roots: the formation of faith

From my Art & Spirituality journal.

I was born in [a different Southern city], but raised in [Terabil], a town which would like to think of itself as a city but is really a suburb that metastasized enough to strangle the city it grew around. Given its position in the Bible Belt, it's not entirely surprising that I was raised as a conservative evangelical Presbyterian.

My childhood was generally unexceptional in a very middle-class WASP sort of way. I have four siblings, one older and three younger, and as we all grew up it was increasingly clear that I was going to be characterized as the black sheep (or, well, the rainbow sheep in my case). We were all smart, and encouraged to get good grades, but I was the one who really liked to Question Things. Just as an indication, my older sister works at a banking corporation and is applying to law school, and my younger college-age brother is going to med school like my father. And I'm at art school majoring in comics. Not exactly the respectable, comfortable option.

My major difficulty with the insular spiritual mindset I was raised with began, not surprisingly, at puberty. Throughout twelve or thirteen years of Sunday School, I was taught to memorize verses and recite catechisms and obey teachers, and this began to clash with my increasing insistence on analyzing verses and questioning catechisms and beginning to wonder where, precisely, my teachers derived their incontrovertible spiritual authority from if we were all, as we were taught, part of the priesthood of believers. I noticed where certain assumptions conflicted with each other or didn't seem to apply to my life, or in the case of admonitions to boys not to lust after attractive girls, applied to me when they probably weren't intended to.

The older I got, the less orthodox I became, especially when I got internet access and could look up any theological or spiritual topic which interested me. I went through a short atheist phase, but eventually came back to theism; a bit of a halfhearted Wiccan phase lasted until the pervasive fluffybunny syncretism got on my nerves. I still have a soft spot in my heart for Taoism, but the lack of, well, Jesus made it ultimately unworkable for me. Sometimes you can't leave behind everything.

Nowadays I identify somewhere around Quaker Christianity, which has a strong emphasis on individual connection to God and the essential primacy of conscience over doctrine or tradition, as well as honesty, integrity, and equality, which jibes well with my sense of what religion should be about-- one's relationship to God as best expressed in one's treatment of other people, who like oneself are made in the image of God.

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thus saith Liadan at 3:34 AM


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