First Quarter Check In
It is quarter end, and if you are in the financial services industry like me, then I am very sorry for you. But, with one quarter and Easter weekend behind me, I figured now was a good time for a check in!
I’ve been getting a few questions lately related to the blog, and so I would like to address those. I’d also like to share what I have gotten out of the experience so far, the good and the bad. I will also tease some things to come.
How are you feeling about God/Christianity/Jesus/The Bible at this point?
***OBGLIGATORY DISCLAIMER: This is my blog and the opinions below reflect only my personal beliefs. If you have a different opinion, I do not think you are stupid or wrong***
In some ways, my faith has changed and in some ways it hasn’t. The biggest change is that I would now categorize some of the things I have always believed as a type of faith. If you’d asked me any time in the past 5 years what I believed, I would have said “I’m an atheist.” It was a little piece of rebellion for me. I knew I seemed like a naïve, innocent goody-goody, but I had the fun of shocking people that I was not a sweet Christian girl. Everything seemed too random to me to be controlled by God.
What I didn’t realize was, I did believe in certain things. The power of love, for one. Which sounds very cheesy but I absolutely do think people are generally good and people loving each other is the thing that brings us joy, bonds us together, and ultimately makes being a human a positive experience. I think that good things come to good people. Now, there is a lot of evidence to the contrary – why do bad things happen to good people? is still a big question that weighs on me – but I think if you love people and you are loved, then when bad things happen to you, people care. People rally around you or your memory and try to inspire change to make things better. These are things I have always felt, but until this journey I didn’t classify them as pieces of my faith. Now I would call them faith, it takes faith to believe in other people and believe in good. I think that spirit of good and the general wonder of life and all creation is worth worshipping and I think that worship can be energizing. Whether you call it “God” or “The Holy Spirit” or whatever you want, love and creation are neat. Those things could be packaged in a being, like God, or packaged in some inexplicable, universal energy, that maybe I can also call God, but my tiny human brain can’t really process His magnitude.
I don’t know how I feel about Jesus, yet. I wrote in my Ash Wednesday post that the idea of Jesus seems so… random to me. He died on the cross so all our sins are forgiven. I can appreciate the idea of God coming to earth in human form to teach and to suffer as we do. Crucifixion is a horrible form of suffering, I don’t deny that. I don’t deny Jesus existed. I think most of his teachings (the ones I have heard in sermons and just culturally) are valuable. I don’t deny the possibility that those teachings were divinely-inspired. I haven’t made it to a place where I can believe his death/resurrection is the cause of our forgiveness. And, even if I go down the path where I assume belief in Jesus forgives our sins, I don’t know how warm and fuzzy that makes me feel. It seems very exclusive of non-evangelical cultures, and it just seems mean. It seems mean that a person can lead a good, honest, helpful, fulfilling, loving life – but still burn in hell for not accepting this one story as truth.
That doesn’t mean I don’t like the church experience, or admiring Christ’s teachings and his life. I think Church culture has so many positive aspects, which is why I keep going and keep finding things to enjoy. But I do question the validity of the Bible and how infallible it is. I question the moral value of something written thousands of years ago. Life has changed so drastically, and most of the scripture isn’t applicable to how we live now. Should we force it and manipulate the stories to have modern relevance or should we appreciate the Bible as a piece of literature from a period in history? I, personally, would rather use it as a jumping off point for my faith, but allow my faith to remain fluid and adapt to what I know in my heart is right versus what words on a page say is right.
Will you be going to any non-Christian services?
I already went to a Unitarian Universalist service, which was technically non-Christian. But if you’re asking if I’d like to go to a Jewish, Muslim, or some other type of religious service, the answer is yes! The caveat being I don’t want to go these places alone. I would like to explore them with friends that are of that faith, so someone can show me the ropes and I don’t accidentally do something irreverent. I know how to hang with the Christians, but I am not sure if I could hang at another type of service without instruction. So, if you or anyone you know is of another faith and would like to take me to church with them, please reach out to me!
What has been the biggest obstacle during the project so far?
The biggest obstacle has been people assuming my intent with this blog before I have a chance to explain it. It’s very easy to hear the description “an atheist goes to a bunch of churches and writes about them” and assume the intent to be malicious. I’ve had experiences with Christians where we have had some awesome conversations about faith and God, but when I have wanted to write about those experiences, the people I had spoken with weren’t receptive to that. I respect their feelings 100%, I want to be able to have open and vulnerable conversations with people without them thinking “this is fodder for her blog.” But it also bums me out, because I think they worry I am going to try to present their story in a defamatory way which is never my intent.
I’ll step on a soapbox here for just a moment and reflect on something I have learned from this experience and I think I have grown from. Every time I am in a church, I hear something I do not agree with. Every time. Maybe it’s one small thing, or maybe the whole sermon is from a perspective I do not agree with. I still think that perspective is valuable. Whether I agree or not, I think hearing, processing, trying to understand what they mean and where they are coming from, and ultimately respecting their belief is so important. It isn’t something I have always been able to do. It’s easy to dismiss things you don’t agree with and seek out places and people that agree with your point of view. Having those places and people isn’t bad, but I believe disregarding everyone that isn’t on the same page as you are hurts us as a society. As America becomes more and more partisan, we tend to stop respecting the opinions of those that don’t agree with us. It makes progress in almost anything harder. This isn’t to say respect the self-proclaimed white supremacist next door, but it is to say don’t assume you know anyone’s intent before you ask. For me it is: don’t assume all Baptists are conservative or that all Unitarians are hippies. This is still hard for me sometimes (I’m looking at you, Christian Science), and sometimes I catch myself trying to disregard a person’s entire perspective based upon one thing they have said or they believe. But this experience is making me more open minded to all types of people. Hopefully, it is making me more open-minded to a faith experience as well.
What is to come?
A whole lot more church and fantastic content like this.
I might do more recorded entries like the Bible Trivia I did with Jenny. I would like to also start talking to some friends and other interested parties about their faith journeys and what makes their relationship with faith (or lack thereof) cool and unique. I also have been reading Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans and I really love it, I might do a post solely about that. I’m open to other ideas, let me know if you have them!
What do you do when you aren’t going to church?
I study math and insurance pricing/regulation (I wish that was a joke) and I live up to the very demanding requirements of being a cat mom. This is my child:
Do you have a "favorite" church you have visited so far?
This whole process isn't about ranking the churches - I don't want anyone to think I have some secret power-ranking spreadsheet somewhere. Based on the posts, you can probably tell what services I liked and found most engaging and which I didn't. I've found something good in every experience, even if ultimately the church was one I decidedly wouldn't revisit. That being said, the best experiences I have had are experiences with friends. When someone reaches out to me and is excited to show me their church and talk to me about their faith, I am so hyped! Even if the church itself isn't my vibe I will love going and being included in a part of my friend's life I was formerly unaware of. For those reasons, I have loved going to Highland Baptist, Northwest United Methodist, Atonement Lutheran, and Three Creeks.
What do you see yourself doing after this year is over?
Who knows where I will land on my faith, but going to church has had so many positive aspects I can’t see it being something I cut out after 2018. Will I get up and go every Sunday still? Probs not, but I think I will still seek it out from time to time, assuming nothing disastrous happens in the next 9 months.
I would like the blog to continue, maybe about faith stuff or other stuff. I have so many other interests (that’s a lie, I have two other interests: One Direction and my cat).