In Kindergarten I started attending a Christian school at an Assemblies of God church. To get a tuition discount we became members of the church. Once when I heard my parents disparage one of the AoG pastor's sermons about redemptive suffering, I began to realize that it's possible to be Pentecostal but not Word-of-Faith.
And then there were other religions. (I wasn't quite sure where to put Catholics.)
Mainline denominations persecute Evangelicals.
Catholics (I finally settled on, yes, they could actually be Christians) persecute Protestants.
Other religions persecute Christians.
(Of course, they are just deceived by Satan into believing anyone besides Jesus could save their souls.)
That's a lot of persecution. You can understand why I grew up feeling so stressed out.
Throughout my childhood, lots of people told me "You'll probably become a pastor's wife someday!" They probably said that because I was a true believer-- earnest, devout, pious, radiant with zeal and knowledge. I studied the Bible deeply, on my own volition (one Christmas I asked for a Strong's Concordance for my gift. I used that thing a lot!) I was outspoken about my faith, and I was concerned about people. (Yet, of course, being female, I couldn't actually be a pastor!) Oh yeah, and I played piano. Perfect pastor's wife material.
But even way back then, I vehemently rejected that prediction over my life. I felt deeply that I didn't want that role, for reasons I couldn't articulate. At a profound level, what I was really interested in was... The World. The Real World. Somehow, I just knew that The World had to be more important than The Church--it is bigger! And I intuitively concluded that if I achieved anything in The Church that did not also affect The World, I would have achieved nothing.
My heart knew what it was doing, even though my mind has been confused about what's going on. It's been a long struggle, figuring my way out of the maze, and I feel like FINALLY I'm able to connect with The World.
In the flesh.
I'm not separating myself, psychologically, hoping for a better existence after death, or some kind of divine protection from the realities of existence. I don't believe what I was told so often, that "nothing that happens here is of importance except for spiritual things." Contrary to a beloved Christian song, this world IS my home.
A math friend of mine once said, (mostly) tongue-in-cheek, "I was never able to go into the humanities because I get the sneaking suspicion they are just making everything up." That's where I feel I am now, regarding religion. There are so many other ways to interpret the phenomena that Christians hold up as "proofs" of the "truth" of their fabrications. (Imagine my feelings a few months ago when I heard a doctor who studies the mind-body connection say that warts are one of the easiest things to cure using placebo.)
I've dated a few atheists in the past few years, and I find their groundedness so refreshing. When faced with the solid perspective of naturalism, it's easy to look at religion and think "they are freaking making this all up!"
I'm not giving up on spirituality. But I've decided not to put my identity into a religion. It took too long, too many tears, too much anguish, to disentangle myself from it. I feel like my decision is firm.
So why did I decide to make the large sacrifices necessary to attend a conference concerned with how postmodern theology could live in today's churches? Why bother with churches at all? Let them die of natural causes, the lot of them, as far as I'm concerned! (...The institutions, not the people!)
To be honest, I'm still wondering that myself.
To be continued... this post is already too long.