When in Rome

This post was going to be something else entirely and then my brain went off on a tangent, as it tends to do.  During the Bible study meeting on Wednesday, one of the women said she doesn’t drink here in the states, but when she traveled to Germany recently, she had a beer.  She said she imbibed because it was part of the culture.  I didn’t really think much about this statement until today when I had a conversation with my mother.

My mom told me that her parent’s religious beliefs informed her that it wasn’t okay to dance, drink or wear makeup.  My mom is guilty of all three and is one of the nicest ladies you’ll ever meet, but that’s beside the point.  I asked when she made that change in her belief system. “When I left home.”

So without the accountability to her parents and their church, my mom put on some lipstick, went to a USO dance with a friend, probably had a Vodka Tonic or two and ended up meeting my dad in 1950.

Hold on a second. This will possibly make sense in a minute.

Then at that same Bible study I asked if God was wrathful (as he has been portrayed in earlier times) or was he a kind loving God that you could ask, “Hey God, I’m really thinking I should dye my hair red, what do you think?”

One woman said he was like a parent who wants the best for us, but knows we’re going to mess up.

My dad once told my mom, “If they kids don’t turn out okay, it’s your fault because you’re always with them.” And she was.  My dad wasn’t around much.  So, in a sense, my dad was kind of like God in that we knew he was somewhere and that he probably loved us (at least we hoped so), but we were held accountable for our actions by our mom who was just a person.

Up next at the Bible study, I asked if technology (being able to watch a sermon from their church on their home computer) was making a physical church obsolete.  Were people important?  They all agreed that the fellowship at the church was very important to their spiritual journey.

So, if we think we’re cool with God, why do we place so much importance on what other people think about us and our actions?  Do we act differently with different groups of people?  Are you truly your self in front of the member of your church?  How about your best friend?  Your spouse?  Your kids?

My head hurts.

Do we fear God’s judgment as we take our last breath or is it really the judgment of people we surround ourselves with on a daily basis?  And if it’s the latter, maybe people attend church to be held accountable to their peers who supposedly play by the same rules that they do.

But aren’t we all guilty of something?  How do we behave when we think no one is looking?

We could drink too much or cheat on our spouses or cheat on our taxes or gossip like Perez Hilton or covet our neighbors new Lexus or swear like a sailor or whatever. If we think that everyone else is living to a higher standard because that’s what they present to us, we end up feeling like a failure.  So, do we stay in the gutter wallowing in all of our faults and shortcomings or do we say, this is who I am warts and all and I still want to have a relationship with God?

I tried to make sense of these thoughts by explaining them to a friend today.  She recalled a story of one of her friends who happened to be very religious.  This woman was having a party and she told my friend, “You may want to tone it down, my church friends are going to be here.”  In other words, I like you, but you can’t be yourself in front of my other group of friends.

And with that, I want to thank you for reading my totally rambling post that doesn’t make much sense to me at the moment.

But before I go, I’d like to leave you with a little exercise to think about.  I want you to think of your worst day, a day when you did something that you’re not particularly proud of.  Okay, now here’s the kicker.  It’s been videotaped and will be televised.  If you believe in God, then he/she has already seen it.  God was there when you were doing it, remember? But your friends have not seen it.  This is how you will be remembered.

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15 Responses to When in Rome

  1. Wes Copeland says:

    My head hurts…

    That last paragraph made me chuckle. I\’ve actually thought about it before, I think that\’s why I found it so amusing.

    Next time you\’re at your study group, can you ask from me, if God is all around us, why do we need to go to church? I mean, is it not better to think of God in our everyday activities, oppose to going once a week, getting your wrist stamped and then swearing your way through to the next visit?

    I’ll stop at that lol Otherwise it\’ll turn into Wes rants about religion. ^_^

  2. Theology is critical in this discussion. If you believe that salvation is found through accepting Christ as your savior, it’s a different discussion than if you believe salvation depends on your good/bad deeds, and yet a different discussion if you believe in reincarnation.

    Not to promote my blog again, but a few years ago I wrote a post about “showing off” during Ramadan that you might find pertinent http://blog.chron.com/thestraightpath/2009/08/ramadan-diary-showing-off/ .

    • I don’t know what I believe. That’s the problem. And don’t apologize for sharing information on my blog. Seriously.

      • I didn’t necessarily mean you personally because I know you’re on a journey here – I mean the general you. “If one believes in salvation…” etc.

        It occurred to me after I wrote that comment that, while Protestant religions rely on individual faith and/or works, Catholicism puts great emphasis on rituals and hierarchy, which I think puts a different spin on it as well – for instance, the idea that atonement comes through a priest also alters one’s concept of salvation from judgement.

    • Wes Copeland says:

      Really interesting point and I love your honesty.

      It’s a real shame the comments are made by ignorant white supremcists, because the point of people appearing as “Better Muslims” or “Better Christians” in public is a facinating one.

      I’m not by any means saying that every one is faking it, I know some people are just that devote, but there are some people who think they have to put in 110% effort to appear more focused or put on a show in public.

      My thoughts are God is all around us, so if we’re making the effort to live a holy life, we don’t necceserily need to outdo the person next to us. It’s almost like competing for a parent’s affection. Surely God won’t turn around and say “You didn’t give me enough prayer on Sunday, 12th of September, so you’re screwed!”

      I hope that’s the case anyway. lol

      • Thanks, Wes. Those comments are just a typical sampling of what people write on that blog. When people are anonymous they feel empowered to spew hatred and vitriol.

  3. Man, Pamela, firstly, this blog is so awesome. I’m sorry I’ve been away for a few posts. I just got caught up on the reading. I have so many questions I want to ask you/want you to ask, but I guess in the case of this particular post, the first one is — do you really believe in a God who has set out a code of laws and is personally, specifically watching you at all times to ensure you adhere, with punishment if you don’t and reward if you do? Literally a giant angry father in the sky? And if you (or one) does, why would God be cool with all the people who don’t believe in Him? Like “yeah, sure, whatever, you all go roast, what do I care?” It is literally impossible for me to imagine that the Creator of the Universe is basically a magnified version of my judgey neighbors. Being accountable to the people around me is absolutely different than being accountable to the weird, beautiful, inconceivable world around me. Surely somebody who took the time to create squid that glow in the dark doesn’t give a hoot who I marry or murder? It’s the people around me who care (and well they should).

    What you’re doing is simultaneously amazing and inconceivable to me. Your open mind is a magical thing and I commend you enormously. It makes me want to be more compassionate myself. (Is that the hand of God at work?)

    • I really don’t know what to believe. I’m going to ask ladies at the Bible study today why attending Church is important, how to get to Heaven and if God watches us. They’re either going to think I’m nuts or it will bring on an interesting discussion. I feel like such a child on this journey and a stubborn one at that.
      Hey, if my blog makes you want to be more compassionate, that makes me feel pretty good. My follower count went down by one this morning, so I guess I had the opposite effect on someone else.
      As always, thanks for your commentary.

  4. Betsy Cross says:

    I love the journey you’re on! And I love your honesty and willingness to be so vulnerable. I learned long ago that what we know in our guts to be true about God is always the truth. Words may be added to thoughts and feelings, but basically, I believe we are just remembering something we already know. We are all on the same journey. And the reason I go to church, whether I’m having a good or bad day, is because I’m renewing the covenants I made at baptism (I was 21). That’s the #1 reason. After that, I promised to strengthen other’s faith by my presence, be it vocal or silent. If I didn’t believe God knew me personally, I’d have none of it. None of it would matter.

  5. Enjoyed the post and the discussions, Pamela. I attend church for the reason Betsy mentioned. I am strenghtened by the presence of others with like faith, and I hope my presence strenghtens them. 🙂

    • Thanks Linda. I like the idea of being there for others. I think that is disappearing in our culture where we’re more apt to pay attention to our smart phones than to other real live human beings.

  6. Del Cain says:

    Well, Pamela, first I miss seeing you all at DFWWW but the trip has just become too much of an ordeal. I may be back when I forgive them for tearing up 820. I enjoy reading what you’re doing and also applaud your courage and honesty in writing about it. I suspect that it wouldn’t help anyone but I’ll share a little of my journey. I was “licensed to preach” in the Methodist Church while still in high school and shortly after that spent 4 1/2 years as pastor of rural churches. I quit when I realized not only was I not sure exactly what I believed but that it sure wasn’t what I was “supposed” to be teaching. After a lot of years of experimenting I finally came to a couple of conclusions. I’m not sure what the truth of the world or the truth of God is but I’ll be open to learning whatever I can with no particular agenda. Also I found that I felt more useful to the world when I was involved in a church and, particularly one that was involved in the community. I also felt that going to church should be a good experience for me. I ended up at Trinity Episcopal over by TCU playing in the folk band at 11:30 and that satisfied pretty much all I could ask for. They didn’t ask me to check my brain at the door, loved and supported me, and challenged me to get involved in doing things for others outside the church. I don’t think it matters much what the group you get involved with teaches as long as you use the intellect that (I think) God gave you and keep in mind that whoever/whatever God is, she’s too big to be understood by us and that’s ok. You should be involved somewhere you enjoy being, somewhere you feel loved, and somewhere you are challenged to be a better human being. Not because you want to get to heaven but because that’s what the world needs. Getting where we are ultimately going will take care of itself if we take care of those around us. I’m sure this doesn’t make a lot of sense. It is, after all, a rough draft and I’m not going to edit it for content. If any of my thoughts are useful, good, if you’re curious about what the heck I meant with any of it, you’re welcome to ask. I take critique on my thinking as well as I do on my writing and try to learn from it. Be well.

    • I just love that you popped in here with your unedited story. My post could use a good rewrite, but I thought your post was lovely and totally fine as is.
      I’ve always felt a desire to do “good works,” That phrase didn’t enter my head until yesterday. I was under the impression that doing good things for my fellow travelers on this earthly plane was the path to Heaven. Not that I did good things with Heaven as my motivation. The doing was its own reward.
      I hope you will continue to pop in on occasion and give your two cents!

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