Sunday, April 10, 2011

Community

When I was in high school, I was a part of a very close and vibrant church family. My mum required me to go to church but she didn't specify which one, so I chose one where several of my high-school friends were members. I found a wonderful family there; I felt valued and included, rare commodities for a teen-aged girl. That church and its youth group formed a safety net for me and became the whole of my social life.

I moved away from that sleepy city after graduation from high school, moved away from Christianity a few years later, and more recently moved away from organized religion altogether. I have too many issues with specific theological points to swallow the pretty fairy-tales, not to mention the rampant hubris and blatant arrogance of religions when they invariably make the claim that they are the ONLY one way to God, and everyone else is wrong. Only frail, weak, stupid humans could make up a story like that.

I don't miss my faith. I am fine with the framework of beliefs I have created through the destructive process of testing every belief and tearing it down if it did not hold weight. I am left with a rather minimalist view of God, and He and I are okay with that.

What I do miss, though, is the sense of belonging that comes with attending a church. A community of people who all hold the same beliefs is a powerful force, and I have effectively painted myself out of that warm glow. I have a neighbor across the street who is quite active in the JW community, and every Saturday when nicely-dressed people pull up in their cars and come into his house for post-church coffee and fellowship, I am envious and lonely for that type of interaction.

My mum feels this, too. She, like me, is post-religion yet longing for community. We discussed going to church anyhow, but in order to be truly accepted into a church family, they need to get to know us... and our lack of belief would eventually betray us.

In an era where families are geographically peppered throughout the globe, organized religion has failed so many of us, and technology seems to isolate us even further, where does one turn to find a sense of community?

7 comments:

Linda said...

I know,love. It's a tough one, isn't it? Especially at times when we find ourselves singularly alone. Being the social creature that you can be, you will eventually build one community at work - it's to new right now for you to have that there yet. But you're right, the "peppered families" and disillusionment that many of us feel with organized religion does cost us.

Linda said...

spelling correction - it's "underline" too "underline" new right now... that should have read. I don't know how I missed the second "o" on that too, but I'm just fanatic enough about the language and grammar not to want anyone to think that I don't know better!

Taylor said...

Hey, what about the on-line world, especially that of gaming? You saw my post from the TED.talks thing and I gathered from that there are a lot of people out there much happier with their on-line world than the real one. I'm currently struggling with my understanding of religion so I can appreciate your comments, and I certainly know the feeling of belonging that comes with the church, and how that matters.

Velda said...

Having grown up with several religions being shoved down my throat, I completely understand where you're coming from. I grew up United (protestant), and we went religiously (pun intended) until one day my dad said, no more church. I didn't understand until I was in my 40s that it was because his mother and sister switched to JW and were trying to get him 'into the fold'. He shut down religion altogether and that was that. I then decided to try Catholicism with my best friend. It was okay, but for me, too regimented and too many rules etc. I went back to my own religious choice in my mid teens (United/Presbyterian/Anglican). Loved the old church, joined the choir, had bbqs with the parish. Loved it. Then I met P whose family was very religious. Back to Catholicism again. Again, still found it so strict. Now? I am so turned off. I have friends who are Hindi, it fascinates me. I've participated in several of their rituals. But do I fit in? I'm the only blue eyed, white skinned, (formerly) blonde haired person there. Although they welcome me with open arms, I still feel a little out of place. I appreciate their friendship, their love and their teachings . Yet I feel more 'at home' with my online community groups. I was never popular in school, was always shy and perhaps I'm just not cut out for real life communities. I've just resigned myself to always be the odd creature who never fits in anywhere, and I've finally come to terms with that. Too bad it's taken 45 years!

Robbin said...

I discovered "my people", as I call them, through Audrey's alternative school. The parents effectively run the program through a parent steering group, and the community still involves parents who's children have grown up, gone to college and moved away... the community grows and shifts and changes, but we are one very tight group. A family. Having been in that family for 2.5 years now, I can't imagine life without it. One thing I've noticed is that many many people are longing for the same thing. So, why don't you reach out to those who share something in common with you, and start your own community? It could just be dinner once a month or so. Something that keeps the group engaged and learning about each other.

Susan said...

Taylor: My online community is indeed a great source of comfort to me, but it's come-by-chance... I never know when my closest friends will be on, and there's inevitably huge geographic differences. Sometime you just want a physical presence. That being said, my game guildies are closer to me than many real-life friends are.

Susan said...

Robbin: There are very few things that I believe in strongly enough to tie my identity to. I'm a knitter and enjoy meeting women socially for knitting, but it isn't enough to build *community* with. There needs to be a commonality of purpose and belief.

I think, as Linda (my birth mum) suggests above, I will eventually find this through work, but it's early days yet. Thanks for dropping by and sharing your experiences with me.