Forward: I wrote this a long time ago, and didn't publish because I hadn't reached that comfort level. I've been writing a lot of stuff since this about my growing faith and relationship with God, and I've decided it's time for me to take a step towards sharing a little bit of myself with the world. Not that anyone reads this, it's just the idea that somebody COULD, I guess, that has scared me.
I don't understand how anyone can use the Bible as a message of hate. When I think of the messages I've gotten from the Bible, I think of how I must love more, be more tolerant, be more open-minded and let others see the love of God through me. Although I strongly believe everyone is entitled to their own interpretation, when I hear of how people have used their faith to condemn others, to persecute homosexuals, or to shut themselves off from people of differing beliefs, I kind of wonder if they're reading the same words as me.
My religious journey has been tough, because my path has been filled with these people from the very beginning. Imagine how you would view Christianity if its only representatives in your life were hypocrites who wore big giant crosses around their necks, but who bullied and harassed others for seeing things differently. I think my reluctance to pursue their ideology is understandable.
It wasn't until I moved to Tennessee that my perception began to change. While I met a decent share of the same fundamentalist, hate-filled, hypocrites I had known before, I began to meet people who really made me wonder why I had disassociated myself with Christianity.
The first were my friends. I was attracted to this group of friends back in middle school because they seemed to see life in the same light that I did. They were smart, creative, and weren't afraid to be themselves. Our conversations were always intellectually stimulating and fascinating. But it wasn't until high school that we achieved the comfort level to really discuss our religious beliefs with each other. I was surprised to discover just how religious my friends were.
One of my music instructors also represented a drastic exception to my stereotype. I was initially uncomfortable with how he spoke so openly about his religious convictions. But as I got to know him better, I found him to be quite an inspirational person. Never have I met anyone where such tolerance and religious enthusiasm have coexisted so peacefully in the same person.
I continued to meet people who defied my expectations. Ministers, Born-Agains, Mormons, and Bible-thumping Baptists who would turn out to be unbelievably loving, understanding, and genuine.
My mom started to talk more about religion, too. I think she had been turned off of religion in the same way I'd been. But when we moved, she started saying that she regretted not raising me with a stronger religious foundation. We had a lot of conversations about our spirituality and relationship with God, conversations that helped me find clarity, and define my own beliefs.
I have realized that I can't let haters and elementary school bullies determine what Christianity is for me. Christianity, or any other religion, is what you make of it. And the Bible, as well as church communities, ministers, youth groups, and mission trips, are all just tools to help each of us find our own path to God. Because there are many.
As for me, I have let those people who made me question myself shape my definition of what it means to be Christian.