If you are driving along I-65 in Alabama headed towards Pensacola Beach, you’ll see this pleasant little sign right off the interstate. And no, I did not get creative with the graphics again. It’s real. Welcome to The Bible Belt.
I was born and raised in Mississippi and I grew up in a conservative, Southern Baptist family. The South is full of religion -mainly differing forms of Christianity. There is a church every 15-20 miles. While some church goers are genuine and accepting, others tend to think that their personal beliefs reign supreme. They think that they are right and anyone who believes otherwise is wrong. Please do not misunderstand. I am not bashing Christians. I have quite a few Christian friends who are wonderful people and respect all views…. but there are others.. and it is extremely unfair because the “others” make it really difficult for well meaning Christians.
Here are a few examples of the “others” I speak of. I have remained friends with a few of my classmates and we get along famously. I was also friends with a guy I “dated” in 7th grade. He was my very first boyfriend and my very first kiss. We got along well as adults. I was pleased to see him happy in life and I planned to attend his wedding until he deleted and blocked me on social media. Those are some extreme measures to take against someone. I must have done something horrible to him, right? If expressing how you view something is horrible, then I guess he was justified. I said that I believed hell was a state of mind and not some fiery inferno of an afterlife.
A couple of weeks later I was expressing relief and I said something like “thank you, Universe yada, yada” and one of my cousins corrected me… “What do you mean the universe Missy? We thank God, not the universe. “We” sounds like a lot of people doesn’t it? To me, God is the Universe but at the time I was still pretty timid and I think I just agreed with her but I wish I had been brave enough to stand my ground. Guess who is feeling braver these days? (It’s Me) I mean really… who do these people think they are? It has to take an enormous ego to believe you know the truth and are justified in forcing your truth on others.
I’m not religious. My views are more spiritual. I do not believe that God is some bearded dude living in the clouds but I would never dream of telling someone they are wrong to believe what they do. Our beliefs are shaped by our experiences and since we all experience life differently, we all have different beliefs. Beliefs can be so limiting. They can keep you trapped in unhealthy cycles. They can assure you spend your entire life with a closed mind and a closed heart. They can give you a superiority complex and prevent you from genuinely connecting with others. I talk more about how beliefs can hold us back HERE.
What really gets me is when someone tells me I should be in church. “Go to church or the devil will get you!” Scare tactics like that are one of the biggest issues I have with religion. My neighbor has a child around the same age as mine and when we bought this home, I suggested we get the children together for a play date. Later that day she sent me a message that was CLEARLY meant for someone else because in this message she was expressing that she did not want her little girl to play with my little boy because we are not a family involved in church. This part cracked me up: “…and I think they are atheist”. I replied and told her I wasn’t going to take it personally and she was entitled to her opinion and not to think we could not still be friends but it didn’t matter. Trips to the mailbox were pretty awkward after that.
I am not an atheist but there is nothing wrong with being an atheist. I have friends who are atheist. They are some of the most intelligent, kind hearted people I know. My parents made me go to church. My junior high school was a christian school. I am familiar with religion and I think the bible is full of wisdom as long as it is not taken out of context to suit an agenda. I can actually recite The Lord’s Prayer from memory. Another verse that comes to mind every time I am shamed for not attending church:
1Corinthians 6:19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God?
I don’t feel that I need to go some place outside of myself to experience God. Large crowds drain my energy. The bible suggests that I am the church. I know that to be true with all of my heart. God is in me. God is in everyone. I feel that truth in the calm stillness of my breath when my thoughts cease and I see it in the way the cycles of my body mirror the cycles of the moon. That is what is right for me. Regardless of what we think, what we believe, what we are so sure of, we do not know what is right for someone else.
If you are someone who has been bullied for your beliefs, stand firm. You are not wrong. Well, maybe you are but so are loads of other people. Be bold enough to be your own kind of wrong. If you are someone who tells others they should believe like you or someone who attempts to make others feel small because their form of worship is not exactly like yours, get your shit together. People like you distort the true message of Jesus Christ and make it very difficult for Christians who actually have their heart in the right place.
That’s all for now. Happy Sabbath Day! How about a song? No, not REM. That would be so expected.