Being a conscious sophisticate means not neglecting all the things that make you, you. This means exploring and even sometimes challenging beliefs that are tightly wound around our hearts.
Whether one calls themselves religious and not spiritual or spiritual and not religious; we all have a connection with something outside of ourselves that we can’t exactly explain or give a definitive identity to.
For me, growing up and into early adulthood I often struggled with if I was doing enough to get into heaven. The basis, or foundation should I say of my relationship with God was mostly motivated and maintained by fear. The extent of my knowledge of him was do everything right or you’re going to hell. I could never pray enough; I could never read enough scriptures. Being happy and enjoying life meant I was doing something wrong. Sometimes these messages were implicitly sent by being told you can’t wear certain nail colors, or not to attend school dances, or even attending high school football games are not permitted. Granted many of these things have changed since I was a young girl; but the impression was made and was not so easy to undo. This could easily lead to one subscribing to the notion, righteousness means misery. I later in life found myself creating issues (mostly in my head) to ensure I wasn’t too happy.
It’s not until I went away to grad school these irrational beliefs were challenged. Would I really go to hell for listening to and enjoying secular music? If I went days without praying would I really be cut off from God? Eventually I learned that much of what I thought about God contradicted the character the bible describes. I got tired of walking on egg shells around myself. Not allowing myself to explore this so called relationship with God I’d claimed to have.
Many of the attitudes I had toward sex were deeply rooted in my Christian upbringing. In a way sex and sexuality was demonized. Fornication seemed to be the only topic focused on. I wanted no parts of the discussion of sex. For I feared becoming too curious and bringing some sort of condemnation on myself for even thinking about it a second too long.
July 2009 I log on to La Salle University’s course registration Portal to sign up for my first semester of grad school. As I glance over the required courses for the program I immediately begin freaking out as I see that Human Sexuality is not only required for the completion of the program but a prerequisite for a future course that would also be required. I panicked and immediately called my mother. There was nothing I could do. I would have to get through this course to finish the program.
The first night of the course had finally come and I had no idea what to expect. I can remember experiencing a sense of guilt and feeling like nothing good would come of this course. Some say God has a sense of humor; and that seemed to be true in this instance as the course was being taught by a Catholic deacon. Oh the irony!
By the end of the course I was a little traumatized; but had a sense of freedom. I saw an erect penis for the first time and the world didn’t come caving in. The Lord didn’t come down on a white horse with horns blaring coming to bring damnation to my soul. It was as if any attitudes I had toward or about sex and sexuality were challenged which in turn caused me to challenge my beliefs of my own spirituality. My little mind and world that I had created had to be shaken to its foundation for me to begin seeing the true character of the God I claimed to believe in and live for. The thing I feared the most bought me the most freedom in my spiritual walk.
So many times preaching fire and brimstone is used as a way to fear people into a relationship with God. How effective is this really? How deep can this type of relationship be? Who really benefits from this type of relationship? Shouldn’t religion be merely a way to maintain one’s spirituality rather than a means to try to control one’s behavior or even their will?