Once again, I want to try to let you inside on my religiosity of the past. I’m not positive, but I think I’ve only shared this with one of my close buddies in the past; and it just so happens that our close friendship that we share today was basically all founded on religious talks. Anyways, I say that in reference to this: I’m not positive, but I think when I tried to explain what I’m about to talk about here to her, she struggled with understanding my reasoning behind why I did what I did. So this is a forewarning that you might have to try to think outside-the-box on this one to follow it and to understand why I saw it as I did producing my behaviors.
If you ever had the opportunity to attend church with me or even sit near me during a chapel service at ACU, you might have noticed I do sing the songs, I do bow my head and many times even close my eyes during the prayers. Now, if you’ve kept up with my blogs in the past referring to my agnostic views during my years at ACU, you might question these mentioned behaviors. Why would someone that doesn’t follow the Christian beliefs sing the songs or bow their head or close their eyes during a prayer?
One possible answer that I want disregard is the idea of the behaviors being used as a cover-up (cover-up meaning to hide my true beliefs that were not Christian). Many of my close friends from ACU knew my stance on religion. Well, I say that with this stipulation--it was my close friends that would ASK ME about my religious thoughts that knew them.
At ACU I took a stance of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” In a strong Christian community atmosphere such as ACU it is easy to be viewed in a “different” way if you aren’t among the “majority.” The majority being the firm Church of Christ believing community. Granted, ACU has many Baptist students as well, and other religions, but being of any religion other than Christian marks you with a red flag--you are different.
This is very easily noticed, thus I chose not to draw attention to my religious beliefs. However, I think it is very important that I make it clear that I would never lie about my beliefs. If I was asked, I would be honest about my beliefs, but it did work to my advantage that many people, especially at ACU, just assume you are Christian or Church of Christ or even baptized. So am I to blame for letting them assume that about me? I suppose that is left up to personal opinion.
So, back to the original question posed: Why would I sing, bow my head and close my eyes? Well, the singing was simply due to the fact that I love to sing and I love music, and collective singing, such as in a group at church or chapel is a special kind of singing all in it’s self, so I love to get to take part in that opportunity and the beauty behind it.
When it comes to bowing my head and even closing my eyes this is where you’ll have to try to follow me on this one. The view I take on this matter is this: I want to respect those for which I respect. I know that sounds confusing, or even sounds like it doesn't make sense, but I think it does. I have much respect for religious people, especially when it comes to my friends, so I bow my head and even will close my eyes out of respect for my friends. I respect that that represents an important time to them, the time of prayer, and I want to be of no distraction during such a time.
We all know how easy it can be to become distracted when we are amongst a large gathering of people, whether that be thousands sitting in chapel, hundreds sitting in church, or even less than a hundred when praying during a social club gathering. Whatever the case, we are all human and it is easy to become distracted from anything in life. So, I do my best to respect those for which I respect.
This can also be seen when I’m writing to my friends on instant messenger or in an email or even on this blog. When writing you might have noticed I will capitalize words such as the Bible, God, or Him or He when in reference to God. This is done out of respect for those for whom I’m addressing that hold these terms in respect. I’ve even been chatting with a good friend of mine once who is Catholic and I capitalized Mass because I knew it was a term that was capitalized among the Catholics and I wanted to respect that (and she even noted that I had capitalized it…HA!)
Alright…if you’ve been able to follow me up to this point then congrats, but I will tell you, I’m going to throw one more idea before you and this is the one that is sometimes tricky to understand my reasoning behind my behaviors.
So, if you can understand that I would behave in certain ways out of respect of others, then go with that idea on this one too…
Prayer. Though this might come as a shock, or even discourage some of you, in all honesty, I can’t remember the last time I prayed. I would say it was probably back during my junior or possibly my senior year at ACU, but I’m not even positive it was that recent.
At this point you might be thinking… “Okay, so she didn’t believe in God, but she was praying back then. Hmmm…” Correct. Let me explain. When I say that that was the last time I prayed, I didn’t tell you anything about how the prayer went.
During my years at ACU I began praying differently. Growing up I prayed because I was told to usually. For instance, as a kid I can remember every night I had the routine. The parent would come to tuck us kids into bed and we would have to say our prayers and give them hugs and kisses—that was the nightly routine. Well, when you do this as a kid for years upon years, the prayers would become scripted…HA! No joke! I was just thinking about this a few minutes ago and I can remember I could rattle off this identical prayer night after night in record time I had it down so well…HA! I remember one time I got in trouble because I would rattle it off so fast…like saying a memory verse like the Micro-machines man (don’t act like you don’t know who I’m talking about…HA!), and my dad told me to slow down and put some thought into what I was saying. HA HA! Opps! ;)
So in college when I began rethinking religion and questioning what I truly believed I questioned the idea of a God. So, with that in mind, why would I pray to God, if I wasn’t sure if He existed? Considering this, pray was nothing routine to me anymore, however, it wasn’t none existent either.
During my college years my prayer life revolved around requests of my friends, whether I was asked personally or subliminally. Subliminally meaning they would bring a concern to me that they were experiencing and they would mention how they were really struggling with it and that they really hoped God would help them through it. Basically, I considered that as them being a truly religious individual who believed in the power of prayer and would appreciate the prayers they could get.
So, here is where my actions might be difficult to understand my reasoning, but I’ll try to explain them.
I would pray on behalf of my requesting friends, not necessarily because I thought there was a God up there listening and that I believed in the power of prayer, but because I respected that they believed that and that they had asked me to pray for them. I looked at it in this fashion: If there truly was a God up there listening, and I prayed to Him on my friend’s behalf, then maybe He would still “accept” (for lack of a better term) the prayer because it was being asked for one of His believers, even though it was coming from someone that didn't necessarily believe in Him. As funny as it might sound, I would start my prayers with something like, “God, if you really are up there, you know my stance on believing right now, but I come to you right now not for myself, but for ___(insert the name of my friend)___ who really needs your help right now with ________.”
I wouldn’t pray for myself, for anything I needed, because I personally didn’t know if I believed in God or not, so why would I pray to something or someone that I didn’t truly believe in. Make sense?
So that was my “prayer life” during college, if you can even call it that. But I’ll be honest. As I mentioned earlier of not being able to remember the last time I prayed, I haven’t kept up this praying on behalf of requests recently. I don’t know why I stopped honestly. I want to say I was telling someone about my stance on this topic and about my actions of praying for others, but not for myself personally and they described it as hypocritical or something, so maybe that was why I decided to stop. I honestly don’t know, but whatever the case, I still respect the requests I get from friends to raise them or others up in prayer. I mean I want to be a therapist for goodness sakes. I would hope people would be comfortable bringing their troubling situations to me and respecting me enough to ask for prayers or such for their situation. But as a person who might not pray for the person, I always keep a hurting or struggling friend among my thoughts, and on many occasions will use the power of words to encourage that individual personally. I might not be a firm believer in the power of prayer, but I believe in the power of words, so I use them as one might choose to use the power of prayer for their healing device.
So does any of this make sense? Can you follow my reasoning behind some of my actions when associated with religious situations? If anything, maybe this will at least give you a deeper understanding into my respect for those in which I respect.