Church-going in Ohio

The roommates have been looking for a church here in Ohio, and though I figured it would be too liberal-hippie for them, I told them I was looking into the local Unitarian church just north of here. I figured it would get us all out of the house, and it would get me socializing at a place I could feel comfortable talking about ideas of faith, history, and religion in.

Overall, it was a good experience for me. It was the first time I went to a church and didn’t feel like I was some kind of imposter. I don’t generally feel welcome and comfortable at churches. They spend a lot of time saying, “here’s what we are and what we believe, and if you don’t believe this, you aren’t welcome” Or, “if you don’t believe this, we’ll make you believe it, because we’ll use fear and coercion to convince you, because your lack of belief makes us uncomfortable.”

This church was more about talking about faith and religions and ideas thrown around in other churches, questioning those, looking at different texts (including the Bible). It was focused on faith and love and acceptance more than stony religion, and I appreciated that.

It was funny, though, afterward, talking to the roommates about it. They thought the church was nice and enjoyed the experience, but didn’t feel at home there.

The Old Man put it in just the right way. He said, “It seems to be the kind of church where people go who feel like outsiders, who feel like they never fit anywhere else. And you know what? That’s not a part of my experience. I don’t share that.”

Which makes perfect sense, really. A straight white Christian guy comfortable with his family and faith growing up in a society that largely preaches the same values of faith and family and is geared toward making straight white Christian guys successful wouldn’t share that experience.

But me? With my “mostly” straightness, queer-friendly thoughts and ideas, discomfort with the idea of a fire-and-brimstone God that hates the very people he’s supposed to have created, never feeling that religious certainty or comfort in what I’m doing, what I think, what I believe, because the things I think and believe aren’t really scripted… well, for me, it was the first time I actually walked into a church that didn’t make me want to run screaming from it.

I appreciate a minister who says, “here’s what I think, but I don’t expect it to be what you think. Let’s talk about it.”

That’s a pretty cool idea, and something I’m drawn to.

I don’t like being preached at, and I don’t like folks who preach hate or intolerance. “Hate the sin but not the sinner,” is a stupid, hypocritical piece of garbage. If the sin you hate is “teh gay,” I’m sorry to say, you also hate the person. Because like it our not, our fears, our desires, our passions, are also intrinsic parts of who we are. You can’t take one away without changing the whole. You can’t tell me that a love between people that makes them both better and stronger and more whole is somehow bad. Why don’t we encourage people to be better for the sheer joy of being better, of having love in their lives, instead of using fear and coercion? A society that uses fear and coercion to control its people isn’t a society I want to promote.

I believe in loving and respecting people and helping in whatever way you can. I get uncomfortable in places telling me what I should think, or believe, especially if it means believing that otherwise good and decent people are so hated by God because they question Jesus’s true paternity or don’t believe in the Trinity are going to hell. At the same time, I like the idea of a community where you can explore faith and religion in an open, accepting environment.

That sort of environment is a faith and belief system all its own, of course. And it’s certainly a place I’ll feel more comfortable.

Steph and the Old Man will be looking into other churches in the area, but I think I’ll be going back to this one at least a few more times. It challenges me to think; it gives me a safe space in Dayton, where I often feel like a total freak (I always feel far more comfortable in places where same-sex couples feel safe enough to hold hands or put their arms around one another in public. It’s like my whole body just relaxes, like, “Oh, OK, it’s safe here to be different. I don’t have to play by a script”).

In conservative Dayton, it’s a breath of fresh air, and something I think I need right now, you know. Finding some people who won’t freak out if they find out you one dated a woman you cared very much for once, you vote democrat, you believe in social justice, social programs, and equality, and you don’t feel welcome in a mainstream religious establishment.

It’s nice to go somewhere I can just take a deep breath in and not worry about being “outed” as… well, as whatever it is I am.

Outed for being me, I guess.

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