Archive of ‘Religion Topics’ category

To Santa or Not to Santa?

It’s that time of year again when Santa Claus comes to visit. Or does he? Many parents are deciding to stop the myth of Santa with their children and are instead telling their children the truth. There are many reasons why this is becoming prevalent. The most popular that I’ve seen so far is the religious reason. Christians are afraid that the myth of Santa may make the Nativity story not the focus of Christmas and may even make their children greedy or legalistic. I mean, Santa can spell out Satan, right? 😉 For Hans and I with our baby boy on the way, we’ve talked about the issue of telling or not telling our children the myth of Santa based on the issue of lying to our children over the religious issue. It’s been a difficult decision and one that is still not entirely set in stone. Thank goodness we don’t have to worry about it right this minute. But all the talking between my spouse and I and now all the articles currently being posted on Facebook have got me thinking. Is it right to Santa or not to Santa? That is my question.

Here’s where I’m coming from. I believed in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny probably longer than I should have. I chalk this up to my belief in my parents’ honesty and my need to hang onto the fantastical. As children (and even as some adults) we blindly believe what we are told without questioning or wondering about things. I reached the age where I did start to question the world around me in fifth grade, and with this questioning came the question of the truth about Santa. When I found out my parents had lied to me all these years about Santa and the Easter Bunny, I was crushed. This was a pivotal moment in my life where I realized that instead of the perfect superheroes I had believed my parents to be they were actually flawed people like everyone else. I started to doubt anything they had told me, wondering what else they may have lied about and what they may still be lying about. Could I trust my parents?

gullibility

Furthermore, I had been taught about Jesus Christ since I was a toddler. He seemed too good to be true, as well, when I found out about Santa, and thus, I believed he was a lie as well. It took me over a year to regain my faith, but I didn’t really feel close to Christ again for many years. The lies about Santa had ruined it for me until I became an adult.

Let me state before I go any further that my parents did not intend harm from this myth they told me. They intended for Santa to be a fun and fantastical adventure for my brother and I. Perhaps if I didn’t have the tendency to overthink everything it would have still been a fun thing about Christmas even after learning the truth. I don’t blame my parents for this at all. They had the best of intentions. It was a magical experience every Christmas when “Santa” left us presents and to see that he had eaten the cookies. I believed magic was real and that the world was a wondrous place. I believed in the fantastical, and it was fun to believe that anything was possible.

santa-is-real

After my experiences, though, I am at a loss of what to do in the Santa situation. I’m not keen on the idea of having my children sit in a stranger’s lap every Christmas for pictures. I hate the thought of lying to my children repeatedly and then possibly having them look at me as I once did at my parents. I even don’t like the idea of buying presents for the kids and not getting the credit as the giver of these gifts (kind of selfish, but I’m human). However, I hate the thought of my future children not having the experience of the fantastical. For them to miss out on the belief that anything is possible is abominable. Hans and I are on the same page with these conflicting thoughts as he, too, had similar experiences to my own.

Because of these warring thoughts, Hans and I are leaning toward being honest with our children from the start, meaning telling them Santa Claus is a fictional person to enhance the holidays. Instead of focusing on this stranger that enters the house in the dead of night and leaves presents (stranger danger, anyone?), we’ll focus on the time we have with family, the abundance of what we have already and the need to donate and give to those less fortunate, and the love we show through the presents we receive and give to each other no matter how small or handmade. Christmas will still be a magical time because of the spirit and meaning behind it, both for their Christian mother and Atheist father and no matter what religion on which our future children eventually decide. And to have the children experience the fantastical, we’ll encourage them to read, read, and read some more and will even start the tradition of reading A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens every year. Nothing can transport you to another realm and make you believe the impossible like a great book can. I, for one, still believe there is a Hogwarts somewhere in the world. 😉

For further reading here is an interesting article that encourages parents to tell their children about Santa and a counter article that explains why parents should not tell their children about Santa.

elf

Happy Holidays not just Merry Christmas

It’s that time of year again. The time when people start posting the following: “It’s Merry Christmas not Happy Holidays,” thus ruining any good mood I am in. Let me explain. If you’re a follower of this blog, you already know I’m a Christian. I believe in Christ and that he died for our sins. For me, it is “Merry Christmas.” In fact, I’m writing this with Christmas music playing in the background, and these beloved songs and their messages are enough to make me tear up. However, I am cognizant to the fact that not everyone believes as I do, and I am fine with that. No, not just fine; I am happy for that. If we all believed the same thing, there would be no possibility for “inquiring and discerning heart[s],” a part of most baptismal covenants.

As many of you may already know, my husband is what he calls an Agnostic Atheist. He doesn’t believe any god exists, but because he cannot prove a god’s nonexistence, he qualifies his core belief with “agnostic.” And despite our differing views on faith, our marriage works. Perhaps it’s because of these differences, but that’s another blog post altogether. Contrary to what most would tell me, I do not feel the need to convert him to Christianity. He knows the gospel. He grew up Christian. He’s been to church with me as well. He sees my example of Christianity, and unfortunately he’s seen the examples of others (specifically when I was ostracized from my church for marrying a nonbeliever). So there’s no need to push my beliefs on him; he understands but just doesn’t believe. The main reason, though, that I do not feel the need to convert him is that it’s not my place. Only God can do this, and I’d be pretty darn conceited to think that I could play this role. Plus, I love him no matter what.

But I digress. Our home is full of two different views on faith, yet we celebrate Christmas. My husband may not believe what I do, but he respects it and looks forward to the traditions each year. Why then is it so difficult for us to accept others’ beliefs outside of the home?

I am blessed with an abundance of family and friends with different faiths. I have friends and family who are Agnostic, Atheist, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim, and I respect and love these people. For me this season may be “Merry Christmas,” but for many of them it is not. Therefore, I never mind saying “Happy Holidays”. I also don’t mind wishing someone a “Happy Hanukkah” or “Happy Kwanzaa” if I know that’s what they celebrate. It’s not what I celebrate, but it’s not my place to judge whether their holiday is valid or not or to feel superior in my own choice in Christmas. And thank God it isn’t my place to judge what is right and what is wrong. That is a task that no man is up for as it is the task of God. Why then are all these graphics and Facebook pictures saying that it is “Merry Christmas and not Happy Holidays”? Is that not judging what this season should be for ALL people? Is that what Christ would want? The same Christ who instructed the following:
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7: 1-5

I admit through this post that I am judging those who post these messages, but I’m writing this not in the spirit of judgment but enlightenment. I am a big believer that to tolerate is human but to accept is divine. The definition of “to tolerate” is “to allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of… without interference” and “to endure with forbearance.” We tolerate what we do not like, what gets on our nerves. To tolerate is a negative idea. But let’s look at the definition of acceptance. To accept is “to give admittance or approval to” and “to welcome.” That’s a much more positive act. We need to not only tolerate what others believe, but to accept them as Christ would have and would want us to do. We were not instructed to love our “Christian” neighbor. We were not instructed to love our neighbor but only if he or she shares the same beliefs. We were instructed to love our neighbor. A succinct command that turns out to be the most difficult to obey. Therefore, let us accept our brothers and sisters. Let us love them as Christ would want us to and be examples of the crux of our religion. Let us reflect God’s love instead of God’s wrath.

So to you, dear reader, I wish you happy holidays and hope it is full of love, family, understanding, and peace.

Happy Holidays! Not only does it encompass all religious holidays, but it includes New Year's as well.

Happy Holidays! Not only does it encompass all religious holidays, but it includes New Year’s as well.

A Time to Grieve and a Time to Celebrate

My great-uncle died today. When he didn’t show up to my grandmother’s house for after-church lunch, my uncle and stepdad went over to his house. It appears he had just gotten out of the shower and was in the process of getting ready for church because one pants leg was on. They think he was sitting on the bed and just sort of keeled over. He couldn’t have been in pain because he never pressed his medic alert button. I suppose that’s the way to go when one must. Painless and in old age. But death is still a bitch.

Death is scary. Perhaps I don’t have this Christian thing down because the idea of death still scares the shit out of me. Yes, I know through Christ that I am promised a shiny seat in Heaven, and Heaven is way better than this mortal coil in which we exist. I know these things. I believe these things. Yet there’s always doubt. We can tell each other that death is a glorious promise of something better and that we will meet it with a smile. But there’s always doubt. Death is still a mystery. And fear of the unknown is the greatest fear. No one can be 100% positive of that “life” after death.

As I grow older, I have come in contact with death more and more. Three of my grandparents, a beloved uncle, great-aunts, great-uncles, and now my Uncle Garnold. It’s frightening to see the aftermath of someone’s death. It’s frightening to ride that emotional rollercoaster after someone’s death. Although the death itself may have been clean, the aftermath of the ones left behind is always messy. We may act composed, but there is a torrent of emotions. The death of someone close brings our own mortality to the forefront. We fear our own eventual demise but perhaps may fear the death of those closest to us more. I’m writing this with my little dog curled up next to me, my husband in the next room playing Shadow of Mordor, and a baby in my belly. How could I deal with any of their deaths? Will I have to in my lifetime? Could I survive it?

Sorry to get so dark. See what I mean about death being messy for those left behind? It really is scary as shit. I wish viewings and funerals weren’t such bleak affairs. I struggle with the fact that these tend to be centered on the grief (and in most cases centered on whether one is saved or not, especially in the South) instead of a celebration of the life that was lived. When I die, I want a party thrown in my honor with live music, dancing, and amazing food. I want something like Marley had in A Little Bit of Heaven. Something lively to celebrate not only my life but the lives I’ve left behind and those I loved. My body may be cremated or donated to science, but my memory should be celebrated. I pray that someday I am the type of person people will want to celebrate.

I’m driving down to South Georgia tomorrow morning to be with my family. I hope I hear tons of great stories about my Uncle Garnold. I hope we celebrate his life and the great man that he was. I hope we remember what a blessing he was to the community. I hope to reminisce about going to his country store and enjoying Coke in a bottle, Reese’s, and Flintstones ice cream while sitting on a plastic Coke crate as sticky sweat slowly plastered my shirt to my skin. No summer day with my grandfather was complete until we went to Uncle Garnold and Uncle Harold’s store. I enjoyed listening to the old men talk in the store (there always seemed to be a few hanging around on old wooden chairs or crates at any time of the day). Most of what they talked about was boring to my kid self, but I loved listening to the sound of their voices. Melodic Southern twang that seemed to rock the words lovingly. Slow speech that showed they thought about what they were saying. And sometimes the accent was so thick that it honeyed the words right out of coherency. I will miss you, Uncle Garnold. Thank you for the memories.

Oh Captain! my Captain! You Are Not What They Say.

I never thought the issue of depression would be such a polarizing topic. Robin Williams’s death has proven otherwise. He hanged himself to end his suffering from the disease of depression. Along with the countless sympathetic posts and stories, I have seen some pretty disgusting ones, calling Williams a coward (Fox News) and saying that he died from a choice not a disease (Matt Walsh). These comments sadden and anger me, and as I see them popping up, I pray that Williams’s family is somehow sheltered from these hateful words. Suicide is indeed a choice, especially from the outside eye. There is the choice to do it or not do it. However, depression can drive one so far into the dark that it may seem that suicide is the only option, completely obliterating the definition of “choice” and “option.” Depression makes the choice for you. To begin to comprehend suicide, consider the following quote: “depression is like a room engulfed in flames and you can’t breathe for the sooty smoke smothering you limp — and suicide is deciding there is no way but to jump straight out of the burning building.” Williams did not hang himself out of spite or cruelty. He got tired of living in the room engulfed in flames. He got tired of depression whispered breath in his ear. And in the end, depression won and made this choice from him.

One in four adults (approximately 57.7 million Americans) struggle with mental illness in a given year. These can include the following: “major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and borderline personality disorder.” We all know someone who is struggling, whether we consciously know it or have no idea about the silent battle a person is always waging. For me, I have people in my life that have struggled or are still struggling, and I have experienced it personally. In the last years of high school and beginning of college, I was depressed. I’m not talking about being sad for long periods of time. I’m talking about room-engulfed, can’t-catch-my-breath, hysterical-outbursts depression. Freshman year of college, I sat in my bathtub with a razor blade, feeling the water turn cold to chill my skin. Depression’s dark breath worked to convince me how much easier it would be to end it. The battle didn’t seem worth it. As I thought more and more about it, I realized I couldn’t run that blade down my wrists. Cutting was nothing new to me—the pain brought relief—but the terror of what was in store for me on the other side steadied my resolve to seek help instead of end it all. It was terrifying to seek help, to admit I was not perfect. With weekly meetings with my therapist and daily medication, I got better. I’m no longer on medication, but the memory of the dark is still there. I still feel its icy death grip occasionally, and hear its chilling voice in my ear. Now, though, I am cognizant of how much the future holds for me. It is worth the fight. It is worth the struggle.

I was lucky. Some people are not able to win the battle so easily. This is not a reflection on the person but on the disease. For some, the claws are dug down deeper. I have someone very dear to me that took a gun to his head, and with shaky hands, he put it down. I had another dear someone take the gun and pull the trigger…twice. Both were spiritual persons. Perhaps the only difference is that one sought help, or perhaps the length of the suffering played a part. Either way, both were courageous men to face what they faced in their lives. They were no cowards. I hope these people who are talking so negatively about Robin Williams never have suicide touch their lives, and I hope they do not learn what that room feels like as it’s engulfed in flames.

In many recent articles, blogs, and news reports, writers have asserted that Robin Williams died from a choice rather than a disease. I pose the question; did he not die from both? He chose to end his suffering after battling this disease for most of his life. I’m certain it was not a fleeting choice perpetrated on the spur of the moment. It was the only option he felt he had, and no one knows how many times he had wrapped that belt around his neck and decided not to do it before the final day. He could have continued the struggle, reaching out for help. One would think he had already done numerous times after coming out publicly about his fight with depression and drugs. Matt Walsh, a popular blogger, wrote the following: “To act like death by suicide is exactly analogous to death by malaria or heart failure is to steal hope from the suicidal person. We think we are comforting him, but in fact we are convincing him that he is powerless. We are giving him a way out, an excuse.” However, depression is a disease similar to malaria or heart failure. It does not always result in death, but it can. There are treatment methods. The only difference is that depression manifests internally. It is not like a pox that is evident to the naked eye splayed across the skin. It is a silent disease. Like alcoholism, it is a disease that will always be present. Some days it may be easier to not take that drink, but others are full of unquenchable desire. Some reach the point where they are tired of the treatment and reaching out and tired of not being able to take that drink. They decide to be vanquished because depression has made this choice for them. Is this the right choice? I don’t believe death is ever the right choice, but I also know one must be in a place of endless darkness to actually tie that rope and jump. Suicide is similar to someone succumbing to leukemia. It is a direct result of the disease of depression. Yet when someone refuses treatment for leukemia, we do not shame them. We do not shame someone who dies from almost any other disease. Why then do people feel the need to shame Robin Williams or anyone else who dies by his own hand?

Many of these writers, and even one news anchor, have said that Robin Williams is a coward, and one of the reasons is for leaving his family and friends to deal with his suicide. Walsh was disturbed by Williams’s “willingness to saddle [his] family with the pain and misery and anger that will now plague them for the rest of their lives.” It is indeed extremely difficult for those left behind. There are questions that will forever go unanswered, and a hole in one’s heart that will never again be filled by that person. However, from what I’ve read and know from my own experiences with the disease, these people do think of their families. There reaches a point where the grief their suicide will cause seems little to the burden they are currently saddling their loved ones with. They start to believe that they are acting in their loved ones’ best interest mainly because they are not worthy of their love. This is not true. No matter what loved ones are dealing with while a person with depression is alive, it does not compare to the grief and pain they are shackled with after that person’s passing. The disease of depression twists this fact, though.

Matt Walsh suggests that joy and love are the only things that defeat depression, not medication or therapy. He writes, “We can debate medication dosages and psychotherapy treatments, but, in the end, joy is the only thing that defeats depression. No depressed person in the history of the world has ever been in the depths of despair and at the heights of joy at the same time. The two cannot coexist. Joy is light, depression is darkness. When we are depressed, we have trouble seeing joy, or feeling it, or feeling worthy of it. I know that in my worst times, at my lowest points, it’s not that I don’t see the joy in creation, it’s just that I think myself too awful and sinful a man to share in it.” What Walsh does not understand is that true depression robs people of their ability to feel joy. They may observe it, but they have forgotten how to obtain it for themselves. Yes, they feel unworthy, awful, and sinful. However, it’s not a choice they make to not feel joy; depression withholds it from its sufferers.. Medication and psychotherapy help build a bridge back to joy. (Read more on depression and its treatments.) Perhaps what Mr. Walsh has experienced in his lowest points is what we all struggle with at some point—the very meaning of our existence. We have all felt at some point that we are unworthy, that we are awful, and that we are sinful or immoral. This is part of life. This is why we do things of worth, of use, and of grace. These feelings are normal, especially when we can still see joy and experience it. It is when joy is just a distant memory that can no longer be obtained when we have to worry. Again, it is not a choice to turn away from joy when saddled with depression.

Walsh further explains his belief that depression is not only a chemical imbalance, stating that it’s not clinical but rather spiritual. He elucidates, “But I don’t understand how theists, who acknowledge the existence of the soul, think they can draw some clear line of distinction between the body and the soul, and declare unequivocally that depression is rooted in one but not the other. This is a radically materialist view now shared by millions of spiritualist people.” He is attempting to persuade that depression is as much a spiritual ailment as a bodily ailment. Something is dark within the spirit to cause such darkness in the body. Walsh says that he is not saying depressed people lack religiosity or are automatically atheist; based on his rhetoric, he is saying that although you may be a spiritual person depression indicates that there is something wrong in your soul. Fix that, and you fix the depression. Let’s backtrack for a minute. When someone is sick with any disease, whether it’s depression, heart disease, leukemia, etc., it does impact the soul. The body and the soul are intertwined. The disease works on the soul as well. However, that someone has not done anything to bring on the disease. The effect that the disease is having on them physically, emotionally, and spiritually is not their fault. There is no deficiency within the soul to bring on the disease of depression. It is indeed a chemical imbalance of the body which, if you are a religious person, may affect the health of your soul solely because any battle weighs on the soul. It is NOT a deficiency of the soul that then causes the chemical imbalance within the body.

Walsh also wrote in his recent blog that worse than believing Williams died from a disease is the “fact that we seem to approach it with an attitude that nearly resembles admiration.” He explains that the language with which we are talking about his death resembles admiration. The Academy of Motion Pictures tweeted “Genie, you’re free,” and many others have said that now he is in a better place. Walsh asserts, however, that using rhetoric like this is as good as giving a suicidal person a gun. I do not agree. Firstly, this “glowing” rhetoric we are using regarding the death of Robin Williams is not for the dead. It is for the living. It consoles us. It’s an attempt to make the incomprehensible understandable. We are paying tribute to a man who touched our lives in so many ways and mourning not just his death but a world without him. We know he is free from his suffering with his disease. We also know that he made this last act absolute. No one knows with 100% certainty what the great beyond holds for us. One would have to be suffering unimaginably to choose this because uncertainty is terrifying. Would one turn to nothingness or even a white hot netherworld if suffering was endurable? Williams starred in What Dreams May Come. He contemplated the after-ness. Secondly, we are not admiring suicide or even the disease of depression. We may say “you are free” because scientifically we understand the suffering. By explaining suicide through the scientific terms of depression, we are simply explaining. We are not downplaying suicide; there are real reasons that lead to suicide. By talking about these we are hoping to encourage people to get help rather than turn to the ultimate absolute. It is not a hopeless disease that leaves one completely powerless. Doctors understand it now. There is treatment. There is help. Some people reach a point where suicide is the only option. We hope to reach people before they reach this point.

What it all comes down to is this. Suicide is tragic. It is a tragedy NOT a choice. There are ways to prevent it. There is help out there. But for those left behind after a suicide, do not let your words become daggers that stab an already wounded heart. Do not call their loved one a coward that made a choice instead of a person who suffered from a disease. The people left behind were loved and appreciated. The person who took his life knew he was loved. Depression won this battle, though.

For Robin Williams, you are already missed in our household. I grew up watching Mrs. Doubtfire every time I would visit my grandparents in Omaha. My brother’s first trip to the movie theater was to see Aladdin. My brother and I would pretend to fly after every viewing of Hook, and we bought the game Jumanji to try to act out the movie. I’ve seen Dead Poet’s Society numerous times and have shared it with countless students. I will cherish every laugh he gave and every time he lifted the spirits within our household.

O Captain! my Captain! your fearful trip is done.
After every heart who watched your art, is now forever won.

If you’re suffering with depression, don’t keep silent. Reach out. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255), and visit this website.

My Spiritual Journey

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about religion, especially as this past Sunday was Easter. I was born into a Christian family. My mother prayed with my brother and me every night, she explained our religion and gave us children’s Bibles, we prayed before every meal, and we celebrated Christmas and Easter with gusto. We did not go to church on a weekly basis, though. We moved almost every summer as my dad was in the Army (I went to nine different schools from kindergarten to twelfth grade), so finding churches where we were comfortable was difficult. Add to the fact that my father, though a pronounced Presbyterian, did not feel an obligation to attend church. He said we can worship anywhere, and although this is true, my mother always felt awkward attending church without her husband. Although my mother has always been an excellent teacher, the fundamentals behind the Christian faith were always a bit muddy and questions would arise in my mind that didn’t always have an easy answer. I even lost my little-girl faith for over a year when I was told the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus were not real. If they weren’t real, then how could someone as powerful and magical as Christ be real?

I gained my “faith” back, however, and prayed whenever things didn’t go my way or I desperately wanted an outcome. It wasn’t until I moved to Atlanta in 2007, met a great friend who introduced me to a mega-church around the Buckhead area, and started attending and building relationships at the church that I got the meaning and foundation needed to support such a grand idea of Christ, God, and the Holy Spirit. My questions were getting answered through a one-on-one class I took with a woman who worked at the church. I joined a great Bible study group to explore the Bible more fully, and they found my ignorance of most of the Bible charming as it allowed them to see the stories through fresh eyes. I found a great group of friends despite the fact that the church had numerous cliques. I was hungry, so I was consuming everything they fed me.

Things were going great with only a few minor hiccups in my faith and love of the church. That is until I met Hans at a friend’s house to watch a Nazi zombie movie and realized life was about to change. Hans and I started chatting via Facebook, went to another group event to see Zombieland (thank goodness we shared a love of zombies!), and we started to date. We were open books to one another about our pasts and our beliefs. We had a similar vision of what we wanted our future to look like. Needless to say, I was hooked. The only caveat was that Hans was an atheist (for various reasons that are part of his own story). I was troubled by this as I was told constantly that Christians should only marry like-minded Christians. However, I felt this pull to Hans that I had never experienced with another man. We clicked in a way that I began to feel he was my other half, the half that cared for others more deeply and could help make me a better person. We were two halves of one whole, and I felt God working within our relationship even if Hans did not.

I confided in my Bible study group that I had been dating an atheist, and silence filled the room. The tension was so thick it was impossible for my friends to see me clearly. I knew the ladies were not pleased, and some began to see me in a different way after that night. I talked to my “believer” friends about the relationship. Some were supportive and prayed for it; others thought it was a big mistake and began distancing themselves from me. I decided to keep pursuing the relationship and to actively seek God’s wisdom within it. I was worried I was getting carried away with the feeling of falling in love, so I made lists of what was right and what was wrong with this relationship. The only wrong turned out to be our differing beliefs. Throughout this searching, I confided in Hans, and he was patient and supportive. He went to church with me whenever I wanted, he prayed with me before each meal, he listened to me when I talked about what my faith meant to me, and he was respectful and was not judgmental of my religious views. We got engaged, and he even agreed to pre-marital counseling with the church. I asked around about whom to talk to about counseling and was given the name of the counselor. I emailed him, explaining the situation while being positive about how open my fiancé was. I got a prompt response. The counselor said he could counsel us if I really wanted to go through with this marriage but could really offer no hope for our marriage.

I was crushed. I was getting judgment from one of the leaders of the church. I felt shame. I was confused even more. I didn’t know what to do. Church was no longer a safe place for me. I started to see the holes in the scaffolding that once held this church so prominently in my mind. Hans was still attending church with me every Sunday and on Wednesday occasionally. We both started to get uncomfortable, though, as we began to see how political the church was. Republican Party candidates would be guest preachers occasionally, and Wednesday night prayer was full of prayers against President Obama. Regardless of what one’s political views are, I believe politics should be left out of the church. I believe we should pray for our president so that God may grant him wisdom in his decisions no matter if you agree with him or not. What better way to seek wisdom for the President and to help change things than through prayer? Prayers against anyone, however, lost the very definition of what a prayer was supposed to be. I then found out how the church was openly against homosexuality, even having programs to help homosexuals either squelch their desires and/or turn them into heterosexuals. Things were stacking up that I did not condone, and my broken heart over being ostracized by some of the church members was continuing to weep.

I lost my faith through all this. Not my faith in Christ, though there were questions. I lost my faith in the church and in the leaders of churches. I gained a cloak of reality, made partly of cynicism and intelligence to question things around oneself, and I used this cloak to cover my heart. I prayed constantly, looking for answers. Hans supported me in everything, but this experience with that church did nothing to kindle any spark of faith in my atheist fiancé. Instead of feeling welcomed by the church, Hans felt rejected. How could followers of Christ stray so far from His own teachings? He saw the church as a place of hypocrisy and associated this with the religion as a whole.

We made it through that difficult time, and I am thankful for it. I am happy to say that Hans and I will celebrate our fourth anniversary in July, and I’ve never doubted my decision to marry this wonderful man. Through this experience, Christ was teaching me to be strong when affronted with questions. He was teaching me to cling to Him when I was confused and hurt. He was showing me that faith is stronger when it is questioned, looked at under a microscope, and inspected thoroughly. Hans and I tried other churches, but after the burn I got from the first church I called home, I was too wary to trust any church. My faith persists, however, and my relationship with Christ is strong. I embrace science as a means to explain a lot of the world. I encourage questions about my faith and encourage different ways of looking at things and challenges to how I view my faith. These make me stronger as a spiritual Christian. I may never feel at home in a church again, but I know others do. There is nothing wrong with many churches, and perhaps once my wound is only an old scar I can call a church my home once again. Until then, I shall listen to various sermons on podcast, I will continue to commune with Christ, and I shall accept those around me. Tolerance is not the answer; acceptance is the key. I shall look for this in a future church to call my own.

“Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” Romans 14: 1-4.

“How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Luke 6: 42.

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Read the blog post entitled “Easter Sunday” that got me thinking about my own religion at Fundamentally Speaking.

The Transparent Blindfold

What is faith? Merriam-Webster defines faith as a “strong belief or trust in someone or something.” By this definition, we put our faith in various things and people every day, even hourly. I have faith that I’ll have hot water to shower, that the coffee maker will turn on, that the refrigerator will keep my cream for my coffee chilled, that my car will start, that my husband will make it to and from work safely based on a number of factors, that my health will sustain, that we’ll always have food on the table.

Yet I personally also pray to God for some of these things, too. Even though I have faith in the people and the things to work as they should, I know that life is full of expected twists and turns. The way I get through the expected is through my faith in God. Merriam-Webster defines this faith as a “belief in the existence of God; strong religious feelings or beliefs.” (Side note: If you don’t believe in God or are still wrestling with the idea of a God, stay with me through this post. I’m not arguing for His existence or trying to convert my readers. I have a different agenda in mind. Just keep reading until the end; you’ve lasted this long.) While I agree with this definition as a basis of what faith is, it is so much more when it comes to my belief system.

My husband and I have a different marriage than many of my friends. We have opposite belief systems as far as God is concerned. I belief in the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—while my husband is an atheist, meaning he does not believe in the existence of gods. He is focused on the progression of science and cannot logically make sense of my belief system. However, he has never disrespected my beliefs, and I have never disrespected his. We have always talked openly about our beliefs, and we have known about these differences since our first official date. My husband even attends church with me when I ask him to, and we have agreed on a specific way to raise our future children (if we ever have any) that takes into account our belief systems.

Many people do not understand how this type of marriage could work. In fact, when we were first talking about marriage, some of the church officials at my old church said there was no hope in a marriage like this, turning their backs on me. I even feel as if I lost some friends over this when I had to leave that church. I struggled during this time, wondering why God had brought such an amazing man in my life if so many people were telling me this was a bad idea. But even with all this turmoil, I still felt that God was telling me that he had provided me a man to marry, and I decided I would marry this man.

I’m so glad I did marry him, and he agreed to marry me because my marriage has made my faith stronger. My husband asks me questions about my beliefs, some of which I don’t always have an answer for, and because of these questions, I’ve grown as a believer in Christ. He has made me question my faith, question my very belief in my Savior. Yet every time I question, I return back to my God a stronger believe than before. This is because faith is meant to be questioned again and again. How do you know your faith is authentic if you haven’t questioned it, if you haven’t scrutinized it under that microscope of doubt? Ignorance is not bliss as a Christian. It makes us weak as a community of believers. This is what my experience with my atheist husband is teaching me.