Sometimes I think there is NO WORSE venue for emotional scarring than religion. I don’t think God sets religion up to be emotional scarring; I think we do it to ourselves. There are many ways in which I believe religion screws us up:
We feel we must always be ministering to others: Religion teaches us that we MUST be selfless, we MUST always be living a Christ-like life, we MUST always be helping others, and we forget that, sometimes, we need help ourselves. In interacting with many women, I have learned that we are not good at talking about ourselves, because we are trained to think that, by talking about ourselves, we are being selfish, and being selfish is wrong. But, inevitably what happens is, we spend so much time ‘ministering’ to others, we inflate our egos because we are told ‘good people help others’ (which is actually a selfish motive), and we forget that, we, too, are fallible, fallen, broken creatures. So, when it comes time for something traumatic happening in my life, I think I can’t get help, because I must be ministering to others, their lives are obviously far worse than mine because I am “religious” and “have a relationship with God”; I sweep my problems under the rug, and at some point, they surface into some kind of big, festering wound.
We must be “selfless”: I think the problem here is how we define the term “selfless”. I am kind of against these “feed the homeless” campaigns because, while I think it is an incredibly humbling experience, I think we have tagged “the homeless” as a lesser group of people, and as a Christian, I should be helping those lesser groups. However, what usually ends up happening is, I post a bunch of pictures of how cute I am helping others, because I want people to see how “selfless” I am, I look at the others as a lesser group of people which in turn makes me feel more powerful (I am Benevolent because I have found Jesus and they have not, which is why they ended up homeless), and in all of that, I am actually acting under selfish needs. Feeding the homeless is great, but looking at WHY we are feeding the homeless is more telling of our characters. If we are truly acting out of selfless means, we don’t need to be taking those pictures, and we don’t need to be boasting about “what a great Christian we are”.
We can’t question our faith: For some reason, we are trained that true believers never question their faith. They know God is present. They know they are going to Heaven after Earth. They listen to K-Love 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. That is great–I definitely believe we need those kind of people in the world to help us answer questions about our own faith. However, while I am 100% a believer, I still have many questions about my faith. I sometimes doubt God listens to me, I don’t understand why my Prince Charming hasn’t arrived yet, and I have no idea what I think about the afterlife. But, we are supposed to have questions, because questions lead us to explorations, which leads us to new insights and understandings, and inevitably, a stronger faith.
We are bad if we don’t know rituals: I grew up Catholic, and sporadically attended church, and would always feel so self conscious when I sat before everyone else, I stood later than everyone else, I couldn’t recite the prayers from heart. We feel self conscious when we don’t know all of the rituals, or can’t quote Bible passages, or don’t even know if we call it “Scripture” or “The Bible” because it signals a hole in our faith. I can tell you from first hand experience most people feel self conscious in church. Most people don’t remember all of the rituals. Most people cannot recite verses off hand. Most people don’t know what to do when they take communion but most people are just really good at covering those things up.
We must always be doing church related things: We are always bombarded with messages about “plugging in” and “getting connected”, and that everything we do in our lives should be church related. For some people, living at the church is necessary, and for others, we feel guilty when we can’t live at the church, because the message is that, if I am going to be “saved”, I must always be living a Christ-like life, and always being at church is where I get that. In my opinion, there are plenty of other places we can gain spiritual guidance that is just as relevant as church. The church offers a plethora of opportunities to “get connected”, in hopes that there is one venue that reaches everyone, but that does not necessarily mean WE have to go to every single thing. For some people, they are in a stage of life that DOES work for; for others, a once a week kind of thing is all they can commit to, and we need to accept both scenarios are perfectly fine. Life is about the journey, and we can’t feel guilty when our place is not at church 24/7; perhaps our place is to be building a career, a family, or ourselves, and we might be in a place that church should be our life at some point, but perhaps that isn’t now.
We believe we are fallible so we can make mistakes: While I think humans are born broken, I also think they cannot help it. Our actions ARE self-seeking, so all of our actions are results of jealous, power-seeking, competitive natures. So, we run around, asserting our power and control over people and treating them like crap, and then go to church, repent our sins, and do it all over again because we live under the pretense that “I am broken anyways so why not?” However, I also believe we have the ability to strip ourselves OF these tendencies. While we may initially be unaware of our self-seeking, jealous, competitive natures, as soon as we recognize those (usually brought to light in a sermon), we must try our very best to never act under those pretenses ever again. We are born fallible, and we spend our whole lives trying to be a little less human, a little more Christ-like.