That Old Time Religion

I saw a man walking across the country carrying a cross yesterday.

Well, he wasn’t exactly carrying it, it was attached to a trailer with wheels, I guess he was technically dragging it. I am sure it was heavy though. I didn’t stop and talk to him, that type of overt religiosity makes me uncomfortable, but in some ways it makes me nostalgic as well.

I was raised in a really conservative, non-denominational Protestant, “god and country” home. The only music allowed in our house was Christian and country. In fact, I still listen to dc Talk occasionally (“Jesus Freak” still gets my feet moving and I sing along out loud). They also make me nostalgic, it reminds me of a time when my life was simpler and truth seemed clear. My ignorance didn’t survive two combat deployments and college. Overall, I am glad it didn’t survive, but it was still a time in my life that I can look fondly upon, even if the results of that time are less than ideal. The depression and loneliness I felt because of my sexuality and interests, the feeling of shame and understanding that I was going to be tortured for eternity, these were not pleasant outcomes for a belief system that is supposed to be about love and forgiveness.

I am open to religion, but the bar is really high. Any religion that I investigate needs to fill the gaps that my past Christianity couldn’t fill… primarily answering questions. In my upbringing, questions were often answered with “just have faith” or “the Lord works in mysterious ways”. These clichés were able to satisfy me as a child but couldn’t hold my attention as an adult. Also, when a religion views only one piece of literature as the only legitimate source for answers it forces them to twist the words to mean things that don’t make sense, or to rely on the above clichés when people question the authenticity. Why should I believe the miracles of the Old Testament in the Bible really happened but not the story of Beowulf or The Iliad?

Also, my upbringing put religion in places it didn’t belong. It tried to explain biology, geology, history, astronomy, physics, and every other field of study solely through the lens of the Bible. When you are faced with a Biblical interpretation of life on earth (it all fit on the ark and magically reproduced to its current levels of population and diversity in 5,000 years) and compare it to the scientific explanations it takes blind faith to believe the former. Instead of the church I grew up in admitting that some of the stories may be symbolic, I was told to just “have faith” or that there was a grand conspiracy of scientists led by Satan that were trying to trick everyone. It was ridiculous.

My religion couldn’t last, at least not in the form it started in. I’m still open to it, but I need to have answers and intellectual discussions encouraged. I don’t need a religion to have all the answers, but I do need it to be open and honest when questioned.

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