Religion or Spirituality?

I’m a college student.

People my age are at a stage in their lives where they can become more independent and begin questioning some of the things that have been taught to them.

Religion in general is a huge debate for a lot of people, but especially for people at my age who are beginning on our journey as adults. Many, but not all, of us have begun to move away from home or are becoming independent in some way.

I was in and out of religion for all of my childhood. My mom went when my sister was a baby and she is the only one of the three of us who was baptized as a baby. At one point when we were very young, we stopped going to church. My mom tells me a story about one day when I came home from preschool and I asked my mom, in a ver sassy tone mind you (not much has changed, might I add), “Mommy, why don’t we go to church?” She felt that if her four-year-old randomly decided she wanted to go to church, we would try it. So we started going. The church we found just wasn’t for us and we moved to my now beloved Smoky Hill UMC. We went there on and off until I was in fifth grade, then we stopped altogether. To be honest, I don’t remember much of what I learned during that six year period of my life.

I started puberty soon after we stopped going to church, and I naturally rebelled against anything established like that. I shunned God and denied Jesus and couldn’t understand why any of it made sense. As I matured, I became more and more curious about religion. When I was 14, I saw my mom reading a book, “The Case for Christ,” and after a great conversation with her, we decided to go back to church and feel it out again. I was so skeptical. I was shy and quiet and I just politely sat through church.

At the end of that service, Mom dragged me down to Bobbie D’Addario’s office to ask when youth group is. I was so angry with my mom for doing that and I did not want to go to youth group at all. And I mean AT ALL. Of course, my mom made me go and I dragged my best friend, Lauren with me. That night wasn’t so bad. I decided to keep going.

I continued going to church and to youth group and now, I couldn’t imagine my life without it.

At this point in my life, I am questioning everything. I have seen the church that I grew to love make decisions that I don’t think are very Christ-like. I have seen and heard so many people condemn me for things I have done. I have seen religion used as an excuse for hate and evil.

That’s not what God wants, I don’t think.

This is where I find a differentiation between religion and spirituality. My boyfriend’s brother and I have had a few interesting conversations about the subject. He is respectful and during one conversation, said something along the lines of “I don’t mean to offend you based on your religion,” and I looked at him and said, “Don’t be sorry. I don’t view myself as a religious person. I view myself as a spiritual person.” At this he seemed surprised. I go to church on Sundays, I have been involved in both youth group and a college ministry program, I have gone on mission trips, done many church-related events and sing music at church. The way I see it, I’m still not a “religious” person.

I believe in God and I trust in Jesus wholeheartedly. But I worship in a way that is best for me. I don’t want anyone to tell me how my relationship with God should be (Martin Luther would be so proud). This isn’t to say I haven’t read scripture that sent chills down my spine and this isn’t to say that I haven’t heard sermons that made me weep because I have experienced those things. To me, the Bible isn’t a rule book, it’s a guide. I will not follow the Bible word-for-word because of that. That doesn’t make me a bad Christian.

That doesn’t make me a bad Christian just like BEING a Christian doesn’t make me ignorant to the many facets of religion. I see its flaws and I also see its beauty. I see people posting statuses and pictures knocking down religion. Those are the same people who would scrutinize me for posting statuses and pictures of the Word of God and things I experience in my spiritual life. I do not scrutinize them. Because I think it is important to challenge religion; however, I do not think it’s important to deny it altogether. We are all still on a journey and we will continue to be on that journey for the rest of our lives. I am not saying that those people need to just wait and see and Jesus will come to them. That just isn’t realistic. I don’t expect all people to accept Christianity or any religion and I will not judge them if they never do, but I do expect them to open themselves up to all the possibilities life has to offer. I am open to the idea that my beliefs are not real. I have faith that they are, but I am open to the idea that the world works in a very different way than the way that I see it.

I believe everyone has a way of living their lives. I respect and love everyone, no matter their beliefs. That’s what Jesus taught us to do, after all, isn’t it.

Religion is a very complicated construct. There is a lot that goes into it. Religion encompasses spirituality, debate, and a lot of business. I think it’s most important to remember that religion is HUMAN. We base it off of God and that is what guides it, but it is people running the institution itself. People make mistakes. “Nobody is perfect,” in the wise words of my old friend, Hannah Montana. Those people are doing the best they can just like everyone else. They’re so unbelievably human. Just like everybody else.

There is no way we, as humans, will ever be able to understand how God truly works or what God truly wants us to do. We have the Bible to guide us, but after all, the Bible, even though God’s word written through people, was written by humans. God may have “told” then what to write, but it might be a good idea to consider that they may have made a typical human mistake.

It’s important to challenge all the things, especially philosophical, that we have been taught.

I saw a post from two old friends from elementary school who I love dearly who posted a picture that said,

“If all religions teach peace, why can’t all religions achieve peach?” That’s a big question. It’s challenging for so many of us. Peace will probably never be achieved. I think that’s because we are human. I appreciate those girls posting this question because not only did it inspire me to write on for a billion words about it, but it challenged me. Thank you, for challenging me. If you’re reading this, I would just challenge you to seek the difference between religion and spirituality. Because in my spirituality is where I have found more peace than many people can imagine.

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