Friday, January 25, 2013

Scolded in the Name of the Lord.

I call it being "God scolded."

It's happened to me on more than one occasion.  I make a seemingly innocuous comment about the current state of affairs, my personal feelings on a certain subject, or my point of view in general, and I think I've made the point without being offensive or combative, when suddenly I find myself in the middle of what feels like an actual scolding from someone who seems very angry that I don't share their beliefs about God.  God scolded.
Normally there are bible passages thrown in for good measure, and, since most of my conversations these days take place in text, MANY words are CAPITALIZED so that I KNOW the person is UPSET, or at least in irritable disagreement with my statement.
I have a pretty large grouping of religious followers in my immediate circle, varying in degree from  "yeah, I go to church sometimes" to "I'M A GOD WARRIOR!"  And most of the time, it's surprisingly easy to find my place amongst them without feeling the kind of weird isolation that tends to creep in when you know you're amongst people who think your views are plain fucking weird.
Peace.  And love.  And humility.  And respect for every thing, and every one.  A person would think those are the ideals any reasonable God-follower would appreciate.  A person would think that my constant attempts to keep those ideals close to my heart and on display within my behavior, would earn me at the very least, their appreciation for my desire to be "good."
And mostly, it is.  I know deeply religious people who are amazing in their compassion and nurturing of me.  People who embody to the very best of their ability what it means to be Christlike.  People who see me stumble, and fail, who see me spit and swear, who see me on a daily basis maintain my firm stance in my very *very* different spiritual beliefs, and who still reach out to me in genuine friendship.
Very, very good people.

But sometimes...

And I am normally left wondering, "why is this person so mad?"

And then I remember.  I was mad that way once, too.

I grew up going to church.  At least occasionally.  As a wee one, my mother sent me off to the big red building on the hill every Sunday with our neighbors.  I was dressed in frills, and squeezing a handful of quarters for the collection plate.  I sat kicking my buckled shoes against the pew in front of me until it was time to join the other frilly kids for Sunday school in the back of the building.  I remember doing crafts.  I remember talking about the bible.  I remember being fucking terrified.  The idea of an eternal lake of fire and torment forever and ever was so frightening and impossible that I couldn't even deal with it.  And I just knew there was no way I would ever be good enough not to be sent there.  Oh sure, they comforted us with the whole "just ask forgiveness and accept Jesus in your heart, and you'll go to Heaven."
But what if I die suddenly on the way home?
What if I back-talk my mom, and then I suddenly drop dead of a freak heart attack?
What if I lose my memory and forget all about God and Heaven and forgiveness, and then I'm mauled by a lion?  IT COULD HAPPEN.
For a totally neurotic five-year-old, this was disturbingly scary.  I walked around with a sort of constant "sorry, God!  Jesus in my heart, really" echoing thru my brain, in an effort to ensure I didn't die a sinner.

As a teenager, my mother dragged us out of bed on Sundays and carted us off to another church.  It was lovely and adorable, and I had the snuggliest, warmest feelings for our grandfatherly preacher.  I loved his frailness beneath his robes.  I loved his warm, bony hand on my shoulder telling me how happy he was that I'd come.  I loved the genuine care behind his slowly weakening eyes.  I loved the way he'd stop in the middle of a sermon, to profess his happiness at the smiling eyes of his "little song bird" looking back at him.
I loved his sweet wife, who would sit behind me every Sunday, and sometimes pass me notes, asking me if I wanted a "small pillow" from the nursery for my newly broken back.  God, they were such adorable people.  And I loved them.
I loved singing in the choir.  I loved the fawning adoration from all the old ladies who ooo-ed and ahh-ed over my "god given" talent.  I loved looking out at the smiling faces when I sang for the congregation.  I felt welcomed and loved.
And amidst all that welcoming love, I felt like a liar.
Because I had sex with my boyfriend.
Because I was still somewhat unsure of my own sexuality, and I might be one of those hellbound homosexuals.
Because I smoked and swore, and I didn't pray.  Well, not in the way I was "supposed" to pray.
And because I began to have sincere doubts.  About all of it.

And I was scared.  Sure, I could smile and pretend and project purity for my church family to see, for my sweet preacher to see.  I could sing praises to the lord and keep the lot of them from seeing what I was truly feeling underneath my prayers and my proclamations.
But God knew.  I couldn't fool God.

And because of that nearly hysterical fear, I would occasionally find myself on the other side of a God-scolding.  Lashing out with irritation and anger that a person would dare to question the legitimacy or practicality of what I claimed to believe.  Because entertaining their points of view and their suggestions, no matter how reasonable, meant that I would, at least for a second, need to entertain the thought that my idea of god was inaccurate.  It meant admitting to myself that my religious indoctrination might not be all I was supposed to think it was.  That maybe there is another way.  That maybe the bible, and the entire concept of a biblical god wasn't real.

Talk about "holy shit."
I can immediately point to very specific journal entries at the time, that read something like, "WHO ARE YOU TO QUESTION MY GOD!?"  Furious, to the point of trembling, that a person would dare offer me a different point of view, and put such doubt and unease inside of my soul?  How dare they ask me to question the very foundation upon which everything I knew about the world was built? How dare they.

My adorable preacher finally passed away, and was replaced by a younger, more progressive guy, and I was totally unable to get the same enjoyment out of church.   Then my wonderful and eye-opening choir directer died, his son filled his position, and I was completely unable to get the same enjoyment out of choir practice.
And then I just stopped going.

And I struggled, wondering why God would allow me to have such horrible doubts, if it meant I were hellbound because of it.  I struggled to accept that my "father" could truly be willing to punish me in torture for eternity, because I might die without being able to say "sorry."  And I finally decided that I was unable to accept the idea that I could behave like a complete asshole my entire life, and just ask for forgiveness when I was dying.

Years and realizations later, and I find myself here.  An unaffiliated heathen, an admitted homosexual, and a spiritual philosophy that asks for love and patience for everyone.  Even the humongous assholes.  Even the man who molested me repeatedly.  Even the murders.  Everyone.

And often I find myself being on the receiving end of a God-scolding.

I'm happy for my own religious experiences, without which I might never have come to any kind of understanding about such a thing.
I'm happy when I am able to step back and see the bigger picture, see growth within myself, and accept all the steps on my journey that have led me here.  I'm happy to know that there is always room for me to improve, and that admitting that doesn't mean I am bad or wrong.
I'm happy for the moments I spent in worship with my sweet preacher, and his adorable little wife.  I'm happy for the moments I spent in songs of praise and happiness.

I am happy and appreciative that I have both points of view, and my own experiences of being a self-appointed God-scolder.

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