An Agnostic Manifesto: Why I Accepted My Lutheranism And What It Means To Me
September 30, 2013 § 3 Comments
I went to a Lutheran high school. This is a foreign concept to a lot of people here at UW. It’s even hard for me to reconcile. After all, I identify as a feminist, socially radical, and most importantly, a thinker. I love science, and I’m not afraid of evolution. I also love learning about other religions. I am not a practicing Buddhist (I shop too much), but I am a regular meditator. I am fascinated by Jewish culture and when invited to events at Hillel or Chabad by my friends, I go. I am pro-choice, progressive, and am not bound by society’s expectations for my body. I have three tattoos and a lot of piercings and I don’t feel that bad about it. I don’t think my gay friends are going to hell and I don’t think Jesus doesn’t love me because I think everybody should have health care. I have never believed a lot of the stuff I heard in church growing up.
But I am Lutheran.
Maybe it’s because whenever I listen to this version of In Christ Alone, I tear up. Maybe it’s because when I go to church I feel like my grandma’s sitting there with me, even though she died six years ago. Maybe it’s because when I tell my sister and father I’d like to go to church with them, my father is unable to hide his grin and my sister breathes a sigh of relief, like maybe I’ll be saved after all. Maybe it’s because my teachers from when I was in kindergarten still remember me, still ask my parents what I’m gonna be when I grow up. Maybe it’s all of these things, maybe it’s none of them. But I don’t care. I love being Lutheran, and I’m not even sure if I believe in God.
I’m sure my statements may be blasphemous to many in the faith, especially those in my community. I do not mean to insult what you hold near and dear. I think that worship and belief in a god is a fundamental part of many human experiences. I have seen the wonderful things faith does for people. I do not believe my grandmother could have fought her cancer so bravely if she had not been secure in her belief that she was bound for something greater in her afterlife. I do not know if my father could have survived losing her without the comfort that he feels believing she’s in a better place. Many of you might say, “Well, that’s fine. They are Lutheran, they are Christians, they are believers in God our Father and Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. You are not.”
I would beg to differ.
I don’t think that I worship the ‘right’ way, at least in what would be defined as as ‘correct’ by any Lutheran. My faith is an intense and personal one, and it often deviates from scripture. Like my father, I do not believe in the Devil. To be clear, I do not believe that anyone is bound for ‘Hell.’ I do not believe that a supreme being could send anyone he loves to eternal damnation. I also don’t know if I believe that Jesus was actually the Son of God. But I do know that I believe that he definitely thought he was, and when he died, he definitely thought he was dying for me, and all of humankind. I don’t believe that the Catholic Church was doing the right things when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to their door, but I also don’t believe that Luther is one to be revered. (The guy was a raging anti-Semite, for crying out loud.)
For me, I believe in ‘God’ (and subsequently worship him) because when I am at church I feel more at peace than I do any other place. It’s because of the immense community being part of a religion brings that I truly feel relief, not because I believe that I am going to go to ‘Heaven’ when I die. Yet I recite the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, my Catechism, etc., even when I step back and realize how silly it might look to the untrained eye. It’s not silly. It is familiar. Because it makes me happy. Not because of a fear that if I don’t do it enough, my faith will not be ‘strong enough’ to get me into heaven. Not because I really believe it that a cosmic Jewish zombie was raised from the dead three days after he died on a wooden cross because he really loved me THAT MUCH. Maybe he did. I don’t know if I’m ready to accept that yet. If I get there, I’ll get there. If not? Fine.
Maybe this is selfish. And yet, “For I am his, and he is mine.” My relationship with whoever we might be worshipping has been one I’ve had my entire life, and even though it is still confusing for me, it is mine and no one else’s to define. Sure, it has been cultivated by the numerous friends I made after 13 years of private Lutheran schooling, 9 years of Sunday School, a church community that still sends me care packages three years after I moved away. Yet it is still mine to do with it as I see fit. If this is really the case, I am Lutheran.
I am Lutheran because I am Midwestern nice. I am Lutheran because I am a casserole connoisseur, worshipper of German beers, and have been to Fort Wayne, Indiana more times than I can count. I am Lutheran because I love being at church surrounded by people I love. I am Lutheran because I am loved by so many people who share this belief. I am saved by the love these people have for me, because I know that few things on earth are better than a community that forgives you anything, even though I know none of them will understand why I believe these things. But most importantly, I am Lutheran because loving all the people around you, regardless of what they’ve done, where they’ve gone, or what lies ahead is something I want to be a part of. And that, in itself, is enough for me.