I’ve mentioned on this blog before that I am a loud and proud Baha’i. Sure, I’m not perfect, but I do the best I can. And I absolutely love the community. I’m terrible with names, and it doesn’t always help that a good number of them are Persian names I can barely pronounce as is, but I’ve made a lot of good friends within the community. I really feel like I belong here. I tell my story of how I came to the faith, and everybody loves it. I read from the Braille book, and I get complemented on my reading of the prayer as opposed to being patronized for being able to read Braille. I’ve only been a registered Baha’i for a year, and I’ve been reading and learning about it for two years, but I feel like I belong here. Which is more than I could ever say about Christianity.
For the longest time, my parents tried to raise me Presbyterian. When you live out in Western Kansas in a day and age when the internet was either nonexistent, or accessed through slow-ass 56K motems that required phone lines, your only real choices for religion were either Catholicism, or Presbyterianism. And in more recent years, a Church of Latter Day Saints appears to have shown up… Or maybe it was always there, and my parents tried stearing me away from them thar creepy fucking Mormon folk. I don’t know why my family picked Presbyterianism, aside from the fact my maternal grandparents were Presbyterians, and that’s just what you do.
I went to church, I attended Sunday school, and I even went to church banquits with my mom, dad, and grandparents on both sides. And I absolutely hated virtually every minute of it.
I’m not going to denounce Jesus as some sort of false prophet, or go on a rant about how my religion is superior. Baha’is actually hold a lot of the prophets (Jesus, Muhammad, Zoroaster, Buddha, etc) in very high regard. Really, in a way, they were all talking about the same god, and preaching the same message in their own unique way. Baha’i, to me, is a lot like uniterianism. Except unlike uniterians, we actually have our shit together and know what the hell we want to do instead of creating some hippy-dippy neoliberal feel-good-religion.
I will say this much for my years as a Presbyterian, though: I didn’t feel like I belonged. If anything, I felt like I was being held hostage.I woke up on Sunday, put on a nice shirt and slacks (thankfully, Presbyterianism doesn’t require a suit and tie), and went through the motions. I attended Sunday school when I was a wee little boy, and got nothing out of it other than ideas for parody lyrics to some of the songs the Sunday school teacher had us sing. I attended services with mom and dad, and smuggled in notebooks and markers so I could doodle something while the reverend droned on about how I was ultimately going to hell. I attended a Christian summer camp in seventh grade, and the only positive memories I have of that entire time were talking pro-wrestling with a fellow mark, and going to the nurse’s office: the only building on the entire campground that had air conditioning. I attended youth groups in high school, and the only good memory I had was when a relatively attractive girl ended up sitting in my lap for a moment. Something to do with the game we were playing, and the penalty for losing was you had to sit on the lap of the person next to you, but that’s all I remember. I went to a Christian weekend retreat with other high school kids, and I and a couple other kids spent most of the time hiding out in the boys bunk listening to each other’s death metal albums on a stereo one of the other kids smuggled in. Keep in mind, iPhones and sharing shit over WiFi didn’t exist yet, and we still had to sneak actual CDs in, so this was a pretty impressive accomplishment. But I digress.
Basically, the point I’m trying to make is that I fucking hated my time in Christianity. I may’ve been a Presbyterian, but I quickly figured out your denomination was a classic “Six in one, half a dozen in the other” sort of situation. It astounds me there’s so many dinominations. In fact, there’s even dinominations within dinominations! Not only are there Presbyterians, but there’s also “Reformist Presbyterians” (which basically meant vote George W. Bush or fuck off near as I could tell), “Bible Presbyterians” (No idea), and I’m pretty sure there’s a group called “Heartland Presbyterians” out there too. Although that could just be the name of the church. Either way, there’s so much division and in-fighting when it comes to Christianity that it amazes me that the religion as a whole hasn’t imploded in on itself yet! And that’s just the Presbyterians! I hate to see what the Baptists, the Lutherans, the Seven Day Adventists, and god only knows whatever other ones have to put up with.
I dreaded Sundays for the longest time. All I wanted to do was sleep in, play whatever video game I’d rented that weekend, catch WWF Sunday Night Heat (back when that was around, and actually affected the main story)… Shit, I’d have even preferred doing homework! Anything but another fucking church service.
During my high school years, my parents also insisted on dragging me to the service that featured a “rockband”. Okay, even as a dumbass fifteen-year-old, I knew better than to expect a band the church put together to bust out some Slayer, or some Dimmu Borgir. Hell, maybe even Papa Roach would’ve been too much to ask for. But oh my god I hate Christian music! You have no idea how much I hate Christian music.
A lot of Christian acts that were popular in my day were, at best, knockoffs of bands that… In some cases might not have aged all that well nowadays (cough Puddle of Mud cough cough), but even if they DID age poorly, they were still better than their Christian counterparts. Largely because I found Christian music to be the single most patronizing dribble ever.
“What will people do when they find out I’m a Jesus freak. What will people do when they find out it’s true?”
Well if you lived in Kansas, they’d probably pat you on the back and welcome you into the fold with open arms. It’s when you decide to be an atheist, or an agnostic, or a wiccan, or a Linkin Park fan when you need to worry about people persecuting you, teasing you, bullying you, calling you a faggot, etc. True, you’re probably not going to get nearly as much of that out in KC (the beautiful blue sapphire in one of the reddest red states to ever red), but I felt more unwelcome and unwanted pretending to be a Christian than I ever did openly declaring I was an agnostic.
I went through Confirmation like a good little Presbyterian boy. Which basically meant on top of Algebra homework I had no hope of understanding, and reading a book for English class I had no interest in reading because of its distinct lack of light sabers and jedi superpowers, now I had to read the fucking Gospel of Luke from start to finish as well. And I went through the whole thing less than half-hearted. I’m pretty sure my counselor during the entire time was aware of it, too. It was mathematically impossible for me to calculate how much of a fuck I didn’t give about any of this.
I always referred to my confirmation as my “shotgun confirmation”. The reverend would do his usual routine where he would ask all the sixteen and seventeen-year-olds if they would continue to follow in the footsteps of their forefathers and honor and live by the teachings of Jesus Christ. When it came time for me to answer, I could practically hear the shotgun being cocked behind me as the voice murmured in my ear “Well? Do you, boy?” Everybody’s parents are in the audience, and my grandparents were there with my parents. Did they really expect me to say no?
I went through those years trying to relate to that crowd. For a while, I actually wished the stockholme syndrome would finally kick in so this wouldn’t be so torturous. But it never did. At absolute best, I’d come to the conclusion that not EVERYTHING in Christianity was nonsense, but a lot of the “turning water to wine” and “turning a fish and a loaf of bread into a banquit” was either incredibly clever metaphors that didn’t translate from Lattin to English so good, or a little thing the legal world calls “heresay”.
Strangely, by the time I was seventeen, my parents seemed to finally give up. I think a lot of it was because seventeen to nineteen were my wiccan years. Believe me, that deserves an article all on its own right there, but I digress. It could also have been because I’d gone through confirmation, and now that I was confirmed, there was no longer that sense of urgency. “Yeah he’s not going to church nearly as often, but he’s confirmed Presbyterian now. So fuck it, he’ll outgrow this Wiccan shit and want to go with us to heaven.”
As disjointed and all over the place as this all sounds, this was literally my time as a Christian in review. If you’re a Christian, and it’s working out great for you, then fine. I’m not out to convert anyone to my way of thinking, I’m not here to sell you Baha’i (I’m pretty sure we have a commandment against that sort of recruitment tactic in fact). Really, as long as you aren’t some gay hating abortion clinic bomber who lets the bible do one-hundred percent of the thinking for you, we’ll probably be able to have halfway decent conversations about literally everything else. Really, all I’m saying is that I’m pretty much done with Christianity, and no amount of Pope Francis or legalized marijuana is going to change that.