I haven’t been to church, with the exception of funerals and weddings, in as long as I can remember. Sometime shortly after we moved to Ames, we just stopped going to church. I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that a lot of the mainstream Christian churches were having identity crises regarding LGBT issues, and it was just something that we couldn’t compromise on. The church had to be pro-LGBT to have us in it. It was in the middle of the George W. Bush years (times that seem positively quaint right now), and we felt very isolated, like no one shared our opinion, even though we lived in one of the most liberal districts in our city.
We were Unitarians for a while and never really felt like we fit in. I missed the ritual of Lutheranism to be honest, and Unitarianism didn’t really have that. I liked the concept of Milestones – the act of lighting a candle in honor of some big moment in your life or the life of someone you loved – and I also loved the fact that you didn’t have to subscribe to a certain creed or belief in order to be there. But in a way, that was also the hardest part of being Unitarian. What the hell did we believe? Everything? Nothing? It was also the first place I’d ever been where I didn’t feel liberal enough. I tried getting involved with different groups and activities, even stepping outside my comfort zone and trying to get something new going. It didn’t work. I couldn’t connect. Although it wasn’t all for naught because I did meet one of my closest guy friends there so hey, that’s a win.
I was working overnights at the beginning of August and for some reason, I got it in my head that I wanted to listen to Michael W. Smith. I’m pretty fond of his brand of contemporary Christian music, even if I disagree with his politics. I was listening to the song “Missing Person” and this lyric smacked me in the face.
There was a boy who had the faith to move a mountain
And like a child he would believe without a reason
Without a trace he disappeared into the void and
I’ve been searching for that missing person
What a lot of people who know me don’t know about me is there was a time that I took a lot of comfort in religion. I remember being very comforted by prayer, by the aforementioned ritual that organized religion brought to my life. I was always fond of saying that no one but no one does Good Friday guilt like Lutherans. I remember in college, even with my faith at a low point, asking for help from whatever good force might be at work in the universe. Somewhere along the way, I lost my faith. I became that missing person.
It was during the middle of the night while working that I decided that I wanted to seek out a liberal Christian church to try on for size. I posted in a rather infamous local Facebook group to get suggestions and got a lot (and watched an argument about whether or not the word “liberal” could or should be applied to religion – I tuned that shit right out.) I haven’t had a chance to go to any yet and frankly, I’m terrified to follow through. I’m afraid of the forced socialization that church is, even though a search for community is my primary reason for seeking out a church. Even though I have friends, I really don’t feel like I’m part of anything and that really has started to bother me. It’s not like I’m being pressured to do it or am pressuring myself. I just kind of wish there was more to my life than get up, go to work, come home, go to bed.
I’m not sure how well this will work because I’m not sure that I believe in God. Or at least not like I was brought up to believe. I have not brought my daughter up in the Christian faith, despite promising to do so at her baptism so when she found out that I was looking for a church she said “I didn’t think that was your thing.” Yeah, I didn’t think so either. The kind of belief I have is probably a best-fit for Unitarian Universalism, but having tried that on and having it not quite fit, I’m not sure I want to try again. And despite not identifying as Christian, I kind of want to go to a Christian church, just so that I can stop thinking, even subconsciously, that all Christians are bad and support Trump and want gays to burn in hell.
So we’ll see how this experiment goes. I promised my therapist that I would try at least one this fall – weekends are kind of full for the next month or so – so there’s no immediate pressure to go out and try one. I think I have picked the one I want to try. We’ll see how it goes. It’s been so long that I’m not even sure how to do it and make sure I’m doing it right.