Hye Thyme Cafe: Finish the Sentence Friday ... "In Church (place of worship), I learned ..."

Welcome to the Hy
e Thyme Cafe. Although not all of my recipes are Armenian, the name is a little nod to my Armenian grandmother who is no longer with us. The Hye refers to all things related to her homeland, and she represents all things food-related to me, so the two just seemed to go together. I can't even claim that my Armenian recipes are truly Armenian, since Greece, Turkey, Armenia, Lebanon, Syria, and even Egypt share so many foods that they've all sort of morphed into one over thousands of years.

Whether you like to cook, bake, have never done either, or just like to play with your food...come on in and join me! :)


Friday, July 19, 2013

Finish the Sentence Friday ... "In Church (place of worship), I learned ..."

St. Stephen's Armenian Apostolic Church


Religion and politics are two very contentious topics, so I was surprised that this question came up, but it is what it is, so …

In church (place of worship), I learned to … "

 ... not believe in a "church."

I never was much of a church goer.  My parents would take us as kids, but it was usually my Dad, and I'm pretty sure that was more to get us out from underfoot of our Mom than anything else.  Mom's family was Armenian Apostolic (Armenia was the very first Christian nation - not the first Christian people, but the first nation as a whole to accept Christianity.), so we were christened in that church but didn't live close enough for them to bring us regularly.  Even had that been an option, they only speak Armenian in our particular church (pictured above), so I wouldn't have understood a word that was being said anyhow.  Dad's family was Catholic, so he would often take us to the local Catholic Church.  Being someone who liked to explore (indoors and out), he also took us to other churches in the area.  Growing up in Hingham, MA, also meant being aware that Hingham is home to the Old Ship Church, the oldest church in the U.S. under continual ecclesiastical use.  Hingham is also the home of Talbot's, but that's another story.  ;)

I was baptized in the Armenian Church, dragged to Catholic services on weekends, grew up in a largely Jewish neighborhood, had a best friend who was Episcopalian, so any weekends spent at her house meant attending services at the Episcopal Church, and we went to a Lutheran camp together in the summer.  I was exposed to a little of everything, but nothing really stuck.

Even as a child, I often left church feeling insulted after being told that only those who practice X religion are going to Heaven and everyone else is bad or to be pitied and going to Hell.  What's up with that?!?  To me, church was a place where those in attendance were told they were better than anyone else, where you were doused in incest, had your allowance taken away from you, were lectured by men for whom you were supposed to have the utmost respect (even though these same men often did terrible things themselves), where women were taught they were "less than" and not allowed to preach, and where even if you were one of those "good" people attending services, if you didn't receive communion, you were still looked down on.  Which I also thought was funny because I knew very well that a lot of those standing in line to receive communion were neither "in a state of grace" nor "free of mortal sin."  Who were they kidding?!?  Not this eight-year old at the back of the room!  All I saw was hypocrisy.

It's all very confusing.  How is it that some religions have one God, where others have different Gods for all kinds of things?  And how can anyone insist their way is the right way?  Unless you have actually met him/her/them, you really have no idea.

Everything I needed to know about the principles of religion I had already learned at home and seriously, most of it is pretty much common sense in the first place.  Personally, I don't believe in the concept of church.  At the same time, it seems to be a great social outlet – a place where people of like mind can gather, network, find help when they need it, etc.  I sometimes feel as though I missed out in that regard.  Aside from that, I see "church" as a place of oppression, greed, intolerance, etc., which of course is completely in contradiction to its teachings.

I'm not knocking anyone for their belief or non-belief in God – it's the concept of church I have a problem with.  If you believe in God, that's great.  You want to gather with others who share your beliefs to discuss them, etc., that's great too, but why do you need to go to a church to do that?  To me, the church itself is largely about men controlling those around them and often times lining their own pockets in the process, and I find that offensive.

I recently made the mistake of tuning into one of the latest reality shows to hit the airwaves.  Have you seen this one yet … TLC's "The Sisterhood."  All I got from that was that these women are primarily concerned with their wardrobes and status – not very "church lady" if you ask me!!  I was instantly brought back to when the father of one of my college roommates passed away.  I forget what religion they were, but I drove to Connecticut to attend the services and was dumbfounded when I walked into their church to find seven or eight ladies at the front raucously arguing over which of them (all decked out in their finest jewels and full-length fur coats) got to sit in the front row.  Seriously?!?  In Church?!?!  At a funeral no less?????????

Heck, maybe I'm just all riled up over Pope John Paul being canonized.  To me, someone who knowingly swept all those child molestation cases under the carpet and refused to allow the use of condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS at its height, among other things, does not deserve to be canonized, let alone that he only performed ONE supposed miracle, when the requirement is for TWO.

You want to post the 10 Commandments all over schools and courthouses, etc., knock yourself out.  Anyone who doesn't want to read them can walk right by (but I still say most of it is common sense anyhow).  You want US currency to sport the words "In God We Trust?"  OK by me – a little strange, but it won't stop me from using it.  You want to say Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas?  That's OK too, but since it IS Christmas, I'll keep on saying Merry Christmas in response.  You want religion taught in schools?  Just so long as it's an elective course, why not?!  You want to pray in school with your friends?  Do it during study period, lunch, before or after class – no problem!  Whichever side of the equation you're on, I'm OK with that, just so long as you don't insist on pushing your particular beliefs on me.

The other thing I found very strange about religion was when I moved to New Orleans.  I was shocked by the number of people I met there who seem to try on different religions like they're shopping for clothes – jumping from one to another until they find one that allows them to do whatever they like.  Is that really what it's about??  And don't get me started on gift shops in churches!!

I remember watching Perry Mason after school with my Mom when I was little, and even back then, it was religion causing me stress rather than giving me comfort.  What would happen if I ever had to go to court and wouldn't swear on a Bible?  They would assume I was lying!!  Yup, 6-year old me would stress over things like that and have to face the wrath of my parents for not sharing their beliefs.

I think it was high school when my mother finally gave up on me where religion is concerned. She suddenly decided that I would be sent to Notre Dame, the local all-girls Catholic School. The look of horror on my face suddenly changed to a smirk as I posed this question … "You have to take a test to get in, right?" That was the end of the discussion. Would have been the easiest test I ever failed.

If I'm in Massachusetts around Martyr's Day (April 24 - the commemoration of the Armenian genocide) or the anniversary of the death of either of my maternal grandparents, I do attend church still, but it's more a matter of respect and culture to me than to do with the church. And I do make the rounds at the cemeteries as well, to visit and plant flowers for them and stop by to "check in" with other friends/relatives who have passed.  That also seems pretty funny to me since I don't think their souls or energy or however you want to think of it is hanging out at the cemetery but hey, it's tradition.

Oh, and the other thing I learned in church is never to underestimate the acoustics in there!  When I was 3 or 4, I spent the weekend at a friend's and went to church with her family.  She said something shocking, and as I very quietly responded with a little whistle, the acoustics turned that small sound into something akin to a train whistle, and all eyes were on me.  Oops!!!!!!



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14 comments:

  1. Chris,
    This is a wonderful post. Okay, from Massachusetts Wicked Awesome :)
    In all seriousness, you and my husband have a lot in common. He too does not believe in organized religion. He believes in his own moral (common sense) code and sense of being. He doesn't object to my raising the girls Catholic, as the traditions are important to me.
    There is a lot wrong with society and with organizations. You have to have your own center, I believe.
    I completely admire how you finished this sentence. You have such empathy and a willingness to live and let live.

    Oh one last thing...a gift shop in a church? Seriously!

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  2. I always figured if I got married and had kids, I would defer to my husband re: the kids/religion but at least expose them to the Armenian church. Never happened, so it wasn't an issue. Wicked crazy, right?!? A gift shop IN a church. I was blown away by that taking a tour with some friends at St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans. When I said something about it, they all seemed to think it was no big deal and not that unusual.

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  3. I too am not very religious and was raised by my parents who really didn't get to church that much. My grandparents took me, but still never felt a huge connection or affinity when i went. My husband's family was and still very religious (Roman Catholic). As you know from my post, I did go with him before we had kids, but we both don't really go all that much now. So, I could very much relate to your post today. And I loved the way you ended this!! Thanks seriously for linking up with us :)

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    1. Maybe that was part of it for me - like a Roman Catholic service, the Armenian services seem to go on for days!!!! It's even funnier if you attend an Armenian wedding. I always warn the best man if he's not Armenian, because he has to hold a cross over the bride and groom through the whole service. I always advise them to start working out ahead of time LOL.

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  4. A contentious topic, indeed. I found a way around it, and dodged the topic in its entirety. ;) I do not go to church right now, for many of the problematic reasons you mentioned. As a child, I too was very bothered by the notion that a village of African children who had never heard of Jesus may be going straight to hell. That didn't work for me. The hypocrisy and agenda you spoke of has bothered me throughout the years as well. I have since found my own brand of spirituality that works for me, but I find little solace in being in most churches, regardless of their denomination. That is not to say that there is little value in church, nor is it to say that churches unanimously peddle a bunch of garbage and no messages of love or truth. I'm glad that many people find something beautiful in church. But I don't attend it. I loved the depth and honesty of this post, Chris- thank you so much.

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    1. Agree with me or not, I just call it like I see it. And you're absolutely right - as with anything else, it's not all good or bad. So, are we talking politics or money next week? ;)

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  5. I really appreciate your frank honesty regarding this topic, Chris. I know I'm biased, but I've always felt that my faith, reformed Judaism, is accepting of all people,and much less political than other religions. Like you, I have a real issue with religious officials declaring that only believers of their religion are going to Heaven. That's so divisive and mean spirited - surely not what religion is meant to be.

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    1. That reminds me - that was something else I got a chuckle out of. Even the Armenian church had a political split, so where my family was involved with the church above, most of those I know in the area belong to St. James. When I was a kid, I spent spring break at a friends' and attended a youth group function at St. James with her. My Mom had a FIT when she found me working a booth at their fundraiser. You would think she would just be happy I was attending church. Oh well ...

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  6. I enjoyed your post Chris. I also was raised Catholic, went to Catholic school for the first 8 grades and was taken to church every Sunday by my Dad. Like you, it was always him. My mother never stepped into a church with me until my sister got married. The only other times she went was when attending weddings or funerals. Funny that. And she taught at a Catholic school!
    I agree with you on many points. What I learned from my early church going was simply be the best person I can each day. Be generous and genuine with those around me, never lie to anyone, including myself, don't take anyone or anything for granted and do not judge. So why couldn't I have said that in my post today?! LOL

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    1. No matter our beliefs, we're all a work in progress, evolving as we go along. :)

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  7. A gift shop in a place of worship...lol

    I guess it would be normal if you visit a temple. Being a hindu, I have seen some temples sell stuff.

    I like your take on religion though :)

    Happy Friday!

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    1. It just seemed very tacky to me. Setting aside the fact that you already make a donation during the service, and if you want to light a candle in someone's memory, there is another charge for that, and they hit you up for donations throughout the year, etc...

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  8. yeah! but two reasons to not hate catholic school: a) you never had to decide what to wear to school, 2) you never had to go to Sunday school

    ok maybe not... but to me, those who take the religious beliefs they were given by family tradition and parents and carry it forward into their adult life, must, on some level 're-believe' in whatever they were taught as children.
    I say this with a sense of admiration.

    I agree that anyone who feels the need to sell the ideas of a religion has already lost the sale, at least with me that's true. The people that I know who happen to have what I would call 'the right approach'* are people who know that it is by their actions that the true value of belief are judged and (they) simply don't have the time or the interest in trying to force others to see things their way.

    I think I made mention somewhere that, in Wakefield Doctrine terms, the religion that is manifested in the organization of people and rules is basically rogerian, while those of us who are clarks, spirituality is the thing that matters. Of course, spirituality is not something that can be easily codified and ritualized, inherently being a relationship between the individual and the deity or deities.

    (so, it was more that when I got to college, I came to see that I had the right to decide what to believe, as opposed to being required by reason of childhoodness to profess to believe what I was being told to believe. ya know?**)

    *yeah, no ego there, right?
    ** sort of an answer to your question over at the Doctrine...

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  9. YES to how do some religions have one God and others have many? And HELLZ YEAH to having a problem with the leaders saying only xyz people are worthy. That, my friend, is my number one problem.

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