Belief. Belief, belief, belief. This word has been thrown around a lot in my head since we were given this assignment last week, and it seems to have lost its meaning a little bit along the way. It does not help that I don’t seem to have any particularly passionate beliefs…..I am passionate about the education of children, but that isn’t a belief that could honestly be disputed and taken seriously. I believe that people should be good to each other, but I’m not going to join a movement for it anytime soon. The one thing that I truly believe that has completely intersected my whole life is that I am, indisputably, saved.
What is it that’s saved me? I am sure that you have already guessed, but I am talking about the love of Jesus Christ. As a brief summary, this essentially means that the things I do or don’t do don’t really matter eternally because I’ve chosen to believe that there is only one God and that He is sovereign. When my body dies, my soul will not — it will finally go home.
As much as I could go on and on about my feelings about this, the question at hand is the way by which I came about my beliefs. Like many others in this area, I was raised in a “proper Southern home” — I learned my manners, I went to school, I went to church every Sunday for a long, long time, and there was really no question about what I should believe. It helped that all of my friends went to church and that all of my teachers seemed to go to church (though technically, you’re not supposed to talk about that in school), and just about everyone in Lexington, South Carolina went to church. If all these people go to church, how could I possibly question the beliefs that the church brought forth? (That kind of opens up a whole new debate that isn’t 100% relevant to this essay, so I won’t pursue that one too much here.) The only thing that ever made me want to leave the church was the fact that I never seemed to make any friends there. The church is supposed to be about fellowship, right? Well, I was never really able to find that. This could be because my family and I stopped going for a few years when we moved across the town and didn’t go back until I was in high school. By that point, everyone already seemed to have their cliques (which aren’t really supposed to be in church but they are) and I didn’t really seem to fit in with any of them. This phase only lasted a few years though. When I watched my father become baptized as a 15-year-old and saw how being saved immediately changed his outlook on life, I made the decision that I would never question my faith again.
Not everyone is as lucky as me to have had such a well-rounded upbringing (not just in terms of the church, but in every possible way). Some families don’t actually participate in church, and this could certainly influence why many do not share the Christian belief. If one isn’t exposed to it in the home, how can one be expected to follow a belief without some external prompting? Perhaps it isn’t so much the family itself as it is the region in which someone grows up. Everyone’s familiar with the Bible Belt, but what about in the North and Northwestern US? You are probably more likely to find someone there who hasn’t ever darkened the doorstep of a church than you are in the South. How about over in the Middle East? Or in the Far East, for that matter? In general, religious opinions and beliefs differ in those areas widely from in the United States, so it is likely that many reject the Christian faith.
I’ve kind of focused more on lack of exposure to the Christian faith, but what about a surplus of exposure? I have known many people who not only neglect the Christian faith, but reject it outright because they feel that it was shoved into their faces and that they had no other choice. My brother-in-law (but not really because he’s really just my best friend’s boyfriend, but she’s practically my sister and they’re practically engaged) has certainly experienced this phenomenon. He was raised in much the same way I was, in a “mind your manners” and “go to church” type of environment. He believed everything he was told without a peep otherwise until he was a young teenager and he read an atheist book that seemed to discourage every belief he was ever taught–and it made sense to him. If I was to put myself into Brandon’s shoes, then I suppose I would understand. Maybe the way he feels about the world just doesn’t match up with the way Christians say you should feel about the world. I was lucky enough that I didn’t have that problem, but maybe if I were him I wouldn’t have been. Maybe if I, too, had questions about the world that seemed able to be answered by a man who wrote a book, I would alter my beliefs, too.