It’s not every day I read Very Smart Brothas but occasionally I do when referenced by someone else or another blog. The Root referred to their “Just Out of a Relationship” piece but the poor linking instead took me to the front of their blog and I saw an eye-catching piece titled “My Problem with Church”. It was eye-catching for me because a lot of what the writer Damon Young wrote, reminded me of when I was Christian and trying to go to church.
This is the part that struck me most:
“…the main thing limiting my appearances to one per every three months is the fact that I just don’t feel anything when I go.
I understand that everyone isn’t going to catch the Holy Ghost whenever they attend service, and I also get the fact that even in church, your personal relationship with God — not your connection to the parishioners — is what really matters.
But while I do always enjoy myself when I’m there, I never seem to actually be doing what I’m supposed to be doing. While we’re supposed to be praying, I’m thinking about how many calls and texts I’ve missed since I’ve been there. While we’re supposed to be paying attention to the word, I’m scanning the crowd to spot familiar faces (and thinking some, um “unChristian” things about some of them). While we’re supposed to be standing and singing, I’m wondering if the people behind me notice that it’s been a month since I took the suit I’m wearing to the cleaners.
This isn’t a new development, btw. Even as a child, I was never able to immerse myself into church the same way some of my classmates and family members seemed to. And yes, I realize that a good percentage of that was probably an act — many of the kids were likely just going through the motions to appease their parents and teachers — but I didn’t even care/feel enough to fake it.”
I totally remember feeling and doing all of this. Since childhood I had banged into my head that church was part of the well-balanced breakfast for your soul and that a good person/Christian goes to church – though my family didn’t commonly go, but there were family ministers and my mother side was faithful and religious enough I guess. I still remember once when I went to the church that owns my apartment and I sat in the pew. I felt like an anthropologist surveying the crowd than an active participant. I didn’t know where anything was in the Bible so I would flip random pages until my book looked almost just like the person beside me and read whatever was on the page. I did it so many times and even was corrected occasionally, I’m surprised no one thought I was illiterate. I would watch people praise and get up and jump around, clearly catching the spirit and me sitting there wondering what that feels like. While bowing my head and attempting to pray, I felt like I was just doing nothing, only mimicking everyone else and curious of what was wrong with me.
Just like Young stated, I could not immerse myself into it ever since I was a wee young lass. I could pray, read the Bible and read all the mini-comic tracts (which I still like to do, they are entertaining) as I liked. I’ve even been saved about three times at the most because I was concerned about the state of my soul, did the confessing of Christ being my Lord and saviour, everything but get baptized. Still, nothing and I don’t think dunking me would have had any additional effect. When I watched others getting immersed in the spirit, I would wonder how they do it, when they start screaming and crying and talking in tongues. I didn’t think anyone was acting like Young did – well, no, it did cross my mind these folks could very well be acting but if so, it was Oscar-winning acting. I just felt like a square peg in a round hole. Yeah, I could have faked it but with no passion? Nah. And what’s the point if God is omnipotent, meaning “He can see straight through the bulls**t”. That’s worse than simply displaying no feeling at all to me.
This however, is where Young and I split. When Young asked his friend about the disconnect, this is what she said:
“’Your problem is that you expect your relationship with church and God to be easy. It’s not. You have to work at it and want it to be successful. It’s actually like any other relationship with friends or even a romantic partner. Things aren’t just going to magically work. You have to put in the work for it to work, and the basis of this effort is the love you have for your friend. You want things to work because you love them and you know your life is better with them in it. You’re not connecting with church and God the way you think you should be able to because you’re just not trying hard enough to keep a consistent dialogue. As close as I am to my best friend, if I went two years without calling her, we definitely wouldn’t be as close anymore.’”
I’ve heard the same myself. That the relationship with church and God isn’t going to be easy, that it will always need work to become something plentiful and consistent dialogue would be needed. Where Young is trying to stay and willing to make things work for himself and his faith, I bounced to a new religion that made me feel the work I put into it was worthwhile. Faith, regardless whether you believe in God, Goddess, both or plurals, is a relationship but some relationships simply don’t work out for various reasons. Does this mean that Young should consider a new faith? Nah, not necessarily. If he’s not pulled to anything else, then nope. If he honestly wants to be Christian and fully believe in the Bible, nope. Some of the best Christians I know don’t act like frothy-mouthed Bible thumpers and don’t start rolling around on the floor for the slightest things but are simply steady, gentle and firm in their practice, truly happy with their religious choice. It’s just a commitment thing overall and if you, the practitioner, is willing to make such a commitment to have the best relationship with the Divine as possible.
There’s various reasons why I left Christianity and have absolutely zero intentions to come back but hey, I, too, tried. I think most who are Black Pagans now have tried to make it work with Christianity but simply couldn’t because it doesn’t work out for everyone. I couldn’t get with the basics of the faith – I don’t agree with everything in the Bible – and the people in the religion didn’t exactly make me want to stay either. When I was studying the Bible like a minister in training thanks to getting into P.O.D. heavy, I learned that there were some parts that I simply did not believe deep down in my core and what parts were modified thanks to politics and history. (“Thou shalt not suffer a Witch/poisoner to live” I’m lookin at you) Since I am a bit of a history buff as well, seeing how the Bible has been wrangled time and time again from a book that is supposed to be about love and peace to pretty much the bottom line of reasoning for some of the greatest travesties this world has seen. Yes, that’s the people taking the Bible and ripping it apart for their own gains and not the Bible itself, I understand that. However, the god of the Bible seems too bipolar to me and even flawed some: “I am a jealous and wrathful God” – jealously and rage is technically supposed to be big on the sin-o-meter so it sometimes baffles me how a “perfect” god could have such issues. If I want to have a relationship with God, I don’t want to fear him nor should I; we should be able to work together. If I don’t want that kinda relationship with a human, I don’t think deities should get a pass. The various gods of Paganism aren’t perfect either but at least you come in knowing that. I just couldn’t buy the idea of Jesus being my Lord and savior and wanting to invest my time, energy and passion into helping build an already fractured relationship with Him and His pops.
Then there’s the fact that Christians can be their own exit sign. With Black Christianity, it can be suffocating and even downright scary, like dealing with the brainwashed sometimes. I’m grateful for my friends such as Amani and Nastassia to remind me not all Christians are one misinterpreted scripture away from picking up a gun or bomb and committing terrorism but when I’m around the average Black Christian, I do tend to be on my toes depending on how much chicanery I care to deal with at that moment. I still imagine meeting Wondaland Arts Society and it turning into something from the Valley of the Voodoo Dolls or Children of the Corn and I’m on decent terms with them, it’s just most of them are strongly Christian and when you’re not, trouble could be afoot. When it is Christianity in general, I just hope I’m not dealing with a nutjob who have incredibly transparent and short-sighted concerns about me not running to Jesus and attempting to convert me like they’re working on commission. Now, this is not to say that Pagans are perfect in every way, I can just deal with the bull better because I genuinely want to be part of the religion. I never felt the same for Christianity, practicing simply felt like a chore.
The one idea that does haunt me, though: If I did come back to Christianity, how much bashing would my stint in Paganism receive? Considering the average Christian, it would be free-for-all potshots probably, telling me that I made the right choice, I’ve turned away from wickedness, I’ll no longer risk burning for all eternity (lol, right), and how I’ve turned to the light…which is full of hypocrisy, crassness, blatant sinning – even Young admits to it when he says “and thinking some, um ‘unChristian’ things about some of [the parishioners]” – and other modifications of the Bible that absolutely drives me up a wall. I don’t think that’s positive, anyone railing on the previous religion they had because it means no one learned a single thing, regardless if the person who is doing the bashing is the person who converted or the Christian hearing this. I may pick on Christians and admit to disagreeing with parts of the Bible but when I do meet with new Pagans who came from Christianity with a salty attitude about it, I try to remind them that they didn’t just leave Mordor – Christianity is not evil in itself, just some of the applications of it.
At the end of the day, religion and faith is what you make of it. It sometimes requires working harder at it or simply moving to another faith.
That’s all the Black Witch for today! I would like to announce a first ever Black Witch Meet and Greet in Baltimore, MD on June 9. We’ll meet up at the Washington Monument in Mt. Vernon and get to interact with one another and visit a metaphysical shop, Grandma Candles Too. So come and meet other Black Pagans!