This week I am taking another break from the conflict areas as I would like to talk to you about something else: religion, church (or mosque or synagogue or temple or wherever else you can find places of worship) other believes that are not classed as one of the five big religions and their potential importance in times when everything is changing.
I think if you are growing up in a mainly Christian country and then in a city, you may think there is no point in talking about it at all cause, you know it is basically dead and no one actually still cares about God or religion. What I think about that I want to talk to you about a bit later in this post, but even though I grew up in a city in Germany, I think that we should never underestimate the importance of religion and church.
Now that may sound like I am some super religious person, but let me tell you I am not. I don’t even think I necessarily believe in God. Like I just don’t know. However, I always used to go to church quite a lot when I was younger, I even was an altar girl (yay Roman-Catholic) and in the children’s choir, but tbh I was never there because I felt a strong need to worship God or because I agree with everything the Catholic Church says, because I definitely don’t.
The reason 6-12 year old me looooooved going to church, and I mean loved, I would even go by myself if my parents didn’t want to and sometimes I would be an altar girl in more than one service in a week, around Christmas and Easter I usually spent quite a lot of time at church, was the community. We were a young church, as it was connected to a kindergarten there were a lot of families with children that went to our church and it was also a relatively small church, so you actually knew most people quite well that went there, especially those who went regularly. We had a really young priest who was super cool and liberal and made it fun and interesting for all people involved, I mean he came in with a football scarf at some point when he was talking about confession. In a team with him we had some other young people who ran and organised the church, we had a band who played once a month during the services and the children’s choir was there for quite a time as well and for every bigger service. We were 24 altar boys and girls, but at least 8 of us would be there, alternating mostly, every Sunday (man you were lucky to be the ones carrying the candles.). We had a lot of church events, may it just be food and coffee after the service or bigger festivities at Thanksgiving, Easter, Advent or Christmas, something was always going on.
All of that gave me a strong feeling of identity and a sense of belonging. I was part of something and as a 10 year old being allowed to carry the candle during the service can make you feel incredibly proud and like you are part of something special and amazing. Our church was part of the church closures as numbers of people going are shrinking almost 10 years ago, but ever since then I haven’t been at church much. In the church that we were supposed to change to the sense of community wasn’t there because the church was too big, the priest was more conservative, there was no choir, and I lost interest. I still went through with my confirmation at 16, because it was important to me, but that’s about it.
Yet, everytime I go to a small church I am happy to see the community, I love the singing of church songs cause no one cares if they can actually sing and there is something amazing when so many people sing together, and if it’s a Roman-catholic church I love that all the steps during the service are the same, like a secret choreography that makes you feel like a part of something.
And exactly that feeling is why I believe that church and religion are still important. People like the feeling of belonging somewhere and in a time where everything changes a lot and changes quickly people want that one constant where they feel safe and welcomed. That’s why I think the Islam has such an importance in the whole refugee crisis. People are lost and they are looking for something and someone to turn to and like I said, I always felt that a strong community can give you a sense of security, so I totally understand when people turn to religion for that.
But it’s not just with Islam but with any religion or belief, I think that people who feel lost and are looking for some direction and meaning are often looking for some kind of higher power to guide them to give them strength, no matter what it may be. It doesn’t matter what confession or church or religion they belong to they all have one thing in common: they are extremely vulnerable to what is talked about at that place. Here is where the role of the church is important. When people are looking for direction they’ll easily accept what they are being told, so whatever is preached in church needs to be sensibly chosen. Radical thoughts have no place anywhere, in my opinion, but even less in places where people are happily looking for something, really anything to believe in and something to explain their situation. I am not saying that there is a wide spread of radical thoughts within churches, or more in some religions than in others, like it seems to be suggested in the media lately, I am just saying that yes I get why people are turning to religion in a state of insecurity no matter what the cause and that the church still has an important role because they have the chance and the power to influence vulnerable people.
I said at the beginning that people in some geographical areas do not class as the traditionally religious people and that some of them have probably never even been in contact with anything religious, which I think is okay, cause times change and traditions and people change.
What doesn’t change though is the feeling of wanting to be part of a community and wanting a sense of belonging and they are looking for it in other places than religion; may it be a sport, a musician, a lifestyle, an actor, a youtuber, a writer, a book or whatever else has a fandom and therefore a group of people that love discussing the same things and that can make you feel like you are being part of something special. I am not saying that any of these people or things are gods or godlike, all I am saying is that they have the power to unite people and make people come together in one way or another and therefore have a similar power nowadays than the church has and had.
So what is the whole point of this post, that’s a good question… I guess what I am trying to say is that we should never underestimate the power of religions and believes. The overall power of some religions may seem to decay but that doesn’t mean that the influence on the individuals that still believe in it is getting any less, I would say it’s more of the contrary. The role of churches is changing, there is no denying that but I think the purpose of being a safe haven for all that need and want it is still very important. In addition to those traditional safe havens there is for a new generation a new safe haven, the internet (I know it’s not always safe, but it has the chance), be it on websites like Tumblr where people can share thoughts and interact with each other, between for example fandoms, where they create their safe haven. We need to respect whatever safe haven people chose and it doesn’t matter if we understand it and them or agree with them, we still need to accept it and let them be.
Of course there is always a danger of people being used, especially when they are in a vulnerable position, but you will find that anywhere and it is not right to blame that on a certain religion, or safe haven. Every religion or belief has its good and bad sides just as everything else, there is no one way to see it and everyone experiences it differently as well. With the possibilities of access to information that we have today, we have a choice to find the safe haven that we consider to be the right one, or right ones.
If you ask me personally I would say that yes I am Roman- Catholic, but no I am not practicing religion, sometimes I do enjoy going to church, but I don’t do it cause I think I have to. However, as I am part of a younger generation I would also say that the internet can be a safe haven too, you have so many places where you can turn to for advice, for support and sometimes even the stupidest meme can make you feel better about yourself, because it shows you you’re not the only one. I would never say I worship a celebrity, but then I also don’t feel like I go to church to worship God, what I get out of both is a feeling of comfort and the feeling that I am not alone and tbh often that is all you need to feel secure.
Lots of Love,