Sunday, January 23, 2005

2 by 2

Tami was one of my closest friends when I was a kid. We still stay in touch and have both gone on to become teachers in the public schools. We met in 5th grade and within a week our teacher had marked us for lifelong friends.

I find this interesting looking back, because in the land of suburban Protestantism, I was a vocal atheist and she was from a very conservative Christian sect that had no name. But we both stuck out, weren't the norm, and were stubbornly insistent in our beliefs.

I found it even more fascinating that her parents allowed her to be friends with me. I was very frank with them about my lack of faith, but I was also adamant about never pressuring Tami to do anything that was frowned upon in her tradition.

I was very curious about her beliefs. Why did she have to wear her hair long? Why couldn't she wear jewelry? Why wasn't she supposed to own a T.V, go to the movies or dance? Her answer to everything was "because it's in the bible." I didn't waste my time on T.V. and the movies, but I did go home and find every reference to Dancing unto the Lord that I could find in my King James version of the bible. Her King James Version had substituted other words for dance-- sing, shout, whatever...

She had no explanation for this, since according to her faith the Bible was the one true word of God and he would not allow it to be corrupted. I tried talking to her about errors in translation, mistakes of copyists, different interpretations of archaic language. Her reaction was to tell me that I was sent by the devil to test people's faith.

Amazingly we continued to be friends. But then again, many of the people I went to school with assumed that I was going to burn in hell. Also that I had no morals and could do whatever I wanted without repercussion. I can't believe that some people believe their conscience comes entirely from their religion and that without religion one is without conscience!

But I digress.

I didn't find much out about Tami's Religion (as I called it, since it had no name) until after I graduated from college and attended one of the Meetings with her family. The ministers are unpaid and own nothing. They rely on the charity of the congregation. There are no churches. They meet in people's homes. Everyone is encouraged to read the Bible and come to an understanding of how the words fit their own lives here and now.

I liked a lot of things about this. I started having a rosy picture of how fantastic this faith community was. They were so supportive of one another. They were very welcoming of me. I started to think that if only I believed in God I could be her religion. I forgot all of the perceptions I'd had earlier about the controlling, conservative, overbearing nature of the religion

I did some poking around lately that reminded me of some of those things that rubbed me the wrong way. The principal problem I have is with something called the Living Witness Doctrine that states nobody gets into heaven unless they profess their faith to on of the Workers and hears the gospel from a Worker and lives according to the rules set forth by the Workers.

It's hardly the only denomination to say that it's the only way. It just makes me sad to think of people being shackled to a faith not because it feels right or brings them spiritual fulfillment but because they fear damnation. Which again is probably not unusual. I just have a very limited understanding of salvation and damnation and they are not what drive my spiritual quest.


Blogger fresca said...

Hey! This latest template is MY blog background--funny to read a blog that LOOKS like mine.
And this sounds somewhat like me as a kid, too. I thought religion was intellectually unaccpetable--and yet I was intrigued with the kids who "got" to go to church--and jealous of the Catholic ones who got all the religious trinkets. I think this is what fuels my religious search: certainly not redemption and salvation (maybe you have to have this unculcated in you as a child for it to even seem real--I simply cannot relate), but Holy toys! I love my rosary, I love lighting candles, I love incense, I love knick-knacks about saints--I love all these things which help me feel that God is with me and us. But I can see how they put people off, too--and I have always been attracted to the opposite, too--to the MOST stripped down practices, like Zen or the Friends (YOUR practice, right?). I used to think some of the evangelilcal sects looked appealingly stripped-down, but mostly what they seem to deal in Control,not Liberation.

7:45 AM  
Blogger Kiara said...

I can never figure out how I want my blog to look. I was trying to do something fancy and then my son woke up or I fell asleep-- something like that. This is a fine template. Easy to read. I might leave it like this for a while.

And you're right, the Friends are where I am now. I was raised Unitarian Universalist and they aren't so much into the trinkets and stuff either. But I understand the draw of ritual and tradition.

1:17 PM  

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