I’ve never been a churchgoer, and over the past few years, I’ve developed somewhat of a negative relationship with organized religion. For the most part, I’ve seen it as a means to control others; I’ve viewed it as a set of rigid rules that people are asked to follow, in an effort to prolong what really is a finite existence in this world. Recently, however, my stance has softened a bit.
We’re all scared. That’s really what it is, and we try to find whatever solace we can to cope with the fact that we’re all terrified of this finite existence in which we are placed. We think we don’t want things to end; we think we don’t want life to end. In this recent version of myself, I think I believed that this was the only reason for religion. People used it to help alleviate this fear of termination, but I’m starting to see that there’s more to it than that.
Tonight, I sang at a Christmas Eve Mass in my hometown, which was, once again, an absolutely stunning display of music and spirituality. Note: I did not use the word “religion;” instead, I used the word “spirituality,” because that is precisely what it was. The pastor’s message tonight had little to do with rule-following or religious doctrine. Rather, his words preached empathy and love for one another, for the strength to trust ourselves and to accept love into our lives–because for love to survive, it not only needs to be spread, but also received. And the only way that it can be received is by releasing the fear of not being loved, and accepting the certainty that each of us deserves to be loved. Best of all, his words were passionate and genuine, neither contrived nor manufactured. They seemed from the heart.
In my softening towards religion, I’ve started to look upon the Bible and its contents (of which I really know very little about) as stories meant to send a universal message, meant to help us see parts of ourselves, empathize, and try to be better people. It has helped me to really gain something out of the times when I do find myself inside a place of worship, and at times, it makes me want to go back. And that’s really all that a good story is about. In essence, it is irrelevant whether these Biblical stories are true or not. They’re simply meant to teach us something–and not something literal like gay is bad, slavery is good, or that getting married and having children is the only way to live a fulfilled life–no, it’s meant to teach us how to overcome our fears, be kind and compassionate towards others, and do what’s good for the greater good. It’s meant to teach us something more universal.
Tonight’s message left me feeling peaceful, because I started to more so understand the idea of unconditional love. The pastor mentioned how God loves, and not for any reason–just because he does. Now, I’m not a big believer in the Big Man, but I like to think of “Him” as a metaphorical being–maybe like the sum of all of our individual energies or the entirety that is the vast expanse of the universe. Because we play an integral role in this complex system, it wants us to succeed. It loves us for no reason other than the fact that we exist, because we are simultaneously an insignificant and necessary part of the system. Without us, it is likely the system will fill in the gaps and adapt, but with us, the system is forever changed. Each interaction we have changes the system, having ripple effects that are most likely incomprehensible to any of us.
I left tonight feeling loved and feeling important… and for nothing I did or said–really for no reason at all.
Just because I’m here. And it felt good.