Your Views on Religion
I’ve been letting this topic sit for a few days because it’s a bit complicated and I also have so much I can say about this that I’d rather not blab on and on…But as I sit on this five hour traffic filled bus ride from Boston to New York, a voice inside a part of my head (the “I’ll do it later” area in my head that is piled up in chaotic disorganization with unfinished tasks that I continuously push off) tells me to stop chickening out.
Let’s see, where do I start with this…I guess with first my history of religion:
It starts back with my parents’ marriage 21 years ago. My ardently Buddhist grandparents forcefully converted my Catholic mother as she took on the Jeong family name. So when I was young, I vividly remember driving hours up state to remote temples in New York to bow to an over-sized gold statue I didn’t understand. I distinctly remember my curious 7 year old self asking my dad what we were praying for: “You pray and ask Buddha for good things in your life.”
So when I knelt down in front of that big ol’ fat guy, I’d ask him “Please let my parents stop fighting. Please let me get good grades and be happy when I’m old and 20 (dam my youthful self).”
Still, I didn’t understand who I was talking, what I was praying to, and why I was being punished on Sunday mornings to talk to someone I didn’t know when I could be comfortably sitting at home like a normal elementary school kid watching Sunday morning cartoons.
But what I did understand was an extraordinary sense of peace and serenity that followed along with being Buddhist. My grandparents in Korea were the prime example of this. Upon first glance, you’d think they were a poor old couple stuck in time of the 1960s. But really, it’s just a humble choice of lifestyle. It wasn’t even until four years ago that they finally bought a washing machine. Prior to this new sensation, I distinctly remember every Sunday sitting on the floor of the 70s style bathroom, hand-scrubbing my own undershirts with my grandma. I don’t think I’ve ever seen my grandmother upset about a thing. Anytime something may go wrong, she just softly smiles in the most tranquil manner, showing that she acknowledges the big pieces of lard that comes in life, and accepts them. She accepts them as a part of living, cracks a joke, and moves along for the ride.
As years passed, my parents came to a point in their lives where work was all-consuming. There wasn’t an extra hour to spend driving to temples and there also wasn’t an extra hour to spend at home either. The presence of my parents in my childhood and teenage years was virtually non-existent. I realize now that this was such an important influential factor in how religion has become such a precious part of my life.
I hit middle school and became severely depressed up until my first half of high school (that’s an entirely new story on its own haha) As most Koreans are Christian, it was inevitable that my parents’ friends would try to bring our family to church. One day, my mom called and asked if I wanted to go on a church retreat with one of my family friends. Obviously, the initial reaction was “Huh?” But it was inevitable that I would go (after all, my mom is the omnipotent dictator in the household).
It was there that I discovered God and Christianity. Messages about a Father God who was always there to pick up broken pieces in your life-they really touched me. God provided a haven for me. Through my depression and lack of family presence throughout my entire life, religion was such a comfort for me. He was my Father who took me in under His wing. From there, my life was starting to look up a little.
I’ve fallen in and out of faith; but my faith in God was truly planted firm after my missions trip in Tanzania. An absolute blessing. Since then, my life has been turned upside down. God has shown me an entirely different light and way to live life. I’ve lived life with such a new purpose and I live with the comfort that there is something bigger outside of me-that it’s not in my control but His. God has helped me to see that with God on my side, problems in my life seem smaller than they really have to be. There has still been many many ups and downs in my life, and I have continuously fallen in and out of my dedication to religion; nevertheless, when I fall hard, God really is always there to pick me back up. He has been my constant, my solace, and my Father figure.
So finally I get to my view on religion (hey, this was a pretty brief version compared to the one I wanted to write too!) : Everyone should believe in something. All religions preach an extraordinary (and similar) message and a way of life. Knowing there’s a force greater than you helps you through life’s sufferings and joys. Have you ever met a religious person and seen that they have a certain light to them? How can they be so forgiving, warm, and so joyful that is almost a sense of pure bliss? A part of it comes from living a God-centered life, rather than always relying on your own rationale, intuition, and beliefs-a “you-centered” life.
My grandparents chose to live the most modest and basic lifestyle I think anyone in this age can live. Why? Because they are simply content with what they already have and they just have so much heart to make others happy. They are so willing to spend with no limit on their neighbors, friends, family, and they truly don’t expect anything back. I remember walking down to Namdaemun Market with my grandma, and as we walked out of the subway, there were about 5 homeless people scattered around. Her reaction to them was not one of pity and shame but of genuine care and concern. She knelt down and gave every one of those men and women spare change.
Along those same lines, I’ve been touched by the most (insert adjective 10x better than incredible) people while in Tanzania. One of the most poignant parts of my trip was my time at the orphanage. As my mission team and I were saying goodbye the night we were leaving, the kids were hanging on our arms for one last hug and grasp as we were walking to the van to leave. One girl stopped me, and as she gazed at me with teary eyes, she opened up her hand to reveal a beaded bracelet. I kept shaking my head. How could I take this from her? But she was adamant about giving it to me to the point of grabbing my wrist and by putting it on me. Even with almost nothing in this girl’s life, she wanted me to have probably the only bracelet she’ll ever own in her life. God has truly touched her life.
Again, I’m digressing haha. Like I said, I can go on and on about moving and remarkable stories on faith. So to continue with my point: I think everyone should have faith in something-Buddha, Hindu gods, God, Allah, Jesus.
I see a lot of people around me are non-believers or firmly atheist. I will never push religion on anybody nor will I criticize anybody for being this way. I understand because I was once an atheist. But I see my friends hurt, go down the wrong path in life, or live life with no meaning, motivation, or direction. I don’t want anyone to just float along aimlessly, sitting and pondering life’s confusing questions…Just know, you don’t have to be alone.
I understand religion can seem quite skeptical, quite archaic, and intimidating because some extremists lose themselves in their heat and passion for religion that they stray from the point of religion. But just like you give any scientific theory a chance, people need to give a religious experience a chance. This kind of experience is not something taught or broken down to a set of hard-cold facts and principles; it’s intangible and inexplicable beyond amounts. It’s like music. If you were to teach in front of a room full of people who didn’t know what music was, how do you explain what music is? To a certain extent, yes you can give a scientific definition about the motion of sound creating harmonies and etc. Don’t kid yourself. It’s more than that. And religion provides an unfathomable, soul-fulfilling touch that is beyond any description. Everyone should give it a chance 🙂