For a few years, we lived in New Orleans…the OTHER “Sin City.” The bars are open 24/7, there are drive-through liquor “barns,” and on any given night in the French Quarter you have to dodge and weave past the intoxicated tourists, hookers, and hawkers attempting to lure you into a nearby strip club.
We had family come to town one weekend and took them sightseeing in the Garden District and for beignets in the French Quarter. They wanted to visit Bourbon Street, so we headed that direction. As it was a weekend evening, the crowds were out and the partying had already begun. While in the midst of a conversation with our guests, a raggedy looking “gentleman” attempted to shove something in my hands. Thinking it was another advertisement for a strip club, I waved him off, gave a firm, “No, thank you,” and continued walking. The gentleman then, in his southern drawl, proclaimed VERY LOUDLY to those in the area, “Did you hear that?? She said NO, THANK YA to JESUS!” Apparently, he was in the God business and not the strip club business and had attempted to hand me scripture printed on a small card.
Had I known, I probably would have still said, “No, thank you,” to Jesus, because I’m not a religious person. That’s not to say that I’m not a spiritual person, because I am. I believe in a higher power and we have frequent, albeit one-sided, discussions. However, I’m not a fan of organized religion – and all of the guilt, pressure, and hypocrisy that often comes along with it. Please note, I said OFTEN – not ALWAYS! I know that there are many people out there who are VERY religious, as well as kind, compassionate, forgiving, and accepting of others (not just those who are the same color, religion, and not gay or “different.”
As I’ve discussed in past posts, I grew up in a Mormon family – with devout Mormon parents. I was baptized into the Church at an early age and I was expected to regularly attend Church meetings, abide by Church rules, and conform into the stereotypical good Mormon girl. Yeah…that didn’t happen so much. Instead I rebelled – and loudly. I had a problem (and still do) with arbitrary authority figures and those who felt that they had the power and right to judge me and my actions. But as any inactive Mormon, or Catholic, or Baptist can tell you – the indoctrination (and associated guilt) sticks with you – and then you feel even more guilty (and angry) for feeling guilty in the first place. It’s like a little religious hamster wheel where you just go ‘round and ‘round, with the occasional moment of clarity where you can accept yourself for who you are and where you are in your spiritual growth.
If the day ever comes where I find a church that preaches only love and acceptance, that doesn’t attempt to scare members into following the straight and narrow by threatening an eternal separation from God, that doesn’t choose a select few to be in charge of and in judgment of others, and that allows and forgives the sarcastic and slightly wicked sense of humor that I have – maybe I’ll give religion another shot. Until then, I’ll keep having my one-sided conversations with God – because he and I? We’re good.