Oct. 8, 2021

"GIVE ME THAT OLD-TIME RELIGION."

Remembering my youth--- I don't recall one Sunday I wasn’t in church, attending Sunday school, singing in the choir, or performing in THE MESSIAH at Christmas Time. I loved being a member of Pine Bluff's First Christian Church.

After marrying and changing my “church home” to my husband’s church….I was just as loyal to the Central Presbyterian Church. But, I was older and my eyes/ears were more aware of those around me. It was apparent that some believed just being in church... every time the church doors opened….made them a Christian.

I experienced a father-in-law who liked being viewed as "sanctified". Sunday after Sunday, he sat in the same pew, under the  family's "personalized" stained-glass window---singing from the family's monogrammed hymnbook. Not once---did I see him share his time, money, or gifts with others and yet….one of his favorite songs was “You will know we are Christians by our love.”

The church secretary, another generational “lifer” in the church, was also a married mother of four, a regular choir member, and, for a while, seemed like my true friend. After learning she was having “afternoon delights” at the apartment of one of my single-doctor friends-- while telling her husband she was at my house--I ended that church connection. As Christians, aren’t we suppose to be true to our faith?

The main eye-opener for me--- was the Minister. He insisted on dropping by my house in the early days of my divorce, wanting to "console and counsel" me. Don't most women see their Preachers as "Saints" rather than people? Certainly, I never viewed any "Man of God" as sexy or handsome or….physically-appealing. I was shocked when this Church Minister insisted on trying to hug and kiss me during our so-called counseling session. He even suggested I "give" myself to him to improve my confidence and help "get me through" the divorce. If you can’t trust “God’s Spokesperson”….who can you trust?!?!?!?

Ten years ago, after being away for decades, I returned to Arkansas.  Feeling very-much alone, I attended two different churches on two different Sundays. Both times, the sermons were about money; about tithing; about sharing our wealth with the church; about being a consistently- cheerful giver.

 It was only after receiving two different letters in the mail, asking me to sign a monthly, monetary pledge card to each church---I ended my relationship with organized religion. I know how to praise and worship God-- without buying a ticket.

I could go on and on….citing incidents that have opened my eyes to what's real, what's ritual, and what's plain-wrong with today's religion.

Everything "I've lived" through the years--- both good and bad--- has led me to God. He knows me---I know him---and regardless of where I am---God is with me.

Yes, I found God---not in fancy buildings, not with monthly pledges, and not with groups who label themselves---Christians.  God lives in my heart. I worship God anytime, anywhere and---I sing his praises every day---not just for one hour on Sundays."

Sally Miller