Faith: A Belief, A Practice
I have been a nondenominational Christian most of my life. As an individual exposed to and educated around the Baptist subset of Christian morals, taking this stance seemed to most close enough to Baptist to not bother anyone else’s belief cannon. But I knew with my love for the Wicca practices and the worship of the Greek myths that my belief system would not be wholly Christian.
Looking at how Christianity evolved, it should not surprise anyone that people who lose faith in the larger belief system shift to nature-based religious practices as many of the holidays on the Christian calendar are aligned to the various Wicca calendars. Factor in that the other major religions that do maintain a loose connection to the cycles of the moon, and you can begin to see why people tend to jump into the root of their first faith or divert entirely.
When I was working at a synagogue, I was in charge of redesigning an introduction to the Jewish faith manual that the rabbi used to navigate people through the conversion process. The manual was about sixteen pages but required a year-long commitment. It struck me as interesting that the process took so long when in the Christian faith, we rely on the pull of emotion to the church’s altar and a promise to do better. This is followed by a daily/weekly course work until one chooses to be baptized. Most churches will offer a series of classes to be inducted into the church but one’s faith practice is enforced by one’s actions while in the hallowed grounds of the church.
I learned to accept this as a Black woman. The gray area around churches embodied in the States allows churches to operate as community hubs for their neighborhoods. That model is practiced in the Jewish faith as they practice a divorcing from creature comforts on the Shabbot. It enforces them to keep their connections to their communities and in a way, the earth if you obverse all the minor holidays they have within the faith. I personally enjoy the moon cycles that dictate their calendar and the pagan symbolism that permeates the holidays that embody their culture.
But that connection and tradition essentially is what draws people into a religious community. I recall this being the pull for my mother, the religion whore.
Yeah, I said it. My mother will slut herself for the Lord if He comes with the feel-good emotions of shouting and praise. She likes the comradery and drama of the Baptist church. But if you ask her to be involved beyond a few dollars in her purse, you better keep looking as she is not the one. But if you come with some fun, you have her attention. That is how she entered the Jehovah's Witness faith. She is idle in her own self-care practices and prefers to be coddled. I have come to loathe that practice as a result. It makes me insanely hard on myself, however.
But that made me think about how we come to religion in the first place and why we deem it needed that our children follow our own practices. I liked parts of the worship in the Baptist church and low-key miss parts of it but it is more for the energy that flows in the room when everyone is high on the music. It is like the world is given permission to be deliriously happy. I wonder if my mom is addicted to that or the constant companionship offered in these cult-like spaces.
What bothers me about my mother is her need for everyone around her to join the faith with her. She likes the idea of being surrounded by her family members and views faith as a place that will keep us near her. It is about keeping everyone under your eye and co-dependent. It is not about the faith in that sense. But for desperate people clinging to their long remembered beliefs, it is a thing that we hold on to, our people.