When I was very young, I was told that the church was a crucial thing in my life. But, at the same time, my parents seldom went there themselves. Instead, they dropped us off at the front door. I was, for a while, an altar boy in a Catholic Church. The first seven grades I was taught by Franciscan Nuns.
Being part of church, I was told that I had to believe certain things. Those “things” would constantly change, depending on what particular church I was going to. When I was in Catholic school in the 1950s I was taught that only Catholics would be in heaven as all the other churches were not really religions. The statement of “only Catholics” bothered me greatly, even at that early age. Another thing I was told constantly was that Jesus loves everyone. But, when I heard that so many people were dying from hunger, I wondered why his church didn’t give all those people food instead of building all those huge church buildings throughout the landscape? None of that made any sense to me, so soon after we moved just before eighth grade, I stopped going to church. I later learned that why I was no longer going to a Catholic school was primarily because dad just couldn’t afford the tuition.
Several years later, my future wife wanted to get married in the church of her youth, so we joined a Lutheran Church. Of course, the rules and beliefs were quite different from the church I once attended. I found out that my new church believed that what you do in this life really doesn’t matter, what matters is that you believe the “right” things. My new church seemed to take two lines out of the Bible and basically disregarded the rest.
To make my wife happy, I basically shut my brain off and kept my mouth shut about these types of things. I stayed in that mode for almost 20 years. I realized that church was more of a “country club” than a place to do what Jesus said. But, then I did something foolish, I read the Bible from cover to cover four times over a four-year period. I won’t bore you with the details, but after that four-year period, I could no longer keep my mouth shut. Asking too many of the “wrong” questions got me in trouble and eventually being told that I had to leave.
Now on to my post-church life
I discovered something wonderful when I left the church behind and decluttered my spiritual life, I have come to realize that God is over all and through all and in all. This, and the idea of being a follower of the teachings of Jesus, has now become my daily reality.
God is in the gentle breeze as it caresses my face, the sun as it warms my skin, and the first mouthful of a delicious meal, and stories that people tell. The church does not have a monopoly on the sacred. I no longer rely on of a pastor, priest, or minister to tell me what to believe. I looked into my soul for God and have found him on a level I never dreamed possible. My spiritual life is no longer a “country club” thing, but is, instead, something now very personal to me.
Don’t get me wrong; there is a place for spiritual leadership, but not at the expense of personal responsibility for one’s own spiritual life. When you walk away from the church and start making friends with people who are not part of the ‘in-crowd,’ you discover something wonderful. You learn that there is inherent value and beauty in people who are not part of the ‘in-crowd.’ You discover that you can learn from them as well. You see the image of God imprinted on the life of every human being, not just the “elect”. In fact, you learn that non-Christians are just as nice as Christians and, often, much nicer.
3 thoughts on “What Happened When I Finally Gave Up Church?”
I’m always interested in how people were trained on the religion front, and how their life journey changes their perspective. On Krista Tippett’s podcast, On Being, she often starts by asking her guest what their spiritual upbringing was, and it’s always fascinating to hear. Thanks for sharing this. (Most of the more orthodox religions don’t seem to take well to a lot of questioning. 🤪)
So true, Laurel. To most religions you are supposed to be the receiver of information about life and not the giver. The “slippery slope” simply doesn’t allow them to concede anything beyond their fundamental beliefs. Each seems to think they are the only path to God.
To me God is beyond any human comprehension, so to try to define her is beyond our human capabilities.