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I grew up in a very open-minded family. I was never forced into a church, and had the freedom of choosing which one I wanted to attend. I spent the better half of my life visiting area churches and talking with the pastors. I learned a great deal of the bible and how to be a good person. I enjoyed the social get-togethers and parties for kids that I regularly attended at the church my family chose for themselves. As you can see, they believed in freedom of choice. Nevertheless, something just didn’t feel right in me. I could never understand why so many people believed in something so much that they condemned other people for not. I saw them turn away people who only wanted acceptance for who they were and how they chose to live their lives. I had an openly gay cousin who was dying of A.I.D.S. and the only thing he wanted was to attend church and feel like he mattered to his God. He was turned away from 15 local churches, all saying that he deserved this, and his way of life was sinful.
My cousin was a great person, always friendly to everyone he met. He never put anyone down and didn’t care how they lived so long as it didn’t hurt others. He loved the freedom express in the U.S. constitution. I took most of who I am from him. After witnessing churches deny my cousin the freedom to attend, I began to resent them more than he did. I even wrote to a newspaper only to be told they didn’t care. This experience occurred when I was 10 years old. It is something that stays with me to this day.
I don’t know what happens to us when we die. I don’t know if there’s anything more to life than just breathing, and trying to be good to other people. I do know that regardless of someone’s personal beliefs, we all have a right to freely believe in what we choose. I married into a very religious family, most of them tell me that I am in the wrong and should ask God for forgiveness. I simply smile and ask, what good will it do to ask for forgiveness when I don’t believe I’ve done something wrong. They would deny me freedom, while the very words outlined in their scriptures suggest that we all have the freedom to choose our own paths in life.
My family and I have had our debates; and some of them even refuse to speak to me following some heated discussions. There are a few who I can sit down with, and have an intelligent conversation on why they believe and I don’t. Those are the family members who I enjoy being around.
My husband is very open minded and he feels the same way I do. During his childhood, he was forced to go to church. His parents would ban T.V. shows and games from the house, telling him that television was evil and that it promoted sin. He never understood their way of thinking, and grew more distant from his parents every time this would happen.
We have a thirteen year old son together, and we let him choose what he wants to believe. We have never banned anything from the house claiming it’s promoting sin. We teach him to be compassionate and understanding of other people’s choices in life. I only wish more people would raise their children to be open and caring. If less people were so hell-bent on believing it’s their way or the highway to hell, think of how the world would be. There would be less fighting, less bickering over the simplest of things. So what if that person chooses to love another human being of the same sex, let people live their lives. Don’t they have the same rights, and freedom of choice. My father always told me that as long as they’re not hurting anyone else then let them be.
Written by Amy Ganaway
Own personal experiences.