The Superhero Complex of Organized Religion

*Disclaimer: what you’re about to read is an outpouring of my thoughts on a topic that I’ve been pondering for years. If the topic of religion is sensitive to you, I urge you back out now because what I’m about to say is going to rub you the wrong way. However, if you’re open to a different point of view, I welcome your eyes and thoughts*

I’ve been watching a lot of historical TV shows, specifically old Europe and the makings of the “new worlds” as they called it, and the consistent theme of power blew my mind. Of course, it shouldn’t have but it did. At the forefront of those gains was religion. The more I watched and saw how the church intertwined itself in financial, gubernatorial, and cultural decisions, the more it confirmed why I shied away from the church — that organized religion.

Funny thing is, I’m a product of organized religion.

I was a church girl who grew up Baptist, attending Sunday School, singing in the choir, heavily involved in community service; however, it was on the Usher Board where I found my fit. Around the age of twelve, I was introduced to Ifa and have been a practitioner, off and on, since. Although an organized religion, a different one no less, but organized; I hated having to hide the fact that I was a student of the faith because it made so much sense to me, more than being Christian. It wasn’t until I got to college that both my view of Christianity and Ifa changed.

College changed everything for me.

I attended school in Atlanta and found myself at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, where the late Bishop Eddie Long served as Pastor. Seemed like everyone went there, so I tried it. I can’t recall the sermon verbatim but on that Sunday he spoke about submission in marriage and if my memory serves me correct, used Ephesians 5:22–24 as his reference. He read the first verse, “wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord,” and something in me just couldn’t rock with it. I was uncomfortable and it was the first time ever that I was in church and felt uncomfortable. His smug “don’t get mad at me, get mad at God cause it’s in the Bible. I’m just reading the text,” didn’t help. Between that, the ATM machine in the vestibule, and the list of how much you should tithe based on your income, it was the was the last time I’d step foot inside New Birth.

From there I chose to find my own way and discover the spiritual aspect of my faith because being Christian just left too many holes in the journey for me. Constantly being told not to question God when things just didn’t make sense, and feeling jaded by the series of congregational leaders that just didn’t seem to measure up to these unrealistic expectations, as if they weren’t human and more, superhuman — above any type of “peasant” behavior. I drew myself closer to Ifa; however, I became wrapped up in the spiritual aspect instead of grounding myself in the knowledge. It was more exciting for me to discover different ways of cleansing my aura, the healing qualities of essential oils and what it does for the spirit, learning more about crystals, and tuning into the ancestral voices that provide guidance. It’s what most people would call “witchery” but I felt more charmed than evil queen.

The shift in my thinking regarding religion happened when my literature professor had us review various religious texts as literary works. We read the Qur’an and compared the Book of Job to the elements of an epic poem, such as Beowulf. Through this method, I was able to remove the “religious cloak” and better understand what I was reading without feeling like I’d be damned to hell if I didn’t follow it word for word.

When I returned home from college, I found myself mentally picking apart everything my former pastor said. Again, those holes in the sermon became too noticeable for me and after reading the Bible without that religious cloak, I questioned the reason behind the use of the scripture to support personal opinions. That same feeling from New Birth followed me to my home church and it was unsettling. It would be the last time I’d sit in the congregation as a member and decided to usher every Sunday. This allowed me free range to move about the church — well, not really, I sort of did what I wanted cause I was the only young adult usher. The final turning point was the day I wanted to question my former Pastor, out loud, during his sermon. There was no coming back from that feeling, I knew it was time to leave.

A few years after I graduated, I left.

Church was no longer the same for me. It was as if I’d eaten my own proverbial quince and realized I was naked. Guess that’s what it really means to be “woke”.

There were too many inconsistencies from church leaders, favoritism, people being coupled off to design a specific power structure or set examples of what “Christian love” should look like, folks being ostracized for questioning new policies that didn’t make sense, political ties that did nothing for the church and everything for leadership, and people being sent away to avoid some sort of heathen behavior. Upon leaving the church, I became viewed as that heathen.

I reconsidered and thought maybe I’d just outgrown my home church and decided to start anew. However, the first church I went to didn’t last long. After a woman slashed up the First Lady, who happen to be the Pastor’s former mistress (with his ex-wife still a member), I questioned whether this life was truly for me. I mean, how can I listen to someone who married his mistress, tell me that adultery is wrong?

It was at that point that I realized I needed to stop looking at persons of the cloth as if they were some sort of superhero. You see, what I noticed in all of those old European shows I watched is that the head figure of the church, typically the Pope since Christianity then is what we now call Catholicism, sat above or higher up from his members, as if he had some agreement with God that his relationship was stronger than the average person and needed a pedestal to prove it.

These rules man created to separate church leaders from common folk that were unrealistic: stay chaste, don’t get married, live poor, take on everyone’s sins including your own but don’t sin, and the list goes on; placed a regular human being with a divine gift in a position that he really couldn’t manage properly. No one likes to talk about altar boys being raped, nuns aborting pregnancies, mistresses in the church, bastard babies, and the innocence of youth ministries being snatched away, because no one could fathom the idea of their superhuman leader, with powers only bestowed upon them by God, hustlin’ the Lord’s word, could be just like them.

Nah, that wouldn’t make sense, would it?

If that were the case, why would believers need to listen to someone who’s just as regular as they are? What would make these men (and some women) special enough to interpret the word of God? How could it be that these people were suddenly considered the chosen ones and not them?

I’m sure if you really broke down the answer to those questions without attempting to use a biblical reference, it would tear down everything you’ve been taught all your life. But, I’m here to tell you that the Pastah you hold so dear to your heart as if he’s this mystical creature that was birth from ambrosia, glitter and Jesus juice, is merely a man, who went to school to learn more about religion and it’s multifaceted self, then made the decision to follow his passion of sharing the gospel to the masses.

It was a goal.

Same type of goal you have on your vision board. It’s a gift. A “call” to preach is no different than a “call” to paint, sing, sculpt, orate, write, become a doctor or lawyer. We place persons of the cloth on this platform as if they’re some enhanced human that must live outside of the world of normal humans. And goodness, if the congregation finds out they listen to Hip-Hop or indulge in a little PornHub, it would dismantle the entire church. It’s a wonder they’re able to breathe the same air as everyone else.

The pressure to walk what they talk has left many with the burdens of their own personal woes eating them alive. And they can’t tell you because they’re supposed to be better than that, they’re supposed to rise above the burdens and put their trust in the Lord because that’s what they preach every day. They don’t have room for shortcomings, mishaps, or missteps because they have to lead by example. However, leaders make mistakes too.

I believe these expectations made leaders like a Bishop Long, Jimmy Swaggart, Ted Haggard, and countless others settle out of court, receive jail time, or worse, lose everything they built because they couldn’t handle the complexities of living the “superhuman” life that comes with the cloth. Unsettled demons and desires they believed could be absolved with each sermon they preached that was more befitting of their own lives than those of their congregation, hoping to receive more of the blessing, to atone for what they felt they could not control.

It’s the biggest lesson I learned from organized religion — that it’s the most impractical habit people practice, contradicting being imperfect with striving for perfection, leaving little wiggle room for error or the ability to bounce back from it; because once you cross the people that loved you more than they loved their own family, there’s no coming back from that. It’ll be no different than being burned at the stake for being a witch since that’s pretty much what a heathen is, right?



Penning what inspires me to inspire others.

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