I like to say that I have always been a skeptic. But, I accept that sometimes our memories can be figments of our imagination. However, I did have questions growing up. I remember hanging out with one of my best friends when we were teenagers and questioning the things we were taught from the Bible. As a gust of wind would go by, we would laugh and say that God was going to kill us because we were asking questions about the secrets of his nature.
Yes, I had questions. But for most of my youth I was a devout Christian, a member of the Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) church. My upbringing was pretty fundamental. I wasn’t supposed to go to the movies, couldn’t wear jewelry, no drinking or dancing and we basically became hermits between sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, only to emerge from into the light of day to attend Church and evening Adventist Youth (AY) sessions. All in all, however, I had a pretty good childhood. The comradery that is associated with Christian fellowship is a nice one at times, especially as a child and as I entered early adulthood.
Yet, I had questions.
I usually would ignore these questions or if I asked an adult, I was met with the cliché answers, “That is part of God’s plan” or “God works in mysterious ways.” As I watched people get sick and die, families being separated by divorce, and as things happened in the world such as war, famine and disease, I conjured up fantastic images of a loving god. One who was looking down and allowing all of these to happen so that we could look from the safety of our lives and somehow learn from these events. When they happened to me or my family, I just knew that everything would be OK, because I was cradled in the arms of a wonderful deity that had a plan for my life and these life events would somehow make me a better person and bring me closer to him.
Still, sometimes, I had questions.
I think the first time that I started to actually and seriously question my religious upbringing was when I went off to school at Oakwood College in Huntsville, AL, USA. This was a historically black college and affiliated with the SDA church. Even though I was still following the dogma of my upbringing, I started to notice things. Hypocrisies, intolerances and untruthfulness on the part of the administration there ran rampant. Rumors of the women’s dormitory dean stealing money from the school. Pastors kids dealing drugs (my roommate) and personal incidents of theft of my property. I won’t even go into the black-separatist, black power (racist?) atmosphere of the campus. I was faced with a new question. If I was part of such a powerful, truthful and righteous way of life, why was I surrounded by such seemingly vile individuals (not all of course, there were some nice people there). Unfortunately at the time, still entrenched in religious doctrine, I quelled these questions with believing that “all have fallen short of the glory of God” and everyone was a sinner and….well you know where I am going with this.
Also during this time, I was really falling into a violent inner war with myself in terms of my sexuality. I went through some deep, dark depressed states, contemplating suicide and begging my heavenly father to save me from sin. My relief never came from above.
And now, I had even more questions.
Rock-a-bye baby, in the treetop
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall
And down will come baby, cradle and all
My bough broke when I was living in Atlanta. By this time, I had become disillusioned with my past SDA upbringing and had decided to “get saved” into the Baptist church. It was the easiest ticket to heaven I had ever received. All I had to do was say “Yes, I believe” and that was it. One Sunday, after listening to the Bishop, and during a musical selection by the choir, I was overcome with my questions. Why would God just love me for no reason, no matter what I did, who I hurt, or the like? I was so confused. I left church that day confused. I needed an answer. I was tired of living without answers. So, I did what any person should do, living in the 21st century. I went to the Internet.
Since then, I have learned that it is OK to ask questions and that if the answer is “Just accept it”, you need to look for a different source for your answers. Starting to look for real answers has wiped the mysticism from my eyes and I now see the thinks in a more puristic view.
I have given my story to let other’s out there know that there is nothing wrong with questions. It is when you ignore the questions and delay trying to figure out the truths or facts that you lend yourself to living with ambiguity and possibly never living your life fully.
Do not be afraid to always question!