Organized religion and I have had a rather rocky relationship over the years. My parents didn’t go to church regularly so a kid I attended a Baptist church within walking distance from my house. However it seemed to me that there was a hierarchy at that little church that mostly had to do with whether you had the right last name. I didn’t, and so always felt like an outsider.
As I grew a bit older, I joined the church choir at my parents’ Anglican church in town. I loved sitting in that building, soaking up the beauty of its stained glass windows and old oak pews. However once the minister noticed I had my ears pierced, he told me in no uncertain terms that I would have to remove the jewelry if I wanted to sing in the choir. Earrings, he said, were a sign of vanity. That’s when I left the church and embarked on a long period of never setting foot in one again (apart from a few weddings, including mine in the Hart House chapel at the University of Toronto). That’s not to say I didn’t seek out information about various religions: I dabbled in Wicca and in Buddism and as a teenager, I even established my own religion (with a membership of one) that I called Lovedian. There was just one rule: to love everyone. I figured that all the strife in our world could be solved if we all just followed this one law. I still believe that.
As a young adult I shunned religion, siting all the horrific things that had been done to people and this earth in the name of religion. However when my kids were little, I decided they should at least be exposed to religion, so they could make up their own minds about such things. So I went in search of a church. To be honest, I was horrified by what I found. In one church, Sunday School meant separating the girls from the boys, and then having each gender compete against the other to see how well they knew their bible verses. Every time someone got a verse correct, they were given candy. So the message my kids got from that was: God = candy.
It was close to Halloween when we tried the next church. Somehow, I got entangled in a conversation with the minister about witches, and she made it clear that she felt they were the work of the devil. So that was it for me and that particular church.
After several other failed attempts, I found a church that I felt comfortable in, and very timidly I started to attend. However the Minister, who was active in the Liberal Party, wrote a scathing Letter to the Editor personally attacking me for what he perceived to be my biases towards a local candidate during an election campaign (I was a journalist at the time). I was deeply hurt and knew that given how he felt, he could not be my minister.
After that, I pretty much gave up my attempts to find a church for me and my kids. I felt I had let my children down. Interestingly, this year my daughter started her own search – I hope she has better luck than I have had.
Last night, friends of ours invited us to a Baha’i event. I’ve been to various Baha’i celebrations before and have always liked the energy in the room. The Baha’i Faith is based on the ideals of peace, justice and unity on a global scale. In a way it takes me back to my Lovedian roots. However I’m still not convinced any organized religion is the answer for me. Instead, I will likely continue to use the solitude of the bush and my garden as my spiritual places.