I was thinking today about going to church as a young child. I actually have a lot of good memories of hanging out in that church, even though the average age of its congregation had to be 80. There were only a few of us kids. Still, I liked the community and familiarity of it.
I had a couple of really good, young pastors as well. If I think back to the messaging of those sermons, in broad terms, the take away was mostly, "Don't be a dick to people, be thankful for what you have, help out other people." It was an exceptionally positive experience.
I've written before about what happened next, when the actions of people in the name of religion turned me off to the institution of the church, it took awhile to come back from that. In recent years, I think I've gone from some loose variation of Christianity to something more agnostic. Why? Because when you decouple faith from organized religion, you aren't bound to any specific paradigm. Instead, the intrinsic desire to be a better person through your own spirituality guides you. That's not for everyone, but it really has worked for me.
What saddens me is that the issues I had with the institutions are the issues I have with what is probably a vocal minority of people associated with them. If you think politics are divisive, the toxic things that come out of some mouths in the name of Christianity is down right frightening. You're either with us or against us, believe exactly what I believe or not. Divisive isn't even a strong enough word.
I have to remind myself that not everyone is like that. A friend of mine commented on Facebook that she wishes people would get back to talking about what they love and affirm, not what they don't like and what they're against. Others have said they wished people would put the kind of energy into solving problems of poverty and disease that they put into showing support for a fast food chain. I agree.
"Don't be a dick to people, be thankful for what you have, help out other people."
That's what I believe, even if I don't associate it with a particular building or group of people.