Coming back home for the summer, I was probably far too excited than most people to help my family find a new church to settle into. I’ve basically been going solo on my spirituality for quite awhile, but I do find importance in having a physical place and community to practice your faith.
That’s a little different from current trends, especially among my age group. We’re moving farther away from organized religion and relying upon “spirituality.” I use quotation marks not because I don’t believe, but because people use that term very fluidly. Sometimes it means just having some deviation from a denomination’s stricter beliefs, or it could be a greater pull to pseudoscience and new age practices like crystals and astrology. I fall in the former category. All I know about the latter is that I’m an Aquarius.
I’m not denouncing any other beliefs or religions. Quite the opposite. Learning about spirituality is fascinating to me. But I do find myself having conflicting emotions about religion, and it usually involves the sometimes hazy line between church/faith and state/everyday life.
Let’s start with the church environment itself. I grew up in one church my whole childhood. It was where I was baptized and confirmed. Once I start developing my own religious (and political) beliefs, I drew farther away from what I felt was overly political in the church. The lack of female leadership and representation. The regular mentioning of conservative political views, especially pro-life. Even the constant asking for funding. Although probably not that significant or different from other churches, these things were distracting. So much so I’ve been doing my own practice of prayers and Bible study.
Keep in mind, I’m Lutheran. A conservative sect, but still not as stringent as Catholicism. As much as I admire Pope Francis and direction he’s taking the church, I can’t help but see the Catholic Church as a business. The belief in purgatory originally created to make money. The number of manmade traditions and rituals involved. It’s just not for me.
Now here’s where I might get controversial, but it really bothers me when people mention Bible verses and very Christian-based phrases regularly, in real life, but mostly on social media. I’m proud of what I believe in, but I’ve never felt the pull to constantly mention God and Jesus in everyday conversation. There is a distinct difference between knowing when to share the Word of God and when casually preaching feels excessive.
My faith is sacred to me. And for whatever you might believe, I hope you find comfort in that. But I never want others to feel uncomfortable or feel I am shoving ideas down their throats. I remember so often in the school setting where lines were crossed that drove me bonkers. People bringing cupcakes for pro-life organizations. A speaker on a day of alcohol awareness presentations blatantly asking who believes in Jesus.
Religion and societal politics are water and oil. If you want them to blend together, you’ll end up shaking things up and creating chaos for temporary satisfaction. The attempted blending results in more people on the outskirts of beliefs, either pulling further away from religion or becoming so drawn to religion, it turns hostile.
I’m not hating on those who love talking about their faith. The Bible does promote sharing its message and speaking in a godly way, and people interpret that differently. I just think we need to be aware of our actions and words, knowing when a Bible verse is appropriate or not.
As someone who chooses my words very carefully, I find greater value in acting how I believe over always speaking in a way that can be alienating to others. “Loving thy neighbor” means respecting others’ beliefs and allowing them to feel welcome and safe with you. Following Christian teachings doesn’t require you to always weave those words into even the most informal platforms.
It might be different if I wasn’t living in a conservative state with a predominantly Christian population, although I do have friends who don’t believe what I do, and the last thing I’d want to do is be so invested in a spiritual mindset that people I care about feel uncomfortable. I’d rather have people assume I’m spiritual from how I act and treat others than from constant references to the Bible, a book that has human flaws in some of its pages. I reserve any words of deep contemplation with God for private, appropriate moments.
My ultimate goal would be less political churches and less religious politics. A hard bargain, I know. However, the line between the two is something we should continue to emphasize, even in places that are seemingly innocent. Of course saying “God is good!” on every Instagram post isn’t overtly confrontational, just being aware of your audience is important. Understand that the most effective message you can make doesn’t require words.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie