Losing my religion — and father
My dad found his faith just before I lost mine. Just before he died.
Growing up, dad would watch my mom and brother and I get ready and head in to church every Sunday, and cheerfully tell us to have a good time as he headed to his sanctuary: his workshop. He would even tag along with us on rare occasion, if the sermon’s topic piqued one of his many interests or if it were a major holiday and he wanted “to see the circus”. But most of the time he didn’t, and I never once heard my mother ask him to.
As a young couple, my mom followed a path adjacent her family’s baptist footsteps by finding a small, community-led Evangelical Free Church for herself and two young children, while my dad remained happily and unapologetically agnostic, as he had been since his youth. His grandmother Madelle, who largely raised him (and is also my daughter’s eponym), was highly spiritual, highly practical, and didn’t have much time or patience for religion. My dad was very practical and didn’t have much use for religion, but he wasn’t terribly spiritual — not until very late in his life.
On the occasion that he’d appear at a church event, pastors and leaders swarmed in attempts to crack his agnostic shell. To them, Dad represented the Moby Dick of converts. And he welcomed their attacks.
They would say things like, “Walt, when are you going to embrace the peace of having everlasting life through a relationship with our Lord and Savior?”
And dad would laugh, and probably pull my pigtail, and gesture around and say, “I don’t know, guys — I’ve got a beautiful wife and kids, a good job, land, and a good store of ammunition; life seems pretty darn good right now, and if it’s not broken, don’t fix it!”
I, on the other hand, was extremely spiritually sensitive as a child, and the church community was the one provided to me, so I bought the ideology hook line and sinker. I loved the discovery of meaning through study, and the cross-checking it against spiritual experience. I loved the comfort of knowing there was something bigger, higher, and more benevolent than myself. The security of knowing that this physical plain is not all there is, and that I have a place in the Universe.
God. Salvation. Heaven. These are how Evangelical Christianity frame our spiritual place in the Universe. They’re powerful tools. But they’re also, I’ve found, extremely limiting.