“If I dare to believe at all, it leaves me deflated.”
Once again, the magical intersection of music and life experience has occurred for me, I share it to inspire and encourage.
It’s not easy living as a non-believer. I have a friend, a former JW, raising her boys without religion but with curiosity and inquisitive minds. She often frets over the possibility of her parents shunning her, as they did her brother, because of it. A preacher I heard recently accused non-believers of seeing themselves as ‘god’ – as if a human being could exist and live without any kind of god-like figure head – and condemned us for our prideful ways.
Currently, my husband and I live with and take care of his grandma, who is a firm believer in all things christian. She’s lived a high quality life thanks to our efforts. She gets a decent, home cooked, well balanced meal every night for dinner (important for a diabetic). We do her shopping, run her errands, pay her bills, keep up her yard, keep up her house, take care of her dogs, all of which she could do herself, if she wanted. We do this out of respect, on top of jobs and our own kids and pets to tend, because there’s a strong sense of doing what is right and having a clean conscious when we lay our heads on the pillow each night.
It matters not.
We are perceived as bad, evil, lost, gone astray. We are treated with alternating contempt and condescension. Take for instance the gossip and condemnation of us we hear during her phone conversations with friends. Many times this takes place with my grown son in the next room, able to hear every nasty insult hurled towards his own mother. I walk my talk, so I am certain he sees that my words and deeds match up, nonetheless he is exposed to a fair amount of negativity and there are days I’m certain he struggles because of it.
And then nearly every morning, like clockwork, she gets a call from a chick who is a gambling addict but apparently a believer. There’s an entirely predictable arc of conversation:
Her: “I messed up again.”
Grandma: “We will pray for forgiveness and that God gives you the strength to overcome.”
It’s one of the most perverse things I’ve ever witnessed: It’s okay to keep falling in the same mire, it’s okay to keep blowing rent money and food money, just as long as you believe in Christ and ask forgiveness. But if you don’t believe – in anything – yet still maintain a daily focus to do good in your community, still work hard and take good care of your elders, still keep track of the words coming from your mouth, you’re held in contempt of some court to which you don’t even belong.
We are in the process of moving so as to alleviate the crazy stress involved with such a situation. It is, however, immensely challenging to continue to live graciously while knowing and understanding that we could be alcoholics or cheating on each other or fighting all the time; yet if we believed, we’d be given a pass and a prayer to be healed and all would be right in the world and our house.
Such an acknowledgement presents the temptation to become cynical, judgmental, or live in perpetual anger. Meditation helps to keep the mind calm, choice allows us to stay positive and focused, and thoughtful, engaging music encourages. I am particularly grateful for Seether’s latest album, “Poison the Parish”. Many songs on it speak poignantly to the unbelievers dilemma of coexisting in a world of sanctimonious religiosity:
“Will you catch me when I fall and keep me elated?”
The music and lyrics provide a safe place for me to declare my frustration and feelings of betrayal. They inspire me to keep to my path, they remind me there are others out there in similar, or worse, situations. If that’s you, if you’re in this kind of place, I’ll beg you to have a listen to the album, specifically the tunes “Against the Wall” and “Emotionless”. The work is a source of meat and sustenance to me at just the perfect time, may it minister to your hurting heathen soul as well.
I am, as always, grateful for the intersection of music and life experience.
I wish for you much peace,