*I needed a lock tumbler changed, so I decided to give some business to the Black man operating out of his van on Crenshaw.
He seemed nice enough and when he struck up a conversation, it seemed fairly harmless. We were having a nice discussion about the weather and women and children, since my son was with me.
Things were going fine.
Until he asked me what church I belonged to.
I politely told him that I wasn’t interested in a religious discussion and that I’d like to get the price of changing the lock. I told him that I would bring the lock to him and that I just needed the tumbler changed.
He pressed on with the religious discussion, asking me if I were afraid to talk about God and musing that I must be a non-believer.
I knew I should have walked away, but I thought I could give him a “final answer” and proceed with the business at hand.
I told him that I believed in God, but I just refuse to discuss religion with strangers.
He persisted and when I finally told him it was none of his business he stated: “if you were a child of Christ, you wouldn’t be embarrassed to talk about it. I don’t do business with people who aren’t children of Christ.”
I shook my head.
I would have given this ignorant son of the devil some choice words, but Junior was standing next to me.
I told him he had just made the devil smile and walked away.
I’ve seen many evil, ignorant assheads like him in my life and I knew there was nothing I could say to him to get him to understand that while he was doing the business of the devil, he was chasing away business for himself. After all, his business was in his van, not a church. And shunning people based on a divergence in religion is pure evil.
It’s something that Jesus would have never done.
I reflected on my experience with religion from the very beginning.
You see, I was raised as a Christian, but my experiences from one church to another were as divergent as night and day.
The church I grew up in was started in the Black community by a white preacher.
All the neighborhood kids attended and followed the message and the music of this man and his followers.
The choir sang only the sterile church hymns that white people held near and dear. There was no fire and brimstone in the rhythms, and no blood, sweat and tears in the shouting of the words.
But I met and fell in love with Black Gospel music on Jubilee Showcase, the television show that my mother would watch every Sunday without fail. In fact, the love for Black Gospel music made me feel lacking within my original church home, which was already becoming problematic because the preacher told us to read the bible.
And I did.
Reading the bible wasn’t the real problem, but having questions and different views from the preacher was a huge problem. Especially when he couldn’t answer those questions and instead tried to stifle my views.
I started reading early in life. The encyclopedia had become my friend and the library was a cool place to hang out. The world history and alternate religions I studied on my own were difficult to place in perspective with some of the things I found in the bible that simply made no sense.
I wanted answers and I wanted open discussions. But this just wasn’t the way of the church.
Things came to a head one Sunday when I refused to accept “just believe” as a viable answer. And this so-called reverend who couldn’t manage the inquisitive nature of a young man with a bourgeoning intellect asked me to leave his church and never return.
I gladly complied.
I had already had enough negative experiences with the traditional church to believe that there would be no relief or growth in a place in which I held no faith.
The traditional place of worship had held so little solace, so little tolerance of questioning and so little understanding of dissonance that it had caused me to flirt with atheism.
So my plan was to study religion on my own while exploring my personal spirituality.
At the library, I began to research the origin of the Christian faith, the Jewish faith, the Islamic faith and even the Buddhist faith. What I found was that each of them had a commonality in their basic tenets of doing good to others, while preserving your body as a temple for worship of the god. I discovered that for the most part, each religion was a way of life developed for the people who held the religion based upon the lifestyle lead in that place during the time period of origin. That knowledge lead me to believe that I could grow to know my own God if I developed a program that made sense for my life during this time period.
I acknowledged that I had always sought to do what I believed to be right, and that basic premise could prepare me for a righteous life within the eyes of God. I didn’t need to complicate my moral turpitude or spiritual growth with religious constrictions.
Historically, I knew that the original people of the earth were Africans. Thus, if God created man in his own image, then God was African, therefore, it made no sense for people to hold on to the pictures and concepts of a blue-eyed, pale skinned Jesus. But I understood that every group of people wants God to look like them.
I also understood that anyone who would force their version of God on anyone else had less than Godly intentions at work.
And I understood my own personal concept of God was just as valid as anyone else’s, and that it would serve me well for the life I wanted to live.
I can fellowship with anyone from any faith, respecting divergent beliefs because I believe that all roads lead to the one God who is all Gods.
I know now that God is all things to all people and appears in whatever form we need as individuals or individual cultures.
I know enough about God the world over and throughout history to realize that most people have no idea what they are talking about even though they act with conviction.
It’s almost as if some people think that holding a religion means abandoning common sense.
For example, I’ve heard Christians say that God has been taken out of school, because students are not allowed to pray. I’ve also heard that God has been removed from buildings that do not allow the Ten Commandments to be displayed.
Honestly, those are amongst the dumbest things I’ve ever heard. Essentially, morons who spit out such nonsense are saying that even though God is omnipotent and all powerful, humans have effectively moved him physically by removing some words or by not allowing people to worship under one religion. All I can think of is that these people must be wiping their behinds with their brains.
And, I will never understand how ignorant, evil morons justify shunning someone with divergent beliefs.
God is Love and it’s ignorant and evil to assert that a divergent belief is equivalent to a divorce from God.
That’s just too stupid for any thinking person to process.
As a thinking person, I eventually gave up the smallness of singular religion for a direct connection to the richness and fullness of God.
I discovered that abandoning the things that made no sense to me was the only way for me to focus on my relationship with God and my desire to fellowship with the entirety of humanity.
I already understood that for some, God is a business, and in order to keep that business thriving, dead brained zombies must be kept dead in the brain, repeating things they have no understanding of and pressing others to hold their belief, even if their deeds are done for the delight of the devil.
And I also realized that some people are minding God’s business when they should be in the business of minding God.
Darryl James is an award-winning author of the powerful new anthology “Notes From The Edge.” James’ stage play, “Love In A Day,” opened in Los Angeles in 2011and will be running throughout 2012. View previous installments of this column at www.bridgecolumn.proboards36.com. Reach James at firstname.lastname@example.org.