As a history major, I have always really enjoyed learning about culture and the people, places, and institutions that shape it. Perhaps one of the biggest culture molders in the world is religion and spirituality. Religion has always fascinated me.
As a child I really loved Greek and Roman mythology. I credit the television shows Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys with igniting that love. Oddly, I associate these shows with church because I usually watched them in syndication on Sundays. Church was often the obstacle to me taking in more of the Gods and Goddesses and what mischief they would throw at our heroes. Despite being a bored child in church imagining intricately coordinated superhero fights up in the rafters of St. Agnes, I still paid attention to the mass when it could hold my attention. Additionally, I was educated religiously through CCD. (Aside: CCD is an acronym I still have yet to decode, any help would be lovely.) I eventually received my communion and finally, I was confirmed shortly after starting high school.
Like most college goers, I had my worldview challenged when I stepped on campus in the Fall of 2007. I started my studies and I started to meet new people. I was as a History major and a Subject Matter Education major and I eventually minored in Geography. Some of my courses studied cultures who practiced different religions and some of the people I was meeting practiced religions other than Catholicism. This really piqued my interest. History, Geography, and Education continued to shape my love and interest in learning about where people come from, who they are, where and why they move, what their stories are, and learning about the world and the people in it.
I vividly remember Dr. Scott Morschauser talking about his Historical Jesus class (a class I am still devastated I never got to experience). I am recalling how some of his teases of the class fascinated me: like how Jesus was actually born sometime in March far from what modern holidays would tell you. I started to want to know more of the historical side to religion and not just what is preached and handed down on Sundays.
As I moved through my degree at Rowan, I eventually took Dr. Corrine Blake’s Islamic Civilizations course. This class is still my favorite that I took during my matriculation at Rowan. I had my preconceived notions of a religion that heretofore my only exposure was what was put in the media about the wars we were fighting, attacks that were happening, and the generalizations of Muslims and Islam. Interestingly, as I have gotten older Islamic Civ still stays with me and is a course that changed how I look at religion.
The semester after I took Islamic Civ a transfer student from Iraq moved into the community where I was an RA. As I got to know this student I was able to speak candidly with him about Islam and hear his story. I learned so much from those interactions and I really appreciate him sharing his story with me.
In 2011 my father got remarried. We were speaking about the church he was getting married in when he asked me why I was not more religious and why I didn’t really go to church. For the first time, I had to put my struggle with religion into words. I spoke of my friends who practiced Islam and Hinduism and who were some of the kindest, peaceful, most respectful people I have ever met. Catholicism believes that you believe in one God the Father the Almighty. To not follow him and his son Jesus, you are doomed essentially. I really don’t think my friends, the kindest, peaceful, most respectful people I have ever met, would be going to hell simply for their choice in religion.
Last week I had some amazing conversations with the students that I work with. On my current staff, I have folks who are Christian, Hindu, Sikh, Islamic, and Atheists. I expressed my frustrations with the church and how I struggle with some of the principles of Christianity and, to be frank, the followers of the religion. One of my students recommended a book about their religion and it motivated me to finally explore an area of my life that has remained so stagnant.
So here I sit a 27 year old with a new mission. Its time I did my homework. I will be embarking on a journey to study different religions, talk to people about it, expand my horizons and hopefully get in touch with my spiritual side. I will be recording my journey right here on my blog. Maybe as I learn, when I share, others will too.