When I was a little girl, my grandmother came every Sunday to collect my siblings and I to take us to her Baptist church in Brooklyn. Sunday’s were funny days, because it was the only day of the week my siblings scattered like cartoon characters leaving me, the youngest, as the target of my grandmother’s loving choice.
I did not enjoy the experience. It was loud and hot and boring and, heaven help me, if I squirmed or had to go to the bathroom. One should hold still and hold “it” while the lord’s words were screeched and the “Amens” and “Hallelujahs” were spouted by the devoted. It was confusing for a five year old. There was no fun and no funny in the church of the righteous. It only got good for me when it was over and the cookies were served.
When I was eight, my parents moved us to Florida where my mother found a church for us, or should I say for me, rather quickly. My siblings were old enough to exert their will and chose not to attend. That left me, once again, the target. I did find enjoyment in the church club that met ever Saturday. This was fun. We learned scripture, played games, heard stories and I made friends. I did not have to go to Sunday services because this counted as my weekly religious duty.
When I turned twelve, I learned I was too old to be in the club anymore and had to go to Sunday services. It was torturous for me and extremely confusing. I was the only black person attending. I was the only kid whose entire family was not apart of the church and, funny enough, I was the least judgmental of all the Christians I was surrounded by. I asked myself then and now, how did that happen?
I remember the day I closed my ears and opened my eyes to the power of religion. There were two sermons within two weeks of each other that unsettled me. In the first, the minister told us God loved everyone no matter who you are or what you have done. If you spoke to God with an open heart and asked forgiveness for your sins, you would be embraced into the kingdom of heaven and loved eternally.
Two weeks later, the sermon was filled with brimstone casting out gays, consigning them to the devil, screeching at the congregation that they were spawns of evil and God had no love and no place for them.
My young mind sputtered. What????? But I thought . . . Didn’t you say??? Huh?
That was the day I stopped listening and my spiritual quest began. Since then, what I have learned about God is that you are loved no matter what. God loves the most angelic of humans and the most heinous. My job is to learn to do the same, even if they are both sides of me.
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