August 31, 2010

Queer Issue: My experiences with religion.

When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, sir.’* And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.’ John 8:10-11, New Revised Standard Version

Everyone has a different experience with religion, this post is going to be about mine.

When I was a child, I attended regularly the services at the Otego United Methodist Church. In 6th grade, I was confirmed as a member and continued attending until around my senior year of high-school. I then started attending, the youth services at a local Baptist Church. At one point, someone suggested that the Oneonta Unitarian Universalist Society would be a good choice for me. I have now been in regular attendance at the UU's religious services ever since.

When I was attending the Methodist Church, the minister that was there for most of my adolescence was Pastor Fred Albrecht or as most people called him, Pastor Fred. To put it bluntly, there are few people out there who had the kind of deep impact on my life that Pastor Fred had on me. I do not hold the religious beliefs that I had as a child, I don't call myself a Christian (but rather would describe my religious beliefs as Agnostic. However, the impact of his teachings and the example he set, had a fundamental and significant impact on my deeply held moral compass.

I remember that Pastor Fred's services often placed Biblical stories and lessons in a historical context. Something I found interesting and useful for understanding what was really going on in a particular story. For the most part, the emphasis was placed on parables such as that of the good Samaritan or the stories from the Old Testament. The "Rule Books" - Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy - were never really covered in sermons or Sunday school

I can recall that intolerance and bigotry were to be considered among the lowest forms of evil and that helping others were to be considered among the greatest goods. If people disagreed with you, you should still show respect for their beliefs, was a lesson I learned over and over again in sunday school.

It therefore came as somewhat as a shock to me, as I grew up, to discover that not all people who fell under the Christian umbrella felt that way. Finding out that there were those who used faith and religion to promote bigotry and discrimination came as something of a shock to me. Coming out to Pastor Fred was easy, coming out to the reverend at the Baptist Church was... a different matter. Churches that used Biblical passages to condemn GLBTQA individuals were so far removed from the church that I had been raised in, that I had trouble reconciling the two different versions of Christianity that seemed to exist.

While over time, I came to question the faith that I had been raised in, turning eventually to a position that abandons faith altogether, I believe that there is no reason to abandon moral principles. I cannot say what true Christianity is all about, but those who hide behind the Bible while promoting fear of those who are different are so far removed from the Christianity that I grew up with, that I almost hesitate to use the term. It also really, really bothers me, when I hear queer individuals express contempt of Christians (or religion of general) and lump all people of faith with those few who promote fear and hatred.

In any case, that is my experience and views on religion. I'm always curious as to what other peoples opinions and experiences are when it comes to religion and GLBTQA individuals.

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