You’re religious?

When we were young Rene’ and I attended both the Catholic and the Lutheran Churches. He was Catholic and I was Lutheran. We really enjoyed the Catholic Priest at the Italian Catholic church. He was reminiscent of Father Guido Sarducci, a character created by comedian Don Novello, who appeared on Laugh-In, The Smothers Brothers and SNL. When it was time for Britt to go to Sunday school we went full on Lutheran. Rene was what we referred to as a C & E Catholic. He went to church at Christmas and Easter. Actually maybe just Christmas. My family were full on, card carrying Lutherans who never missed a Sunday or a potluck. Basically Rene’ was baptized catholic and then… you know… nothing. Me? It didn’t even occur to me to ask to stay home from church on a Sunday. It just wasn’t done. I was teaching Sunday school by age fifteen and my first stint on the Church bcouncil was when I was twenty. Hard to believe right?

So many people are surprised when they find out about my background. They can’t believe I am “religious”. They always say it like its a dirty word. I wouldn’t say I’m religious but Webster’s dictionary says a religious person is someone who manifests devotion to a deity. So basically someone who has a clear dedication and following to a God. Is that me? Is it clear? Obviously not or people wouldn’t be so surprised that I am “religious”. I do believe in God and I have never questioned whether or not there is a God. I just believe it to be true. Sometimes people try to trip me up by making odd statements. They want me to defend my belief system. I am not an apologist. These are people who defend the idea of God or religion with historical arguments, philosophical ideas, legal, moral, and scientific thoughts and even those who prophesize. They have been around forever. Basically they defend their belief system with arguments. Its just not my way. I like GK Chesterton, a more modern Christian apologist, mainly because I like to read mysteries and he wrote the Father Brown books. Blaise Pascal was a mathematician whose arguments came to be known as Pascal’s Wager. Now this is a guy I can get behind. In short, we are betting that there is a God. We live a life of piety and goodness with the hopes of being rewarded in the after life. Spending eternity with God. If there is a God terrific. We win the bet. If there isn’t a God, then we have lost nothing. We were good people and tried to live a good and honest life. We die and that’s it. End of story But so what? Not a bad ending right? So for this argument alone I can’t believe people would risk it. I just don’t get it when they don’t. As for me, my belief system is based on faith and faith alone. Nothing to defend or argue about. I will not be swayed so you can “what if” me to death. I believe there is a God. I believe Jesus of Nazareth was his son. I believe the Holy Spirit dwells within me and leads me to God. The holy trinity. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Three persons in one God. I don’t defend it, I just believe it.

There are those who call themselves Spiritual as opposed to Religious. I’m not sure that’s me either. I’m not even sure I know what it means. I don’t know if most people who consider themselves spiritual, really know what they are chosing. Again I am sure the meaning of the word has changed over the years. I have heard people say they are not religious but that they consider themselves to be spiritual. Sometimes I think the word Religious got a bad rap and and people are afraid to admit to their churchy upbringing. They are embarrassed. Perhaps they were raised with the fire and brimstone style of religion. Better be good or God will punish you! Spiritual has a kinder, gentler sound to it. Its semantics really. Then again people jump on bandwagons all the time. Its new, its funky, it’s in. Sign me up. Plus, spirituality is associated with the Eastern religions which are all the rage. Have been for quite awhile. Christians have been losing members for quite some time due to their rigidity. Too many rules. You’ve heard the arguments about that too. ” I just believe in being a good person. I don’t have to go to church.” So being good by whose standards? I firmly believe that particular stupid thought process is what got us into the mess we are in today. Let me give you an example. I drive fast. Never in a school or playground zone and rarely within town limits and residential areas. Get me on a freeway or highway and I fly. So, Deerfoot trail is a freeway with a speed limit of 100 km/hour. I typically have cruise set at 120 to 125 while on this particular road. Anyone with a drivers licence knows, (or should know) that the left lane is for passing, the middle lane is for driving and the right lane is for merging on or off the freeway. Calgary has a large passive aggressive driving population. I am often forced to shut the cruise off as someone pulls into the passing line in front of me and proceeds to stay even with traffic. Are you following me? If not, go back and reread it. Now if the speed limit is 100 and I drive 120 and another driver is going 110, we are both breaking the law. My personal code says 120 is ok. His personal code says 110 is ok and I am going too fast. He is right, I am going to fast. By using his car to slow me down. he isn’t trying to get me to live by the law of the land, he is judging me based on his own personal code. He wants me to slow down to 110, his acceptable speed limit. Today we all have a personal internal code that we live by which is not really in strict accordance with the laws of the land. That’s cool. The problems are when we apply our biases or personal code to others and expect them to act accordingly. Frankly we haven’t got a leg to stand on. People today are mad because of double standards and the whole “do as I say” thing. And yet they all live their lives in this manner. Which leads me back to the religious thing. There is a popular theory that all the people who go to church are hypocrites. They do what they want all week long, get drunk and beat their wives and kids and show up Sunday morning singing their praises to God. I exaggerate for dramatic effect. I am here to tell you what Ditte Pedersen says. My Momma says a church is a hospital for sinners. The good people don’t have to go on Sunday. They are already walking the walk.

Getting back to the spititual thing, I am inclined to believe that spirituality may be more of a way of living. A pathway to life. A journey of sorts. When Sam became interested in Buddhism we discussed the reconciling of his new ways to his Christian upbringing. He doesn’t believe Buddhism is a religion, rather it is a lifestyle. That is true in part. The teachings do culminate in living a life in the middle way. Not to excess and not in total deprivation. A life of balance. It sounds easy but it is a very difficult thing. Biologically we are programmed to survive at all costs. From the day we are born we are learning and our subconscious mind stores everything. We respond to our environment by trying to fit things into what we have learned. I was locked in a closet by my brother when I was a small child. Mom got me out when she heard the screeching. To this day when I get on a train or elevator, my heart immediately starts to beat faster. I am not in control of my environment and my subconscious activates my fight or flight response based on an event that happened 54 years ago. This same biological process kicks in when our neighbour buys something new. We are programmed through experiences as well as evolutionary forces to achieve. To survive. Protect ourselves and our tribe. So we get that pang of jealousy. All of a sudden our own car is looking a little shabby. The incredibly strong urge to be liked (yes facebook you tapped it) is also tied to survival. Being shunned a million years ago meant going it alone in the wilderness so we were doomed to death. It kept people in line. Religion has used fear of punishment to keep people in line since the beginning of time. Make that the beginning of religion. Parents use it to control kids. Control is not good. In my opinion. Especially when we try to change someone in order for them to fit in. What we have forgotten is that all types were extremely important to the survival of the group. The big strong guys killed the mastodon and fought off intruders or wild animals. The sensitive types were always watching and listening. There were the cooks, the caregivers, the innovators looking for better ways. All of the people we are today descended from the early people. We just forgot we need each other. No one can do it alone. Ditte is quoted a lot today but she said it best, “Wouldn’t life be boring if we were all the same.”

So I’m not sure where I fit in this world. I have a very personal relationship with God. I identify as a Christian since I believe Christ is the son of God. I am a protestant and as a Scandinavian we follow in the Christian teachings of Martin Luther. I practice yoga and I meditate in order to keep my body, mind and spirit clear and aligned. I use rune stones to help me see problems in my life more clearly. I carry crystals on my person and believe they have healing energies. I smudge my house in an effort to cleanse negativity and stagnant energy. I believe in holistic medicine as a tool for healthy living. While we are at it I buy organic, I compost, I recycle and I grow Marijuana. I am a double Aquarius. Both my sun and moon sign. So, maybe I’m just confused. Or perhaps my husband is correct. I bore easily. Regardless, I believe we are all born with specific gifts given to us by God. I believe he loves us all as his unique children. I believe that God has a purpose for each and every one of us. Not one of us is disposable. God doesn’t make junk.

If you don’t want to go to church, don’t go. Don’t apologize. Don’t justify it to me. I don’t care. Don’t tell me the over used philosophy that you are going to let your children chose when they are older. That’s a cop out. If you teach nothing they chose nothing. You have already chosen for them with that statement. In the song Freewill by the band Rush, they sing “If you chose not to decide you still have made a choice.” Pretty deep. If you are not a Christian but chose to celebrate Christian holidays, please don’t be offended when people say Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas. There are many religious holidays celebrated during the year and often overlap. The term Happy Holidays is inclusive. In 2019, Good Friday was the most unique day. For Christians it is the day Jesus was put to death. It was the first day of Jewish Passover. It was also the first of three days of Therevada Buddhism New Years. Muslims worship Fridays so in a predominantly Christian country it is a day they can all worship together as a family. For Christians, Buddhists, Muslims and Jews it was a pretty big day. For the rest of the country it was a day off work. A day when they get ready for a big family dinner to celebrate… A bunny.

I think what I have learned in my life is that happiness is elusive and contentment is a worthwhile goal. In the words of Billy Joel, “There is something to be said for contentment”. Mediocrity and balance are two choices to help achieve contentment. I have learned that judging others does not add value to my life. I have also learned that I cannot live my life worrying about what people think of me. Frankly I have come to learn most people don’t ever think about me at all. Most importantly, although I can’t presume to know what God thinks, ultimately I have learned that I do care what he thinks of me. I guess at the end of the day, according to Webster’s, I am religious. I am devoted to God. I think I’ve made it clear.

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