FULL DISCLOSURE: Though this post will be published on Wednesday it was actually drafted on the evening of Sunday, June 12. Many hours after news breaking of the devastating mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, FL. Hearing the news of this crime really struck a chord with me because of the sheer unveiled and targeted hatred to humanity that was exposed. My heart truly goes out to all of those who lost their lives and to those who lost their loved ones in this mess. All they were trying to do is exist and celebrate life on their own terms, as many of us do every day. And they were gunned down for it. If I sit with this news too long, it literally begins to turn my stomach so I will move on to a different but relative topic. Religion. I knew sooner or later that I wanted to address it on my blog, and I guess now is as good (or as bad) a time as any. To those of you with very strong religious views, I hope you'll bear with me as I fumble through this post.
So. At this point, you're probably wondering where I fall in the religious spectrum.
If I had to check off a box from a list, I would self-identify as Christian. Why? Because it's the religion into which I was baptized/christened when I was basically a baby, and because it's how I was raised as a youngin'. (Don't ask me to break down the differences between denominations such as a Seven Day Adventist vs. a Jehova's Witness vs. a Baptist. Can't do it. Won't do it. Not here for it.) For a few years of my life, Sunday school was a weekly occurrence, where my aunties likely had to fight me just to get me into stockings and a pretty dress. Aside from sitting with other kids in a church room, learning and singing songs about God, I don't really recall much about my religious experience as a child. I didn't dislike it or love it... I just remember it being a routine part of my upbringing for a small window of time. I remember having to say my prayers at night, and often having to wait for the table to be blessed (aka for someone to say grace) before we dug into our meals at family functions. But that's about it. As far what I was taught in church about God, I remember being in awe when I learned that this all-knowing, all-seeing entity created the world, the stars, the sky and and the people and animals. I remember being simultaneously incredulous and humbled by the story of Creation and thus, always had a quiet respect for God.
Since my aunts were the main drivers of my religious experience (my mom was not as into the church-going experience as they), that weekly practice of attending Sunday school came to an end once my family and I moved to a different city - no longer a stone's throw away from my aunts. That said - before I hit double-digits in age, regular church-going ceased to be a thing for me. Since then, I have only entered a church on very limited occasions. Therefore, if someone were to ask me today what religion I practice (and phrase it in that way), the honest answer probably should not be Christianity. I'd say that I was raised as a Christian but that I don't practice or study any particular religion (aside from that one semester of Religious Studies that I took in university, where I studied Christianity and Judaism). I don't attend a church. I don't study the Holy Bible, and there are aspects of many different religions that I find dope. But I practice none of them. And yet, I still firmly believe in God and that he is still all-knowing and all-seeing. So you might be asking: "Well, what kind of Christian does that make you then?"
Hmm. Well let's see. I guess I'm the kind of Christian who: has broken most of the Ten Commandments on more than one occasion, has piercings and tattoos, has had pre-marital sex, was born in a Jewish hospital and loves challah bread, has dated a Muslim guy, has said the Lord's name in vain more times than I could ever count, owns both a Buddha statue (that I don't pray to) and a Holy Bible (that I never read). I am the kind of Christian who wears locs like a Rastafarian, but isn't a Rasta. I'm the kind of Christian who once attended church almost solely to impress a guy. I am the kind of Christian who really only listens to gospel if the beat is banging or if I'm just in the mood for my spirit to feel godly. I'm the kind of Christian who stands more of a chance learning biblical scriptures from Instagram quotes or from reading the Psalm on a person's inked forearm, than I do from the Bible itself. I'm the kind of Christian who's had LGBTQ friends. I'm the kind of Christian who if I had serious emotional or mental issues, would probably opt for therapy over church for counselling. I'm the kind of Christian who would be down to see first-hand how people worship in a mosque because I'm kinda curious. For all intents and purposes, I could quite possibly be...
The. Worst. Christian. Ever.
And yet, my mama loves me. And yet, my friends know that I'm a decent person. And yet, I sleep well at night and do not dwell in guilt. I do not feel like I've failed God in any way because, being an all-knowing entity... God is aware that overall, I try to live right. I try to be kind and be there for people whenever they are in need. I don't ever have the desire to intentionally harm anyone. I try to keep a positive outlook on life even when things aren't going my way, and most importantly, in my own way - I communicate with God. I may not get down on bended knee, hands clasped and eyes closed. I may not drag myself to church on Sundays and worship with strangers. I may not even open my mouth to speak - but when I feel the need, I communicate with God. I thank God for the good and download my thoughts to God when shit is bad. My faith in God in a sense is quite removed from the cultural/societal concept of "religion". For me, personally, I don't think attending church and studying scripture would necessarily make me a "better Christian" or a better person. I am not a perfect person by any stretch of the imagination, but I am aware of my flaws and trust that God sees my intentions and actions. Truth is, some of the most sinful and/or malicious people in the world are self-professed Christians. Heck, many members of the Klu Klux Klan ciaim to be of Christian faith. Many of the earliest slave owners were so-called Christians. And yet, they are rarely labelled as terrorists.
I say all this to say that, in light of the recent tragedy in Orlando, I honestly don't think the focus needs to be put on the killer's (who's name I refuse to republish) religious beliefs or background. People of ANY faith or creed are capable of unthinkable atrocities! No religion is exempt from scandal and corruption. None. So while some of us are busy waging wars on and cursing the religious beliefs of others... what we are really doing is corrupting our own so-called faith and souls. Let's not point fingers at religious systems that are ultimately not to blame. We were all put on this Earth with free will and the power to make choices and decisions of our own. Even the most radicalized terrorists have or had free will at one point or another, and though some may claim that they are killing others in the name of their religion, it is their choice, their hurt, their hate, and their indifference to humanity that guide their actions. To be clear though, I do believe that religious radicalization/brainwashing is real and that unfortunately, vulnerable or weaker-minded individuals can fall prey to this sort of thing.
In conclusion and in regards to the issue of religion as a whole, I would ask that you re-read the opening quote that I chose to put at the top of this blog post. I'm not saying that standardized religion (aka church) and radicalization are at all the same. What I am saying though is that if your entire belief/faith system is based solely on the routine study of positive or negative affirmations provided to you by one group, one book, or one leader... your outlook and understanding of life can become very very limited... sometimes, to a devastating and dangerous fault. In my opinion, it is your faith that drives your actions. It isn't necessarily a matter of religious practice or study.
And because of this, the concept of losing my religion doesn't scare me much. Losing my FAITH? Now that would be another story entirely.