Religion: Hope or Hangman?

I was raised surrounded by religion. My parents sent me to a Southern Baptist school from kindergarten through 12th grade. Every Sunday included mornings in either the Episcopalian (father’s church) or Catholic (mother’s church) service. I was raised knowing God, the 10 Commandments, right and wrong, Jesus and the disciples. And from as far back as I can remember, I appreciated the spiritual feeding – I have always known that there is something bigger in this world than the collective “us” – but I felt uncomfortable with religion as I knew it.

There were too many questions and far too few answers that worked for my soul. Why were all the disciples men? Why do the religious spend so much time condemning and preaching “against” something rather than focusing on themselves? Why do the religious feel they have the right to instill their beliefs and world views on those who don’t share them? Why does the worship and celebration of spiritual greatness and divinity have so many rules? Why does societal and religious rules that were created and adopted half a world away, thousands of years ago by a group of men who do not have contemporary context get to determine the moral norms of society? And on and on and on it goes for me.

Recently, the collision of religion and reality has had a massive impact in my life. I have never found it difficult rectifying my spiritual and soulful being with my sexual orientation or the life that I have built – as a (previous) single mother, wife to a woman, non-church-going individual who believes in a greater creator and forces beyond our human knowledge and scope of imagination. But, there are others in my life that have struggled with the acceptance of the paths that I have gone down in my life as they contradict the accepted and dearly-held norms and expectations informed and guided by the influence of established religion. My family had been fractured by religion and, only in recent months, has there been movement towards reconciliation and {possible – hopeful} healing and acceptance. We shall see.

The disconnections and tumult that I have witnessed in my life which I directly attribute to religion and the judgement, hate and exclusion that religion nurtures and perpetuates is being reflected in our community and society. Yesterday, the Huffington Post reported that the Southern Baptist Convention voted to disassociate themselves from the Boy Scouts because of the recent modification of Boy Scout policy to now allow the admission of gay members into Scout troops (article here). Again, I attended a Southern Baptist school – Hawaii Baptist Academy – from kindergarten through graduation. I was an active member of the HBA community. I made friends there that have been a constant in my life since my school days. My best friend from high school planned my wedding to my amazing wife. My facebook page is populated with friends and acquaintances from HBA. When reading about the actions that the Souther Baptist Convention took, I felt as if I had been personally rejected and my family condemned. Although I was not surprised by the action I was still hurt by them. There is a part of me that celebrates the departure of judgmental, righteous and hateful people from the Boy Scout organization; if we ever become comfortable enough to allow our son to become a part of this organization, it will be less likely that he will be exposed to people who disrespect our family and the lives that we have built. But it is a sad commentary on the priorities that many organized religions hold dear: the need to condemn and be holier than thou, the demonstration of arrogance and righteousness, the refusal to respect the lives and loves of others.

I was brought to tears by another story that was shared by friends in the cyber world. This story cut so close to home for me. Please take the time to read it. Linda Robertson is a mother who struggled when she and her family experienced the collision of faith and family. From what she shared, Linda’s family is quite religious. When her son revealed his sexual orientation to her, the conflict  and heartbreak that ensued resulted in an extended rift between her son and the family. Tears are making it hard to write this right now … I know this feeling. I have experienced it. My family – the one that taught me that we do not tell people who or how to love – the one that is comprised or a multi-ethnic, multi-ratial, multi-cultural couple – the one that raised me to be respectful and appreciate and embrace diversity and differences … THAT family rejected me when I finally found the person in this world who is my partner and my wife. For years, I was isolated from them because of their rejection and judgement. Milestones and celebrations were missed. Relationships were damaged. Loyalties were severed. Three years later, my family is reconnecting. I would like to say that we are healing and moving forward but, truthfully we are in a holding pattern; we are re-involving ourselves in one another’s lives but there is much to be said, asked and answered before true healing can begin. For Linda and her family, it seems that they found their way back to one another. Unfortunately, life, fate, God, the angels or the powers that be in this universe cut short the time that they had as a family. Linda’s son, Ryan, died. The time that they lost with him due to judgement and rejection can never be regained or relived.

I fully respect the choices that people make in regards to religion and whichever moral code that they adopt. But, I expect the same respect in return. I am not searching for or in need of anyone’s approval for the life that we lead. My wife and I are leading our lives and raising our family. We do not ask for special or privileged treatment – only equal treatment. Both my wife and I believe in something greater than humanity in this universe; we believe that what you put into this world will come back to you; we believe in miracles and we respect those who have come before us. We do not feel the need to entangle ourselves or our family in religion because what we have seen of it has only led to the persecution, judgement and condemnation of anything considered “other” or different.

I suppose that at this point, I truly wonder if religion has lost its way in fulfilling it’s supposed purpose in this world. After years of bible classes, study of scriptures, soul searching and reflection, the ideal of religion bringing and sustaining hope for humanity has been replaced by the new version of religion in which the religious are in the right and everyone else is in the wrong … and, no – you should not have the freedom to choose whether or not you agree or buy into western religion, by implicit and societal codification of religious doctrine, the moral code of the religious will be upheld as the right and all else is – again – wrong.

But for me and my household … we choose love. We choose respect. We choose freedom. We choose acceptance. We choose blessings. We choose not to be defined the the rules and regulations of a hateful religion. We choose the greatness of what this universe and our love has to offer us and this world.

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Here is the link to Linda and Ryan’s story: http://freedhearts.wordpress.com/2013/04/22/what-do-you-do-when-your-son-is-gay/

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