I was interviewing a leader of a faith group at school for The Daily Campus. We were in the Student Union, sitting at a small, two-person table on the second floor, overlooking the scores of peers waiting in line for food below.
“When was it that you decided you would be a person of faith? Was it even a conscious decision?” I asked her.
“Yes it was,” she answered.
She was sure of herself which was important because I was skeptical of her – as I am of all organized religion, with its violent factions, bigoted and ignorant factions, its popularity predicated on death and self-superiority, especially in this case, as the tip I got that made me want to write the article told me this group was actively against the LGBTQ community. A leader of its national chapter incited major waves of anti-homosexuality in Africa during a missionary trip. That doesn’t fly with me, not on my campus.
“What happened?” I asked.
“It was in third grade, my father died of cancer. And I could’ve been like –”
“You could’ve been like ‘f**k it,’” I interjected.
“Yes, eff it. You can be convinced of the world’s cruelty. How could a loving God inflict such inexorable pain? But if you were to turn away from, rather than embrace God at a time like that…you’d start down a sad, erring path.”
“Yeah,” I said.
“The people in my church offered me such a wealth of love and support, and I took that as God’s way of helping me through it.”
“So when you face hardship do you turn closer to God?” I asked.
“Yes; break-ups, fights, whatever. My faith is strengthened and God gets me through it.”
“Would you say people have to experience hardship to know true faith?”
“People have to experience hardship to know anything,” she said.
Then I asked her the questions about homosexuality and she was defensive. She was right, in a way: her specific group had nothing to do with that mess. I just liked asking the questions.
So here’s a question – how does someone go from giving a guest sermon at his confirmation in middle school to interrogating the faithful on a campus largely devoid of spirituality?
I did go to church every Sunday. I knew the Bible nominally well. I sang in the choir. There was some complaining from my end, but my mom, the music director, expected my sister and I to make it in time each Sunday morning. After I was confirmed, though, I avoided going altogether.
At this Congregational Church the majority of parishioners were there for the sense of community rather than some strict textual reading of the Good Book. The girl I interviewed belonged to a more traditionalist, Catholic organization. I don’t blame her. Everyone needs a way of thinking. My faith comes in the form of asking questions, such as: will I find God if someone close to my dies or some other tragic incident occurs?
That question is akin to the argument adult Republicans make when arguing with younger Democrats: “When you’re older with a family and a mortgage, trust me, you’ll vote Republican.” Someone might find God for their own sake, but that isn’t selfish. Voting for something based purely on taxes is. I’m too political to be religious, anyway. Adamant theocracy is never a good policy.
“Why do you care so much about this?” she asked at one point. “No one in my group is against gays, and no one in my group went to Africa with that terrible man. So what is this? Why the witch hunt?”
“No witch hunt. Just asking the questions,” I stated.
Sten Spinella is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.