I was born and raised Lutheran. I ate Jell-O salad, went to Sunday school every weekend, and learned all of the usual songs a kid is taught to sing about Jesus. Recently, for various reasons, I’ve been wandering in my faith. I still identify as Christian, but I am not really sure what denomination I relate to most. That isn’t really a problem. I’m cool with maintaining an informal relationship with God. I don’t believe He’ll smite me if I miss a chapel service or two. The reason I’m struggling is because I don’t see the point in organized religion anymore. There seem to be so many rules; lines drawn that define what religion you are simply based on a handful of differences. With these differences come so many varieties of exclusions. I feel like defining a religious affiliation puts me in a place where I am assumed to judge others, or for myself to be judged. This is why I am confused.
I remember as a child, songs depicting unity and unconditional love for all people and things. This was taught to me and drilled into my brain since the days I would wear my best dress and favorite tappy shoes to church. But we have left the world of childhood bliss. We live in a time now where hatred seems to be at a continual pattern; “different is bad,” “different is dangerous,” we must protect ourselves from “the difference.” At the same time, these thoughts were never spoken. A decent person doesn’t say those things. Don’t stare at the two lesbians in the corner; talking about them under your breath while averting your gaze was the more acceptable and “Minnesota nice” thing to do.
We cannot sweep issues like rape culture, LGBTQ hate crimes, or racism under the rug anymore. The battle between the oppressors and the oppressed becomes more prominent every day. When you turn on the news, murder, rape, riots, racism, and all-encompassing hatred take over the screen. Injustice happens every minute and sometimes it seems all we can do is raise hell on Facebook or say nothing at all and hope it goes away. We post our opinions on social media from the comfort of our dorm rooms, sipping our coffee and going to sleep to the sound of a winter wind, meanwhile the rest of the world is restless and screaming. It is trying with all its might to scrape away the barnacles of hatred, bigotry, and oppression.
But hey, it’s not our problem. It doesn’t concern us. It is a hopeless fight. We are so far removed from it all, it seems like it’s not even real. But it cannot be ignored. We as citizens must remain educated, ask questions, learn, and stay up to date on the status of the many unending battles that still rage today.
Rape will not cease if we stop talking about it. Homophobia will not end by painting over the graffiti in the bathroom stall. Racism will not disappear by denying its existence, nor can it be reversed by turning it around on those who have felt its sting for thousands of years. We have to stop blaming and start changing, start acknowledging. It will still happen if we don’t speak out against it. We must use our voices.
There is no perfect and immediate solution, but it does begin with one simple and grounding realization: We are human. We all have eyes, minds, and hearts. We all breathe, we all laugh, and we all feel pain. Some are forced to feel more pain than others because they don’t fit within the boundaries of normality put in place by the porcelain “founders” of centuries past.
To make progress in this fight, we must band together on a general base of respect, setting aside arbitrary differences. It will not be easy, but I am confident that the battle can be reduced to a small feud if we can reach some common ground and begin moving towards the impossible yet desirable goal of a utopian society. The end is far from near, but perhaps we can make the light at the end of the tunnel shine a little brighter at the dawn of each day.