Sunday, August 14, 2011

Religion, part I

Since high school I have questioned my faith and grappled with the question: What do I believe? The Bible is a fantastic guide to living life richly and fully, but it's contents can be interpreted in so many different ways. It seems the different sects of Christianity have simply done their own picking and choosing of what to follow and what to leave behind as rules set for the time when the Bible was written. Now, I don't question my faith in the sense that I wonder if there really is a God, was Jesus our savior, or other such major points that come with Christian faith. What I question about my faith is what sect does it really fit into, and can you really just take parts of the Bible to follow or is there a way to apply it's teachings to the world today.
The questioning began when my teen group friends suggested I run for secretary, treasurer, vice president and finally president of the whole group. This seemed a natural progression for me, as I have always enjoyed leading a group and the responsibilities that come with the position. However, I was shocked to learn that I, being a young woman in the church, would have to wait for approval from our pastor before I could actually act as president. After having studied feminism in history classes, and finding my passion for leadership growing from previous activities, I could not believe that someone who has shown her capabilities would have to actually wavit for approval, even after being unanimously elected. This was just the first shock.
I soon learned that, although every member of the church has their own ideas about what should happen next for the church, only the male members are allowed to vote. The thought is that a husband and wife must come up with a single decision together on how to vote, and then the man will take that vote to the meeting. But, what if you are a single woman in the church? It's as if they're forcing you to find a man to speak for you. What if you and your husband have very different ideas on the matter at hand? Well, his idea will get voted, but not hers. I get what the church is trying to do and say, but I disagree as well as, in this day and age, women are running their own companies, they are managing teams, and voting throughout the world. It seems so antiquated and unjust to disallow a person her voice. In any other institution, this would be fought.
This was my first issue with the church and part of my reason for leaving (the other part is personal, but not needed for this discussion) after my first year of college. It boils down to me becoming a liberal and being open to many more ideas and people than the church had allowed me to be open to while a part of it. I should say that 'the church' is specifically the WELS Lutheran Church. I do appreciate my chatechism and the things I learned about my religion, it's history, as well as the execution of the beliefs, but I also find it so limiting. After a recent conversation about religion with some family, I realized that through this church, I have never had a relationship with God, and have instead only feared Him. Though I do pray daily, and repent as well, it most definitely has been out of fear. Fear of judgement, wrath, consequences in the eyes of others.
Since leaving the WELS, I have visited many other churches, hoping for a specific fit where I can have that relationship with God. Through my religious upbringing, I find the new age song and dance too flashy and showy and crave the traditional liturgy that the WELS offered. So recently, when I thought I had found my fit in a Missouri Synod Lutheran Church, my joy turned to dismay as a new pastor began to change the traditional Lutheran liturgy to more of a Catholic service. Having moslty grown up Christian, and especially WELS, this did not sit well with me. I do believe one should not worship with a group that does not represent one's own faith. And, as I am not Catholic, I have a hard time saying prayers and other parts of worship that are part of the Catholic faith. Sadly, I soon left this church too.
My search continues for the perfect Christian church for me. One that incorporates my craving of traditional liturgy with my liberal ideals. As time goes on, I actually feel stronger in my faith and more convicted in my beliefs and how I let them guide me through life. There was a time when I was afraid to say what church I was going to as I knew my parents or other family would not approve, their fear being that I had lost my faith as I was not a part of a WELS church any longer. But now, I know that the church I choose will be perfect for me as it is one I chose, not another person. When I find it, I'll be satisfied spiritually and really be able to begin my relationship with God. But then, am I really finding the church? Or is the church finding me? Everything happens for a reason, and I know I am being guided in some way. That guide can only be God, as He knows how I will best have a relaitionship with Him. I just hope that church finds me sooner than later as I continue to travel through the adventures of life, reaching more and more people. I want to be able to talk about my faith comfortably, doing God's work every day, especially as I enter the medical field. Because, thanks to my faith and the qualities God has blessed me with, I got a lotta love to give.