Crisis of Faith & Salsa
May 29, 2007
We went to Chipotle for lunch on Sunday. Jason stood in line while I snagged an empty table. As I tried to navigate Noah and a high chair across the crowded restaurant, hoping to not whack anybody in the ankles, I felt the weight of the high chair vanish. A young man wordlessly took it from me and carried it to my table, while I thanked him repeatedly, surprised at the unexpected help -- and also at how surprised I was about the unexpected help.
He sat down at his own table, bowed his head and prayed silently over his burrito.
I remember how my family used to pray over meals in restaurants. I remember not caring for a lot of years, and then I remember caring so very much. I remember my face flushing with embarassment as my parents prayed aloud over burgers and fries at Friendly's, while our waitress hovered nearby, unsure whether placing the ketchup bottle on the table would disturb our communion with the Lord Father in Heaven.
A few minutes later a family asked the man if they could join him at his oversized table since there weren't any other seats. They were obviously eating out post-Church, dressed in their Sunday best, like my family had done almost every Sunday for my entire life. We attended a casual church but dressed up anyway -- it was disrespectful otherwise, although at some point in time I think my mother consented to letting my wear nice pants instead of a dress.
Soon the entire table was engaged in an easy, friendly sort of conversation. I wondered if the family had seen the young man say grace a few minutes earlier, or if they saw his shorts and t-shirt and assumed he needed to be saved. I wondered if they'd try to save his soul right there, like the time I made that little boy ask Jesus into his heart on the playground at McDonald's.
I wondered what they thought of my family, just one table away, all wearing shorts and flip-flops. I wondered if they felt sorry for Noah, like I used to feel sorry for the children at the booth next to us on Sundays, the day it was easiest to tell who went to church and who was a Godless lazy heathen.
I remember stressing about the fate of our fellow restaurant patrons to the point that I was unable to eat -- what if that baby over there never heard about God? Would it be my fault for not talking to her parents today? Would she go to hell because I was too busy enjoying my clown sundae with the M&Ms at the bottom to plant the seed of faith in their hearts and would Jesus look at me sadly one day in heaven because I'd been the crucial part in his plan for that little girl? Would he show me the jewels I could have had in my crown that I'd forfeited because I'd been too embarassed to close my eyes during grace that day, when that's all it would have taken to be a witness for Christ?
The family asked the young man about where he worked and lived and how long he'd been here in America. They asked him whether the burritos were authentic or not, and whether he liked the hot salsa.
"They're different, but good." he answered with a smile. "And I like the medium."
I thought about how I ended up with a child named for a Bible story but who has never been to church. Who has never been baptized. I thought about the children's Bibles and religious books our families have given us and wondered whether they worry that we'll never tell him about Jesus. Or whether the salvation of his soul is their burden alone. I wondered what in the world I'm supposed to tell him about his Fisher-Price Noah's Ark playset.
I wondered what happened to my faith and my fervor and my absolute belief in the Bible and the existence of God and heaven. I wondered when everything got so messed up for me, and why I have such ambivalence to the idea of putting on some nice pants and going to church on Sunday.
The church family's little boy spilled some rice, and the young man handed them his extra napkins.
I wonder if he'll ever know how much his actions spoke to me this Sunday.
I lurk, but now I am number one.
I am also not very religious, and I don't want to give assvice so I think it might be best if I stay out of this one.
Posted by: Sasha | May 29, 2007 at 12:20 PM
I've been wondering what happened to mine too. Because it was there up until just a few years ago. Oddly enough... about the time we started trying to have a baby. Something that has turned into a struggle that perhaps faith would make a little easier.
I think I've become disillusioned not by my faith (or lack of it) but by the way I see it so often displayed. Perhaps a quiet display of it like you saw would do much more to melt my cold, dead black heart.
Thanks for that image. You have no idea how badly I needed to be reminded that there are still people who don't think the Bible is something to beat someone over the head with.
Posted by: paintingchef | May 29, 2007 at 12:23 PM
I am also mostly a lurker, but I just wanted to say that I really liked this post--and it made me think also about religion, although I don't have any good answers!
Posted by: Elisa | May 29, 2007 at 12:26 PM
Wow. Your words just moved me as much as that man's actions moved you. Maybe God wanted that man's actions to leap frog over to your readers through you? That's being God's tool, isn't it?
I hope so, because I don't go to church either, but would have grabbed the highchair and helped a stranger in a heartbeat. My crown won't be nearly as shiny as it could have been, but I still think I'm getting one some day.
Posted by: Carolyn | May 29, 2007 at 12:28 PM
The whole time I was reading this in my head I was all "me too, me too" I think one of the reasons is that I live in the South where religion is very much a part of politics and you can hardly find a church that isn't - church + religious right = going to heaven. We attend church every Sunday but I always find myself yearning for the faith I used to feel.
Posted by: Ashley | May 29, 2007 at 12:29 PM
I love your blog, and when you post these style of writings, I swear you speak for me. It's amazing. Thank you
Posted by: Jane-Marie | May 29, 2007 at 12:31 PM
great post Amalah. I love the posts about the fucking zoo and high heels and the advice smackdown, but these types of posts always remind me how raw and honest and powerful your writing can be.
I'm in the same boat as you in terms of religious background, and every time I go home to see my family I'm faced with these same kinds of issues... and I become even more firmly convinced that there is no one easy answer, but the fact that we're at least thinking about it is a good thing.
anyway, not trying to send assvice or anything, just a sincere thank you for a thought-provoking post.
Posted by: jen | May 29, 2007 at 12:35 PM
I just read Ellen Burstyn's memoir, Lessons in Becoming Myself. It's full of honest writing about her difficult experiences growing up and about finding faith. It's beautiful writing, about faith and finding one's self.
I identified it very much. I am in that place of searching for my own faith, on my own terms.
Posted by: Occidental Girl | May 29, 2007 at 12:38 PM
WOW! is all I can say! That was an awesome post and really got me thinking also! thanks!
Posted by: Lor | May 29, 2007 at 12:40 PM
I've been following your blog for several years now. I stumbled upon it one day while doing a google search for something fertility related, and at once I was mesmerized by your transparency. I've recently started my own blog, and I think of you when I get nervous about posting something vulnerable. I'm a Pastor's wife, and I am often judged quite harshly for what I write. But, I wanted to encourage you on this point because I understand your feeling alienated. I have felt that too. I'm just a girl, like anyone else, and I admit to periods of unbelief, hypocrisy, apathy, and all around screwing up. I'm not your typical Pastor's wife, I guess. Anyway, thanks for a great post.
Posted by: Nikki | May 29, 2007 at 12:46 PM
Thanks for making me think.
Posted by: Amanda | May 29, 2007 at 12:49 PM
Let me preface a touchy subject by saying these are my beliefs, and I'm not saying I'm any more right or wrong than anyone else. :)
I believe God is everywhere, and that you can see Spirit in someone's actions just as easily as in words from a pulpit. I believe that you can go about your life from a spiritual perspective that has nothing to do with a building. I go to church every Sunday because it reminds me to see God everywhere during the rest of the week, not because I feel I have to, or because it's the only way to be. I'll leave it at that and not offer any advice. It was a beautiful post!
Posted by: Carrie | May 29, 2007 at 12:52 PM
Great post. I love reading your thoughts.
If it makes you feel better... at our church? We wear jeans and such. We dressed up for our daughter's baby dedication, but that's about it. We're a come as you are church. I mean, if Jesus ate with prostitutes and tax collectors, I'm sure he wouldn't mind my jeans (and sometimes flip flops! *gasp*) ;)
Posted by: Melissa | May 29, 2007 at 12:54 PM
I read your blog often and admire your honesty. This post was specifically moving to me. It's amazing how one person's natural actions can be so impacting for others -- especially because he wasn't doing it for show. He was just living. I believe in God and in Jesus, but I rarely go to church anymore. I'm looking for a place to go, but it seems that wherever I go, people are more interested in adding me to the membership than showing compassion. It is so refreshing to hear of people like this young man who so effortlessly show compassion. Thanks for writing this.
Posted by: Ann | May 29, 2007 at 12:54 PM
This is beautiful.
I was raised Baptist but switched to the Episcopal Church in college. Though that's not to say I attend church. I don't. I thought about going last Sunday, Pentecost Sunday, but then my friends and I decided to eat a late breakfast at the Pancake House instead.
The way I see it, I don't have to have anything figured out until I have kids who are old enough to know what church is all about, or at least understand the concept of church. You've still got time.
Posted by: Spring | May 29, 2007 at 12:55 PM
I have an almost 6 month old son and I am wrestling with the idea of baptism.
My husband and I are not religious, but not anti-religious either. Mostly Sunday Lazy. We do not go to a church and I am guessing walking up to a random church and saying - "Hey baptize my kid" isn't gonna fly.
But I find myself at times almost paralyzed with fear. What if (god forbid) something happened to my little man? Would he go to heaven? Am I doing everything I possibly can to ensure his bodily health and wellbeing while neglecting the spiritual?
It scares me at times.
Posted by: Barbara | May 29, 2007 at 12:58 PM
Great post, Amalah. That young man's behavior is an example of what I wish the Bible inspired more people to be.
The black/white, right/wrong, Heaven/Hell dichotomies fade in the light of goodness, lovingkindness, compassion and openheartedness to ALL others. I truly believe that is what Jesus was trying to teach ... Love for everyone. Decency for everyone. Salvation, however you choose to define it, for EVERYONE. I don't pretend to understand it, but I believe it is true and I don't think you ever have to darken the door of a church even once in your life to know it.
I, for one, have never been closer to God than in my own home while holding my sweet sleeping baby in my arms ... It looks like He makes appearances at Chipotle during lunchtime, too! Amen!
Posted by: MrsHaley | May 29, 2007 at 12:59 PM
We go to church every Sunday. I'm not one of those evangelical witnesses because I think actions speak louder; but if people ask I say what I believe. I always thought Jesus cared more about a person coming to church more so than whether or not they were wearing a dress or jeans - I sometimes wear jeans (and heels! Heels dress up everything!) to church. I agree with the above sentiment: salvation is for everyone and a lot of times little things steeped more in tradition than actual belief obscure the way. Also, that guy sounds like a cool person with which to share a table. So do you. Really liked this post.
Posted by: Dana | May 29, 2007 at 01:07 PM
I think Melissa and I go to the same church! I look out into the congregation on any given Sunday and see people dressed in jeans, t-shirts, yoga gear, and ballet tutus. The fact that I don't have to put on my "Sunday best" in order to go is one of the great things about my particular church.
Posted by: Amy | May 29, 2007 at 01:11 PM
Did you mean to make me cry? No? Well you did. You also made me think, which I hate to do, but am glad to after such an inspiring post. You rock.
Posted by: Cindy | May 29, 2007 at 01:15 PM
I love this post. Thanks so much for your honesty. It's refreshing.
I was raised in an uber-conservative church of Christ. This means women were not allowed to hold leadership positions and that we sang acapella. And it took me a helluva long time to be willing to go to church again after high school. And now? Somehow I like it again. Oh, some days I admit that I don't really know if I believe this stuff. And then I realize this is what that guy in the Bible meant when he said to Jesus, "I believe. Help thou my unbelief."
I wonder if you know how much you've spoken to me today.
Posted by: Katy | May 29, 2007 at 01:22 PM
I'm about to start my third year at an Episcopal seminary. I spend most of my time studying theology and biblical languages...however, I think that this man's way of expressing his faith is a lesson which is just as helpful as my studies. I hope that I can be the same type of example in my ministry. Thank you for sharing!
P.S. I fully intend to wear flip-flops when I'm a priest.
Posted by: Loren | May 29, 2007 at 01:23 PM
It isn't about church- or religion. Church is like a club for people who believe the same thing- a place to hang out with friends, family or strangers who are all interested in learning more about a common interest.
The faith issue is one of your own heart- to sound trite & overquoted- a "relationship" with God.
It's very easy for the world to bash God, or Jesus. It's also very easy for churchy-people to bash those they decide aren't like them.
I know my relationship with God gives me hope when I don't have it, peace when I can't find it, and patience when it isn't humanly possible to have any. Similar to my relationship with my hubby, or my dad, only bigger and without human error on His side.
Good people exist without God, yes they do. Love exists without God, and so does obedience and kindness.
I'm not into the Bible-thumping, fire & brimstone approach. You have to go with what's in your heart, Amy. It sounds like you know what its all about, down deep.
I too struggle with the guilt, of oh crud, what if I don't tell so-and-so about God, and they burn in hell and its my fault. What if I miss the opportunity to be a witness because I'm fussing at my daughter for flirting with a total stranger in the Target?
But to me, I do the best I can, as much as I can, to show love and do what the Bible says. The rest is up to God, and He works through me despite my stupid human errors.
I'm not (even though I know I'll probably be slammed for this) going to say that it isn't important, or reduce the significance of submission to God to anything other than what it is- necessary in order to avoid hell, necessary in order to find true joy and peace and happiness outside of selfish pleasure.
Its also a huge privilege to me that God even wants to have anything to do with me, me with my procrastinating, my fascination with sugar free cookies, my attitude problems once a month ha ha.
Best wishes to you. Quite a quandary you have here, but I know you can sort it out.
Posted by: Mrs Butter B | May 29, 2007 at 01:24 PM
Wow--tears in my eyes, no matter your beliefs.
Posted by: Laura | May 29, 2007 at 01:26 PM
I've been a lurker and occasional commenter for years. I have to say that this post may be one of my favorites of all time. I love your honesty. Faith, just like life, is a journey. None of us have it all together. Nobody has all the answers. And most certainly nobody is perfect. There was only one perfect person and things didn't turn out all that great for Him.
Posted by: Tracy | May 29, 2007 at 01:27 PM
My faith journey has been...non traditional at best. I started off with a pretty shakey "I believe because...um, gee, I'm here?" I did confirmation and sang in the choir and was about as involved as a person could be - then one day something happened that changed me forever. I didn't trust anyone and God was at the top of a very long list of people I determined had let me down.
It took years, but I am back and strong in a faith that I feel good about. I found my way back because of people like your Chipotle samaritan.
I think that people put a lot of pressure into their faith, waiting for a great Come to Jesus moment that is going to lift them off their feet and make everything perfect. People expect that Faith will be black and white - on or off. That just has never been the case for me - I found God in the gray areas and in the dusk, the last places I ever expected to look.
Have you ever read www.reallivepreacher.com? If not, I think you might really enjoy it. He is nothing like you would expect.
Posted by: Sharon | May 29, 2007 at 01:30 PM
I am not going to give you any advice or tell you what I think you need to do, but as a Christian I will say that there are less judgemental ones of us out there. After reading the post where you went into your church background it seems that the church you grew up in was very rules oriented. And also not so forgiving. And if you feel like you should, explore options that might fit you better.
Posted by: Ida | May 29, 2007 at 01:38 PM
Having grown up going to church every week, I often wonder if my boys are missing something. An aunt reacted to news that we were not having our child baptized by saying to my mother, "What happens if he dies? God won't know him."
I told my mom that no one needs to worry - God knows who my children are. I thank Him for them all the time.
Posted by: Michele | May 29, 2007 at 01:41 PM
Posted by: emery jo | May 29, 2007 at 01:45 PM
I know exactly what happened to my faith ... life. And it is stories like this one and when I encounter people like this young man that gives me faith in humanity again.
Beautifully written, Amy!
Posted by: Maria | May 29, 2007 at 01:48 PM
After being educated in the North, and learning about all the dozens of powerful religions more ancient than my own Christianity, I found it difficult to recover my Southern faith. Because my brain refused to accept what I'd been taught there as fact any longer.
After years of self-investigation, however, I'm so glad I lost that faith. The one on one relationship I have now with 'god' (who is not the Jesus or god I was raised to believe in) is so much more powerful. I take my kids to church to learn values and to be a part of my southern community. But it's when I'm IN church that I feel like a fraud.
There are times I feel closer to god eating a burrito and drinking a beer than singing Methodist songs with the electric guitar. Morals and ehtics are good things, but believing in the validity of one religion over another kind of creeps me out at this point in my life. All people are worthy of love and redemption, even those who have never heard the word 'Jesus' or 'Allah'. And some of the best, sweetest people I've known have never seen the inside of a church, but I know they live daily in the real kingdom of heaven.
Off soap box,
Posted by: Anna J. Evans | May 29, 2007 at 01:48 PM
Whoa. I think a lot of these comments are just as potent as your post! Good readin' here today at amalah!!
Posted by: Mo | May 29, 2007 at 01:48 PM
I am floundering in my faith right now. This post makes me realize how much I miss all of those things that I shared with my children. I literally got goose bumps reading this post. Thank you.
Posted by: Woman Lost | May 29, 2007 at 01:49 PM
Very thought-provoking. Thanks for articulating it so well.
Posted by: Linda | May 29, 2007 at 01:53 PM
Beautiful post. I was raised Catholic, but my parents pulled us out of the church before I made my confirmation. My husband was raised Southern Baptist and nearly became a pastor.
We're torn. We don't have any children yet, but plan to have one sometime soon?! Do we take our kids to church to give them structure and comfort, and an identity in our religious community? Even though we don't have faith in what is being preached?
Is teaching your kid to do the right thing because it's the right thing, and not endorsing any kind of religion setting them up for trouble later? Should we give them that foundation and let them choose to reject it when/if they are ready and capable?
Do we *really* not have that faith in our hearts? Is that because we've had bad experiences with the church? Is it because we've become jaded and bitter? Could it be that we're avoiding some self examination by avoiding religion?
Or is it what we tell people, and each other- that no one can have the right answer and if we had been born and raised in Iran we wouldn't be eating pork and would be worshipping Allah instead of God? That no one can know or understand God because he, she, it is just too big and complex to be tied down and fleshed out in one or several "divine" texts?
Posted by: verybadcat | May 29, 2007 at 02:09 PM
Wow. Thoughtful post. I'd had an email of all things bring on my dilemma and subsequent post a few months ago.
My church story is very different but similar to yours. I was the good little Catholic girl in a family that didn't go to church. It would be many years before I'd heard the story of my mom, the good catholic girl who got married and had six more catholics before the church shunned her because her then husband ran off with the town tramp. The youngest was 18 months old, the oldest, 12.
My husband has a cautionary tale of not following a pastor blindly, as his church became a cult when he was 13.
Those of us who don't have a church and don't attend regularly will always feel some sense of guilt at not providing them for our children.
I feel the guilt, too, but I am cautious of joining a new church to find that it isn't the right fit for my family.
Thanks for being strong enough to share this story.
Posted by: Suzanne | May 29, 2007 at 02:12 PM
First of all - amazing entry. Seriously. I've been there with a lot of the same thoughts. If you find the answers, let me know.
Posted by: Zoot | May 29, 2007 at 02:18 PM
Oh, I understand. I so do. I've asked those things of myself so many times. Thanks for writing what I was unable to articulate.
Posted by: Lauren | May 29, 2007 at 02:21 PM
i felt myself getting teary reading this. i don't know if it's pms or if it's because i've been avoiding dealing with the same frustrations and uncertainty. i was brought up in a very religious family, sent to private christian school k-12, yada yada yada. but these days i can't seem to pray even when i try (which isn't very often). i didn't even go to church on christmas. i think i've just become so disillusioned with the whole organized religion thing that it's frustrating and hard to know what's true and what's bullshit.
Posted by: katie | May 29, 2007 at 02:21 PM
Oh, I understand. I so do. I've asked those things of myself so many times. Thanks for writing what I was unable to articulate.
Posted by: Lauren | May 29, 2007 at 02:23 PM
Thank you for this Amy. I'm going through something very similar. My 4 year old daughter is named Grace and yet she has never been to church other than her baptism. I find myself struggling with my lack of faith recently and what it all means.
Posted by: Kim | May 29, 2007 at 02:32 PM
To me, that interaction the man and the family were having was a true religious experience. Being kind to one another. Engaging strangers. Giving.
People who call themselves Christians a million times a day typically don't practice what they preach. "Oh, I go to church and Bible study and lead a youth group. But volunteer at a soup kitchen? Oh no. Give to the less fortunate? Sorry. Love thy neighbor even though they are gay? No way."
That irritates me to no end. And makes my heart sad.
My husband and I have recently began going back to church and it makes me feel really good. That loving community really speaks to me. And I believe that even the smallest moments can be from God. Just like your experience at the restaurant.
Thank you SO much for sharing.
Posted by: samantha jo campen | May 29, 2007 at 02:35 PM
Just a great post. It obviously speaks to a lot of people, including myself. Thanks for sharing with us.
Posted by: Kelly | May 29, 2007 at 02:37 PM
Long time reader, first time de-lurker..
Thank you..although you have made me cry at work. (And its not the first time.) Just this weekend I was thinking about how much I miss believing in something, and how sad and alone that makes me feel. Reading this and your comments, I realize I am not so alone after all, so thanks.
Posted by: Jacqueline | May 29, 2007 at 02:37 PM
Probably your best post.
Seek the answers to those wonderings.
Seek the love that guy showed you and the family that sat with him.
THAT is the love of Christ. Being real. Giving to others - even if it's just helping a mom with a high-chair or sharing a too-large table in a crowded restaurant. Not being ashamed of the Faith that sustains you. Not being ashamed of something very private and very politically incorrect.
He was an example for all us Christians. and non-Christians. Matthew 22:37-39
Thanks for this post.
Posted by: Auburn Gal Always | May 29, 2007 at 02:56 PM
Excellent. I spent many years attending a church that encouraged the same aggressive tactics you alluded to. But the man you met is the one who really has it right. He showed compassion, humility, and openness without judgement or expectation. That is a Christian.
Posted by: Becca | May 29, 2007 at 02:59 PM
Wow Amy! No one writes these kind of posts like you.
And even thought I'm Jewish, I can so relate to everything you said.
Posted by: jodi | May 29, 2007 at 03:05 PM
What a great post, Amy. It is definitely one of my personal favorites.
Posted by: Kimberly | May 29, 2007 at 03:13 PM
I think it's a really hard topic. I am somewhat (okay, probably very) religious, but I think that a lot of times people find themselves further and further from an organized religion simply because the faith of their childhood is insufficient to meet the needs of adulthood. How can the kind of system that caused you guilt for the "heathen" children fit your post-modern, inclusive worldview? If you really want to explore (and only you and Jason really know if you do), I would encourage you to do so. There are a lot of wonderful faith communities out there now that are a far cry from the evangelicalism of our childhoods.
Posted by: Bethiclaus | May 29, 2007 at 03:14 PM
Great post...thank you so much for your honesty. Obviously there are a lot of us out here who feel very similar. I was brought up in the church and even into high school I didn't mind going. In college I had a hard time finding a church that wasn't either so big that no one noticed me, or so small that they were tackling me to join every small group they had...so I got out of the habit of going. My husband was brought up Catholic, but didn't really care much for attending once he was in high school, etc. We really didn't start attending church again until we were pregnant with our now 3 year old. I felt like that since God blessed us with a baby so quickly after trying, that I needed to get my butt to church to help make sure I was on the right path, so that we would point our son towards the right path. We went pretty regularly for the first 18-24 months of his life...but then we'd travel, or one of us would be sick, or we'd oversleep, and we quickly fell back into not going. Now I'm trying to get back into the habit, since we're pg with boy#2. Part of it, again, is to make sure we're bringing up our kids in the manner we feel is the right path; part of it is because we feel we need to start showing up again so that they don't laugh when we ask them to baptize our son. And in the Methodist church an infant baptism is not the same as in the Catholic church--it's not guaranteeing salvation, it's really a Baby Dedication with Water--dedicating this beautiful gift back to God and making a public promise to try to bring up the child properly. I feel like I need to make that promise in front of others to help keep me accountable. It may not be for everyone. My parents Dedicated me when I was an infant--I didn't get baptized until I was an adult (as is common in Protestant churches). I only wanted to dedicate our son, but since my husband was baptized in the Catholic church, we compromised to do the Dedication with Water...that way he got his water and I got a dedication (as opposed to some church, run by humans, guaranteeing my son's salvation).
Thanks so much again for your post. I'm sure you're bringing up your little Noah as best as you can. Knowing that you're conscious of these thoughts and feelings, I think they will point you in the right direction.
Posted by: Colleen | May 29, 2007 at 03:14 PM
I actually returned to the church I grew up in after a period of several years. Not because my beliefs had returned ot what they were as a child (very similar to yours). But because I needed a support system. I needed my family. I don't believe it is our responsibility to save souls, who do we think we are? I don't believe in creation. I am not even sure I believe in hell. I believe in following the teachings of Christ. The compassion, the mercy, the tolerance. Everything else gets washed away. So sometimes I don't agree with my church family. But I smile to myself and love them anyway. They have taken such good care of me and my family. Thanks for telling us where you saw God on Sunday...he does not confine himself to a church building. :)
Posted by: siouxjoe | May 29, 2007 at 03:20 PM
Recovering Catholic here - echoing everyone else who says "thank you" for this post. I was damaged so badly by the Catholic Church that even though I'm interested in the Unitarian Fellowship, I can't bring myself to go because of my background with organized religion. I believe in being as good of a person as I can be, and treating others like I'd want to be treated. I don't think I need anything more at this point. But I totally understand your post and how having a child would make me question "faith" again. Wish I had answers, but I don't.
Posted by: missbanshee | May 29, 2007 at 03:24 PM
i have to post now, and i never have before, because it just so happens that i had a little crisis of faith of my own this weekend. i was at a wedding, not a chipotle, but they are equally religious experiences according to some (though i'll be honest my preference by a landslide is for baja fresh) (and oh man was that a sacreligious thing i just said!).
anyway, i've been having some sort of a quarter life crisis (or whatever you want to call it), mostly related to my job and wondering if it is my career, if i'm a "lifer" where i am now, and if i should make a move... and i took a personality/job assessment recently which told me to consider becoming clergy. usually i wouldn't trust those things, or i'd at least take them not-too-seriously, but something really hit me about that, it suddenly seemed to make a lot of sense to me. and then at this wedding i thought, WOW i love weddings, it would be such a treat to get to marry people.
yet i can't even begin to imagine the journey back to that lifestyle when it seems like it's so far away from me today...
it's actually nice to hear that other people think about that, too.
Posted by: judi | May 29, 2007 at 03:27 PM
I've been reading for awhile but finally decided to post. This is just what I needed to read today. I'm struggling with how some think "pushing" their faith on others is the way to go instead of just loving those around them, even those who they don't know. Why does there have to be all the judgement and guilty feelings instead of actions like you saw from this man?
Posted by: Maya | May 29, 2007 at 03:27 PM
Sincere kindness is the most authentic and effective form of evangelism.
Posted by: Antique Mommy | May 29, 2007 at 03:30 PM
I was thinking about this issue this morning while driving to Gymboree...Realizing we have yet to draw up anything official stating our wishes for who would care for the lowercase should anything happen and wanting to put in a backup for that. I immediately thought of those women with whom I went to college...the ones with that quiet faith that I always wished for and yet never quite felt I had. Nearly 10 years later, I feel even further from achieving that kind of faith. Would I help a stranger in public? Absolutely. Do I remember to pray in public? Rarely...nor do I do it that often at home.
Posted by: Miss W | May 29, 2007 at 03:32 PM
Lurker here. I loved this post so here I am, out of the shadows. I have to admit I expected you to wrap this one up with some sort of sarcastic remark about religion of something of the sort. I don't mean that in a judgemental way, but just because of some things I've read here in the past. Funny how little actions like that can really make you think. The cool thing is that maybe some days you (or I or whoever) do little nice things and it affects someone else's thinking. Don't really know what my point is, but loved the post. Got me thinking.....
Posted by: Emily | May 29, 2007 at 03:36 PM
I'm a lurker, I might have left a comment or two in the past. I really enjoyed this post. Very open and honest of you.
Posted by: Randi | May 29, 2007 at 04:03 PM
I am Jewish but don't go to Temple. (BTW, my mom called my college roommate Amy, Amalah.) My husband is Polish National Catholic but he doesn't go to church. We have two kids and they are getting along just fine. They have good manners, morals, respect, etc.
A Christian friend and her 2 kids are staying with my family right now. Her 6 year old told me that I wasn't going to go to God because I don't go to church.
I was so offended but bit my tongue. How dare he tell me that I have to go to a building to pray and gain entrance to Heaven. I don't think his religious teachers could teach him to be a bit more open minded. Religion is not so cut and dry.
Posted by: Anonymous | May 29, 2007 at 04:03 PM
So he was a very nice person. Not because he goes to church and prays at Chipotle, but because there are nice people in the world. Religious or not.
Posted by: Stephanie | May 29, 2007 at 04:10 PM
Wow. Great post, Amy. I don't have much to say, it just seems like one of those moments where words don't mean much. But I don't think it has to be all or nothing.
Posted by: Kyla | May 29, 2007 at 04:10 PM
I "lurk" at your site every day, but I was moved enough by this particular post to de-lurk. And I agree with Tracy: "Faith, just like life, is a journey. Etc..."
I grew up nothing, became "born again" at age 19, married a 3rd-generation evangelical minister, experienced a massive crisis of faith and divorced him (and the church) 4 years later, only to find that I still had unshakable faith in God... just not in Christianity.
Long story short, 15 years later I am now a religious Jewish woman living in Israel with my 4 children and Jewish husband, and long time ago felt that this was where I was on my way to all those years ago.
Personally I follow the philosophy that every act of kindness, no matter how small, heals the world in some small way, and we may never get to know the end result of our actions. So that doesn't mean we have to convince the world of the righteousness of our cause, we just have to care for each other in a respectful and non-judgemental or coercive way. Without expecting anything in return, and without a hidden agenda. It shouldn't be about our own self gain (jewels in a crown) - it should be about making the world a better place to live in.
But that's me and my journey, not yours.
All the best Amy - may you and your family be blessed... even if by none other than the flying spaghetti monster. :-) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_Spaghetti_Monster
Posted by: jsdcreative | May 29, 2007 at 04:13 PM
Please don't think I'm an assvice giving asshole, but please check out the UCC (United Church of Christ) Church of Obama and Oprah, where I think you might find that your common sense and politics might jibe with your faith.
Posted by: Kirsten | May 29, 2007 at 04:16 PM
Great post, Amalah. Our family recently converted from the Roman Catholic church--with which we had become increasingly disillusioned--to the Orthodox Church. I knew it was the church for us when our pastor said, "The Orthodox way is to do everything out of Love, not out of justice," or words to that effect. As another commenter said, God is everywhere, and we see Him through others more often than not.
Posted by: Catherin | May 29, 2007 at 04:20 PM
I love your observations... and how you show what's in your heart...
Kindness of strangers = God
Love = God
Just my 2 cents... from a spiritually curious, non-religious reader ...
Posted by: Marie | May 29, 2007 at 04:22 PM
I miss that feeling I used to have when I was little. I used to wonder if I was making a mistake by NOT talking to people who obviously needed to be saved. I grew out of that feeling of great responsibility in some ways. I still want to do good and do the right thing, though. It makes me sad that I'm sort of disillusioned with church. I know my kids need the moral foundation...
Posted by: Jules | May 29, 2007 at 04:25 PM
This is really a beautiful post.
Two things come to mind....first is a song verse: "I'll be a witness in the silences when words are not enough".
And a bible verse: "Therefore by their fruits you will know them". Matthew 7:16-20
He was a silent witness, and I think that is so absolutely beautiful!
Posted by: jody | May 29, 2007 at 04:25 PM
This is really a beautiful post.
Two things come to mind....first is a song verse: "I'll be a witness in the silences when words are not enough".
And a bible verse: "Therefore by their fruits you will know them". Matthew 7:16-20
He was a silent witness, and I think that is so absolutely beautiful!
Posted by: jody | May 29, 2007 at 04:26 PM
What an amazing post. I too have lost faith and couldn't have related more. Being the daughter of a Church Secretary and also a Mom of two children who aren't baptized has definately caused a few waves in my family.
The line is so fine. I admire people who have strong faith but could be more turned off by those who get all preachy, preachy. Someday I hope to find a nice happy medium.
Posted by: glamgranola | May 29, 2007 at 04:28 PM
I hope that you know that there are many different ways of being a faithful person, even, a Christian person. I know you know that, but there are so many of us, Christian, faithful people, who do not divide the world into the "saved" and the "Godless lazy heathens." When I look at you in a restaurant, I see three children of God. I see a mother and father having a good time on a Sunday afternoon. I see a family taking some time to be together. I see a beautiful child who has blessed the lives of those around him. There are some of us who don't care if you go to church or not. And many of us who would not ever walk up to you and try to "save your soul." That man who helped you showed you that he is a different kind of Christian. He can show you kindness and love without preaching or judging. Please know that we are out here! Thank you for sharing.
Posted by: Bunny | May 29, 2007 at 04:31 PM
Thanks for putting out there what I've been thinking for so long. Funny that the faith that's supposed to provide "peace that passes all understanding" can also cause so much confusion. You'll work it out.
Posted by: Beulah | May 29, 2007 at 04:53 PM
Another post that made me cry! I love your insight and how well you can make words work for you. Thank you.
My religious upbringing was opposite from yours. I was raised a 'nothing', not really atheist, there was a 'God', He lived in Heaven and that was about it. He was some sort of mythical creature, like the Man in the Moon or the Lock Ness Monster.
I became a Christian about 6 years ago. I desperately want to show my Family Of Origin the light. At first I was more active in my witnessing, writing letters to them and whatnot. After being called a hypocrite so many times and having 'my religion' thrown in my face, I definitely have a more passive attitude.
I, too, get embarrassed when we pray at public places. I wasn't raised that way, it isn't familiar to me. I don't want people to think I'm doing it just to look "holier than thou".
I want to be a witness, I really do. I want to shout the Gospel from my rooftop. But I don't do it. Because I don't want the whole world waiting for me to fall, so they can condemn me and tell me what a hypocrite I am. "Christians don't swear." "Christians don't drink." "Christians don't get frustrated with their children." "Christians don't watch non-religious television programs." "Christians don't let the skeletons out of the family closet."
Well, you know what...I'm Christian, and I do all of that!
Posted by: AmyM | May 29, 2007 at 04:54 PM
Another gal de-lurking for a moment.
Just wanted to also thank you for being honest about your experience.
To think- you'd see Jesus at Chipotle!
I have other thoughts on this subject...but basically I'm just sorry that you had a bad experience with the church of your childhood.
It sounds so cliche...but keep seeking. You'll find Him.
Posted by: Marlo | May 29, 2007 at 05:06 PM
You're good, Storch. Been too long since I've told you so. You are really, really good. And that's coming from a JEW! So...
Posted by: Dr. Johnny Fever | May 29, 2007 at 05:19 PM
You're good, Storch. Been too long since I've told you so. You are really, really good. And that's coming from a JEW! So...
Posted by: Dr. Johnny Fever | May 29, 2007 at 05:21 PM
Great post! Now get that baby of yours to church!
Hope that didn't sound too bossy...but I am bossy - so why deny.
Posted by: Milehigh | May 29, 2007 at 05:27 PM
I am Jewish, hubby is Southern Baptist. Our home reeks of brimstone. We are both churchless heathens and quite happy to be that way. Hubby was ruined by the Baptists and I still suffer under the thumb of a Jewish Mother.
Religion is such a personal thing, only you know where you belong. Great post!
Posted by: brighton | May 29, 2007 at 05:28 PM
Whatever you ultimately decide, remember that you are not required to have some kind of faith. If you decide you do, there are a multitude of them out there. Whatever you decide, you can make sure your son has the information he needs to make his own choice someday.
Posted by: becky | May 29, 2007 at 05:29 PM
In the world today, when we have the choice of bringing up our children in church or not, there really isn't a choice. I too was raised going to church every sunday and as a young college student and adult feel out of the "habit". When my children came along I was determined that they be raised in church because I knew I could never "train them up in the way they should go" without help from others. They are both in their early twenties now and use their musical talents often by singing in church services and working in Youth retreats. I'm proud and I'm humbled and I'm thankful that they know Jesus and we don't ever have to be permanently separated. Satan works very hard to keep us apart from Christ - I backslide from church, and when I go back to praying regular and attending regular my life smooths back out - why do I keep sliding back? My advice you didn't ask for is, raise your child in a church environment. Don't try to find one that doesn't have political/personality problems - there isn't one because its filled with humans who are flawed. Being in church is better all around than not being in church. Your post really brightened my day.
Posted by: Kelly | May 29, 2007 at 05:29 PM
Wow look at all the positive responses to this post. Just when I think the web is full of nothing but heathens like myself... I am surprised! In a good way.
I'm a #1 backslider/lukewarm/whatever you want to call it. I worry about my soul sometimes. And I wonder what I'll do when I have kids of my own.
Posted by: Carrisa | May 29, 2007 at 05:37 PM
Beautiful post. One of my favorites so far. I won't go into my story, but it's so similar. And I ended up going back to church once my second child came along. But this time I found a church that didn't insist I save everyone or even believe a particular thing. I go to this church because I can be exactly who I am when I'm there and that is such a huge relief.
If you haven't read the book "Eat, Pray, Love" I think you would really enjoy it. Especially the part that talks about the notion that "God lives in you, AS you". That makes so much sense to me. Why else would we all be so different?
Posted by: Rachel | May 29, 2007 at 05:38 PM
Bossy thinks Amalah is gearing up for a rebirth.
Posted by: BOSSY | May 29, 2007 at 05:38 PM
I'm delurking to say awesome post! Thanks for sharing.
Posted by: Kellyology | May 29, 2007 at 05:55 PM
I'm wondering if his actions would have affected you the same way if you had not seen him praying. In other words, is it the religion behind the actions or the actions themselves? I am often comforted by the generosity of spirit or strangers but have never questioned their beliefs or my own. My mother, as a wife to a priest, often said, "Many of the best Christians are never seen in church."
Posted by: Enniferjay | May 29, 2007 at 05:59 PM
That was a great post Amy, yet again. You're a very talented writer and it especially shows when you share something close to your heart like this. Thank you :-)
I am a Christian, and I try very hard not to be judgmental because I think that's just as wrong as anything for which people judge others.
I hope you find your faith, and a church family you can live with. You'll never find a perfect one, of course, but I hope you find one that is good and honest and genuinely full of love.
Bless you :-)
Posted by: Heather | May 29, 2007 at 06:07 PM
You write so beautifully. I enjoy every post. When I had my first baby and worried that we should have him baptized (which was kooky enough given we are not religious AT ALL. I guess I was freaking about the responsibility of choosing for him), our friend, a minister, told me our kid could decide for himself and that they baptized adults all the time. So simple. And no talk of babies going to Hell. Works for me. Thanks for another great post.
Posted by: Libby | May 29, 2007 at 06:08 PM
First time posting; I would like to echo some of the others about being saddened for your unhappy religious experience early on. What you witnessed at Chipotle was the Great Commandment, but you already know that. God is pure love, period, and I'm a devout, happy Catholic whose faith has sustained her over these 44 years. Everybody's spiritual path is different, Mother Theresa used to say, and you are one heck of an amazing wonderful person, and a great mom, I might add. Keep on searching and questioning and looking. Read the beautiful book Once Upon a Tandem (non-denominational Christian -- very short, lots of great woodcut prints). I will send you a copy if I can get an address.
Keep up the great work!
Posted by: Barbara | May 29, 2007 at 06:10 PM
Loved your post. It reminds me of a parable...you speak of learing by the example of one, and then you're teaching the multitudes through your story. Very well done!
Posted by: Priscilla | May 29, 2007 at 06:14 PM
See, that's the thing. It's not whether you go to church or not that makes you a Christian, (although, it's an important part of faith..I believe you have to find the *right* church) it's how you live your life. Do people see Christ in you? Do you do for others? Do you help people in need who are carrying a high-chair and a toddler in a crowded retraurant, or do you watch, hoping that they won't come your way and knock you in the ankles?
I always laugh when I hear the statement, "being in a garage doesn't make you a car, just like being in church doesn't necessarily make you a Christian". But it rings true.
God speaks to us in many ways...I'm glad that you saw him in that man. Maybe he's knocking on your heart and asking you to check him out again?
Posted by: Lori | May 29, 2007 at 06:18 PM
I loved your post today! I have no idea exactly where you live because I have just started reading your blog, so this may be not so much the greatest idea. If anyone is searching for a church home where you can be loved, accepted for who you are and what you are wearing....if you want to go to a church where there is laughter every Sunday, no expectation of membership, full inclusion of little ones in every aspect of church life and where the coolest priests in the dc metro area reside....come to Trinity.
Going here has been one of the best experiences of my life. It might not work for everyone, but I have truly found my home!
Posted by: Happy Girl | May 29, 2007 at 06:25 PM
I wonder how many people see me on Sunday, running my errands while dressed in yoga pants and flip flops, and assume that I am a Godless heathen. I am very active in my church, and serve as a Eucharistic Minister, but almost always attend Mass on Saturday night. Appearances can be very deceiving, and faith is not limited to one day a week.
Faith is too personal for anyone to tell you how to have it. if you find a religion and a church that fills a need for you, that's wonderful. If you don't, you can still teach your children what they need to know about love and compassion and generosity to those who need help.
Posted by: MamaKaren | May 29, 2007 at 06:28 PM
Great post Amy.
Keep searching and following.
Posted by: Molly | May 29, 2007 at 06:37 PM
Delurking to say wow, what a great post. I can relate.
Posted by: robin | May 29, 2007 at 06:48 PM
WOW Amay this posting was great. I as well was raised in a Christian home and I understood everything you said, oh and I almost had my $.99 A&W Root Beer splattered all over my notebook like a Pollock.. You're great.
Posted by: Nery | May 29, 2007 at 07:19 PM
I did not take the time to read the other 90-some comments, I apologize if I am repeating what others have said. I do not think you need to be in church to find God or revisit the faith of your youth. Church is a place. Relationship with Christ and Faith is seperate from the place.Can the place help you grow? Sure. Is it REQUIRED for growth? No. I get a kick out of your blog, your sarcasm entertains me. I am a person of faith (technically with a title "missionary to Haiti") who hardly finds it my place to judge you --- and I skip church all the time. Cool story and a great reminder to all of us to treat others well, you never know how a small gesture of kindness will impact someone.
Posted by: Tara | May 29, 2007 at 07:25 PM
If more religious people spoke with actions instead of words, there would be many, many more converts.
Posted by: Suebob | May 29, 2007 at 07:46 PM
Someone once told me that being a Christian is like sitting on a three-legged stool... one leg is going to church, one leg is reading your bible and the third leg is fellowship with others. If you're missing a leg, the stool falls over.
That just stuck with me and I thought I'd pass it on.
Posted by: NDC | May 29, 2007 at 07:51 PM
Beautiful post, thank you. I have been both mean to strangers and kind to strangers. When I am mean or judgemental to strangers I always feel slightly lessend, as if I lost a little piece of myself. When I am kind I feel like a part of the larger universe and I am grateful for it. No matter what you belive it is hard to deny the universal feeling of love and gratitude we all feel when we are treated with love, respect and kindness. OXOX
Posted by: Alexandra | May 29, 2007 at 07:53 PM
Like you, I grew up in a strict religious home (Mormon), lost my faith some time around the same time I moved out of my parents' home, and have a son with an Old Testament name.
I've gone to church sporadically over the years but never found one I was completely comfortable with. I do believe in God, I just don't think I need a minister to run interference for me with Him.
Now that My Kid is a teenager, he's started going to a Wednesday Youth church group. He started going b/c all his friends go there, but I have to think he's getting some good out of it. (Luckily, it's at one of those new fangled casually dressed, liberal churches that doesn't cram a lot of dogma down your throat.) I'm happy about it b/c I feel like it's a decision he's making for himself, rather than something he's been forced into by his parents.
Of course, I live in the south. There's a church on every corner in this city and, in the short bio for Mr. & Miss Public High School in the yearbook, it lists what church they're members of. So it's almost impossible NOT to get caught up with a group of church kids. Your son may not have that same experience where you are.
Posted by: kalisah | May 29, 2007 at 08:05 PM
Great post, and I've been there. . . I recently found a church where I feel pretty comfortable (finally!), where I don't feel like I have to set aside any part of myself to be part of the group.
Many of the comments have made me think of a poem that the minister of my church wrote while she was still studying for the ministry, a poem that has really spoken to me in my journey:
When you quarrel with God
really you are quarreling with
those who have come after God.
It is not God who taught you only
a certain prayer or said reward
lies in only one direction. It's not
God who said 'reward' rather than
'embracing love,' which is everywhere;
not God who taught you to hate
God, shun God. Those like you--
two-legged and mortal--did this: those
also hurt, in turn, by others before them.
You could leave off this quarreling:
just begin again, with just yourself
and God. You can choose a different
name for the Holy; stop cringing when
I say mine. Each is only a word for what
can't be said, the barest beginning,
a glimpse. The rest you may do in private.
But see, what you do there in private
shows: what you come back with is written
all over you. It doesn't matter
what the particular word is. Only
that you have been there to fetch it.
Only that you return there often, opening
yourself to everything that makes it.
Those who taught you what to pray and
how to pray were wrong, if what they
taught you, you hate.
You can begin again."
I get goosebumps when I read that poem, when I recognize the truth in it--that I don't have to accept others' notions of what God is or what the rules are, and can instead find my own path.
Good luck to you on your journey!
Posted by: Tara in VA | May 29, 2007 at 08:28 PM