Last November, we asked a member of our court to converse with us about her beliefs, what they were and how she came to them. This is a second conversation of (we hope) many open talks with family and friends on this topic. This conversation is with a faithful commenter, Bekki.
How would you describe your faith?
I don’t like labels, generally, so when I have to label something about myself, I find it helps to hyphenate and/or condense into acronym. I think I can say (at least for today, anyway) that I am a Secular Humanist/Non-Theist who also happens to be a member of a Unitarian Universalist community. So…Sec-Hu-Athiest-UU. (Or, perhaps, since the word “atheist” has become so fraught with baggage these days, how about “SHNUU”.) Hee. I kinda like that. People often ask me what “secular humanist” means. I tell them it means I don’t believe in god, but I do believe in people.
Were you raised in this faith? If not, how did you find your way to where you are now?
Wow! That’s a huge question! 😉
I come from a long, long line of right-wing Christians. My grandpa on my dad’s side was a fire-and-brimstone, Bible-thumping, black&white-thinking, Church of Christ preacher. He was very well known in the area where I grew up (in the Ozark mountains of Missouri). When he would preach somewhere, it was considered a big event; scores of folks from surrounding counties would come to hear him. (I remember looking out the back window at the line of cars following us to the cemetery after his funeral. I never did see the end of the line. They just kept coming.)
As a kid, I loved going to the little Bible classes and learning the stories. I loved the social aspect of church. I loved singing, especially with my mom, who had a great voice. Yes…that was my favorite part; singing harmony with my mom on those wonderful old gospel hymns. We still do that together, whenever we can.
The summer before high school, my family moved to Texas, to a large town near Austin. We tried attending the Church of Christ in our new town, but it was very different. Way more liberal than we were used to. How was this the same church I had attended since birth? Where was the fire and brimstone? It kinda spun me about. I had been taught that there was ONE way. Obviously, there was not, not even within the same church. And my move from rural America to an urban city had its influence, as well, since those areas tend to be more liberal-thinking, in general. Finally overcome with confusion and disenchantment, I stopped going to church at age 16. Teen years being what they usually are for everyone, I questioned everything and resented everyone. I made up my mind that religion was ridiculous and vowed to shun it entirely. Anything that remotely resembled religion or mysticism after that was highly suspect. Total hokum, not worth my time.
Once I started college, my religious education *really* began…I was a voice performance major in the School of Music, and students like me were regularly tapped for church choir gigs in town. I did not want to set foot in a church, but I needed the money! It was difficult, at first, to participate (however marginally) in services for a religion I felt zero connection to, and it was strange to witness the odd differences in traditions from one church to the next. (The very concept of a church choir was foreign to me, even.) But the people were always nice, and the excellent music programs kept me coming back for more gigs. Over time, through an attitude of “providing a service”, my resentment toward organized religion gradually tempered. Now, after providing soloist/section leader services for the past 20 years to many, many different kinds of churches, I can say I have a vastly more well-rounded concept of organized religion, in general, and Christian religious traditions, specifically. I value greatly the education I’ve received in service to these folks.
My journey within the UU community is much more recent, but it began several years ago with another lovely singing job. I was *not* looking for a “church home” (I cannot even say the word “church”; I still find it grating and abrasive). I suppose, though, that it’s when one is not looking for something that one tends to find it. In providing soloist services for the UU community, I found a number of pleasant surprises; beyond the richly diverse music program (extremely satisfying to me as a professional vocalist), I also discovered a brilliant lecturer and a community of humanists who champion the same social causes I believe in. I found that you can believe or not believe, as you see fit, because it’s your own personal journey and that is highly respected, and no one there would dream of telling you you’re going to Hell because you don’t believe the way they do. I found a group of folks who, like me, were running from the oppressive right wing of Christianity, and landed at UU because of its openness. Eventually, even when I wasn’t scheduled to sing I started attending some of the Sunday morning lectures (I can’t say the word “sermon”, either) because they were on topics like the social evolutionary connection between humans and bonobos, the history of Buddhism, the meaning of the yin-yang principle and how it applies to politics, the art of “letting go”, the historical and anthropological origins of evangelicalism…It was all very tasty stuff. At first I just joined the choir, and started providing soloist services for free, but then after singing there for several years, I realized I felt a profound sense of belonging. So about a year ago I officially joined. Now, instead of just providing my professional services to a group with whom I have no connection, I actually participate emotionally in the services when I’m there.
I have a very hard time telling people “I belong to a church”. But I guess I’m getting there.
This is a rich story! Thanks for sharing it. I think you’ve covered quite a bit of ground in your last response.
What advise would you give to someone who is struggling with the faith they were “raised” in? You had the strength to follow a different path. Where did that strength come from?
Ooh. “The strength to follow a different path.” That’s fascinating. I don’t even it’s ever occurred to me to think of it in those terms. I just did what I had to, because I needed a change, and I didn’t think about it much. I suppose I’d have to credit my parents for certain things, though.
I credit my mother with nurturing my creative thinking. I’m not too humble to say I excel at creative problem-solving. If there’s a way it can be done, I will find it and I will make it happen.
I credit my *father*, on the other hand, with my growing up a bull-headed, belligerent, rebellious, combative antagonist. That was all my dad’s doing. We were always butting heads. And although I am infinitely more tempered now in my older age, I still pretty much get what I want.
So, faced with disappointment and needing a change, I guess I just rebelled and got creative to find something that worked for me. (How ironic that the people who were the most distressed about my decision to leave religion were the very ones who’d taught me the skills I needed to do so!)
Thanks so much for your time and thoughtful responses, Bekki!
Have any of you had similar experiences? Is the faith that fits you vastly different from the faith you were taught as a child? Would other loyal subjects like to share his or her faith journey with the princesses (and their readers)?