DISCLAIMER: If you're a religious person, you should keep moving past this post. It's not for you. And if you feel a way about it, please share that on your wall, not my thread and/or feel free to block me. I assure you I won't take it personally. I will take it personally if you impose your unsolicited views or snarky comments on what God and I should be doing together. Unsolicited means providing commentary that hasn't been requested.
It's a funny thing when you're a black person, that there are general assumptions made by other black folks about what I will or will not like. Well, you must be a Christian if you're black or you must clean your house around the clock to be a proper black woman or you must agree with this or that because that's what black people do, you must have a church home, you must be writing a check to this black organization or that organization because they're black....etc....And I always think just cause an organization is black doesn't tell me a goddamned thing about what kind of work they make. It could be black in content and of no interest at all to me. That happens to me all the time.
I don't buy "we all on the same page because we black" and most of the time, when I hear the status quo on what I should be doing, I realize I wholeheartedly disagree with it. Religion is just a small part of that, but one of the most potent examples. Very interesting experience recently dealing with my mother's religion which doesn't allow her to take blood or substitutes or even her own blood once it's been removed from her body. It became a very stressfulI time when she was in the hospital for brain surgery. Dealing with both her religious representatives, the legal stuff, her wishes and the doctors trying to save her life while honoring her belief system was a a hairy struggle to say the least. But I'm convinced that I handled it with patience, dignity and some poetic cussing when folks tried to bring stress. It was a balancing act, but I did self care while taking care of my mother and it was a first for me. I know I was successful because for the first time in my life, she did what I said do with minimal drama (miracles of miracles). I honored her beliefs while not allowing her to step on mine even though she has no respect for mine at all. I was raised in the same faith that she still practices and baptized in it and at a certain point, I made the decision to formally disassociate myself from the religion. That decision was based on a difference in principles and was no easy decision to make because once it's made, you're excommunicated from the church which means no one can speak to you, including your family to a lesser extent.
I made the decision and I'm good with it. Especially now as an adult. Having to confront the tenants of this faith in the midst of my mother's medical crisis brought back some anger, but also a vivid memory of why I left in the first place. I firmly disagreed with the interpretation of certain biblical passages. My disagreement was met with this cloying "kindness"...a kind a condescending, paternalistic, "Well, you're just lost and we're going to patiently wait until you find your way back. Now, let's sit in this room for 6 hours until we convince you." So that even when someone is saying something absolutely horrible to you: "Yes, you should always follow these beliefs even if it means you'll die or lose your family,; they're doing it with the pleasant smile and the implied threat of excommunication as punishment is alive and well.
Which is totally cool to say if that's how you want to get down. I don't take issue with the stand, I take issue with the tone. And I guess, it's fundamentally my issue whenever someone assumes, I'm just like them and should be doing what they're doing because that's the only right way. I mean, that truly is the underpinning of most religions. This way is the right way, and anything else is wrong. And if you disagree with me, then you are very very wrong or lost and in need of my help.
That kind of binary thinking works my nerves. It actually enrages me because my survival, my life has been a testimony in doing things all kinds of out-the-box, non-conformist, in-the-wrong-order ways. It was the only way I knew how under dire circumstances to fight my way, not only out of the physical ghetto, but the more difficult ghetto which was/is the poverty of my expectations. What you believe is possible for you when you come from poverty/abuse is small and full of fear. Those sets of beliefs were more crippling than anything else. That was my greatest and hardest journey.
So when someone tells me, that they happen to know this scripture, or this tenant or what I need to be doing a Sunday or living my life...or simply assuming we agree on one thing being the final arbiter of right and wrong: That shit sends me into hyper drive. Because the self-righteous tone is fear dressed up like faith. I lived a life of utter fear and panic from the time I was 5 years old, so I had decided my adulthood was going to be free of fear. The first step was to get rid of all the fear mongers in my life: hyper-religious folks, envious folks, negative folks, controlling folks, broken folks. Because I realized that all of this behavior was a manifestation of fear. Fear of dying mostly, but since I was trying to focus solely on living, fear and death were the farthest things from my mind.
When I was dealing with my mother's health concerns, I simply shut down all need to control what I could not and firmly and relentlessly controlled what I could. I drew a line that was so hard in the sand around not wanting to hear anyone's unsolicited opinions about shit that was ultimately completely in my control. My thinking was, "Yes, I understand that's how so and so did this, but I don't know them motherfuckers and them motherfuckers don't know me, so I don't have to do shit the way they did."
So, I learned to shut it down firmly, without question and it usually involved a clever combination of intellectual argument reduced to simple phrases and accented with appropriate profanity to shut it the fuck down. Because as I sat there trying to have a conversation with folks of faith; I realized they weren't hearing the facts of what I was saying, but rather, they were looking to justify their faith. They needed that set of religious beliefs to be right otherwise, their lives were not worth living. So even if I'm right, and their life depends on it. They only want to be alive believing what they believe. And that's real shit. That's you go your way and I go mine kind o shit...
So, in instances that are life and death, I have to take stock of what I have in my control and let go of what I can't. And set boundaries to protect my heart, mind and clarity of purpose. When it's not instances of life and death and someone turns to me and begins a sentence with "God said, the lord did this or that or questioning one of my posts with religious reasoning; in those moments, I feel the rage that I'm allowed to feel because I have complete control in those situations. I don't have to hear about what you believe nor do I want to and that's really alright.
That's your personal business, you have no idea what my personal spiritual beliefs are and that is exactly as it should be. Religion, spirituality is personal. It's not a subject that's up for discussion. And I'm good with that. I finally understand the feverish need folks have to argue about it and convince that its right. They need it to be right to go on living and hoping. I respect that, but I've learned that that consideration is never returned when I'm dealing with someone who believes what they believe is the only right thing. So in those instances, I've learned how happy it makes me to say, "That's great, but I don't want to fucking hear it." And once I've said those words finally, it's like the first thing they finally hear and they give the sermon on the mount a break.
Here's where I'm coming from. I believe that what my spiritual beliefs are, are extraordinary. They satisfy me, they take away the fear and make life a glorious adventure. I don't need to share the details of that belief system because I know it's right for me. I don't need to prove that to anyone. When someone is telling me what they believe and trying to convince me of it's rightness and what i should be doing; I think, if it's so great, why do you need me to co-sign? I don't need you to co-sign my beliefs....I'm good...
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April Yvette Thompson is a Tony-winning producer, actor, writer, thinker, dreamer in search of beauty, truth, love & flights of serendipitous grace.