Talking about religion feels a little bit like Cami looks in this photo. I haven’t broached subjects like religion here before because it is a touchy subject to say the very, very least. However, I think it’s important that we’re able to speak openly about complex themes and so, with the very real understanding that people may think I’m nuts, I give you my complex history with organized religion…
My Dad always told me when I was growing up, “If there’s something that brings you comfort 23 out of 24 hours in the day then it’s worth believing in.” That is really the foundation of what I’ve found to be my religious beliefs. My Daddy was raised Jewish, my Dad was raised Methodist and I married a German (non-practicing) Catholic guy so my religious life is bound to be complicated.
Since my Dad never felt much of a connection with the church and often felt excluded by the church due to the whole “homosexuality is a sin,” thing, he was happy to follow my Daddy’s faith and raise me Jewish. My parents always say they’re more spiritual than they are religious. To me, being spiritual means you get to really build your own religion. You get the take the things you like about faith and religion around the world and make that what you believe in and leave the other stuff behind.
For instance, I believe in Karma, or the Golden Rule, or whatever you want to call it. I also believe in reincarnation. I also believe I am a part of a centuries old culture and tribe of Jews and that that also needs to be celebrated within me. I usually go to temple twice a year, once on Rosh Hashanah and once more on Yom Kippur. I went to eight years of Hebrew school and I was Bat Mitzvahed, but I think my favorite thing about Judaism is that it is both a religion and a culture and if I’m being honest, I like the culture the best, especially when it means Matzoh Ball soup and brisket. I also grew up in a Synagogue with a female Rabbi and a gay Cantor. I love it when the Cantor sings, that makes me feel closer to God. So, I take the things that make me feel closest to God and call that my religion.
Sometimes I feel God when I’m out swimming in the ocean, sometimes I feel him/her in temple. Sometimes I feel her when I’m going on a long walk late at night with my husband and we’re just enjoying each other’s company.
I don’t think it’s right for people to tell you how to feel your connection with God. I think everyone gets to do it their own way and if you feel closest to God in a church or a temple or a mosque or in a giant field of wheat, so be it. Everyone gets to decide. Call me a heathen if you want, but my religion gives me comfort 23 out of the 24 hours in the day and it makes me happy and secure and that’s good enough for me.
In my religion all people are accepted and celebrated and hate is blasphemous. If you do something bad, then guess what? Karma’s gonna come back and bite ya in the booty. But God doesn’t punish, God helps you learn from your mistakes and makes you a better person the next time you run into a tricky situation she helps you make the right decision, to do the honorable and good thing.
My temple gets really, really close to how I feel about religion so it’s likely Domi’s and my kids will be raised Jewish, but I will teach them that being open is the key. Loving people, no matter what they believe or how different they look from you, is the key. If someone is mean to you, pray for them. It’s hard, but it’s worth it. I’ve learned this from plenty of times when I’ve fought back without cause and hit below the belt when I should’ve just walked away and sent someone love and white light.
I may sound like a true freak show, but everyone is entitled to their beliefs. There is no my way or the highway in my religion. We are open to all people, places and things. I have to be honest, I may sound like I got this whole being an open-minded person on lock, but I truly don’t. I screw up constantly and that’s when I ask God for forgiveness and I know that Karma will come and help teach me and I just wait to see what lesson I can learn.
In all of this thinking about religions, I have realized that I haven’t been fair to a lot of organized religions, especially Christianity. I haven’t given credit to the millions of Christians that listen to Jesus’ teachings and truly love their neighbors. There just have been so many Christians that have been so loud about their beliefs that my family is sacrilegious and wrong and won’t be saved when they day of judgement comes that they’ve drowned out the true Christian gospel. However, there are so many Christians that don’t think that way. That see all children as children of God and don’t try to change people from being what they are fundamentally. I’ve had a hard time trusting the Christian religion, but I’ve also met a lot of incredible Christians that I’ve judged before getting to know them, which doesn’t make me a very open person.
I have been closed-minded while asking others to open their minds. I have shut people off and not listened to them just because I think they are wrong, which is not what I believe. If I really took my own advice, I would listen. I would listen to what every person has to say no matter what gospel they follow and I would give everyone the time they deserve because I’m asking people to do the same with me. Let’s have a conversation, not shut people out before we know what they’re going to say. It’s just so dang hard when hate seems rampant in our country. It’s hard not to talk over people and believe your way is the right and only way. But I will vow to be more open minded because I owe that to the world, especially if I ask people to be open with me. Religion can be hard and complicated and messy. Some days I wake up not sure what to think. Some days I feel like I have it all figured out. But all I know is that I wish the world was full of less hate and more love, that it wasn’t weird that I celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas and that all people were allowed to love who they want to love and be who they want to be without judgment because at the end of the day all I know is what gives me comfort 23 out of the 24 hours in the day and for that I am grateful. Amen.