Janelle Harris says She Is Still Going to Believe in God Even If Other People Don't

4798Last Sunday morning, two services overlapped at church. 7:00 ran over time and I, a faithful 9:00 goer, stood in the lobby waiting for the sanctuary to clear out. I had done just about all of the hugging, kissing and greeting folks I was planning on doing, and as I hung back until the ushers corralled us, I randomly started watching a little girl playing with her daddy. She was probably 4 or 5, adorable in her velvet dress and tights, and she had her little arms looped around his neck, steady laughing at some joke they were sharing. Looking at the joy all over that child's face made me so happy for her--for both of them--I silently hoped that she would always bask in the glow of that kind of love.
I grew up surrounded by love in the church too, from my grandmother, aunties and cousins who fluffed and cooed all over me, kept me quiet with a bottomless supply of peppermints from their purses and scolded me for racing down that irresistible grassy hill with the boys. My belief in God was seeded by their belief in Him, and faith by association--and lots of Sunday school--carried me through until I developed a real relationship for myself. In the interim, especially in my idealistic college years, I wondered occasionally if I thought there was a God just because I'd been groomed to.

Being around students from other religious and non-religious backgrounds exposed me to new systems of thinking that made Jesus love seem like a generational inheritance. I had been programmed to kneel and pray rather than contemplate things as they actually might've been: a series of coincidences, a symphony of happenstance, life simply unfolding with no mystical orchestrator at the helm. Roundabouts senior year, though, I stopped wondering and rediscovered, very much for myself, who the Lord is. It wasn't anything I could reason or dissect. In the midst of a horrendous breakup with my boyfriend, a terrible semester academically and the real world looming just ahead, complete with student loan repayment, there was an inexplicable comfort and serenity. I felt God.

NPR just ran a story about the growing number of "nones," the atheists, the agnostics and other folks who just don't identify with any organized religion. It's becoming more common in our community, particularly in a generation that has had the privilege of post-secondary education and, as a result, has become critical of the Bible, the church and Christianity, the predominant practice. With our new enlightenment and degrees dangling from so many of our walls, what worked for our grandmamas now seems archaic, hinged too much on emotions from struggle and not reasoned enough intellectually. Factor in headlines about Reverend Scandalmonger pimping a member of the congregation, dodging the IRS or otherwise sullying the reputation of ministers, and personal experiences that make holy rolling saints seem akin to on-the-corner sinners, and the exodus is understandable.

Source: Essence Magazine |  Janelle Harris
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