Second Quarter Check In!
This week I didn’t visit a technical religious institution (unless you count Hobby Lobby, which, I kind of do) but I did see Harry Styles live in concert and if that isn’t a religious experience, I’m not sure what is.
It’s ok though because it’s time for my second quarter check in!
What’s going on? How’s the project going? How’s life going? What does the second half of the year look like? What have I been thinking about lately?
Right this moment I am in Chicago visiting one of my best friends in the world. This is just one stop on the Tory-visits-all-her-college-faves tour. If I pull this off, I will see 7 friends in 7 days and it will be beautiful.
The blog/church project, though, is going well (I think? You tell me). You might have noticed a dip somewhere in the middle of this quarter. I stopped posting once a week, the posts I did make were shorter. I felt guilty about it. Sometimes life isn’t easy, and this project was not a central focus of my life for a bit. That’s probably okay, self-care time is IMPORTANT. I’m back and reenergized.
I think there was also a time during this quarter where I got temporarily disillusioned with faith and church and stuff. I’ve always understood the whole “I’m spiritual but not religious” because, man, does organized religion suck sometimes. People use it to justify the worst things. People use it to pretend they’re better than other people. It starts to feel icky, and I started to feel gross being in it. It was the same creeping feeling I had felt for most of my young adult life that had pushed me to declare myself an atheist.
Sometimes I’m in a church and it feels so nice and welcoming and calming and I remember why I like the concept of organized religion. I like it on the church level – the group of people who care about each other and once a week gather to read and sing about a thing they care about. That piece is nice.
I don’t like the bible worming its way into our government. I don’t like the groups that should be loving and accepting using their dogma to shame kids into repressing their sexuality and hating themselves. When you’re older and you can accept the concept of sin as something with a lot of nuance and gray areas, it’s okay. When you’re a kid and everything is black and white, it’s all heaven or hell. It’s teaching kids they’re fundamentally flawed and unclean. Jesus loving them unconditionally is neato! But also, telling them they need to constantly be begging for forgiveness because they are impure probably isn’t something their self-esteem needs during adolescence. I’ve been feeling weird about that, and every time I see a kid in church I hope their experience is one of love, acceptance, and open-mindedness. It’s such a thin line.
So, where do I stand on church right now? I don’t know. It’s probably constantly going to be evolving. I can’t pick a stance and keep it until the end of time. I think the good things church provide probably outweigh the bad thing. Probably. But that’s in the modern age. Historically, the church has been responsible for systematic oppression of women, so I still have some beef with that.
Something that helped renew my energy with this whole thing (honestly) was season 2 of Queer Eye on Netflix. If you haven’t seen it, it’s 5 gay men traveling around Georgia changing lives. The second episode of season two focuses on Tammye, a mother and cancer survivor. She has a gay son, and she wants him to come back to church, but he has complex feelings given the fact he was ostracized when he came out and not supported by that community. Tammye, post-cancer, has had a change of heart about her son and his sexuality and what being a Christian really means to her. She says “you can’t antagonize and evangelize at the same time.” Meaning, you can’t tell someone that they’re fundamentally wrong and spiritually broken and also spread the love of the gospel. She’s changed her life and her outlook on faith from something exclusionary to inclusionary. It’s inspiring, and to me, gives me some hope that the negative things I associate with organized religion can change. People can change their minds about stuff! Isn’t that great? Doesn’t it feel like centuries since we have had any effective discourse about anything where anyone has left with their minds changed versus being left angry and more stubbornly rooted in their opinion?
I want to be more like Tammye. I want to be open-minded to change about stuff. And so, I continue to be open-minded toward the church, even when it shows me things I don’t like.
I still deeply value the experiences I am having and the conversations I get to have because of this project. People reaching out to me, opening up, and being willing to talk about their church experiences or beliefs have made me feel amazing. I think other people’s perspectives help shape mine, and make me keep an open mind as I move along.