reappropriate

Monday, September 05, 2005

A Heathen Goes to Church

Yesterday morning, I agreed to go with my pimp friend and his girlfriend to church. It was a one time thing, my spirituality is ephemeral and not well-defined, and my anti-establishment tendancies don't meld very well with organized religious services. That being said, from time to time, I enjoy attending church with friends, if only to get an insight into their experiences and faith. It does nothing for me on a spiritual level, but I go as a respectful observer and an outsider. Most of my church attendances have been to Baptist churches; electroman's family is Baptist, as was my pimp friend and his girlfriend. Yesterday, the girlfriend took us to her family church, a small Baptist ministry that she had been attending for years. The congregation consisted of less than thirty people, and I was one of a minority of non-black attendees. I always feel a little lost during services. I never try to sing along with the hymns. There's something disrespectful, I think, of feigning faith if I don't have it (and besides, I can't sing a song I don't know), but at the same time, I do bow my head in prayer when asked to. I don't want other attendees to feel I'm thumbing my nose at their God by refusing to respect the moments when they try to talk to him. I've always made a habit of offering something when the collection plate is passed around. I blog about this because I feel the tension between the atheist/agnostics and the religious has always been more palpable than amongst the differing religious faiths. I've always felt that we atheist/agnostics/pagans who don't believe in a monotheistic, recognizably JudeoChristian or organized religion are written off as trying to disrespect religion by our own beliefs. And this isn't without a certain grain of truth: some of the atheists I've met have vocalized an appalling disrespect for religion. I, too, agree that religions like Christianity are too ingrained in secular American culture. I, too, believe strongly in the separation of church and state, and that many crimes of hatred and intolerance have been committed in the name of Jesus Christ. But, as with all oppressions, bigotry cannot be fought with bigotry. Just as religious people generalize atheists as God-hating intellectual snobs, many atheists call the religious folk stupid, hateful and exclusionary. Even last night, when I attended a dinner with a group of lab technicians and professors, when the discussion turned to politics, these liberal-minded academics were less than tolerant of religion. While I'm not saying the liberal secularists are incorrect in their desire to separate church and state, I believe it must be possible to foster a multireligious society in which we respect religious beliefs that are not our own. Atheists must recognize that a belief in God, in and of itself, is not an indication of ignorance, and just with cultural practices we don't understand or agree with, there must still be a respect for that difference. By the same token, the reverse must be true for the religious folk: just because I reject organized religion doesn't mean that I either need to be converted, nor that my rejection is an indication of snobbery or intolerance of your religion. Then again, religion doesn't exist in a vacuum. Yesterday, while I attended service, one woman kept turning and staring at me; it was obvious she thought I, as an Asian American woman, had no business being in her predominently African American church. Another woman stood up during testimonial time and commented on the hurricane situation, stating, essentially, that "for all the non-blacks in the room", the hurricane was unacceptable; implying that I and the two Latinos in the room could not and would not empathize with the death of thousands of poor blacks. Her statement made me feel exceptionally ostracized. The other day, electroman and I were discussion race as it intersects with class. As with that situation, religious oppression gets infinitely more complicated when other oppressions are mixed in. Even though church is meant to be a welcoming experience in which all people are made equal under the eyes of God, racial difference could not be ignored. It makes me wonder if this idealistic society I've just described in which we respect and still maintain difference is possible. I wonder if human nature is incapable of respecting real difference without drawing lines in the sand.

1 Comments:

Blogger phillyjay said...

"Even last night, when I attended a dinner with a group of lab technicians and professors, when the discussion turned to politics, these liberal-minded academics were less than tolerant of religion.

While I'm not saying the liberal secularists are incorrect in their desire to separate church and state, I believe it must be possible to foster a multireligious society in which we respect religious beliefs that are not our own. Atheists must recognize that a belief in God, in and of itself, is not an indication of ignorance, and just with cultural practices we don't understand or agree with, there must still be a respect for that difference. By the same token, the reverse must be true for the religious folk: just because I reject organized religion doesn't mean that I either need to be converted, nor that my rejection is an indication of snobbery or intolerance of your religion."

Both groups just don't mesh well.Like you said they are both culturally different.For a lot of people on both sides it's hard to respect someones difference.Especially when that difference is seen as sinful/ignorant in your culture.

"Even though church is meant to be a welcoming experience in which all people are made equal under the eyes of God, racial difference could not be ignored. It makes me wonder if this idealistic society I've just described in which we respect and still maintain difference is possible. I wonder if human nature is incapable of respecting real difference without drawing lines in the sand."


The whole issue with race and church has been something that has bothered me a lot, especially when I use to attend church.And when you mix in something like homosexuality, there is just no way around that sort of divide.It's suppose to be a place were all are welcomed, but only to a degree(like most groups).Plus, unless you eventually convert, the church won't be that welcoming of you in the end.I learned that the hard way.I think in general it is human nature to not truly respect differences without drawing lines in the sand.Individually it's possible to do it, but not as a whole.

9/05/2005 09:33:00 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home