I first began my struggle with religion as a little girl. I found the whole thing silly. So much so, that I once got in trouble for singing hymnals in the style of a decrepit church lady. Realistically, it could’ve been anyone singing, though. The students at my private school were the only people in the congregation under 95.
Even worse, I encouraged my friends to do the same thing, which made us a choir of church ladies, who were singing very loudly in this quiet Lutheran church.
“I AM THE CHURCH! YOU ARE THE CHURCH! WE ARE THE CHURCH, TO-GET-HERRRRRRRRR!”
You should’ve seen us. We were glorious.
At least we were all on pitch and able to perfect our impression of our music teacher, Mrs. Jester. She was a sixty-something-year-old woman, with a giant curly fro, a flabby neck, scary green eyes, and a love of shaws. Lots of shaws. Like an impressive amount of shaws. Mostly black. She looked like a 4th Sanderson sister from Hocus Pocus.
Mrs. Jester should not be confused with her lesbian (in the closet, still is) daughter, Miss Jester. Miss Jester was our P.E. teacher and probably the reason that my Barbie got a crewcut and liked girls.
After this particular “chapel,” which was held every Wednesday morning at 8:00 a.m., our new principal, Mr. Lange, came speeding down the long path separating the rows of pews like a bat out of hell.
Straight to my grade’s seating arrangement.
I already knew what was about to happen. Apparently, he didn’t appreciate all of the hard work we’d done perfecting our harmonies and singing like we were demanding a soul ransom.
I must’ve been in fifth or six grade and I only remember this because it was the only time I ever got in trouble at school.
No, wait. That’s a lie, but I’ll get to that a different day.
I developed an inappropriate sense of humor at an early age and apparently found sacrilegious behavior extremely funny, as well, which is where this story began before I started talking about my lesbian P.E. teacher.
As a kid, something just didn’t click with me and religion.
Every Monday morning, our teacher was required to perform a roll call and credit us with “church attendance.” While most other kids went to church regularly, my church attendance was always zero. My parents didn’t go to church and to be perfectly honest, I hated church.
I still do.
At first I was humiliated by this. All the other kids were going to church and proudly telling the teacher, so that they could receive their credit and a damn shiny star for having perfect church attendance, while I was the dunce who sat in the corner, dreading this Groundhog Day moment.
If I would’ve told my parents that I wanted to go to church, they would’ve taken me in a heartbeat. But, I didn’t really want to go to church. It was boring and I didn’t like it. My parents never took me, because church in itself wasn’t important to them. Spirituality and having a relationship with God, yes. But church, no.
And even if things would’ve been different and I was the kid who was required to have church drilled into my head, I think I still would’ve turned out the same. I think if they would’ve pushed it too hard, I could’ve possibly rejected spirituality all together.
I don’t like labels, I don’t like being told what to believe by someone “above” me, I don’t like guilt, and I don’t like conforming.
Can you tell I’m stubborn?
Even worse is cool churches, which are the latest, hottest trend in churches.
They’re basically church, but church made sexy.
“Oh, you don’t like church? Come to my church. It’s so cool!”
Cool churches appeal to millennials and the one dad who won’t stop wearing Affliction t-shirts.
And let me straight up tell you, they’ve got their marketing down to a T. Literally, I was handed a pamphlet for an Easter Sunday gathering, while I was at brunch one day. I was like, “Wow, this marketing is really cool!” as I threw it straight into the closest trash can on my way out.
Religion isn’t for everyone. While I’m a spiritual person, I don’t want to wake up at 9:00 a.m. to go to church. Maybe this comes from going to old-school Baptist churches with my best friend growing up, but I’m living my life how I want to and I’m not going to feel a constant burden for doing so.
Because I’m rebellious AF.
Some people enjoy church, they enjoy being a part of a community, and they honestly need to be spiritually guided by someone. I am not one of those people, but I would never diss someone for needing or wanting those things. I respect people of all faiths (granted that you’re not in a cult or a terrorist) and I think that sometimes religion can be a phenomenal, life-changing experience.
And sometimes it can be wicked, destructive, guilt-ridden, and controlling.
But I get it. I see it within my own friends. I’ve recently watched one of my friends undergo an enormous change within herself and I think a huge part of it has to do with religion. It’s beautiful and I’m extremely happy for her.
With that being said, my inner peace is already here. Yeah, I’m a fuckup about 99.8% of the time, but I’m good. I don’t need a live Christian rock band to help me find my way back on the right spiritual path. I’d rather go to the ocean and find peace there.
I believe in God, but maybe not in the same way that other people do. And that’s okay. Since I’ve escaped from the South, I’ve been able to stop rationalizing my reasons for not going to church.
It’s been very liberating. That embarrassment and borderline harassment has completely escaped me. I don’t get the judgement, I don’t get the same feeling that I got as a little girl having to confess in front of her whole class that she didn’t go to church.
I just get to be me and believe in what I believe in.