On Saturday, I was invited to go to a conference for a huge international Christian church. It would be an understatement if I said I was a little skeptical, but interested nevertheless. Whilst I wondered around the Pasadena Conference Hall, I had thoughts about my being there and how much of an outsider I was and felt – it’s not my typical crowd, I won’t lie. As I pondered, I thought about the fact that this experience could help educate myself about the world that surrounds me. If I got nothing out of it, I had hoped I would at least learn something new.. And I did.
So, I go in, not knowing what to expect – Is it going to be long? Do I have to side-hug everyone I meet? Totally clueless. Here I am, a non-theist young adult, amongst hundreds of Christians in large clusters of friends all over the venue. Winding in and out of people, I finally find my friend, who was the key speaker on the subject of mothers in the faith (biological and ‘spiritual’/surrogates within the community). She has me sit right next to her on the front row and I got a little nervous. The audience sings a couple rhythmic [and predictable] hymns to start off – everyone’s dancing and clapping along while my stiff self is standing there smiling like a sinner in church (almost literally), with hands in my pockets, swaying when I felt like it.
The main topic was “Mothers in the Faith”, but a few speakers later on spoke about sisters, daughters, grandmothers and even aunts in the faith. The moral of the whole meeting was to embrace the spiritual (strong bonds) families you create within the community and what God does to ensure everyone is safe and progressing towards heaven. Someone pleaded – “Convert your family so we can bring them into heaven with us!” A common statement I didn’t like to hear. (I also wrote that someone had talked about rebellion and that God does not protect you when you sin, he disciplines you back into his trust bubble where he will protect you because he loves you and wants you to be safe but remember what you’ve done.)
As I recall, from my hazy memory of Religious Studies class, was that God is supposed to be omnipresent (present everywhere at the same time). Despite this, someone quoted, “God cannot be everywhere, so he made mothers.” This is a very popular Jewish proverb – something I certainly didn’t expect to be said. I’m sure it’s true that Christians [are ‘supposed’ to] believe that God is omnipresent and thus that statement would be false. I’m not sure if the quote only stood because of the circumstances or if that’s what we’re/they’re supposed to believe (and in that case shame on my religious studies teacher).
I jotted down something that was mentioned a lot – “Disciples”. I defined: A teacher/mentor that helps you with the understanding of God and your personal relationship with him. Someone said that becoming a disciple is to train to be like Jesus – I found this to be a very odd statement. My interpretation, which I guess most religions are based on, is that a good role-model who helps you [with whatever] and guides you to a better understanding of yourself so you can teach others to do the same. It’s like therapy, in a sense.
There’s too much to talk about, so here’s the basic verdict –
All the women there were so nice and understanding when I explained that I wasn’t religious and they told me that I was in a good place because I could explore my options and henceforth. (I didn’t have the heart to tell them I wasn’t planning to actually join a religion, but they didn’t seem to mind much either way.) My friend laughed with me at the end of the conference, understanding my point of view. I didn’t feel threatened or pressured for the most part. Possibly intimidated by my being alone and surrounded by not-so like-minded people. The message was that God loves you no matter what and that being a woman, a mother, a sister, means to be concerning, caring and loving just like God is to us. I actually appreciated some of what was said, like some morals that you shouldn’t need to be religious to practice.
End note: Not all Christians are the same! Each person in that room does not believe the exact same thing as the next. It is all their personal interpretation of the bible and their spiritual connections to God. The people I spoke with were very accepting and came from all walks of life, some similar to mine.
I hope to explore more religions and maybe document my thoughts and experiences in more depth – it was eye-opening and I wish to make sure I am even less ignorant as I mature – being open-minded/hearted as we all should be. I thought of this at the meeting, so my preparations fell short this time.. I think this idea could become a great educational journey. I even came up with a great resolution to better myself – I will always say yes (in situations like hanging out/going out, trying exotic foods, etc.) unless there is a very reasonable cause to say no (if I was ill, busy with school/already double-booked, felt threatened..). I figured this would urge me to be a little more adventurous than I think I already am.
Thanks for reading!