My Life as a Christian

I took my first dive into religion after I moved to Louisiana. All of our family friends were fanatically religious (compared to people in everywhere else I’ve lived. It’s considered normal religious here in the US) and we attended a Southern Baptist Church. There were bible study rooms for kids where we got candy for reciting passages, and a main church hall for singing gospel and listening to sermons.

What I found interesting in the deep south is that most Americans live, eat, and breathe their religion. Prayer before every meal, in regular activities in their lives, and even in most decisions they make. Fast food? Well Chick-Fillet is beloved by the children and they’re a Christian organization. Before a baseball game, let’s pray for good weather and a good game. Someone’s going through a tough time or a difficult choice? They’d be praying for guidance and ask others to pray for them. This simply did not happen in Malaysia, Scotland, or Australia.

Being a young and impressionable 7-year-old, I didn’t think too much of the traditions and rituals forced upon me. I went to a Episcopalian elementary school which would start the day with hymns and prayer. Barring a special “Religious Studies” class which was really just a “Christian Studies” class (I don’t remember ever touching on another religion), the subjects they taught were normal and did not have overly religious overtones. I went to Church with my parents and didn’t think too much of it. Until one day, when I mentioned that it was “a little boring”. Holy Mackerel- the backlash!

The weekend after I had mentioned not having any particular affinity for Church, a few family friends visited and sat me down to ask why. It was a candid conversation, and I was too young to know the significance of what they were trying to do. I told them the truth: I didn’t enjoy remembering bits of bible passage which were just not useful for life and not aligned to my interests (watching Scooby Doo and playing Runescape at that time). I don’t like singing (especially not in public) and I wish I could be playing in the backyard instead of sitting on those uncomfortable pews.

I don’t remember much else except a subtle shift in their demeanor. A slight look of sadness and fear in their eyes. “It’s in the 10 commandments!” They said. “You’ll go to hell!” They said. Looking back on it, I know they had the best intentions. The were worried about my eternal soul and wanted the best for me and my family. They just didn’t want me to decide to go down the ‘wrong’ path.

“I can worship just as well from home. I can believe in Jesus without going to church.” I retorted.

I don’t remember much else of that conversation except it dragged on, and having just come to an age which is prone to being contrarian and spiteful, I decided it was just not worth debating them. “Know what, I’ve just decided I want to be a Buddhist”.

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