Some years ago, back when I was in the Army, I remember being forced to attend a religious gathering that they forced all soldiers to attend (on your weekend day off, which meant either attend the religious social function or you would be required to do hard labor duty on post instead). Needless to say, there were few soldiers who chose the hard labor option, so we all were put onto a bus to a day that was supposed to be “filled with fun.” The beginning of the day was uneventful, which consisted of ranch activities, ping pong, and other such things. But the ride back to post was filled with what ended up being a two hour ride filled with “you’re going straight to hell, sinner” screaming from some evangelical nutcase that was part of the retreat that soldiers attended. I remember being sickened by the whole experience, and believe it or not, I remember it more vividly than combat, gunfire, or anything else that should have been forefront in my memories.
So, fast forward to today, and I attended a mandatory “church” session at work. I work for a university that is very religious (Methodist mostly), so every Tuesday we are required to attend religious services that consists of very specific dogma that is extremely compartmentalized into only one kind of religion. So, if you’re Jewish, Protestant, Catholic, Pagan, Atheist or anything that’s not this specific brand of Methodist, you’re going to find yourself extremely uncomfortable in this environment. Yet, everyone is required to attend.
And it’s quite an experience. Today was my first opportunity to attend this service, and let’s just say that as a “different” spiritual person, I was taken aback by a presentation that left me feeling extremely uncomfortable. I don’t know if it was the constant references to how Jesus is my personal savior, even though the woman who kept reading that statement over and over couldn’t actually pronounce it. And when she kept reading the word “sovereign” she read it as “savior” which made it sound all that more ridiculous every time she said it (and she said it a lot), even though she was reading it off a teleprompter that was displayed for everyone to see. Between the endless sermons, the standing up and sitting down for numerous prayers that were extremely specific towards things I would never pray for EVER, and the few moments of actual decent choir performances, it was quite a spectacle to observe. However, when the mimes started performing dance routines as part of some bizarre scripture, I was kind of at a loss of what to think or say, so I kept quiet, even though that’s so not a natural state for me to be in.
When the sermon started, the reverend read a selection from a more obscure passage of the Bible that basically advocated for saving oneself by allowing one’s wife and concubine to be raped in your name (and then killing the concubine by cutting her up into 14 pieces after). From there, the lecture went onto something that eventually led to a discussion of how sexual violence was wrong, but somehow it wasn’t that much of a concern because at some point God would welcome you into his gates and all would be fine there, or something like that. All I kept thinking was “wow, this person really shouldn’t be reading from this particular book.”
I’ve never been a fan of forcing religion on people, and I’m not really sure what their original intention was for this gathering other than to force a narrative onto people who probably don’t agree with it. There was a lot of “amen” and “Hallaluyah” from the audience during this conversation, so I guess some people are okay with this sort of interpretation, but my belief has always been that if people are going to believe in this sort of thing, then have THOSE people attend these gatherings and leave the rest of us alone.
I’m not sure I’m going to be all that comfortable with having to attend these gatherings each and every week, which so far appears to be a mandatory attendance thing where I work. Yeah, I have a lot to say about that, but I’m sure you can fill in the blanks of that conversation for me.