Let’s Talk About Religion

Time spent on the road in the Deep South, reading some of my reviews from Healing Faith, and sitting in an Inspirational Romance Author’s Seminar got me thinking.

About religion in general but also about how we as people interpret what is right and wrong based on the teachings of the Church or personal faith. This will end up being a few posts to blog about, as I know I can’t offer my thoughts in such a concise and tidy singular post.

Growing up in a very secular-minded household (an atheist father and an agnostic former Southern Baptist mother) it was my choice to determine where my faith came from. Our King James Bible sat beside the Unabridged Oxford Dictionary on a bookshelf- the fine leather trim a little intimidating for a young child to haul out and read. My sister found religion in high school and I remember stealing her demin-covered Bible (it was the late 70’s) to read, curious. One has to wonder if by stealing the Bible I damned myself- but I digress.

I was curious- and soon I found myself going to church with my best friend and her strict Polish Catholic family. I relished in the guilt and their structure- I wanted nothing more than to be baptised so that I could receive the blood and body of Christ and feel worthy (and perhaps wash away that sin of stealing my sister’s Bible). But growing up with a family that allows their children to question is both a blessing and a curse.

I found the Catholic’s beliefs were not enough to make me feel whole.

I tried Southern Baptist while I lived in the South. Too friendly for my reserved and private demeanor.

I tried Wicca. Because what is more powerful than the energy of the Earth? But still something was missing.

I tried Buddhism, Judaism, Taoism, and just about every hybrid New Age philosophy you can think of. Nothing seemed to fit what I searched for- what felt right for me. I am a logical person at heart, thanks to my atheist father. Was I doomed to be faithless because I had not been shown God at an early age? Made to believe back then?

Does the Bible not say to have faith? To love and open yourself to the Spirit, in whatever form it takes. It’s an age-old debate- who is the right religion? Wars have been fought for millennia over beliefs. Since the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, how many Christian religions have formed- similar yet different enough to warrant a separation amongst a billion Christians worldwide.

So here I sit- writing from a secular point of view about a religious community that little know anything about. A private people that interpret their Book quite literally- and yet still different from region to region. I wanted my book series for In Your World to be told in a more secular point of view- from the outside looking in, much as I have searched all my life. A person, Kate, looking to find something that has been missing in her life. What her interpretation of the Bible Nathan gives her must be- having never truly read it before. And how would Nathan learn to love an outsider that perhaps never experienced the will of God as the Amish believed.

Add to that the time of Nathan’s Rumspringa, a coming out and experimental phase in every young Amish person’s life- and you have a story full of testing faith, temptation and finding oneself. The point of Rumspringa is to show the Amish youth what it is they have with their tight knit and faithful community. Many experience the English world (and all its vices) and still they return to live amongst the Amish.

But you have to wonder- how much of the English world do they bring back with them. When their doors close from prying eyes, what do they do when they are alone?

Do they have secrets like us?

Do they have desires that are not specifically denied them in their book?

Do they forget everything they saw in the English world and go back to what they have always known?

Or do they interpret those experiences as moments that God wanted them to have, in order to be better Christians?

And who are we to judge what they do or do not? Who are we to purse our lips and shake our heads and say something that is said or done is not Godly? We will debate these issues for centuries. And my hope in writing is to illicit some thought on how we view things that may be foreign or possibly not fitting our own sacrosanct mold.

I am still searching- having even married a minister (who is also a Taoist)- I still find myself wondering. But I believe my eyes are open to interpretation- which may be my greatest weakness and strength. I have centuries of established faiths to challenge my views. Perhaps I take all the best parts of those religions with me as I search. I can only hope it is all enough to find peace and understanding. I have faith it is, because judging by the multitude of interpretations from scholars and theologians, even the Bible is open to interpretation.

In my next entry- I’ll chat about something that is not talked about in traditional Amish fiction…. but is clearly a part of my book- because it is a part of humanity, and my book was never really intended to fit the mold of traditional Amish Fiction- it just fell into that category because it centers around the Amish community, seen from a very secular point of view. It’s just how you do it…or how we don’t…do it in traditional Amish or Christian fiction. We’ll talk about what the Bible says about… sex… it deserves its own long post, based on some of the reviews for Healing Faith.

More soon!

-J

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4 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Religion

  1. Libbi Rock says:

    That was beautifully said. You have put into words what many feel but don’t know how to say. We are all on a journey. My own has been different yet the same. Raised strict Catholic, a teenager during the hippy years with all that entailed(drugs, sex, even a white witch). I became a Christian and went through many different beliefs within that system from cultish churches to loving family groups. But it has only been recently that I realized a different type of faith. When my husband of 38 years died 3 months ago eternity took on a whole new meaning. Missing him and knowing he is waiting for me made me look at things very differently. This song I have linked is my new anthem.
    Sorry to ramble on. It’s hard to vocalize what I feel to others. They don’t understand.

    MWAH,
    Libbi:(LiRock)
    http://www.godvine.com/Unforgettable-Speech-and-Song-by-Wynonna-Judd-fb-e5-gvx-523.html

    • Oh I just want to hug you and never stop Libbi. I am so sorry for your loss and can understand the way things change because of it. I can’t see my world without my husband- although we talk about it often since he is 15 years my senior and the first words out of his mouth when we started dating were “i’ve got maybe 5 years baby- are you sure you want this?” That was 13 years ago and he’s still going strong. I think that faith and love have kept him going- kept us going. Our faith in each other and that we are living for each other- our hearts are God. What comes next may be a mystery to most- but it is our belief and love that guides us to the next level.
      The Taoist belief is that God (or a supreme being) resides in us. When my husband told me this- all I could think of was the Footprints poem. God is with us. In whatever form we need him to be in. Inside, beside, all around. In the people we hold close, and the people we let go to continue their journey- to pave the way for us when it is our time to join them. Our hearts are true, and he is most definitely waiting.
      We can only imagine. Love to you my dear.
      MWAH!
      -J

  2. An amazing post! Can’t wait to read Part 2.

  3. NKubie says:

    I’m sorry it took so long for me to read this post, but I wanted to give it the time and attention it deserved.

    Faith and religion are such personal issues and to explore them with such open-mindedness is truly a gift, J. Many of us just follow whatever paths our parents have paved before us, often blindly. I feel like I too was one of the lucky one and chose my own path.

    Like Jesus, I was born a Jew, though my family (on both sides) weren’t all that “religious.” I had to take it upon myself to celebrate the high holidays with my friend who’s family kept a kosher household.

    Then one day, I then saw Jesus Christ Superstar on Broadway and it was like some kind of light bulb went on. I kept going on about this Jesus guy and do you know what he did?? My Jewish friends didn’t share my enthusiasm. By that point, my parents had divorced and my mother married a man who’s parents were Evangelical ministers. Talk about confusion. I was only 6 at the time.

    Through a variety of circumstances, my family ended up in Pennsylvania and having nothing to do on Sunday mornings, started joining my friend in Sunday school – she attended a Baptist church. I ended up getting my very first Bible for perfect attendance. And while that particular brand of Christianity didn’t quite fit, the ideas behind it did.

    Years and several states later, I was due to go through confirmation and it seemed like such a natural step for me. Of course I also had to get baptized first. I ended up becoming the first person in my family to formerly convert to being a Christian. My grandmother did not welcome that little revelation with open arms.

    While my faith is stronger now than it has ever been, I cherish the journey it took to get here. Mine wasn’t nearly as varied as yours, Jenn, but certainly just as life-changing.

    I think one of the reasons that I so enjoy Healing Faith is that I can witness a journey that is familiar to me. Coming from a family with little to no religious practices and finding a strong faith down a different path. Kate also finds a faith that strengthens her and it’s a path that she’s chosen, not led down by generations before her.

    Thank you for giving us such a strong heroine who honors family and faith and does so on her own terms!

    xo
    Nan

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