And it was awful. The grandmother of a girl I grew up with passed away last week. I remember her most from church as a kid. She was always nice to me and she hoped I’d be a good role model for my friend.
I decided go to support this friend because I know she has had a rough time lately. The service was being held at the church where I grew up, and I knew there would be a lot of people there that knew me in my evangelical Christian days. It was the worst funeral I’ve ever been to (not that I’ve been to that many, maybe five in my whole life). It was also the first organized Christian event I’ve attended since I realized that my doubts about god were more than just fleeting feelings.
The woman was a Christian, and I’m sure it was the type of funeral she would have wanted. It had old-fashioned hymns, prayers, and lots of talk about following Jesus. In fact, it had too much Jesus talk. The woman’s life was turned into a sermon, the pastor rehashing the requirements for salvation over and over again. I would think a funeral should be used to honor someone’s life, not try to persuade someone to follow a religion. Perhaps that’s what this woman wanted her funeral to be? Near the end, the pastor stated that the family had asked him to explain to people exactly how to become a Christian. Which he did. For ten minutes.
Most of the rest of the service was repetition of the fact that this woman had met her maker and that all should be happy for her because of that. Be happy that she died? Really? It just doesn’t make sense to me.
Beyond the fact that almost a quarter of the ceremony time was spent asking people to subscribe to bullshit, I was asked at least six times by different people when I was coming back to church. I suddenly saw myself, 17 years old and pious as the Pope, himself, begging my friends to go to church. I saw myself judging others based on their lifestyles and condemning anyone who didn’t believe what I did. I realized, as they asked me sweetly where I go to church these days, that as a Christian, I had no concept of people believing differently than me. I had no idea I was making people feel so uncomfortable. It was one of the worst experiences of social interaction I’ve ever had.
I had to hold my tongue. I was with my own grandmother, who is a dedicated Christian woman and a respected elder in the church. I knew that opening my mouth would only break her heart, so I sang To God Be the Glory and The Old Rugged Cross with the same vibrating, church-music voice I used as a teenager. Only this time, I didn’t mean a word of it.
When the service was over, and after being asked a few more times when I was coming back to church, I was dying to get out the front door. The second I stepped into the sunshine, I felt like I could breathe again.
I was reminded today that even though my path might be rockier, there’s a reason I chose it. I am more free and liberated from my sins than those people will ever be.