I was so over church the day one of the older women in the congregation pulled me aside and basically said my tattoos and piercings made me look like a Jezebel.
No really, she called me a Jezebel. I was through.
I was raised in a church that identified as Baptist, and later went to one that identified as the Church of God in Christ (COGiC). Growing up, I liked reading scriptures and the history of the Bible. I had always been a very spiritually aware person, but one thing that used to throw me off was all of the rules and regulations that, to me, had nothing to do with the Bible. Length of clothing, wearing jewelry and makeup, hairstyles, hobbies and friendships seemed to all be regulated by men and not God.
I understood some "rules" were Biblical, given the seven sins and anecdotal stories in the Bible. Yet, as I grew older, I began to question a lot of things that happened in church that seemed to be more religiously correct motions and not practices that actually reflected a passion to please God, but more so a passion to please people. I continued to go to church, but as I began to challenge and question the religious practices, there seemed to be more and more tension between myself and fellow church-goers, especially the elders.
As I got older, I became more liberated in my way of thinking with topics such as feminism, sex, and self-expression. All of the views I possessed seemed to clash with my "religion". I had (and still have) many homosexual friends, and oftentimes I was questioned/scolded about my allegiance to the LBTQ community (even though I identify as heterosexual). Scripture after scripture and prayer after prayer were used to try to counter my argumentl and I felt that it was my duty not to judge, but love.
I began to study and embrace a feminist mentality, which led to chastising about going against the submissive way of thinking that a woman should have in the relationship with her husband. I didn't particularly think that being submissive to a man was a way to keep him, but the elders of the church thought otherwise. I'd always been fond of tattoos and piercing as forms of self-expression, and opted to utilize those methods as I got older. In return, many of my fellow church members thought the method of my expression meant that I was being sexually deviant and "loose", and that such methods took away from my femininity.
These different viewpoints and ways of thinking ultimately led me to stop going to church altogether.
I felt as though the religious space I was occupying was a space that used rules and regulations as a marker for your relationship with God or how perfect you could make that relationship seem. I didn't understand how following rules set by man could be indicative of whether or not I was following rules set by God. It seemed as though religion was more about pleasing the people you occupy religious spaces with, trying to impress them by how diligently and fervently you could follow religious doctrine and less about being accountable for how you ran your life. I knew people who followed all the rules set by the church but were seemingly breaking all rules set by God: their skirts were the appropriate length and their skin was virgin, yet they were rude, greedy, and had laid with plenty unwed.
After I left the church, I remained without a church home for some years, but continued to maintain my spiritual relationship by reading my Bible regularly, praying, and living life to my fullest by trying everyday to be kind, considerate, and honest. Even by finding my own spiritual path without a shepherd or communing weekly in a temple, I found that I was able to grow by working through my own trials and errors.
I was better able to examine my life and the mistakes I made by viewing myself through an introspective lens; not through the lens of those who were merely judging by how many rules or rituals I didn't live by.
I was better able to clearly see my life's purpose, my areas of spiritual weakness, and things I needed to work on as a member of humanity who happens to call themselves a Christian.
Yes, I did get tattoos, piercings, go out on Friday nights and break “rules" set by a church, but I realized that my true faults here things that were beyond superficial. I was able to work on my patience with others, become more open-minded and more in tune with the emotions and feelings of others. By taking a break from the church, I was able to figure myself out for myself without worrying about judgmental eyes peering over my shoulder.
Though I do miss the concept of a church family and being around people who share the same spiritual beliefs as me, right now I'm in a frame of mind where I feel as though the church I belong to needs to be a space where I can grow in my faith, instead of a place where I feel like I have to follow their rules. While I'm not currently actively searching for a new place of worship, I do hope to find a church family in the future.
Until then, I'll be very careful before aligning myself with a group that goes by "religion" and not by God's word and principles.
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Originally published October 12, 2017