Hi ZUVA, I actually went the opposite way. I was raised without religion and agnostic. My dad is an atheist, and my mom goes to church once in a while. I was very openly hostile towards Christianity as the dominant culture for a long time, because I once attended a nearby Baptist Church service where the pastor said “at least Christianity isn’t Islam. Islam is a religion of hatred.”
But I had a very different experience with Christians in my life. As much as I’d see in the news and Internet criticizing organized religion and the imposition of Christianity, the Christians I met in my own life were, well, kind, loyal, great listeners and just strange. They were strange because they had something that brought them joy and weren’t motivated by the same vanity measures that motivated everyone else I met in college: achievements, money, good grades.
Me becoming a Christian was because of these friends and just coincided with a lot of life changes, such as opening up about childhood traumas and making a career shift. I was pushed my whole life into being a doctor — a fate too commonly prescribed to immigrant, upwardly mobile families. And while that fate isn’t out of the equation, I decided that God equipped me with more skills to be an inner city teacher rather than a doctor. I’m very involved in an inner-City church, which, yes, is extremely different from white Christian churches in suburbia.
Because of my journey with religion, I don’t impose my own beliefs. I write about them, sure, but being similarly put off by Pharisee-minded Christians who imposed, I’m careful to have everyone find their own way.
Having and realizing God in my life really did fill a lot of voids. Everything has a purpose. I serve in a challenging school in one of the most troubled cities in America. In Baltimore, this past weekend, we had 17 shootings. You would be shocked at how many churches there are in a lot of neighborhoods in the hood where these shootings happen. My church is only 2 blocks away from where Freddie Gray got arrested.
I wouldn’t say that places like Baltimore City’s most trouble neighborhoods need Christ more. But they are much more spiritual just based on the cruel and harsh realities they face on a daily basis — the intersection of decades long race, class, and housing segregation. These are not realities that are going to be healed by an impressionistic and idealistic 22-year-old like myself, and it’s my faith that helps me realize that.
Anyways, I have to go but I could write a whole article based on your piece of how I want to raise my kids with faith. I want to teach them that life and the environments they face are harsh, and that they need good ways to deal with those realities.
Great article, ZUVA!