When I Say I'm Unchurched

Phyl CampbellStarred Page By Phyl Campbell, 28th Aug 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/23or6sr7/
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Religion>Other Religions

Something happened with my son after school today that put my mind to having a place where I needed to say some things, and then direct people to the long-winded explanation. I have want to put this on a T-shirt for my son, so I can stop talking about it and stop avoiding it. Or maybe on a small prayer-sized card. Yeah, that'd be a hoot.

An Introduction

It's the end of the 7th day for my son in public school in a state south of the Mason Dixon. Which really means its an evangelical protestant Christian school that allows Catholics to work there without too much heinousness. And it's OK to be a different religion if one's skin color dictates it. But when one appears white and "normal-looking," obviously one must be Christian and not off-put by discussions that take place among the norm. Separation of Church and State be damned in the American South. It just isn't so.

On this 7th day of school, two of my son's friends got into an argument about the amount of literal the Bible was during recess -- recess!! My son went home with one of them (the one arguing for a less than literal interpretation), and was greeted by the friend's little sister -- who wanted to read them the Bible. My son said, with his usual unfazed aplomb, "yeah, my parents used to be Christian," a comment that tickles my Arizona Sun Devil born-and-bred husband endlessly, but makes my southern Bible Belt surviving self squirm with discomfort.

And that's when I walked in the door.

No, I didn't miss the comment. Luckily, it didn't seem to end the friendship. This time.

It's Not Just the Kids

And it's not just the kids.More than one teacher asked my son if he'd done anything fun when we went to the back-to-school social event. And he told them about choir camp and drama camp, both of which he loved. Then several of them asked me if I'd heard about "Camp X."

I had.

I object to its religious overtness.

I couldn't think of a way to say that nicely.

I couldn't, without alienating my happy-go-lucky son, remind them that as employees of a public school, even talking to me about my religious views, or lack thereof, could cost them their jobs. In this part of the country, that would be a major uphill battle (for me) anyway.

I pick plenty battles. This shouldn't be one of them -- not in a public school.

So I made that list anyway

So I made a list of all the things I wanted to say, and maybe they'll hear about it through the grapevine, and maybe they will have a care because -- as my son's buddies' argument shows -- when even the Christians can't agree, and they're fighting about it at recess, the topic of conversation needs to be changed. And the adults need to be setting a better example.

When I Say I'm Unchurched

I don’t mean to say that I’m not a Christian. I don’t mean to say I am one. I mean to say I don’t ascribe to the same religion as Fred Phelps. I mean to say that I think Mohammad, Jesus, and Ghandi are all pretty cool dudes who hang out at the same water and wine cooler. I also think Buddha is groovy, and would not want to mess with any Greek or roman gods – or demi-gods, either.

When I say I’m Unchurched, I’m normally talking to people who go to church or who are atheist. I’m neither. I don’t have a problem with either. I just don’t like to be labeled. And I don’t like incorrect assumptions being made about me, my parenting, my spouse or my child because of my lack of religious affiliation. I don’t stuff into a box. Unless it’s a very big box. I mean a very big box.

When I say I’m Unchurched, I’m usually trying to ask you nicely to stop proselytizing. I’ve been in churches. Churches do many things well. I know I am giving up a major source of community in exchange for the sanity I am keeping with my designation. You should see the number of FB friends I have who are clergy or very religious. If you can’t be friends with an Unchurched person, then you definitely shouldn’t be, but I won’t carry that burden of yours.

Unchurched: no excuses

When I say I’m Unchurched in my son’s public, supposedly secular school, I wish it didn’t faze people. I also wish people would not talk to me about the religious camps they send their children to as though they are public, non-religious entities. To me, it isn’t “just a little Bible study.” And to people that drop their children off for the week without ever having attended personally -- you have no idea what goes on there, either, my friends. It’s all fun and games until someone gets baptized without parental consent.

When I say I’m Unchurched, I wish I didn’t still feel the need to add, “I’m a recovering Catholic.” But having been raised Catholic, I don’t feel right going Protestant. There is something about the Mass, about Mary, about those seven "extra" books that compels me not to accept less from a new and different faith tradition. However, without serious reform, I would be wrong to call the church home or pretend I accepted all its teachings. My non-Catholic friends, my non-straight friends, and my non-"putting up with anti-feminist garbage" friends should all be equally welcome to minister in any place I might choose to worship God in. Women and married folks should be priests. I would not force out single men, but the priesthood is a lonely, lonely life, and there is too much ministry needed for anyone to be forced to go it alone. No man is an island. We are made strong just long enough to help each other.

When I say I’m Unchurched, it’s because I’ve put time into ministries. Yes, plural. I’ve seen the good, bad, and ugly. I'm not even alone, see (here)? I thought I could accept it, but I could not accept it for my child. My child.

Unchurched: for my son

When I say I’m Unchurched, I say it with the feeling that someday my child will follow in my father’s footsteps and convert his faith to please his future spouse. He may not actually change anything in his heart, but going along with what that future person will want will make him happy. And I will cry happy tears at his wedding and wish him all the best, whatever he ultimately decides. At the end of whatever service, I will go home, confident that I have raised my child in the very best way I could, knowing that his version of religion will look different than mine. And knowing that’s OK, too.

About Me

I am Author, Mother, Dreamer on Wordpress and have a fanpage on Facebook. I often write about things that are uncomfortable, because I need all the practice I can get for all the questions my son is already asking me. I owe him my whole world.

Tags

Acceptance, Children, Christian, Diversity, Non Christian, Social Group, Society, Unchurched

Meet the author

author avatar Phyl Campbell
I am "Author, Mother, Dreamer." I am also teacher, friend, Dr. Pepper addict, night-owl. Visit my website -- phylcampbell.com -- or the "Phyl Campbell Author Page" on Facebook.

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Comments

author avatar Peter B. Giblett
28th Aug 2013 (#)

I have known a lo of people with lots of different beliefs in my lifetime and the worst trait anyone can have is to preach, preach about their ways and how they are best and how we will all go straight to hell if we do not follow their way, truth is it is better to live and let live. I attended a Church of England school but was from an atheist family, the reason my parents chose this school was in part close proximity, but also quality of education.

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
28th Aug 2013 (#)

How interesting Peter. See? I don't know how I ever would have known that about you. Thank you for sharing.

And thanks also, johnnydod, for the quick publish and the star. The best to you both.

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author avatar Terry Trainor
29th Aug 2013 (#)

Religion is a personal choice and I cannot understand why some use religion as a status to enhance their so called superiority over others. Religion = Kindness.

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author avatar Connie McKinney
29th Aug 2013 (#)

Phyl, Americans have religious freedom - which means you have the choice to go to church on Sunday or sleep in. Or you can practice another religion on another day such as Friday for Myuslims and Saturday and Friday night for Jews.
As Terry stated above, religion is a personal choice.
I have friends who are Jewish, Buddhist, Protestant, Catholic and atheist. I respect everyone's religion or lack thereof. I don't judge anybody because I'm not perfect either.
So I'm totally with you on this one, Phyl. Children should not be made to feel guilty for not attending church or a religious camp or whatever. Religion should always be a choice and not forced on anybody.
Also, I think Peter makes some good points above.

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author avatar cnwriter..carolina
31st Aug 2013 (#)

I agree with you and Peter...

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
29th Aug 2013 (#)

Your comments, Connie and Terry, make me smile. Thanks!

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
29th Aug 2013 (#)

You have come out firing on all cylinders Phyl to make your stand clear. My name is a dead giveaway what religion I belong to, but I had studied in Christian and Muslim institutions. I have friends from all faiths but some wear their belief on their sleeves as a badge of honor! That shows a closed mind mode and they live with poverty of mind not to take in wisdom from this world and others. I keep an open mind to the extent I want to practice the best of every faith and I also enjoy being with atheists as they are the least hypocritical - they help others without expecting returns here or anywhere.Sadly, many get lost in rituals than living the essence of what religions stand for - peace, understanding and acceptance - siva

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
29th Aug 2013 (#)

Absolutely right, Siva! We can all learn from each other with an open mind much better than a closed one. Thanks!

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author avatar Esther Thornburg
30th Aug 2013 (#)

There are instructions from above, to believers in the risen Christ. Check the address on the envelope, to who is it written to? Read Ephesians and Colossians.

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
31st Aug 2013 (#)

I'm approving your comment, Esther, but I'm asking you to have a care. You mentioned Ephesians and Colossians without quoting a chapter or verse. Giving the contradictory nature of the letters themselves, most readers could read from them any message they wished. For example, if you wanted me to take from it the highly controversial Ephesians 5:22-33, I would thank you very kindly to stop proselytizing. You're free to NOT read my pages. However, much of the rest of Ephesians is uplifting. Paul is not my favorite apostle, but the idea that grace is more important to salvation than a strict set of rules was a positive note, and one I could find faith in.
Colossians 2:6-23 and 2:8-15 both discuss not accepting limited human constructs in lieu of a relationship with God. 4:2-6 speaks to the idea of praying, praying, praying and being thankful for the opportunity to pray. I am pleased to know you are strengthened by this. But instead I would point you to Matthew 6:3, and ask you to honor your commitment to God through your secret prayer. I would prefer to know you are Christian through your kind heart and charitable acts, not because you can tell me to read certain Bible passages.

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author avatar cnwriter..carolina
31st Aug 2013 (#)

it is important you say what is in your heart as you always do...the bible contradicts so much...you share your lovingness that is all that matters in this world or the next...thank you

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
31st Aug 2013 (#)

Thank you!

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
31st Aug 2013 (#)

THANK YOU!!

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author avatar Zola
1st Sep 2013 (#)

You are very brave to live in a such community and speak your mind. I know many people who are believers, but refuse to go to church. We all worhip in different ways.

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
1st Sep 2013 (#)

Thank you, Zola. I am only as brave as my son needs me to be. And I have been lucky to find stalwart friends and supporters where I least expected to.

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author avatar LoverOfGOD
25th Sep 2013 (#)

I am spiritual, I never thought of saying unchurched. I guess I have been churched all my life, but it wasnt for me. I found a connection of God devoid of church. Your article was very entertaining and thought provoking. Take care, and kiss your son for me.

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
25th Sep 2013 (#)

Thanks! I will with joy!

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