If you read my story about my doctor fears, this one may remind you of it. The progression of my wariness about religion goes along the same lines. For some reason I have always been a magnet for unsettling religious experiences, either that or I have always taken notice of them. When I was born my mother considered herself a regular Christian. I don’t think that she had put much thought into her spirituality at that time in her life. She didn’t go to church, but I think that she still considered her parent’s church hers. My father was then, and is now, an agnostic. I cannot put my finger on exactly what drove him away from the church. His parents are devout Methodists. My grandfather is a Gideon, and both he and my grandmother carry keys to their tiny church in rural Indiana. When I was little I used to fold the church bulletins on Saturday. For whatever reason, my father decided that he didn’t believe what they did.
When I was five my mom put me in daycare with the woman down the street. She had three little blonde girls and one of them was my age. She watched five or six neighborhood kids every day. They were a strict Mormon family. One day her daughter and I got in an argument. For some reason, we got around to biting each other. I remember my caregiver stomping into the room and slapping each of us, in turn, across the face. My mom never let me go back to their house again. As far as I know, the Mormon faith teaches non-violence.
I enjoyed spending a week with my grandparents every summer when I got a little older. I went to stay the same week that their church was running vacation bible school. The religion stuff didn’t appeal to me much, but I loved spending time with my grandmother and being on the farm. One day we were all sitting in the pews listening to the pastor speak and my leg started bleeding. I remember it well. I was nine or ten years old at the time. It was above my knee right in the fatty part of my leg. I imagine that I scratched off a scab. Holey moly! That sucker started bleeding and it bled and it bled, like crazy. Eventually, all of the church ladies started trying to patch me up. They were throwing one another the strangest looks the entire time. I had no idea why back then, of course I understand now. I went through many Band-Aids before they got the bleeding stopped. My blood is on that pew to this day.
Later, in junior high school, my click of girlfriends informed me that I was going to hell because I had never been baptized. I ended up crying in churches that I went to as a guest on several occasions as a child, I’m not sure exactly why. For some reason I was afraid. On a mission trip the youth pastor, who was a total butt, got upset because we were over budget for our trip. He brilliantly decided to take his anger out on the group of teenagers that he was leading. He blamed them for being irresponsible and greedy and shamed them like dogs. He left half of the girls in tears.
When my husband and I tried out a church near our home in Indiana, we were graced with a pastor who stood in front of the congregation and preached about how religious leaders who accepted gay marriage were anti-christs. The man went on with his ignorant rant for most of his sermon. He was venomous. I thought I was going to throw up. I nearly got up and left in the middle of the service. When church ended one of the deacons cornered my husband and I and insisted on leading us around the Sunday school rooms and showing us the church. I didn’t think that we were going to escape. They gave us a water bottle with the church logo in it…and a pencil I think.
My own beliefs lie most closely to those of Transcendentalism. So the Unitarian Church seemed like it would be a good fit for me. The services are excellent and the members of the church are all very good people…the politics, however, drove me insane. The church members are going full force on fifteen thousand humanitarian causes twenty-four hours a day. It is completely exhausting. I could not keep up.
I have had a few good experiences with organized religion, despite all of the craziness. My husband and I attended a lovely little Presbyterian Church out in Oregon where we took our foster children. The pastor was just wonderful. Her name was Marilyn Allen, and her mind and her heart were very open. I greatly enjoyed her sermons and I loved the congregation. When I was in youth group, before the jerk youth pastor moved in, we had Pastor Steve. He was one of the coolest guys in the universe. He used to coordinate us kids going into public places and playing dead ants. It was awesome.
So here I am. I think that I have given up on ever wanting a church. I think that being involved in my community and charity gives me the things that I would be looking for in a religion. I think that friends and family give better spiritual guidance than pastors do…and books too. I have never been afraid of what will happen to me when I die so I’m certainly not seeking any sort of absolution. I think that I find god more easily in the faces of my loved ones, or the beauty of nature than I do in scriptures. So for now, and for probably always, I will remain spiritually un-affiliated. I’m at peace with things this way.