I hold many hymns inside my head.
A pleasant haunting from a time before.
I have a complicated relationship with "The Church".
There are two types of churches that I attended growing up. One was the mainstream small-town Christian Church. It had youth groups, Sunday school, basketball hoops, and a few hundred people would show up each Sunday. I was in a youth group that was a religious version of the Boy Scouts called Awanas. We memorized Bible verses, had sack-races and I'm sure there was some kind of music involved. It was not an unpleasant experience and I was pretty good at memorizing lines from the Bible. Later I would despise the idea of rote memorization and to this day do not put much effort into memorizing things. The idea of memorizing information that someone else thinks is important is offensive.
Also, I remember finding no joy in the words from the Bible. They were just sentences in a book that adults expected me to know. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son," was just a line from a book and if I could recite it to an adult they would praise me. I don't remember anyone ever asking me if I believed in God. It was assumed, even by myself. Until one day I started to ask questions and found that none of it made any sense.
The second kind of church I attended was called the "Home Church", as it was not affiliated with any known group. Just a bunch of adults getting together to worship God. It was held at the homes' of its adherents and its leader was a permanent bachelor named Jim. The man had never been married or at least that is what I remember of him. He manufactured toilet paper holders with his huge CNC machines and lived alone. I remember visiting his house a few times. He lived in an upstairs apartment attached to his factory. I remember finding it generally unkempt but he had cool stuff like an airplane simulator on his PC and a massive sniper rifle. I suspect that no woman had ever made their way to his apartment long enough to have any input into its design or its inhabitant.
My father lived with Jim for some amount of time after my parents were separated. I always despised my father's lack of ambition and willingness to take from others. It seemed that he was more than happy to take the kindness of strangers until he outstayed his welcome. This is merely an impression I had/have of him but I don't have a lot of great evidence. Maybe it is an exaggerated notion born of my own resentment and ignorance.
"Home Church" was a nightmare. The sermons were dry and dark. I don't remember almost any of the actual content of the sermons but I remember some stuff about not being "worldly" and how to not go to hell. I think there were about 10-15 families at the most and its members changed throughout the years. It also expanded itself to other places a few times a year when we would go on camping trips. Those were a lot of fun and even though I still had to go to Church I would get to hang out with my best friend Caleb.
Honestly, Caleb was the best thing to come out of those early days going to Churches. Caleb and I would not stop talking. Even during sermons, we would exchange notes. I remember making fun of everything with him and getting into a little trouble for not paying attention and giggling a few too many times. We were mild scamps, whereas the older boys were the real trouble. They would call them "The Boys", like some kind of gang. "The Boys are going swimming," or "The Boys are going riding", they would say and I always wanted to be in that group. Caleb and I were still too young to go off and do things with "The Boys", so we did our own things. We had imaginations back then and had a lot of fun inventing situations and examining our lives.
As I was writing this I stopped and had a thought:
I should try to seek out good conversations and good conversationalists and not take them for granted. A good conversation is an invigorating thing.
Other than the good times with Caleb, the "Home Church" was generally boring and uneventful, other than the time when someone was expected to give a formal apology, in front of everyone, for separating from their husband and I think she still wasn't allowed to attend certain functions. I could be making that last part up. Or maybe the entire thing. Also, I remember how much pressure the church put on my brother when he got his girlfriend pregnant. They were very young and it was very stupid but the church and my father insisted that the two should get married. My brother, with the strong urging of my mother, decided not to marry her. This turned out to be an amazingly good decision.
Mostly I hate the idea of a "Church" as they represent a kind of propagandized inculcation that reminds me of my childhood and adolescence where I was convinced I was going to hell for most of the things I did and thought. There were so many ways to get there after all. I don't remember the last time I prayed to God but I do remember feeling very stupid for doing it that last time.
I do remember soothing myself by singing "Amazing Grace" while walking around Coos Bay at night because I was so nervous I would get into trouble for the raging High School party occurring at my mom's house, where I lived. My mom was in some high-level position at the same High School that most of the underage partiers went to during the week and she lived there too. She was out of town that weekend and my sister decided to invite a shit ton of underage people to the house to drink.
I might have been 21 at the time and as a resident, I probably would have been in trouble if the cops showed up. My sister was a junior or a senior at the time and had invited just about everyone from the school to come party at her house. I nearly had a panic attack when I realized how many young people were there so I decided to walk around the town in the dark singing to myself the words to "Amazing Grace" until I calmed down enough to go back to the house and deal with it. Nothing much happened, other than a teenage boy broke his leg while skateboarding in the basement. No cops showed up and no parents freaked out. I'm pretty sure my mom found a condom wrapper in one of the rooms. We hadn't cleaned up well enough.
The church represented a place to feel a part of a group that didn't seem to know or care much about me. Other than my friend Caleb I didn't feel connected to almost anyone else at church. It was a place of incoherent judgment and mundane philosophies.
One of my all-time favorite songs is "Hallelujah" by pretty much anyone who sings it. It is a masterful song. I recently started to learn how to play the violin and, more recently, the ukulele. Learning to play music (not that what I do should be considered "music") has completely changed my outlook and appreciation of music. It is simultaneously cognitive and imaginative. It requires a confluence of body and attention, all with the goal of making things better, easier and then automatic.
I am not ashamed or annoyed that I enjoy certain old fashioned religious music. It is one of the only things that I am glad for during my years of involuntary recruitment into "The Church".
Religion is just art turned upside down.