I was raised in a non-denominational, Bible centered churches. The tenets of my faith are belief in one God manifest as three- the Father, His Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, that man is born into this world with sin & free will & can only receive salvation through acceptance of Jesus Christ and repentance and the Bible is the literal, infallible Word of God that Christians must obey.
As the joke goes of many Black churches, our first church (attended from age 4-10yrs) held services that started at 11am Sunday and ended sometime on Tuesday. Pastor preached several different services. Being “saved” was just the half. We had to live our lives in accordance with the scriptures. We were to guard our “ears, eyes and heart” from the sinful nature of the world or risk losing our salvation. God commanded us to honor our parents in order to have a long life (Exodus 20:12 *). God commanded that men be the head of their households & their wives to be submissive to them as the children were submissive to their parents and elders. (Ephesians 5:22, 28-31) We must keep the Sabbath Holy by attending church & edify our soul with the Word of God (Leviticus 23), as well as tithing, just to give a few examples.
My great-grandmother was the church “Mother”. She & my grandmother escorted me & siblings every Sunday, as my own parents weren’t initially devout- my father was an atheist until being diagnosed with cancer & my mother was an Easter or Holiday “Christian”.
Same time, I attended Catholic grade schools because they were the best in the area. Non Catholic students like myself were permitted to forgo religious activities (i.e. mass, confession), though we did have to sit through an hour of religious study each week. I respectfully sat in silence each class, feeling a deep sorrow for them because I “knew” their faith encompassed texts other than the Bible & they worshiped idols in contradiction to God’s law.
So most temptations were a no-brainer for me. Believing God was omnipresent & desiring to remain in His grace, things like sex, drugs & lewd activity weren’t a temptation. Even high school, when we switched to public school in a very liberal town that has a gay student union, I never had malice in my heart. Then homosexuality was still on the medical books as a mental illness. I never understood the hate filled TELevangelists that wasted time condemning homosexuals, but not fornicators or liars.
I knew from Biblical teachings that Satan was always putting temptations in the path of Christians to “steal” our salvation, so abstaining from the influence of worldly things was a victory. Even when I did fall short as we all do, (i.e. I tried a cigarette when I was 13), as long as I asked Jesus for forgiveness & repented, I’d be good. My mission was to live as an example of Christ teachings, which including being kind and generous with even non believers.
The first time I ever questioned these teaching was college. While studying biology, it crept into my mind “this makes too much sense for it just to be a ‘tool of the devil’ trying to steal my faith”. I turned to friends of my parents who were doctors & scientists but still people of faith. They all were able to assure me that evolution and creation could somehow be reconciled. So hey if someone as smart as a doctor could still believe, so could I!
The second time wasn’t so rosy. I had married young, believing I was “equally yoked” with a Christian man I’d know since I was 12. In our fifth year of marriage he became violent & I had to seek refuge in a shelter. When I first met the counselor there to explain my situation, she began to contrast my situation with her and her ex girlfriends. I remember the shock of electricity that ran through my body, stunned that she dare compare her unholy sinful atrocity with my “God ordained” marriage. Of course her relationship was damned because it was formed in sin, nothing like my God ordained marriage!
I had to recover from that quickly though, for I’d nowhere else to turn. Most of my family thought I should weather the abuse with my husband, but I knew the Bible commanded husbands to honor & love their wives, plus I wasn’t about to expose my kids to the violent household I had grown up in.
It turned out a majority of the staff were lesbians. All were kind, educated and prosperous people. While I didn’t believe they were going to heaven, that’s the first time I knew it wasn’t a “mental illness”.
One of the requirements for shelter residents was applying/receiving welfare to cover their shelter costs. I adamantly refused to do that based on 2 Thessalonians 3 10-13, a verse drummed in my head by my grandmother, that those that those who “don’t work, don’t eat”. I had worked since I was 13, no way! They threatened to throw me out on the sidewalk. Finally, we worked it out that I’d work as an administrative assistant & later I was hired & trained as a legal advocate.
I had a big crisis in my faith from that point on. Things seemed so unjust, I even experimented with other faiths and becoming agnostic. Eventually I resolved my issues and have returned to my faith. This time without the piety or any feelings superiority and absolutely knowing that everyone should be entitled to practice any faith they choose, as long as it doesn’t harm others.
I said all of that to say – I think there is nothing more important in our government policy than a complete separation of church and state. Just think what would have happened to me, if the Bible were the law of the land. I could have been stuck in a violent, loveless marriage (Bible limits divorce to very specific circumstances). Or my husband could’ve been penalized for adultery or abuse depriving my kids of financial support- all of those are hanging offenses in the Bible not just homosexuality. Or what if Catholicism was the law ? Would women have to die in childbirth?
No our forefathers left England to escape that very thing, persecution for religious beliefs & freedom to worship (or not) as one chooses. Because I want the freedom to believe as I choose, (which many think is backward & sexist) I stand behind all other faiths having the same rights.
In the same vein, I am also voting for same-sex unions in my state, this election & advocating for full marriage equality. My personal faith, says, it’s a vile sin, which I must separate myself from, but just as I wouldn’t want any other religion imposed on me, I can’t support any laws that impose my beliefs on others.
I was disappointed to find my childhood church is insisting the congregation vote against President Obama because of his support of Marriage Equality. I mean really, now we’re going to choose which sins are worse than others? Aren’t Romney’s intentions toward the poor just as Biblically evil? Where’s the push to criminalize no-fault divorce or fornication, if we must be vote “Biblically correct”?! Sorry Christians the Bible doesn’t say that, & you can’t be a “pick & choose” believer, in for a penny, in for pound as they say!
It’s time this nation gives equal rights to every human being regardless of sex, race or sexual preference & be done with it. It’s really is just a distraction issue to rile folks up, because what harm is done by anyone marrying anyone else of legal age? None, except giving the government time to muck up other issues. If the strength of your marriage hinges on whether homosexuals are allowed to marry, you got bigger issues.
The only thing about Marriage Equality we really need to fear is this- If we start denying or chipping away at equality for any group, we risk the same happening for others! That’s it! Equality for all is an American value. (Shame on you African American Preachers against gay civil rights).
If anyone is sincerely worried about “strengthening traditional marriage” I offer the advice of Wanda Sykes. She opined that divorce, not gay unions is what ruined her 1st marriage & if we really want to strengthen “traditional marriage” we should outlaw that! I completely concur!!
You can follow Tess Powell on Twitter @thee_stupid