Yup, we’re going there…please take the time to hear me out?
This is a topic I don’t debate about. I’m not going to try to convince, defend or entertain, because I don’t feel the need to. This is a topic I do not take lightly. It is apart of who I am at my very core and it will always matter. It dictates who I am in every capacity of my life. My views, are my views. My experience, is my experience. My story, is my story. It is my truth and it is not up for discussion. With that, let us proceed.
1.What is religion?
As defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, religion is:
Belief in or acknowledgement of some superhuman power or powers (esp. a god or gods) which is typically manifested in obedience, reverence, and worship; such a belief as part of a system defining a code of living, esp. as a means of achieving spiritual or material improvement.
2. What are the main world religions?
The world’s top 5 religions chart with Christianity having the most believers, followed by Islam. Then Nonreligious believers, including those of secular, agnostic and atheist beliefs. Next are those of Traditional Chinese religion, with Buddhism closely following.
My Religious Background
I was born in Kingston, Jamaica, officially recognized world-wide as a Christian nation, as stated by the last census conducted in 2011, recording 64% of the population being affiliated with Protestant groups (62%) and Roman Catholic (2%). I was born to parents who had both chosen to divert from their Anglican upbringings many years prior to my conception, to the Seventh-Day Adventist denomination, which is the largest recorded denomination with 322,228 members as noted by the 2011 census.
My Religious Education
I was brought up regularly attending and being extremely active in the Seventh-Day Adventist church; I’m talking choir, sign language, praise team, sabbath school, even the cadet-like organization Pathfinder, where I won lots of awards.
However, my formal schooling was done with predominantly at a Church of God institution, and a Roman Catholic institution, which I have great respect for. I knew “Hail Mary” and celebrated catholic holy days on which various saints were honored. I’ll never forget having “Pet Day” at school, where students and staff could bring their pets in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi who deeply loved and cared for animals. I’ve already decided that should I one day have children of my own, they will get a Catholic education because Catholic just seem to have found a formula that works that others just can’t seem to replicate. In school, of course we had the class Religious Education and every year without fail we were given the group project to do about either Christianity, Islam, Judaism or Hinduism; I was not a fan of this assignment (mostly because I hate group work).
At home, every morning my mom and dad would wake me by playing religious music and sit at the side of my bed and have devotion with me. Every night, they would read to me and say prayers with me. I had tons of children’s bibles, story books and puzzle books. I had VHS cassettes with religious children’s programming, and even Bible story CDs. I watched “Veggie Tales” before it was a thing. We listened to gospel music in the car. I debated doctrine with my dad. We had family worship every Friday night.
I was as “religious” as it gets.
My Religious Choice
Even though I have lived here all my life here in Jamaica (with a few trips overseas) and been raised in a traditional, very religious Jamaican household with both urban and rural roots, I did not choose it. However, after much personal research into the beliefs of other congregations, I made my personal, formal choice and and I was baptized on January 28, 2006 into the Seventh-Day Adventist faith.
My Religious Epiphany
I had the religious upbringing and I knew the beliefs back and forth (for Adventists, there are 28 fundamental ones); but, I didn’t have a relationship with God. That part came about 2 to 3 years later, and when it did, it didn’t come walking in with a church manual or even a bible, in hand. It came in the form of completely shirking everything I’d ever been taught about religion, and finding and defining my own version of God. At that point, was when religion stopped being about knowledge of doctrine, but about the conviction. That’s when the spiritual element came into play.
My Religious Stance
Nowadays, I’m a far cry from how I started out. I’m not active in church anymore. To be honest, I’m not thrilled about going either. When Sabbaths start rolling in (which starts at sunset Friday evening, and goes until sunset Saturday evening), I’m initially filled with relief because for 24 hours, life stops and I can rest. However, my next immediate thought is usually along the lines of “Do I have to go to church? I wonder if I can get out of it this week? Sigh, why isn’t this weekend period weekend?”. Just being honest. But I still go…some weeks.
I go because I’ve taken the religious with the spiritual element (according to the given definition).
I know MY doctrine behind the reason for attending church, on Saturday in particular (Exodus 20: 8-11).
I go because I love the God that I have a relationship with. He is not my parents’ version of God, or my schools’ or my church’s. He is mine. I love HIM. And when you love someone, and they say “Hey, I’m making some special time for you and I to chill and maybe get to know each other and vibe. You finna come through?” The answer is “yes”, and you go.
I am committed to my relationship with God and when you committed, you compromise and do some things you don’t want to, in the name of love.
Aside from the church aspect, I’m highly spiritual. I have my daily devotions (both morning and at night), not out of obligation but out of necessity. It makes me feel good and puts me at peace. I was literally having a major depressive episode that had been the case for MONTHS, and I didn’t know how to work through it. So you know what happened? I was watching a Youtuber I like, and she mentioned that she was changing her devotional routine and an app she used (it wasn’t sponsored, and even if it was, who cares!). I downloaded that app and the first devotional the next day was timely like it was written for me. I kept going day after day and I’ve been making progress. How can you tell? Easy. Before, I couldn’t write because I was uninterested and unmotivated. And now it’s day 4 of this blog challenge, I am laying in bed with a stomach bug and typing on my phone to make sure I keep up with my posts. If that ain’t a turn around, I don’t know what is. And it started with getting my religious life back on track.
My Religious Faux Pas
Now, let me be clear. The major thing I hate about religion is how divisive it is. Various religions seem so concerned with doctrines and their self-established segregation, rules lists of do’s and don’ts, it becomes a major turn off.
Additionally EVERYONE is so judgemental when religion comes into play. Religious folks are quick to judge the nonreligous, declaring that they’re “heathens” without any sort of moral compass because they don’t recite the make the sign of the cross, or go through the “wudu” before prayer or wear the kippah, tallit and teffilin all day, err day! Nonreligious persons are quick to assume they know you based on the fact that you’re religious and which religious and/or denomination you affiliate with.
I cannot begin to tell you how many conversations I’ve had to use the disclaimer “yeah, I’m Adventist but I’m not one of those adventists” to make sure my individual ideals and practices are not bunch together and unfairly scrutinized because of some other encounter the person had that left a bad taste in their mouth. And who knew the day would come when the highest religious compliment I could get from a nonreligious stranger would be “you’re a chrisitan, don’t it? I see it you know! You just move like a Christian. But I’m still just a little shocked, I guess. You’re not like the others.”
Ummm, I don’t know much, but if this is the general way of thinking, I think there’s a big problem. Unfortunately, I don’t have THE solution. But I think it starts with love. We will always have differences of opinions and beliefs, but it is how we go about sharing and enforcing them that will dictate the way things progress in our world and society.
My Religious Path
With all of that said and done, I hope you know, understand and see where I’m coming from a bit better. If not, it’s simple: All I do, is live my life daily trying to be a decent person.
I try to mind my own business. I try not to lie or steal. I try to be respectful. I try to help those I can. I try to have integrity. I try to show love in my words and actions. I try to be moderate in all things. Don’t believe me?
My mantra is simple, and comes straight from the Bible which I subscribe to:
He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?
Micah 6: 8 (King James Version)
Soundbite version (perfect for a shirt which I actually had but outgrew by the way, so I have to replace):
I’m neither sinner, nor saint; I’m simply saved by grace and live in love! Blessings!
xoxo, from where my 7 dreams grow,
~ Rynzi <3