A few years ago I started pondering the importance of religion. I’m going to be frank and honest in this post. I’m going to try not to be too disjointed. This isn’t about you, or what you believe (except, maybe it is), it’s about me, and where I am at, where I have been, and where I am going (but also maybe where you’re going too).
I was born into The Church of the Nazarene, and became a member when I was a teenager. For those who don’t know, Nazarenes are part of the protestant tree. A branch of the Wesleyan tradition, and a splinter off of the Methodists. Since Martin Luther’s reformation, there have been many, many churches born from people feeling the church they were a part of did not follow the commands of the Bible correctly, and, very basically, that’s how Nazarenes came to be.
Originally, the Nazarene church split off of the Methodists because people felt Methodists had become too fundamentalist. These people wanted to focus more on spreading the message of Christ’s love, than on the gospel of hellfire and damnation. These were my kind of people.
Today I’m not sure who my people are, but I think I know who they are not.
I went to a Nazarene college. I didn’t go there because I felt compelled to only surround myself with likeminded people, I went there because it was where my friends were going. (And also because I didn’t properly understand the concept of soul-crushing debt.) It was a good school, with great professors, and small class sizes. As an incredibly nervous and twitchy eighteen year old, it was the perfect place for me to learn and grow. The English and History departments, where I spent most of my time, were full of liberal thinking Christians who reinforced my ability to have faith, and also lean left politically. I know it may be hard for a lot of you to believe, but going to a Christian university helped shape me into the “dirty liberal” I am today.
Recently there have been troubles at my Alma Mater. A beloved professor was fired because of his differing beliefs. Corruption was uncovered. It was a giant mess. Eventually a review board was put together to hopefully reinstate the formerly tenured professor, however, his tenure was still stripped, and he was still, ultimately, given his walking orders. It was enraging. This man, this professor, was referred to by his students as Dr. Love. Everyone on campus knew that if they needed anything, they could go to him, and he would help them. He is one of the most generous, loving, Christ-like people on the planet, and yet he was recently tried for heresy because he no longer fit into what has become the fundamentalist box of Nazarenedom.
This was one of the last nails in the coffin of my religious membership. The first several had been being placed for years.
Being told that Christians (read Nazarenes from here to the bottom, because that is the church I currently attend) weren’t environmentalists, that God gave us dominion over the planet, and we didn’t have to listen to tree-huggers, and climate change experts. *nail*
That time I was called a socialist pig for suggesting that wealth was, by nature, an incredibly secular concept, and that things like universal healthcare, and better welfare were what the early church believed in. *nail*
When I suggested that people needed to put themselves in the shoes of women who sought abortions instead of protesting clinics, and maybe love them instead of shun them, and I was told I was disgusting for talking to “those people” in the first place. *nail*
The incredibly hurtful message I got from a cousin saying my deceased grandparents, who I was very close to, would be ashamed of my decision to celebrate the elimination of DOMA, and that they would hate the person I had become. *nail*
There were others, here and there. Less memorable, but life-shaping all the same.
The final nail came today. I was online reading through the morning’s news, and there it was, the official statement from the superintendents of the CotN. Our church says marriage is only between one man and one woman. The LGBTQ community may have won with the changing of the “civil law”, but that doesn’t mean the church is happy about it.
I’m done. I’m done pretending that I am okay with the direction of religion. I’m done pretending that I think it can be fixed. Has any of this ultimately ruined my faith? No. Has it completely driven me away from the concept of organized religion? As of this moment in time, the answer is yes.
(You did it! You stuck with this to the end. Here’s a picture of me (far left) on a church trip. With other kids on a church trip. In 1997… Aw, the good ol’ days.)