Being raised in the Bible Belt you inevitably grow up in church. Sunday School and summer church camps are just a normal part of your life. There is never any questioning of God and faith, it’s not allowed. If you weren’t a part of a church family you weren’t anything. The families who didn’t go to church on Sunday mornings were just wrong and looked down upon.
This is how I grew up. I was baptized at nine-years old after accepting God as my Savior at evening services at church camp. Since I come from a broken home and spent every other Sunday transported from one parent to another, I only attended Sunday services bi-weekly but I was there when I could be.
Another thing that you are raised with in the Bible Belt is an abstinence-only sex education. In my experience and opinion, abstinence-only education is unrealistic. You cannot tell horny teenagers that something is off-limits and leave it at that. They need education beyond that. They need to know WHY abstinence is a better choice. They need to be educated on consequences and how to protect themselves if abstinence is not the choice that they feel is right for them. There is SO MUCH left out when you teach abstinence as the only option.
I was one of those teenagers that abstinence wasn’t an option for. Armed with an abstinence-only education I was pregnant a year and a half after my first time.
‘Reality’ shows like Teen Mom do not show the REAL face of what a pregnant teenage girl faces. Aside from the cruelty of my classmates and the ugly looks from judgmental adults, members of my church family ostracized me. My Sunday school teacher called my mother and slammed her for allowing such a thing to happen (for the record I was at my dad’s when it was ‘allowed’ to happen). This was my first experience with religious hate and the first time I doubted God’s love.
Through various other examples of life’s let downs I became very jaded and angry with God. I’ve made mistakes but deep down I am a good person. I have done nothing so bad as to have deserved some of the things that have been thrown my way, like HIV…
When I was diagnosed I wanted to ‘find God’ again. I have so many friends and family members who are comforted by their religion in hard times. I wanted to feel the way they do. I wanted to feel like everything would be okay as long as I had enough faith and prayed hard enough. For a while I really thought it might work, and then I met Maritza’s parents.
Maritza was this amazingly beautiful little girl. She was eight-years old, the same age as my son was at the time. She was fighting cancer. She was fighting so hard! My co-workers and I got together to make her family’s Christmas as wonderful and stress-free as we could. Her mom had quit working so that she could be in the hospital with Maritza. Her dad was struggling to work, pay the bills on a single income and take care of their other two children. Through all of their struggles their faith was strong and completely inspiring. I think we all started to have a little more faith because of them. Maritza beat her cancer. What she couldn’t beat was the treatment… The cure killed her. The radiation burned up her little lungs. She suffered. No one should have to endure what that little girl did. ESPECIALLY not a child.
My renewed faith in a higher power was gone… Maritza being in a ‘better place’ does not comfort me. In my opinion there is no better place for her than in her mother’s arms.
My mother-in-law was an incredible woman. Besides her outer beauty, she did the most amazing thing a woman could do, she raised a kind, strong, wonderful man. A man who saw past a virus and saw me. A man who loved three children so much that he gave them his last name and became their father legally. A man whose kindness and generosity is so deep and unmoving that it is impossible to not love him. Unfortunately I was robbed of the opportunity to ever meet and know my mother-in-law. Like with Maritza, cancer took her from those who love her. She was robbed of a future with a husband who, almost nine years after her death, still loves her. She was robbed of the opportunity to see what an incredible husband and father her son is. She was robbed of meeting her grandchildren. She was robbed of getting to see her daughter finally get her PhD. We were all robbed of her true beauty and love. Was this God’s plan? If it is, it sucks!
I could go on. There are so many injustices in the world. So much hate and anger, some of it perpetrated by so-called Christians and believers of a higher power. I find it hard to believe that the ‘Almighty’ either condones it or cannot put a stop to it. I know there are some would argue that it’s the devil’s doing, again I say that if God is all powerful then these bad things shouldn’t be so rampant.
Life, death, and reading the news… All of these things have crushed my faith. I’m really not sure what it would take to build it back up at this point. I want to believe. I want that comfort that religion promises. It’s just not that simple to attain though.