Yesterday, I wrote a post called True Believer Pompeo Drives Iran Policy. I want to follow up on that with a personal perspective about growing up in a split evangelical household. Sometimes I’ve been hesitant to go down this road because I know how divisive the subject is in America. But it’s one of the reasons why my friend Greg and I started this blog.
We didn’t do it to talk about the easy stuff. We did it to talk about the harsh realities of American life and the world, as well as what we can do as citizens to make this a better place to live.
So, if you didn’t know it about me yet, I’m NOT a religious person. My mother, may she rest in peace, wouldn’t be happy to hear me talk like this. It’s not like she didn’t try. From the time I was old enough to talk, she’d put me in the car on Sunday mornings and take me to the local baptist church. My siblings, who were all older than me, suffered the same fate as me when they were my age.
My father, on the other hand, wasn’t a religious person at all. Oh, he’d do the customary Easter Service now and then, but most of the time, while my mother was yelling at me to get ready on Sundays, he was busy snoring away in the bedroom. Thus, division and conflict started at a young age for me.
Ironically, once we all became teenagers, we left the church — all of us. Sunday mornings became a stressful place once we all decided that church was the last place we wanted to be. It hurt my mother—I know it did. Years later, she still lamented the fact that we all left. And she rarely let a conversation go without telling us we ought to go back and ask God for forgiveness—even when she was in the last year of her life. I was 55 years old!
Needless to say, though, none of us ever returned. There was something about the church we attended. I remember thinking I was on my way to an after-life of hell, fire, and damnation if I took a drink, smoked, or had pre-marital sex. God forbid if I ever used a swear word. If I did not ask the Lord for forgiveness, an eternal life with the devil himself awaited.
Is it any wonder why I left?
However, the church did help me to be a decent person, as did my mother. She always told me to treat others as I wanted treated myself. Be kind to others, and stay out of trouble. Those are things I still try my level best to do daily. If I try to find a silver lining in being forced to go to church for several years, it’s in this realm.
But once I left the church, I left the church. Even though I’d still have to go occasionally for a funeral or wedding, I never once attended a Sunday service on my own. Over the years, through marriage, I did go to Catholic churches occasionally, and I’ll admit that I never got the same feeling of dread that I got from my early-years evangelical church. The sermons never appeared to be overly negative. I never felt like I was a bad person while in the church, either.
Nevertheless, since my childhood, the church has never played a significant role in my life. As I’ve grown older, I’ve become even less enamored with church doctrine of any kind. After September 11, 2001, I became even more disillusioned. The idea that a fringe group of 19 hijackers could do what they did on that day, all in the name of some crazy doctrinal interpretation, hardened my stance even more against organized religion.
Our Founders had it right. They knew how the religious extremists would try like hell to hijack our young Republic. After all, our First Amendment addresses their concerns. It’s pretty simple. We’re all free to practice whatever religion we so choose, but the government of the United States of America shall not establish any such religion as the official doctrine. Why is this so hard for some to understand?
My point today is not to be critical of those who are religious. On the contrary, in many ways, the church can instill a moral compass by which we should all aspire. We should all want to be better citizens, as well as treat each other with respect and dignity. Those indeed are virtues by which I try and live by daily.
My point is to begin a conversation. I plan on weighing in a little more often on religion in this space. I wanted to dovetail on yesterday’s post with a deeply personal post on how my opinions on church and God formed at an early age. Perhaps there are some of you out there who experienced something similar.
Were the divisions in your house the same? At the time, I never thought much of how my mother and father had such different approaches when it came to religion. I remember how my father would sometimes get on us when we complained about going to church, even though he rarely went himself. I think he probably did that to keep the peace. He knew it upset my mother, so anything to keep her calm made his life much better. I get it now.
As I grow older, I’ve become more skeptical of those in high office who use religion as their governing philosophy. When prophecies and bible verses become a way to justify policy decisions, I think we all need to take a step back.
How does one acquire such blind faith to the point at which other religions are deemed bogus or false? I’d love to know how one comes to such a point in their belief system. I guess it never hit me the same way. My mother tried to teach us what she thought was right. My siblings and I, however, rejected her premise once we were old enough to think for ourselves.
Religion is, without a doubt, complicated. I’d love to hear from you. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I do have my opinions. If you think I’m off base, please let me know why. If you agree, that’s fine too. At the tender age of 58, I’m still learning.