The Rocky Road of Religion

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.

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2 thoughts on “The Rocky Road of Religion

  1. Hi, this is my first time to your blog. Read this entry and completely sympathized. I have a church background–Baptist too. I feel bad that so many churches you encountered emphasized such petty things: earrings, witches (we must have more and more sermons on earrings and witches! haha) and politics, oh my. And gender wars! What entertaining congregations! Were these in Whitehorse?

    They should have been showing you love. I kinda feel like that was the important message Jesus wanted to convey. Certainly he didn’t leave a lot of memos on earrings, witches and politics. I was talking to a friend today and we were lamenting the lack of emphasis on Social Justice in churches. I think organized religion melded somewhere with a social organization that emphasizes family; I’m not sure that’s where it started. But that’s where it is. A club of like-minded folk.

    I’m biased, though. I like my church. They’re progressive. And they are my family. And they have concerns for the community and are, in major small ways, tackling social justice. But I know that there are times when a church gets caught up in dogma, and loses its focus, and turns away the very people it wants to love.

    Good luck in finding a place that feels just right. Jerome

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  2. Janet, You and I should Talk, knowing that I am older and much wiser.

    I presume the Priest who didn’t like ear rings was Mosher. He was a poor ambasidor for the church and caused more souls to leave than remain. He took a good run at me when I first joined the Masonic Order but the only impression he made on me was against the Church, and at that point I lost any respect for the man that I may have ever had. I have had many discussions with myself, and with God, as to the roll of the Church. I have since learned that the Priest does not necessarly represent the Church but rather, uses the church in many cases as a platform to express his/her own philosophy in the name of the Church. I have also had the opportunity though to meet as many open minded Priests as as I have the Moshers of the Church World. I will tell you that a good Priest will help you explore your own path, and offer some good advice if asked. A Priest friend of mine, Rev Dewayne Tanswell, helped me to hold onto my faith and to look past the Church for my answers. The present Priest at that Anglican Church, Rev Lunn, is a good example of the roll that a good Priest should play in time of need. There is not enough room for further comment here, but we should talk the next time we have the opportunity. The Church can still be a good thing, but with all things, it helps to understand her purpose. There are many paths to follow on our earthly journey and the Church should be there to support us and not to restrict us.

    Cheers and
    Happy New Year.

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