What is Church?

During the early times in my life when I was too young to have a say, I went to church with my Mother. Life happened and I stopped attending church. It wasn’t that I didn’t love God or didn’t believe in religion, I just didn’t go. My family just didn’t go. In fact, the only time I ever went to church was when I would stay with my cousins and their family went. I stayed with my cousin only a few weekends out of the year. So yeah, for many years I only went to church like 4 times max, if that.

Once I became old enough and mature enough to make decisions on my own based on what I believed to be true, I decided that church wasn’t for me. The churches that I had attended in the past were about everything else but God. I associated church with drama, drama, drama, and hypocrisy. I would sit in the midst of all these church goers, half of whom talked about me like a stray dog who’d just bitten a child’s face off behind my back, the others wouldn’t acknowledge me at all because I wasn’t worthy of their attention, and many of the others were quite honestly some of the worst people I knew who treated people like crap outside of the church but behaved like saints within its walls. I would sit and listen and observe these people and felt as if they’d made a mockery of the church, a mockery of God…

I later forgave them and forgave my views on and about church at that point in my life. That was one church in one town full of people I knew and people who thought they knew me. I understood that it was unfair to place such a negative label on all churches because of my experience at that one church.

So now, I’m currently in a place and have been for a while of deciding that I DO NOT support the institution of religion. When I say this people are often incredibly confused and look at me like I just smacked them in the face with a hot curling iron. Only when I explain my reasoning behind it, do some people understand why and then the others still think I’m crazy and just bought myself a one-way ticket to the fiery bowels of hell.

I do not support the institution of religion because I believe that “religion” is one of the most divisive institutions on the face of this planet. Every day people are killed and persecuted because of their religion or for what they believe or don’t believe and for the name of the deity they worship. I just can’t stand it. I don’t support the institution of religion because some people within certain religions think their religion is better than all of the others and that they’re right and you’re wrong if you believe differently than them.

I believe that other people can believe differently than you and that be okay. I don’t think it’s cause for a new-aged Holocaust.

Sometimes I feel like the institution of religion is centered around money and profit and is big-business. I feel like some people have turned God and religion and faith into a money-making commodity and I can’t stand it.

I feel like some people have used the institution of religion to facilitate terrible things and to foster discrimination. I CAN’T STAND IT.

I don’t believe that one single faith is better than any other faith because that would mean considering someone else’s beliefs less legitimate than my own simply because they may not be in accordance with mine. It isn’t right, it just doesn’t make sense to me to do that. I’m fine with agreeing to disagree and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

So on Sunday, August 5, I attended church with my Mother. I have gone to this particular church twice before this time and I thought it was decent. No one knew us there which I liked and they had this really cool lady who played the saxophone which I loved. The preacher was pretty good. I enjoy going to church with my Mother because I know it is important to her, but I also know that my spirituality and beliefs will be practiced regardless of if I attend church or not. So when I go, sometimes it’s to be with my Mom and other times I may feel particularly compelled to hear the “Word” or just a different perspective.

I decided to go on this day because it was the day after my birthday and I felt really blessed to see 23 and I wanted to give thanks in a church and with my Mother. Prior to attending this service something felt off, my attitude got all funky and I couldn’t pinpoint why. I tried to shake it off. It wasn’t about me, it was about God, the Universe, Spirit, Source. It was bigger than me and since I decided to go to church, I needed to shake this feeling.

While getting ready I was listening to the radio and this lady called in and was speaking about how she was “battling homosexuality and when she told people in the church they began to treat her differently” and what not. This really rubbed me the wrong way. Number one, I don’t think homosexuality is wrong, I think you love who you love and it isn’t my place or anyone else’s place to judge. Number two, why are people in church judging you????

So, I think this started off my attitude towards church for the day on the wrong foot. Then I’m sitting in this service with my Mother and the preacher all of a sudden starts bashing gay people and whether he intentionally meant to down another religion or not, I felt like he did. I felt sick to my stomach.

I support equality and non-judgement and here’s this man whose supposed to promote both doing the exact opposite. I felt so disturbed that I looked at my Mother in the middle of the service and said, “I don’t like church. I don’t know why I’m here. I can’t stay here.” and before I knew it, I felt so disgusted I had to leave. I tried to stay out of respect for being there with my Mom, but ultimately this man’s ignorance pushed me right on out the door.

I always thought church should be a place where you can go to feel uplifted and inspired and motivated, not ridiculed, judged, and discriminated against. How is it fair for any man, preacher or not, to project his own prejudices upon any other person? It isn’t! My heart went out to the people in this church, the ones who may have been gay or are gay, or support gay rights who were afraid to stand up for themselves. But it felt good to stand up for myself and leave.

So, here I am again, at a crossroads for my thoughts on faith and religion and church and I’ve decided that I will continue to practice my own beliefs of non-judgement and acceptance and standing up for what I believe in and walking away from what I don’t. I know what I believe and whether I decide to practice my beliefs within the confines of a church or not doesn’t have any bearings on my love for God, Spirit, Source, the Universe, and people.

Have you ever had an experience like this?

With Love,

Brittni Pope

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