I don’t love you like that anymore…

…and I probably never really did.

A few weeks ago I was listening to a podcast, and the guest talked about not loving people that he didn’t love. At first, and on one level, I found that idea off-putting. As a former Christian I’d been trained over the years that we were to love everyone, unconditionally, and if not, there’d be Hell to pay.

That’s the idea….love one another, or else. How it gets meted out in the lives of individual believers is another topic entirely.

I call that kind of love, loving people under duress. Love is a consensual action. It’s something you cannot command or coerce. And loving out of obedience or under orders, or threats is a form of coercion.

As I thought about it, I realized that the guest on that show is right. People shouldn’t be able to lay claim to our love without our consent. There are people in my life that I want around as long as I live. There are others I really don’t care if I ever see again. Both have been members of churches I’ve attended.

One of the things I started doing when I left the Christian religion is taking back my heart and mind from it…taking back my agency. Love and love commandments are one of those areas.

In churchy circles there are numerous platitudes tossed about. People are always saying things like ‘God bless you,’ ‘I’m praying for you,’ and ‘I love you.’ Then when this last is not enough, some say, ‘I love you with the love of the Lord.’ I don’t talk that kind of language anymore. It’s a cutesy sounding. It makes everything seem warm and fuzzy. It also negates the individual’s ability to love at all.

Humans have loved, feared, hated, envied…they’ve felt things and experienced many emotions long before what we refer to as the Common Era….long before Christianity.

If I love you I’ll tell you. If telling you would make things awkward, I’ll find some way to let you know. It’s between the people. Gods and religions have nothing to do with it.

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epiphany

I have cousins a few hours away in a couple of directions. I see one set a bit more often than others, and usually around Christmas. One of them is a minister and as expected his first concern is that one is staying faithful to God. I haven’t been to church in 3 years. In August of 2016 I posted a video announcing that I don’t believe anymore…that I am no longer Christian. I guess he and his wife didn’t see it. At least they don’t act like they saw it.

Every year when we meet up he usually asks me how long it’s been since I was at church, and says something to encourage me to go. Well I’m not going back. But I also don’t want to debate that at the table in a restaurant. I usually just nod my head while knowing that I’m not going back. This year I just really didn’t want to get into it. 2017 was extremely stressful with highlights of me selling my house and wrangling the move over to my mom’s with my dad in tow, dad’s health declining a bit more, my own trip to ER for heart palpitations…a visit I still owe money for. Then there’s the continued malaise, uncertainty and extremely annoying pronouncements from the White House. I just wanted the year over with and the family visit ended up wrapped up with all of that.

What came to me that morning, as I was obsessing over what my cousin was going to say about my non-attendance at services, was that my “service to God” is in taking care of my parents at this time in their lives. That it was acceptable to ‘The Divine.’ That it is good enough. I’m not a Christian. So I’m not going to try to influence anyone towards that path. The rest of what anyone thinks I “should be doing,” doesn’t matter.

Not our faith

There are numerous reasons why I left Christianity. The journey was 32 years before I finally said, “Enough.” As a black American, it’s simply not our faith. Christianity in America, by and large, was introduced to, and forced upon enslaved Africans. We were not allowed to practice our religions from our villages in Africa. It’s the slave master’s religion, and I recognize it as such. Being told I’m evil, serving Satan, and going to Hell are no longer compelling reasons for me to stay in something that I no longer want. And all Evangelicals have as a bargaining chip/blunt instrument, is Hell. They become petulant elementary school playground bullies, threatening to sick their god on me instead of the time-honored threat to ‘bash my teeth in.’ I’m done. If there is a God and an afterlife, my part in that is between me and the deity. It’s no longer anyone else’s business, and it really never was. I reject the agency of the church over my relationship with the divine.

Amendment

separation_of_church_and_work

My jobs have all been secular. I’ve never been employed, in any capacity, by a religious institution. I’ve worked with fellow church-members twice. At one company the coworker had ongoing issues with management. After working there a few years I was promoted to a floor supervisor position. This made me one of his immediate supervisors. The manager didn’t discuss things with the leads unless they were involved in whatever situation was at hand. So I wasn’t present for most of whatever conversations he was having in the office, and he and I didn’t discuss much of it. At some point he started talking with the pastor and a few of the men at the church. Not long after that I was at a party at church and one of the deacons asked me what I did for the company I worked for. Then he asked me if I knew the employee. Then he started telling me about a conversation that supposedly happened between my manager and the employee. I said, “I can’t talk about business matters.” When I said that, his reply was, “…well you can talk about here,” as though church was some sort of ‘safe-place’ where I was free to discuss my employer’s business.

No.

Hell no.

I was part of the management team at a, not-affiliated-with-the-church … had-absolutely-nothing-to-do-with-church-or-religion, secular business. Sharing what was discussed in the office, in the way these guys at church were implying I should, was a good way to lose my job. Risking that was just not on the table. These discussions were intrusive, and honestly the presumption of it all really pissed me off. As I drove home after that I said out loud, “I need separation of church and work!”

The church doesn’t have agency in outside affairs. Many Christians think it does, and dominionists want it to have absolute agency. They’re wrong. Or maybe the institution has the agency that people give it. I was never one of those people. Work was a separate part of my life from ‘church stuff.’ quote-matt-22-21

This coworker/employee/fellow church member and I had never been close. We weren’t friends. At best it was kind of a long-term acquaintance. He was someone I worked with, and for a while, someone I attended church with. I was angry, but I never confronted him or discussed the conversation I had had with the two deacons.

Later on my cell started ringing again, this time with the pastor asking about more things to do with the office. I became resentful, or more resentful of the employee after this, and began to distance myself further from him at work, except in my capacity as his supervisor. Some might say that I was disloyal to my ‘brother in Christ’ by not supporting him in whatever problems he was having with his managers.

Eventually I left that church. There were a number of reasons why, and while this wasn’t the primary one, it was definitely on the list.

When you’re part of Christianity, and perhaps in other religions, there’s a rule of sorts…maybe a commandment, that you’re to put the church and your fellow believers ahead of everything. It may be implied by the ‘greatest commandment’ from Matthew 22:36-40 that we’re to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and that we’re to love our neighbor as ourselves. There were many times, some might say most of the time, when I didn’t do this. I looked back…often. I didn’t put the church and my fellow believers first when it came to many things during my time as a Christian. I’ve never viewed my employment as part of ‘ministry.’ I wasn’t there for that. I wasn’t there to wear people down or catch them at a low point and sell them fire insurance. I wasn’t there for bible study. I was there to do a job and collect a paycheck so that I could pay my bills. You may say that I was never sincere. You wouldn’t be the first.

We judge each other based on the idea of constants. Life is about ebb and flow.

Size matters

wp-1488490248594.png
From a screenshot of the Aliens theme in Android 7.0 on my phone.

As far back as I can remember I have believed in the existence of life on other planets. The way I view what’s ‘out there’ is heavily coloured by years of exposure to telescope images, science fiction shows, and science documentaries. Whether they have been here in body or mind is subjective. I hope they have. I hope somebody out there has figured out how to perturb the space around an object such that the perturbation can move sufficiently fast to cover the vast distances. It’s a hope I have. I don’t know. I have seen UFOs on four occasions, but I’m not going to detail those in this post.

We’re a small planet orbiting third in line around a small star close to the outer edge of a galaxy that’s composed of billions of other systems and because of certain hobbling beliefs, some people think we’re it…the only planet with life. I don’t believe that. I’ve never believed that, and I will go to my grave never believing that. I’ve never been satisfied with that idea. Even in my years as a Christian I believed there was life out there. I refused to allow doctrines to destroy my vision of a truly vast universe. I just tried to work in a savior for their ‘mankind’ and hoped that they hadn’t made as much of a mess of their history as we have of ours. I don’t do that anymore.

A few years ago I was talking with a minister friend. He said that he felt that anyone who believed in aliens didn’t know God or his word. I listened. I didn’t challenge him on what he was telling me because his opinion of my views on cosmology is none of my business. And after we got off the phone I said to myself, “Well I guess I don’t know God, then.”

Actually I do.

Some people’s gods are just too small.