First, why on earth do I feel the need to talk about God and religion when I’ve set myself up as the closet liberal – not the closet atheist? The answer to that is pretty short in my mind – In today’s world, religion and politics are intertwined, especially when we discuss social justice issues. People who have issues with LGBTQ community? Usually religious. People who don’t understand Black Lives Matter? Mostly white, religious folks. Those opposed to abortion no matter what? Conservative, Bible-beating republicans. Scripture is often used to justify political action and prayer to show just how wonderfully Christian you are. Let’s face it; it’s difficult to be both religious and liberal in this world…
Or is it?
Until November, I attended a very conservative bible church. Their beliefs were based on scripture alone – or rather their interpretation of it. The pastor preached against homosexual marriage the Sunday after it became legal. He wanted to hang signs on the bathroom doors, too, explaining that at this church, you had to use the bathroom of the gender on your birth certificate. I was told – even though I did and still do have a leadership position in an entity associated with the church – that women were not permitted to lead men in scriptural understanding. The congregation of this church? They voted out a family when the wife had an abortion because the baby was already dead in her womb. I repeat – Already dead. They wanted to force this woman to carry to term and give birth to a dead baby. Oh, and they also shunned a woman who sought divorce against an abusive husband. Somehow I survived this past election season thinking that when Clinton won, things would get better. They had too!
And then I woke up on November 16th, 2016.
I honestly did not know how I was going to make it through the day. I almost called in sick. I had to listen to the gloating and the horrible, racist, ignorant comments all day long at work. Everyone assumed that I had voted for Trump, too, so there was no holding back. Behind closed doors and among their own, the conservative, religious right fired away at black people, those gays, and lying Hilary- who was going to be locked up any minute!
I decided that day that I was not going back – at least not to church. Period. I would worry about answering questions later, but I could no longer stomach being surrounded by the religious-political-right-wing gobbly gook that was “my” church. But could I leave the Christian church all together? After a lot of thought, I decided that no, I wasn’t quite ready for that step. I couldn’t leave the church completely until I did my best to find a place that could embrace my liberalism and my faith. If I found a fit, great! It I didn’t, I would be content to know I tried, and I could leave in peace with the confidence that I’d given it my best shot.
The very next Sunday, I found the church that I’ve been attending ever since. And not only am I attending, I’m slowly getting involved. I love it. I can’t wait for Sundays now. I bound joyfully out of bed and look forward to every moment spent in that building. So what’s so different about this place?
This church ordains women and members of the LGBTQ community. It does not look down on those who need abortions or who get divorced. The church looks at scripture differently, and while there is reverence for it, they do not use it as a political weapon. In fact, during my Sunday school class today, the pastor told the group to be careful of scripture and to use human reason to discern the best beliefs and actions for our time. He also cautioned that the bible is “not a science textbook!” He made clear his and the church’s stand on creationism, and he had no qualms about calling out the fundamentalists. I am desperate for this brand of theology right now.
So, I’m not quite an atheist. Instead, I take some spiritual nourishment from a very liberal church and am happy to just know in my head that I may not believe entirely in prayer or the god of the bible. I have a feeling that many of those around me now – perhaps even the pastor himself – believe the same way. Someday perhaps Christianity can evolve into this… A church of the historical bible? A church of human reason that embraces the relics of traditional Christianity? I’m not sure. But I am happy with where I am right now.
In the end, I’m not quite an atheist because I’m not ready to leave spirituality and tradition behind. This is a very personal reason, something I will never use to judge others who chose to leave the church entirely. I can understand that position, and perhaps those that do leave all together are stronger than me. I’m just not there yet.