How religion and culture fail us.
I remember the lump in my throat as I walked down the church congregation isle.
I remember my sweaty palms when the minster asked if I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and savior. I remember thinking "ugh... absolutely not but it doesn't feel like I have a choice".
I replied with a "yes".
I consented but knew I was doing so in violation of my own truth. If I had a choice, I didn't know it. I believe I was in 8th grade. They call it confirmation in the Presbyterian church.
You see the church was the hub of youth social interaction and community involvement for my family.
A few years later (in high school) our community suffered a tragedy— a classmate killed herself. I was deeply impacted.
Just a few days prior she and I had showed up for Sunday service in the same exact outfit. While she and I weren't particularly close, we shared many close friends.
In the terrible, uncertain days following her disappearance (which was later confirmed a suicide) her mother had said to me how similar we were in character, charisma, and bubbliness.
She saw her daughter in me. I did too.
I internalized her death as a clear message to me— the darkness and disconnect mostly certainly could take me out. I was on high alert.
But I was a kid and not ready to wake up. I still needed to understand the meaning and value of life. The path I chose was a clear and direct route to more pain, more trauma, and more emptiness.
What I found on the other side of drug and alcohol induced black outs, public slut-shaming and humiliation, and an ill-fated lopsided "love" relationship was permission to define my own spirituality. This was the salve I so desperately needed.
The day I was given permission to explore what it meant to be spiritual-not-religious is the day my life opened up.
My life's work is paying this forward.
Here's what I need you to know: You are not alone.
There is a sea of folks who reject mainstream religion (of any kind) but are curiously connected to the concept of spirituality. They can't define it or explain it but they believe in something.
There are also countless numbers of people of identify with a particular religion but don't actually believe in the dogma or legitimacy of the path however because the benefits of staying outweigh the dangers and risks of leaving, they stay.
Our culture hasn't quite found a way to recognize and legitimize spiritual care outside the bounds of any religion.
Complimentary and alternative forms of health care come close but don't quite hit the spot. This is changing, we are evolving.
The function(s) of religion.
Religion, as I see it, is primarily a centuries old, multipurpose vehicle thoughtfully constructed by those-in-power-who-stand-to-lose-alot.
The top highlight? A moral code ensures the masses stay in check.
For sure the best way to ensure people remain well behaved and don't challenge the status quo is the link spiritual desires and consequences to rules and judgements on the living.
Religion also serves the people though— providing a home for community, culture, and identification (around what you believe).
The trouble is what happens when "home" doesn't feel like home?
We need community. We need connection. We need rituals and traditions. It's easy to see how the wheel keeps turning. No questions, no problems.
Our world (annoyingly) operates from labels and categories— but spiritual-not-religious folks are an underserved, overlooked population. People really don't know what to make of it, let alone how to serve us.
Note: spiritual-not-religious is NOT the same as nondenominational (that is still a Christian orientation). Which brings me to the concept of culture.
American culture is complicated.
The dishonesty of the American Dream is being realized.
White men are the one's in power.
That is not to say all white men are powerful.
The predominant religious orientation of white men is christianity. Therefore American culture is heavily influenced by christianity, often unknowingly unless of course you belong to any group that lies outside of the primary source of power.
#blacklivesmatter #womensequalpay #transisbeautiful
Daily life requires a constant reconciliation of conflicting harmful messages.
For the spiritual-not-religious, we know deep down it's an unspoken sin to not join the collective. Hence the secrecy. There are real risks and dangerous. It is not the easier softer path.
Right now people are waking up— our society and culture is changing.
Now more than ever there is more attention and awareness around systemic forms of oppression and all the sneaky sly ways that we white folk are intentionally and unintentionally participating in the oppression, injustice, violence against, and silencing of other people. Your neighbors. Your friends. Your enemies.
We cannot go back to sleep.
We must continue to re-build ourselves from the inside-out.
We must not allow fear to derail efforts.
We must question everything.
We must not give up.