if we were like that outside of church I’d love that so much.
Let me explain my history.
I was born into a Catholic family. A Generational Catholic family. You know the type, I don’t think there was ever any other religion in my lineage. It was the Pope, or no hope. (haha) My family became protestant and I grew up in a Nondenominational church after that. The church was small, with good blue collar men and women who were upfront about their problems and challenges and fall backs. The pastor ended each sermon with a question and answer time. I liked that a lot. Anyone could ask anything they wanted and press for answers. There was never a cap on the discussion. It was comfortable, and what I’ve always imagined Jesus did in the temples and in the streets. Our music wasn’t much but it was straight from the psalms and proverbs, and a hymn from the old books once in a while. We had a piano and guitar and two ladies singing. Sometimes a tambourine made its way into the crowd. We weren’t exactly exuberant but we did let the Spirit enter and dwell. We didn’t grow much, we didn’t care about numbers. We didn’t send out missionaries, we didn’t have a school. Heck, the few kids that went to the church went there until college. We grew up together and considered each other family. We still do. We’re all still close. (Me and 4 other men now. We were once just kids with our legos, plastic GI Joes and dinosaurs on the back pew being shushed by the old ladies in gaudy clothes in the late 1990s) Think of this church as a large Bible Study group.
Those boys and I eventually traded the toys in for school books and pimples and growth spurts, developing bodies and awkward laughter together. We went to the same school which was also small. We stayed close through those tough years (by the grace of God) In middle school I went with the same best friends to a youth group. We wanted to make more friends and see what other church kids were like. We settled at a Church of God across town that had a pretty progressive Youth Pastor.
We all liked him. He masterfully spun real talk messages into activities and somehow united goths, ex-Amish kids (there’s a lot of them around) who still struggled to wear English clothes, teen moms, delinquents and the obviously neglected kids from the bad side of town into one group that loved on each other. I don’t know how he didn’t get more credit. The regular members of that church were average blue collar, and borderline poverty level men and women. Craftsmen, factory workers, entry level jobs- it didn’t matter what they did, when they came together they buckled down to serve each other after a long week. I admired that. The kids were your typical kids. We all had vastly different lives. Public school, homeschool, private school, we all seemed to make it work. The diversity was probably the best thing we could have all experienced at that age.
I started dating in highschool and went to my boyfriend’s church in another town for several years. It was a Church of God as well but they had even more church-goers who were of the legal mindset shall we say? Only dresses, long hair, little jewelry, big families. Good people when you get to know them. But after a while I began to see some hypocritical things and I asked one day if there was a reason certain things were done. The pastor himself told me that they strive for Holiness rather than Grace. This church was following rules rather than faith and love. My boyfriend couldn’t believe I thought that by grace we were saved rather than works and grace. No amount of explaining could put that lid back on that can of worms.
To be continued…