Oh, My God

I believe in God, but I’m not so sure that I believe in religion.

Hear me out, here.

I’m not against religion, in fact, I had a strong religious upbringing which I often credit for the way that I’ve “turned out” (who are we kidding, I’m still such a work in progress). I spent my weekends at youth group and my week nights at religious education classes and I don’t resent that for a second, I’m just not sure that a church is what I need anymore to quantify my relationship with God.

I know my God, and I know the type of person that God teaches me to be: loving, inclusive, patient, peaceful, forgiving, understanding, and accepting. My God is happy to listen to me no matter where I am- whether that is in a building with other people doing the same or alone in the woods or in my car. He doesn’t require donations and doesn’t guilt me into doing good deeds. My God expects me to act as a good person of my own accord and is there for me when I fall short of that. My God doesn’t judge me, and doesn’t condone me judging others. The God I know is like an old friend who, no matter how much time we spend apart, catching up feels like we’ve never missed a beat.

This is the God that my family needs in our lives.

Our religious identity as a family (or lack-thereof) is something that we talk about often. Now that we are going to be responsible for raising a second tiny human into a respectful, adult member of society, it is something that I find myself thinking on even more often.

I have had a lot of amazing, well-meaning people who have shared concerns about the fact that my child isn’t following the traditions of their church. Worries that, for example, “his (tiny, innocent, perfect) soul won’t make it into heaven” if we don’t get him baptized, and it is well-meaning comments like these that, unfortunately, have the opposite of their intended effect on me.

I want my children to know God, but not THAT judgmental God. I want them to know the one that I know. Better than that, I want them to know that God in whatever new ways that they come to know him as they grow and learn to be good people in this crazy, scary world.

So it sounds like I know where I stand, right? I usually feel that way too, but then I hear the voice of younger me say “Without a religion- a church, a group, a class- how do you get your Children acquainted with that God?”

My answer, for now at least, is this: lead by example and surround my children with a community of like-minded people. I did not turn out  a decent human because I sang praise songs in a group of other teens once a week, I turned out a good person because the people that I spent my time with and the people that I loved were good people who, at the very least, respected my beliefs.

This decision in my family’s life  isn’t set in stone, but for now I’m finding peace in knowing this: my husband and I are good people. Our family members are good people. The friends we surround ourselves with are good people. We are all loving, inclusive, patient, peaceful, forgiving, understanding, and accepting people and, by default, we are showing our kids the type of people that they should aspire to be.

I think our kids might end up alright.

5 thoughts on “Oh, My God

  1. I’ve just read your blog entry (I was directed to it from another friend’s facebook response) and I found it to be articulate and well-written. It is hard to disagree with much of what you said. However, I’d just like to put out there this thought: Religion and church build community. At least good ones, ones that I’d want to be a part of do.

    As a teacher, I find one of the biggest issues is the lack of community. People, children, families feel more and more isolated. Church is community-a place and a people who put God’s love into practice through outreach and support of its members. There are other places one finds community, clubs and organizations, but are the goals of those groups as aligned with the God’s teaching? Can’t you be part of both?

    You mentioned youth groups and classes and how you don’t need those anymore to quantify your relationship. Why wouldn’t you want that same ability for your children? Those occasions, that teaching is where many of us learned about God’s love, because in the real world, our parents and friends couldn’t cover all the insanity in society, couldn’t make that message of God’s love above all else as clear. I grew closer to my family through our church outreach because it was a way for all of us to put God’s love into action. We still talk about Vacation Bible school and helping out at soup kitchens.

    Here is the best part: BECAUSE you have this teaching, this very well thought out vision of God, you can instruct your children to be discerning about the teaching itself. For example, Church teaches that we have to confess our sins to a priest to receive absolution when we know from the Bible He forgives us as soon as we ask. You can teach the difference between absolution and forgiveness. I think of it as “enhanced learning.”

    I’m not suggesting that you HAVE to go to the same church you attended as a child just because it worked for your family back then. Investigate other faith-based communities that share your vision of God and visit to see if your feel comfortable and think your children would enjoy the experience.

    My best to you and your family.

    • Thank you Michelle! I think you are spot on in your response. I also am a shoe believer that our society lacks community and work toward creating community with all who I meet and encourage others to do the same. I believe that we are a big world community and we need to learn to be that for each other. That being said, I also agree that church is a form of community. I am not opposed to church in any way, I just think that my experiences have led me to this place in my life where I don’t feel comfortable in any of the church communities that ie encountered. Does that mean that I won’t find one? I doubt that it does! I think it may be a matter of finding the right fit for us, but in the meantime I think that if we keep creating a community of live and support for our kids elsewhere, then they still have a chance in this world! Thank you for taking the time to share. I embrace opposing viewpoints that are presented respectfull. Xo

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