Sunday, May 6, 2012

Holy, Holy, HOLY CRAP. A Blog About The Rules & Regs Of Religion

Rules. Rules. Rules.

I bought a book called, "The Rules" once. It was all about these women who thought they had dating/courting all figured out. They made millions of dollars off of telling other women how they needed to behave in order to score men. They taught women how to manipulate men, and ultimately end up with a big rock on their finger.

It was a very intriguing book. It was all about kickin' it old school in the world of dating. It included tips such as, "Don't call the man--make him call you", or "don't be too available--if you go out on a date on Saturday, make him wait to talk to you until Wednesday. That way he'll get the thrill of the chase"--because all men are hunters, right? *eye roll*insert Tim The Tool Man Taylor grunt*

The irony of the situation is that all of the women who wrote the book are now divorced. True story. Turns out that even if you can get a man to put a rock on your finger, you can't make him want to keep it there.

What would life be life without rules? I can just picture the chaos. As much as I hate people telling me what to do, and how to live my life, I am thankful for rules, and the concept of rules in general.

What I am not a huge fan of is religious rules and regulations. I'm not here to dog on any religion. If people have found a religion that they are comfortable in, believe in, and it enhances their relationship with God, then by all means, HAVE AT IT! Do it up! Enjoy!

Rules don't really become a problem unless you are so dead set on keeping them that you forget that there may be another way of doing things. Some of you might be like, "There is only one way--and that's GOD'S way!!!" Hmmm. Mkay. I get that concept...kinda. Did He just come over to your house for dinner or something? Or are you one of those people who is truly gifted with divine revelation? If you are, hook me up! Last time I tried to have Him over he didn't show up.

I've been to a few churches in my day. I grew up Presbyterian. I went through an atheist phase. I joined the Mormon church at one point. Now I'm at a Baptist church. Don't worry--it all seems a little weird, and funky to me, too. As a matter of fact, it still kind of freaks me out that I attend a Baptist church now. I've always had Baptists pegged as these super loud, holy roller weirdos who stand up on their soap boxes and tell the rest of the world that they are going to hell in a hand basket. My church is nothing like, that, but I still have a hard time saying, "I attend the baptist church." It is also part of the reason I've not been able to join the church. I can't be one of those baptist people! I'll get over it eventually (maybe). I love my church.

Back to rules and regs. The topic today in church was how rules have gotten in the way of people establishing relationships with God and Jesus Christ. It can be very true at times. I think a lot of people stay away from church because they can't handle all the crap that comes along with attending. As a matter of fact, I know a ton of people who have proclaimed their love for God, but getting them anywhere near a church would be like throwing holy water onto a vampire--it would kill them. They can't handle it. I should know--I used to be one of those people before I started back to church.

I was brought up in a very religious family. Ok...we were very religious on Sundays at least. Did you ever see "Little House On The Prairie"? In that show they wore the same clothing all week long for work, and for school, but when it came to Sunday the girls had their beautiful, white dresses, and these blue satin bows they would wear in their hair. They would "put on their Sunday best". I was brought up this way. We put on our Sunday best EVERYTHING. We looked like the model church family. However, this couldn't have been further from the truth. My parents used to whisper about the families that would come into church with their children wearing jeans. How dare they! Didn't they get the memo that you were supposed to dress up for church? It's in the rules!!! BTW...wasn't it super nice that we showed up to church so that we could pass judgment on all these people. You're welcome.

I attended the Mormon church and there were a bunch of rules there, too. I think it comes with any "religion". In the Mormon church, there are three different kingdoms in heaven. There is the Telestial Kingdom. This is the lowest of the three. Then there is the Terrestrial Kingdom. It's better than the Telestial, but still not the best-of-the-best. Then there is the Celestial Kingdom. This is the only kingdom that God resides in--and he doesn't stop by to visit the people in the Terrestrial or the Telestial kingdoms. The Celestial is the highest level of exaltation that you can achieve. To get there, one of the rules is that you have to have an eternal marriage to a faithful member of the Mormon church who also was able to achieve the highest level of exaltation. If you don't choose wisely, your partner can drag you down into the Terrestrial Kingdom, or the Telestial Kingdom because the two of you are now on this eternal path together.

When I was attending a singles event one night at the Mormon church, this guy came up to me and said, "There is a dinner coming up for all new members of the church. You probably should have a date for it. I'll go with you. after all, you can't get into the Celestial Kingdom without being together with a worthy member of the church!" He was joking, but I was like, "Really? Is that the pick up line they teach these guys?" Unfortunately for homeboy, my reply was, "That's ok...I'm a Telestial kind of gal anyhow." He looked a little deflated after that. Hopefully he found the righteous babe he was looking for (not me).

Sorry--found this photo online and thought it was kind of funny. And Joseph Smith really did say  that the Telestial Kingdom is so wonderful that you would kill yourself to get there. I don't think he authorized this poster/portrayal of it though.

The Mormon church is not any different than any other church with respect to rules. Rules help keep people going in the right direction. They are also a form of protection from the unruly. It's kind of refreshing to have them. Rules only become a problem if you forget the reason why you are following them in the first place. It's probably more common than you might think.

A lot of people see churches as hypocritical. I can totally relate to this. I grew up in a hypocrisy-laden, church-goin' family. I'm not here to rip on my family by any means. However, a lot of people are stunned when I tell them that my family doesn't like me. They actually want nothing to do with me, and this has been the case for years. I haven't spoken to my parents in 12 years. Before that, they were just super pissed off at me for an additional 8 years. They live about 20 minutes away from me right now, but they don't even know their own grandchildren (the twins). Why? Because although we were the model church family on Sundays, my family lacks the ability to grasp one of the most fundamental rules/foundations of our "religion"--FORGIVENESS. I'll elaborate more on this later in the blog.

As a whole, all of the Madisons (that would be us) are blessed with very large mouthes--and we can rip you to shreds with them if you ever challenge us, or piss us off. It's a gift. It was very LOUD growing up in my family at times. You would've never have guessed it if you saw us on Sundays, but Monday-Saturday was not quite as pretty in our home.

Unfortunately, I am no different than the rest of my family. I lack the FORGIVENESS gene, too. Regardless of how many times I attend church, or how many prayers I send up to The Big Man about trying to change this part of myself, I am just as flawed in the Department of Forgiveness as any of my family members. I'm a grudge holder. A grudge holder with a very big mouth at times (Exhibit A: just look at my blog). If some people could hear me during an argument they would be like, "Holy frickin' crap--you're telling me this girl goes to church? I WOULD NEVER HAVE GUESSED IT!!!!" This is where the "Do as I say, don't do as I do" saying comes in pretty handy.

It's true. My mouth gets carried away at times. It's my worst quality. Not proud of it, and I don't know how to fix it. When my temper rears its ugly head, the filter comes off, and I can tear down the best of them while simultaneously leaving a smoldering pile of what used to be somebody's self worth lying at the bottom of it. Seems strange, and completely contradictory considering I also can be found (most of the time) at the other end of the spectrum, too. Loving, caring, sensitive, supportive, compassionate. It doesn't make much sense to me, either. Be careful how you raise your children. Why? Because I'm a chip off the old block with respect to this subject.

I'll take you on a quick little journey of my church history (if you care). I've been a church-go'er at times, I've refused to go to church at times. I loved church, and hated church. I have not loved God, and then loved Him again. I've been super wishy washy at times with respect to my Christianity. A lot of it is due to all the RULES. A lot of it also has to do with hypocrisy, or at least, what I perceive as hypocrisy from churches and their members. A lot of times I feel that God and Jesus somehow got lost in translation, and the concept of the all-knowing, omnipotent church somehow took over the universe.

I had a few (MAJOR) bumpy ups and downs as a teenager. They led me into early parenthood. It pretty much blasted my entire family apart. Not at first. See--after I had kids, and realized I was a giant screw up, I decided I was going to try to make things better. I got all rowdy and decided to attend college. This made my family unhappy--especially my mom. She told me that I had chosen my path by having children so early, and that I should basically live in their basement for the rest of my life, and bag groceries at Safeway so that I could take care of, and raise my family. This didn't sound like a very good idea to me, so I went to college up at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

I decided to major in science. I had zero support from my family in this endeavor. I wasn't very good at science and math in highschool. My parents said, "We are Madisons! Madisons can't do science and math!". I actually believed this in highschool, so incidentally I sucked serious donkey turds at math and science in highschool, and never felt bad about it. It was part of my genetic makeup!! (supposedly)

 I started out my college career at Red Rocks Community College. While I was there I ended up dating a guy who was a mining engineering major at the Colorado School of Mines. His dad had a placer gold mining operation out in the bush outside of Northway, Alaska. I had never been to Alaska before, but was invited by his family to head up there while he was working that summer.

I ended up flying up there with my kids for the summer of 1996 (much against my parent's wishes). I spent then entire summer out in the bush--in the wilds of Alaska. We flew out to the bush in a 185 Cessna aircraft that my boyfriend's dad piloted. We landed on a dirt airstrip on the top of a mountain. We lived in cabins, had an outhouse, and the only water we had was brought up from the creek in giant water tanks that were hauled by a D6 earth mover.

It was one of the craziest summers of my life, and certainly a life changing moment. During my stay up at the mine, a geologist flew in to examine some of the placer specimens they had collected from the creek. I was fascinated with what he was saying, and it was at that time that I decided I WANTED TO BE A GEOLOGIST!!! I wanted to work in mining!

After returning to Colorado, my boyfriend and I broke up. I got tired of killing myself at my job that paid next to nothing, and I told my parents that I was going to go to college to become a geologist. I didn't have the GPA to get into any Colorado schools at that time, and I had taken every class known to man at the community college. At that time, I was attending college full time, working 56 hours a week, and trying to be a parent. Something had to give because I was sucking at all three of those things. It was too much for me to handle. I sat down with a guidance counselor at the community college and asked if I had a high enough GPA to get into the University of Alaska. I applied. I got my acceptance letter. I almost fell out of my chair. I was crying I was so happy. I WAS GOING TO A REAL COLLEGE!!!!!

Off to UAF I went. My parents were skeptical the entire time. I don't think anyone thought I would actually graduate from college. I went up to UAF in January of 1997, and graduated in August of 2002 with my Bachelor of Science in Geology with an emphasis in mineral exploration. I was the most focused college student in the world. I didn't date men for five years (I'm sure there were some lesbian rumors running around). I didn't party (at least not was college for goodness sake!!!!). I spent 5 years eating, sleeping, and breathing geology, mining engineering, calculus, physics, and chemistry. It wasn't easy by any means. I was a Madison, remember? It took every every brain cell I had to make it through that degree (minus the ones I killed with Miller Lite and red wine--but those were the weak ones. That was more like an experiement with Darwin's "Survival of the Fittest" theory. I only killed off the weak/stupid ones!!!).

Some of you are like, "WHO CARES!!!???" and some of you are like, "Um, Whitney, weren't you talking about religion? What does this have to do with any of this?" Well hold your horses. I'm getting there. I just have a lot to say in the process before I bring this thing around full circle.

I started off my college career at UAF with zero faith in God. I was pretty pissed off that my family, who was supposed to love me according to their precious gospel religion--but they didn't. I hated the hypocrisy that came with their lack of forgiveness. I was trying to get my life going in a good direction, and I had zero support from them. They heckled me any chance they could. It was so frustrating. I didn't want to be like these other single moms who end up on welfare, and play the helpless/hopeless card. I wanted to be the exception to the rule! The STUPID, FRICKIN' RULE that basically states that all teenage moms are a bunch of government funded, brain-dead, welfare-check-gone-bad low lifes!

I was pretty pissed off a God for a few years. Pissed off that I got knocked up. Pissed off that God LET me get knocked up. Pissed off that my family fought me about everything. Pissed off that they didn't want anything to do with me.

I ended up pretty much as an atheist during the first three years I was up at college in Alaska (and prior to that). Pissed off. Bitter. Super focused on becoming what my parents told me I could/would never be. I didn't really see the point in God, or religion. Too many rules. Too much hypocrisy. Too much trouble for me to even bother with it.

That was the conclusion that I reached right about the time I tripped over the Mormon church. I didn't mean to--it just happened. I ended up joining the church--and it completely blew the rest of my relationship with my parents out of the water. They wanted nothing to do with me after that. They called me a "Mo" (short for Mormon--their degrading version). I was in a cult according to them. However, although I am no longer in the Mormon church,  I look at my time with the Mormon church as a major blessing in my life.

Before I got involved in the Mormon church I had zero relationship with God. As a matter of fact, I attribute the entire reason I have a relationship with God to this day to the Mormon church. It was through the examples of the members, and the teaching of the church, that I was able to reestablish my relationship with God, and with Jesus Christ. I am truly grateful for that. That being said, I wasn't totally on par with some of the teachings of the Mormon church, so I ended up leaving.

I stayed away from church for a while. I didn't really know where to go from there. My relationship with God remained, but I felt let down by the church. I also had the common misconception that a lot of people have that I didn't really need to go to church as long as I "had God". Besides, church has too many rules, and regulations! I don't want to get caught up in that again! I don't want somebody telling me how to live my life! I love God! That should be enough, right?

Right. Kinda.

I'm not going to sit here and tell you that if you don't have church, you don't have God. I won't sit here and tell you that if you don't go to church you are going to hell. However, as someone who "had God" for years without fostering my relationship with Him through going to church, I CAN tell you that it is very hard to maintain a God-based life, and a nourishing/nurturing relationship with God without going over the teachings and applications that are brought forth by going to church. It's good for you. Be like Nike--JUST DO IT! You might be surprised at what you find.

I understand that churches have rules. Some churches have more rules than others. Some churches have so many rules that you might not even want to enter their front doors for fear that you will be struck by lightning. If that is the case, then perhaps you should do what any good Christian who is homeless with respect to a church does--GO CHURCH SHOPPING!!! Don't like the pastor at one church?--leave it! Don't like the sermon at another church--GO TO A DIFFERENT ONE! The band sucks at one? The people suck at another?...KEEP SHOPPING! Keep church shopping until you find one that fits YOU.

"But Whitney--this doesn't cure the fact that ALL churches have rules, regulations, and may actually require us to do something church-y!!!" This is true. Unfortunately, by going to a church, sometimes they require you to do some stuff. Whether it's stuff for you, stuff for others, or stuff for the sake of furthering the kingdom, you may have to do some stuff. However, the more you work on building up your relationship with God through the church, the more you may find that going out of your way for all that stuff doesn't seem so much like going out of your way anymore. You might actually even LIKE it. *Eeeeeeek!!!!*shiver*

I do my fair share of perpetuating some of the stereotypical hypocrisy that people have about attending church. It's completely inadvertent. To be honest with you, I am happy if anyone bothers to attend any sort of church. Doesn't matter which one it is. As long as you are making an effort to better learn how to live your life, while simultaneously getting closer to God, you have my blessing. (I'm sure you care)

If you haven't been to church in a while, I would encourage you to take a chance and give it a shot. You might be surprised at what you find.

PS sorry for any typos. My family keeps bothering me and I'm too distracted to go back and proofread this huge thing all over again. I have monkey children poking me in the head, a teenage daughter who is putting on a fashion show for me, and a cute man who keeps interrupting my typing with kisses. I think I'm needed elsewhere at this time.

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