Do you know what is better than charity and fasting and prayer?

It is keeping peace and good relations between people,

as quarrels and bad feelings destroy mankind.

- Prophet Mohammed


Day 16

In Christianity there's much discussion about the heart and love. "God is love" and "Open your heart to Jesus" are some big ones that I often hear in and around the Catholic (and Christian) community.  Yesterday, I thought that was just something that was said. I never really felt it and it honestly irritated me. Today, however, I felt the love that Jesus has offered.

Why has it taken this long?

And by that I don't mean 16 days. I mean, why has it taken me a Christian upbringing; a baptism; a confirmation; a very devout sister and several readings of the New Testament to finally come to this glaringly obvious conclusion?

Simply put: People.

People ruined Christianity for me. But, perhaps ironically, it's also people who have allowed me to discover the true joy of the religion. Let me explain.

Growing up, church was a chore. I didn't like it and never ever wanted to go. Once there, I always had a decent time, but not because of religious experiences or devout people. Rather, I liked it because I had a few friends in my Sunday school classes. As I grew up, the realities of southern Christianity started to reveal themselves to me. More times than not, my interactions with southern Christians were not particularly rewarding. They seemed to care about being seen at church rather than developing their relationship with the Lord. For them, church was no different than going to Steeplechase. It was time to dress and act the part. It was --for lack of a better word-- a social event. 

Just look at those hats. These girls spent big bucks acting and dressing the part of Steeplechase. They are also the people who packed the pews on Sunday morning with their finest and newest threads. Honestly though, what's the big deal? Judging their spiritual connection to God was wrong, but I did it. Also, not all southern Christians are like that. Still, my experience was what it was. My Nashville church was rich, white and about as stereotypically waspy as one could imagine. We are all students of our surroundings and this is what I was offered. My cynism might have started there, but it certainly didn't stop there.

My private high school describes itself like this:


Everyday I was required to attend "Chapel". There, we were forced to partake in group prayers and listen to testimonials of how Christ reshaped my classmates' lost teenage souls. I remember thinking to myself how weak those people were. Even the slightest bit of discomfort would force them to weep like repenting evangelists. The whole thing smacked of desperation and the desire to fit the mold of what a private Christian school student should be. At least, that's what I thought then and it really shouldn't come as much of a surprise to those who knew me. I prescribed to the "Tune in, turn on, drop out" lifestyle which essentially was an odd little religion unto itself.
Like every great religion of the past we seek to find the divinity within and to express this revelation in a life of glorification and the worship of God. These ancient goals we define in the metaphor of the present — turn on, tune in, drop out.  -Timothy Leary
It's funny to read that now. We all get caught up when we "find something going on" and mine just happened to be this. By the time I got to college I had pretty much had exhausted all my "anti" energy. I didn't care anymore. It took the reelection of George W. Bush to get me going again which, of course, brought me to my next chapter of distrust and disgust of Christianity: the religious right. 

During the Bush years, ultra-conservative Christianity was so infused with politics that even considering a serious investment in the religion meant that I had to deal with the ultra-conservative congregation. Even if that wasn't true, I believed it. 2008 only made it worse as the torch was passed to Sarah Palin and others of the same ilk. The American politicization of the religion made me --a relative outsider-- have a jaded opinion of the religion and its followers. The silent majority of Christians were lost in all the shouting. Their message of love, compassion and forgiveness was muffled. In short, I heard "God hates fags" rather than "God is love". I could have sought a deeper meaning and that was my loss for sure, but it was also the loss of the Church for allowing such ambassadors of the religion to take full control of the  pulpit. 

It wasn't until today that I allowed myself to see the true beauty of the religion and its followers. The love that they share with God might not be the best thing for me at this particular moment, but it's absolutely pure. They genuinely love each other. They love their fellow children of God and they love the non-believer. The love they loved and they love the hated. I can use some of that love and I know that my marriage could benefit from it as well. Unconditional love and compassion is what its all about. That's a message that works on every level of life. 

God has that love for his children and I can have that love for the people in my life. No more will I judge people for being Christian. No more will I question their motives. Love is beautiful and pure and I think if more people (especially non-Christians) spent a little more time with the people and less time on the details or politics, then that love --His love-- can spread.

Time to let it in...or out.


  1. The Steeplechase photo was especially apropos. Can agree with all that you wrote. Can't that love also be given, shared, and received outside of the institution of the church? Yes, of course it can. This past weekend in Indiana was a perfect example of it -- family and friends sharing in the love. Sorry you missed it.

  2. I have held so much of the same suspicion of purported "Christians" that you just shared. I believe one's walk through life, and what happens in it, is what shapes beliefs. I have had my share of stones and boulders to try to either circumvent or climb over in my path as a Christian and it has not been easy. This past weekend was a wonder of love...much family, dear old friends and a special place. We celebrated the life of a family member who also shared many of your thoughts on church as a social event. Love is acceptance and understanding and yes, it should be a part of our family lives and our outreach each day.

  3. You hit the nail on the head with this one. The thing that turned me off from organized religion in the first place was the hypocrisy that I saw so often. Even growing up in an ultraconservative church, the vast majority of the people were good people just trying to do what they thought was right. Most of these people would do anything they could for someone else in need. However, many of these same people preach one thing and do something completely different (the same thing they preach against). You also have those crazies out there (including some of the COC people I am referring to) that think everyone is going to hell unless they follow the same strict interpretations of the Bible that they do. It is this self-righteous, narrow minded, judgmental attitude that turned me off in the first place (as well as my rationality).

    I think its funny how most people who are very religious criticize people like Joel Osteen, but not for the reason they should be criticizing him which is the fact that he is exploiting religion for personal gain. They criticize him because his sermons do not include enough scripture, or he doesn't warn people of the depths of hell. I have listened to him a few times while channel surfing and I think his message is usually one that everyone, regardless of religious beliefs, could benefit from. It is very uplifting and inspiring and it makes you want to be a better person. While I do think he is a sleazeball, if I was going to go to a church I would want to go to one with this type of message, rather than one that tries to guilt me into heaven.

    I do not think that you need religon to know the difference between right and wrong, love and hate, or compassion and indifference. It really bothers me to see people on the religous right act like they have a higher moral code than liberals. First of all, they tend to assume that liberals are not christians and only christians can be good people. This is offensive to liberal christians as well as non-christians and it is just plain arrogant. I think these folks should actually read the bible once in a while and not just hide behind it.

  4. John and Harriet,

    I am sorry I missed it and can't wait to reconnect with the entire family. We also need to get to work on a joint Euro trip. I know our German Romeiser family would love to get in on that action.


    A lot of stuff there. COC people (as well as So. Baptists) attract the ire of many anti-religious people because of those stances and far too often I've been guilty of throwing them under the bus along with the other "nuts", but as you said, "Most of these people would do anything they could for someone else in need." That is what I should be focused on.

    I'm torn on Osteen. I agree that he exploits religion and has turned his "church" into a business. That's trash. I also don't think people need to be scared into submission, but he presents only half the picture. Cigarettes are great as well, but they kill me.

    The politics really get to me, but I think it's for the wrong reasons. I think it irritates me so much not because they're exploiting religion (that's their loss), but because it's so blindly hypocritical and surprisingly successful. They can call me what they want, fine. My concern is what happens when and if they actually have control.

    The Korean,

    You know it, brother.

  5. I agree with "The Korean"...Amen. We should all spend less time politicking and more time loving heart at a time. We are ALL precious to one of us more than the next. You mentioned "God Hates Fags" and it reminded me of a song written by one of my favorite musicians, Andrew Peterson. here are some of the lyrics...

    "Tonight in the line of the merchandise store
    While they were packing up my bags
    I saw the pictures of the prophets of the picket signs
    Screaming, "God hates fags"

    And it feels like the church isn't anything more
    Then the second coming of the Pharisees
    Scrubbing each other 'til their tombs are white
    They chisel epitaphs of piety

    Oh, there's a burning down inside of me
    'Cause the battle seems so lost
    And it's raging on so silently
    We forget it's being fought

    So, Amen
    Come, Lord Jesus
    Oh, Amen
    Come Lord Jesus

    It's taken me years in the race just to get this far
    Still there is no end in sight,
    There's no end in sight
    'Cause I've carried my cross into dens of the wicked
    And you know I blended in just fine

    Well, I'm weak and I'm weary of breaking His heart
    With they cycle of my sin, of my sin
    Still He turns His face to me and I kiss it
    Just to betray Him once again

    Well, I've got oceans down inside of me
    I can feel the billows roll
    With the mercy that comes thundering
    O'er the waters of my soul

    Tonight in the light of the gathering rain
    I could hear creation groan
    And a sigh rose up from the streets of the city
    To the foot of Heaven's throne

    Oh, and the people hear the sound of a sweet refrain
    An absolution in the fray, in the fry
    It tells of the death of the one for the lives of the many
    More than any picket sign could say"

    I took the refrains out.

    *********PLEASE listen to this song by him as's one of my favorites and the lyrics are in line with what we're discussing. It's called "After the Last Tear Falls":


    I'm so amazed at what you're discovering. I love you, GWEE.

  6. You know, talking about how it's the people that make it or break it for Christianity as a religion made me think of an "aha" moment for me. It was during my stint living in France- so '99. I found a church that was no particular denomination....just Christian. The pastor was from Madagascar, I think, the congregation was from all over the world. What got me was the first Easter ('99) I went to church after I had made the decision to follow Jesus. I took the bus, wearing a linen, somewhat wrinkled looking dress I'd bought in France. It was actually pretty "hippish" looking. I was wearing Birk's with it. (I know, Mom, I know...not "Westminsterish"). ;) I got off the bus and walked into this tiny 2 room steeple, no pomp and circumstance, no fancy clad congregation...just people who loved the Lord. As a matter of fact, no one looked twice at my outfit. I was welcomed by the Elders who served me un cafe and baguette avec...... they served me. They waited on me. The elders, serving the "lowly" college exchange student. There was a joy that I'd not seen before anywhere...or at least their serving. When the breakfast was over, the whole congregation....60 people or so... folded up the tables where we were eating, brought the dishes into the kitchen (that was the 2nd room) and reconfigured their chairs to be in rows for the worship service. The music was simple but real and the love for the Lord was evident. I seriously think I recall a glockenspiel. They loved with abandon. I remember sitting in my plastic folding chair in my weird outfit and being so thankful that God showed me a glimpse of what He's concerned with.....not clothes, hair, social status, nationality, even sexual orientation to a certain extent. He wants our whole hearts and if we give Him that, then His priorities become ours. I felt freedom, gratitude and overwhelmed by how wonderful it felt to be loved and see love in action (through these people)...His love, as untainted as humanly possible. Sometimes it's easier to experience what really matters when you're out of your "element". That's ashame, I suppose.