Are You There God? It's Me Linda
Raised as a Catholic, I somehow smelled hypocrisy in the pews at a very early age. I would watch as people filed in week after week, said the same things, sang the same songs, made the sign of the cross, and then filed back out into the world where they proceeded to act in pretty un-Christian ways. As if that weekly wafer cleansed them of the past week�s sins.
I knew neighbors who stood proudly beside their dressed up spouses and children during Mass and who hit those same wives and children once they were back home. I knew adults who shook hands with strangers on Sundays, but were the biggest bigots and racists during the workweek. Even in my own home, the adults did not quite practice what was preached. Many unjust punishments and brutal tirades occurred in the shadow of the crucifix on our wall.
I never really understood people going to a priest for pre-marriage or marriage counseling either. I mean, why go listen to someone who has no practical understanding of the subject matter? A single, celibate man as your guide to and through one of life�s biggest commitments? OK, OK, maybe "celibate" is not quite accurate, in light of the number of molestation charges being leveled...
Once I got out into the world, I studied various religions. I went to many different types of services, tagged along with friends to Bible Study groups, asked questions and always came away with the same thought: "Organized religion just is not for me."
It seems I have a low tolerance for people with low tolerances, and the lowest are found within organized religions - Catholic, Baptist, Protestant, Pentacostal, Mormon, Islam, you name one, it is included.
Within each faith, is the belief that they are the only ones who are doing it "right". That everyone else is praying wrong, believing wrong, praying to the wrong one, believing in the wrong one. So as much as a religion may preach a "Love thy neighbor" message, the followers only embrace those neighbors who are just like themselves. Anyone believing, thinking, dressing or acting differently is suspect, frightening. As if being friends with someone not of your particular faith, taints you in some way. That it weakens your beliefs to befriend someone not of your order.
Personally, I think that is a pretty dangerous, tunnel visioned way to live.
That is why I do not attend any church. I do not believe I need an appointment to talk with God. I do not believe that I must be surrounded by 300 other people in order for my voice to be heard. Much like the young girl in Are You There God? It's Me Margaret, I tend to talk to Him all the time about whatever is on my mind. I believe He listens, pew or no pew. I do not believe God is keeping track and giving out gold stars for perfect attendance.
Do I believe He is watching? You bet I do.
I believe He is watching how I live my life. I believe He is concerned with the content of my heart, the strength of my character. I believe He watches how we treat one another in this world. I believe He hangs His head at how far we have not come. And as I watch the news each day, I believe that Hell may not be large enough to house all those who surely hold reservations.
I am raising three daughters in a world where inhumanity, terror and death are on full display daily. I am parenting children through a new Millennium in which the only thing that is certain is uncertainty. So I am teaching them that what counts is inside a person. That they choose their friends based on behavior, not bias. That good people come in every shape, size, religion and color. And that bad people come in just as many hues and flavors.
I am also teaching them about God. Not religion. God.
Our discussions lead to some very thought provoking questions, like this one; When discussing Noah and the circumstances surrounding the rains, my daughter wondered out loud, "When you look at the world today, what do you suppose those people could have possibly done that is worse than what we are doing now?"
Are you there God? It�s me, Linda and I was wondering if Home Depot has supplies for an Ark?
� Linda Sharp
Linda Sharp is an internationally recognized author/columnist. Enjoy her latest book, Stretchmarks On My Sanity and find out more about Linda at Linda Sharp