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.