Lately, we’ve been getting a lot of questions here at SST regarding religion. “What religion are you?” and “Are you religious?” tend to be the most frequently asked questions. And I understand why – we talk about many topics here on the blog that surround a wide variety of different faiths.
But, the truth is, almost everyone on the team comes from a different type of religion or spirituality – and I LOVE that aspect of our team. The diversity of different viewpoints makes our team unique and fun, but what’s even better is that we’re open to those differences. We, in fact, welcome those differences if anything.
Since you primarily hear from Caitlin and I here on the blog, we’ve decided to address our viewpoints specifically, just so that you know where we’re coming from when we write posts and release content. Please know that we welcome all viewpoints, but just decided to address our own, to answer your requests and questions.
Religion and Spirituality: What we belive
1) What do you consider to be your religion at this moment?
Jessica: I consider myself to be Christian nondenominational. For those unfamiliar with this faith-based system, it’s a Christian, Bible-based faith that doesn’t specifically align with any of the denominations (ex. Catholic, Protestant, Lutheran, etc). Thus, it’s more open in terms of how the specific church chooses to worship God.
Caitlin: Religion is a part of the identity I have been thoroughly developing for myself over the past few years of my life. However, currently, I do not identify to a “religion” that I would name explicitly. Though I have enjoyed learning about religious cultures and practices from all over the world, and have selected aspects from many to adopt into my own spiritual practice, I don’t have one or some that predominate my “religious views” at this point in my life.
2) What does this religion mean to you? Does it guide your life in any way?
Jessica: At this point, I consider the Bible and my faith in God to be at the very core of who I am. I don’t really go through my day saying, “What would Jesus do?” and I rarely, if ever, evangelize at all (definitely not something I’m comfortable with at this point). But I do try to live my life by the gospel, be a good and honest person, and I try to do what is right. And, if I’m ever confused about what the “right” next step is for me, I do lean on prayer time, my Bible, and a journal. The one caveat to this is that I have incorporated pieces of other faith-based systems into my religious/spiritual practice, as well. I don’t consider spirituality as a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. While I believe that, at the end of the day, the Bible is the final word, I’m cool if you believe something else and I’m always open to incorporating principles from other beliefs into my spiritual practice, too. I figure most things are worth trying once to see if they work for me – thus, I meditate almost daily and love my essential oil diffuser, even though those are not traditionally Christian practices.
Caitlin: In an oversimplified statement, I understand religion to be an organized and identifiable way in which one describes, practices, or celebrates their beliefs and values. And, following that definition, I’m not sure that religion in my life precedes decision making in any way, or if the person I’ve decided to be in the world aligns with various religious beliefs. Though, I’m undoubtedly still in the process of understanding this part of my Self and my worldview, so that could easily change in the future.
3) Were you raised in your current system of faith, or did you change? If you changed religions, is there a specific reason why?
Jessica: Yes and no. Way back in the day, I was baptized Catholic. But when I was in elementary school, my best friend at the time was Jewish. When I heard at a Catholic Mass that she might not end up in Heaven with me, that almost immediately rubbed me the wrong way. I’m grateful that I had fairly flexible parents, because they were willing to try out a different church with me, and we ended up attending a Christian nondenominational church that was very small (but now is a monster-sized church with campuses all over the globe). As I got a little bit older, I took it as my opportunity to explore other faiths to find out what really spoke to me. I had read C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, and it made a lot of sense to me, but there were some pieces of my religion that weren’t hitting home. I visited synagogues, Buddist temples, and churches of many different denominations – pretty much any place of worship that I could think of that believed in one, over-arching “god” no matter the religious background. (Heck, I even met the Dalai Lama, which was a pretty cool experience in itself!) And I landed right back where I started, but with a much more personalized system of faith and a much deeper understanding of what I believe and why. With my stronger, more identified sense of self, I became baptized as an adult in the lake outside of my childhood church about a year out of college and committed myself to the Christian faith. (Pictured above, balling my eyes out as usual)
Caitlin: Just like Jessica, yes and no. As I child, I was baptized Catholic, as all of my family members were. Then, at a young age, my parents decided to move from the Catholic Church to the Lutheran Church. I have adopted some aspects of the beliefs from both religions into my own practice, and have abandoned some others. In growing and learning about the world, about being-in-the-world, and who I want to be in the world, there are a multitude of religious practices that align to the person I want to be and the way I live my life. I’m not certain I have so much “changed religions” as I have expanded my understanding of the world and who I want to be as a person in it. So, instead, I feel that I’ve actually opened myself up to learning and aligning to many different aspects of various religions, instead of changing religions entirely.
4) If you’ve ventured away from faith/religion at any point in your life, why do you feel that occurred? What brought you back to your current form of faith?
Jessica: Yes, but I never ventured away from religion entirely. But, looking back on it, whenever I did venture away from my faith, it was because it wasn’t the “cool” thing to do or I was influenced by other people to be embarrassed or ashamed of my religious faith. I think that my history with my faith, and the fact that I have a pretty strong sense of self, were what brought me back to the church and to my faith. Over the years, I’ve found that it’s incredibly easy to de-prioritize religion and faith. Activities pop up Sunday mornings, I’m tired and sleep in instead of praying or meditating, work gets in the way of my spending time with the Big Man. But whenever I start to skip or fall or leave my faith, I start to feel restless or like something is missing in my life. The good news is that I’m now in the practice of getting back on track.
Caitlin: I think it is within human nature to doubt ones self or the universe at some point in your development. I wouldn’t consider these points of my life to have been instances where I have “ventured away” from my faith, per se, rather, adapted and expanded my religious views to better fit who I was growing into being in the world. I continue to see these periods as ongoing development in the more spiritual aspect of my identity.
5) What are some specific values that you hope to embody from your current system of faith?
Jessica: The main reason I landed in a nondenominational church, rather than in a specific denomination, was because I struggled to follow a specific type of worship – I felt left out because I didn’t know the words to the songs, or I felt ashamed because I didn’t agree with some portion of the message. In my experience, nondenominational churches tend to accept, or even encourage, those differences and welcome those types of conversations. Because, to me, God is love, acceptance, and kindness. I hope to embody those values on a daily basis, and with a sense of humor. I mean, the Big Man turned water into wine… so I think we’d be good friends.
Caitlin: I feel the strongest value I have from my current system of faith is unconditional acceptance of others and ones self. As an individual pursuing a degree in psychology and looking to work in the field, this is an imperative quality to embody to be successful in all work related to the field.