Welcome to a new series I call One Faith, Many Paths. Each month, I will interview a Christian I’ve met either online or in real life situations. My first guest is Phantom_Sorano. She is a college student who majors in art with a concentration in painting and ceramic sculpture, with a major in Theater, with a focus on set and costume design. She hopes to obtain an MFA degree to be an art instructor.
1. Could you start by explaining why you have disowned yourself from your family and consider God to be your parent?
Absolutely.When it comes to my family life-or lack thereof- I want to make clear that I have went through several stages to get to my thoughts on it now.I came from a very abusive background-emotionally, physically, spiritually…etc. My childhood was nonexistant and I took responsibility for my younger brother and later my grandmother. I was an unwanted child from an affair-my biological mother used me as leverage and my bio-pop took the bait. “Mistake at the Lake” was a common term. I grew up watching them beat me, smash things, swear, lie, cheat, steal, do drugs, the works while the threw God in my face for every shortcoming I had. I began to associate God with the cruel figure that allowed me to be locked in a room for days to lose weight or get hit or be degraded; eventually I came to the idea that God was did not exist.
I was a senior in high school and I knew I wanted to be something and do something with my life. My biological parents were very restrictive to say the least to the point that I wasn’t allowed to use makeup, wear most female clothes (for I am a girl), have friends, drive, listen to certain types of music…the list goes on. When I expressed that I wanted to go to college, they did everything in there power to stop me including blocking and stashing all of my applications for schools and scholarships. Their solution was to set me up with a son of a family friend who was shady to say the least. The man was 13 years my senior, made money by illegal gambling, and was someone I was certainly not interested in-especially marriage. I would drop out or finish high school and get married and be passed around to work the various family businesses. When I figured this all out and that I would have no future, I made the decision to leave and estrange myself from my family for awhile until I could start college for a bit. I found a family that allowed me to stay with them a few months until I was on my own. It was a few months after I had left that my biological folks were telling everyone they had disowned me-so that in my mind made it official.
While on my own, I struggled greatly until I transferred away to a prestigious private university on an academic scholarship. Things improved and I stayed close with the family that had aided me. Christmas of 2010, they asked if I would like to be adopted by them. Of course I said yes because I did-and still do- want my own sense of family. We began the paper work and this past summer I changed my surname to match theirs benefit and speed the adoption along. I returned to school this past fall with everything being perfect; my almost-adoptive mother was moody but I thought nothing of it. This past October, however, I got an email of the most vicious nature entailing from my almost-adoptive family and legal guardians that I was disowned. They had been watching me like a pyschological experiment and had given way to the malicious rumors my biological kin had spread.
Being abandoned and cast out of two families has been tough-I won’t lie. There are several small things I wish I could have but it in turn makes me appreciate things about families so many others take for granted. I had found God a few years ago and with the help of a few friends, I started to heal and mend. But as I have been doing so, I came upon the revelation that I am not truly alone. God is more than a spiritual deity: he is my best friend and confidante. His love can take the place of that of [family]….He can fill all of the holes in my heart. So to me, I have the best Parent ever…and He never wavers and no matter what I do or whom I decide to become, He will still love me and I know He will call me his daughter.
2. You told me once that you were a Buddhist. What attracted you to that religion and why did you leave it?
“When I first became a member of this site seven years ago, I wasn’t even a Christian at all. I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to be after having started and trying to go deeper into Buddhist practice. Before then though, I had been struggling with a seriously bad depression and suicidal patch: my grandmother I had been caring for had recently passed and my best friend had died form a drug overdose three weeks later. My biological parents were either abusive or drugged out and with school…I was at the mindset that if there was a god, he or she obviously didn’t care about me. When my depression began to turn some into anger at the lack of control I had and the increased stress and abuse, I became suicidal and thought there was no god at all.I did this for about three months until I decided I needed to find some avenue of wholeness, so I turned to religion. I looked and studied several; the ones that seemed the most promising I briefly practiced. I looked at Judaism, Paganism, Wiccan, Islam, Hinduism, and a few others before I settled into Buddhism. It seemed a decent fit for a time; though no matter how much I meditated and practiced the teachings, my depression and wish not to be alive increased.It was one random night that God found me, or I finally found Him. It was late and no one was home. I was doing the dishes and I picked up a large kitchen knife…and I was so tired of it all…I put it to my wrist, then to my neck and then I felt it. This overwhelming sense of warmth and love and concern. It surprised me-I didn’t feel like it was me- when I put down the knife and sunk to my knees. I called out “God”; I knew it was Him. I cried like a baby and told Him everything, told Him I was sorry, told Him I believed in Him and the pain went away. My suicide attempts stopped and slowly came out of my depression.”
3. Why do you consider yourself a non-traditional Christian?
“I classify myself as a Christian Naturalist meaning:
a.) I don’t agree or believe in most Christian church dogma. I personally view it as worldly and not of the spirit.
b.) I tend to be more liberal and open-minded about other people and their beliefs. As an Atheist-come Buddhist-come child of God, I try to have a more Jesus-like understanding. I have been to an array of churches and found them very hypocritical and sacreligious. It’s not that they are wrong and bad, just not good for me.
c.) I personally see God in abstract ways and enjoy that. A big thing for me is that I see God in nature. Having several Native American ancestors, I have a deep appreciation for the wilderness that can be a sacred space (so nature can be church).Besides that, I also practice a few other ideas that work for me and not for others. I still practice Buddhism, but more as a sub-philosophy, not a religion. I also speak with God on a very casual level. If I want to talk with Him, I’m very frank usually. I know there are times and places to be more reverent, but He’s my family, so I talk with Him as I normally would. I’ve shared my views and practices with several other Christians who labeled me as “non-traditional”. It might have been a kinder way of saying “crazy” or “wrong”, but I feel close to God this way. It’s funny because I date a very conservative Christian whose family comes from Methodist-Catholic origins though are now Baptist. We talk a great deal about Christian ideas, and always have very different interpretations on things. We are both in a sense correct, but we believe so for very different reasons.”
4. Many Christians have a “My God right or wrong” attitude about Christianity. This means, for those who don’t understand, that Christianity is the only true religion. I admit I did fall into this, but I now see this as an obstacle toward witnessing to those who are not Christian. I feel that all religions are a reflection of the divine truth, as C.S. Lewis said.
Do you agree or disagree with the “My God right or wrong” line of thought?
“Like your revelation, Rock, I see having the mindset of “my God is right and your beliefs/God are wrong” can easily turn others away. I hated Christianity for the longest time because of that and that was a contributing factor on my distaste in churches and also why i chose to be Atheist for so long. I see that is you approach people with that attitude, you are not acting like Jesus did and you are insulting that person(s) greatly. How would you like it if I approached you and said that Catholics are wrong because they place too much emphasis in saints, so they are worshipping other figures like deities and therefore going against God and therefore wrong and doomed to Hell? Obviously, I would never attack nor say that ever, but there are numerous people out there that would. Not only on your faith, but on several.I think a better way to approach it is by showing God’s love and ideas by example. It’s easy to talk the talk…but walking the walk…not so much. Having religious convictions are fine, and its okay to believe Christianity is the true faith because it leads to God. But when it comes to witnessing, Jesus didn’t go around denouncing the views of religion in others of the bat- he showed through his love and kindness the power of God and then through stories shared what God was about. I believe if Christians acted like Jesus, the faith would be transformed. Does that mean I am an ideal example? Goodness no! I have a thousand hang-ups and with the stereotype of what a Christian is and looks and talks like, most people are surprised to find I am one when I say my faith practice…simply because I don’t wear the latest and newest clothing and listen to Christian pop while talking badly about lower class people.I’m sorry if that statement offends, but I say so to make a point. I have been told there was no way I could be a Christian because I wasn’t that type. When I wasn’t a Christian, I remember asking a group of my friends of multiple faiths what a Christian was; most of them said that Christians were nothing but upper-crust hypocrites. My Muslim friend shared that Christians were in her opinion, the most unaccepting people she had ever come across. Even the Catholic of the group admitted that that statement of nonacceptance and hypocricy were the two biggest things she was hit with from others about her faith.
What is the point I am getting at? I unfortunately jump around, but what I am trying to say is that non-Christians watch and when approached with “my God is right, yours isn’t”, they look at those actions and usually would rather be “wrong”. I only wish Christians could be more understanding; that is the biggest thing I have kept from being a Buddhist. Many other religions have one God who rules the universe; a thing to keep in mind is that it could be many religions worship the same deity under multiple names. In the Bible, God goes by several titles. It might be stretch for some, but it might help with having a more understanding mindset when it comes to witnessing.When it comes to “my God is right, yours is not”, I don’t believe either side is right or wrong. I as a follower of Christ, which is generally what I call myself instead of ‘Christian’, I think that witnessing could be done better if we listened first to the beliefs of the other party with respect and kindly shared yours in turn. By sharing and being respectful, the seed has been planted and the person can and more willingly reflect on Christianity, and the Christian in turn, gains a new world perspective.”
5. What Bible verse(s) do you think have helped you the most with the crises you have endured.
“Verses of scripture have definitely aided me in coping and progressing, but I have used several secular quotes of courage and inspiration with my favorite coming from Dante: “Strength comes not from the branches of a family tree, but from the grace of God. If I had to choose a particular passage in the Bible. If I had to choose a particular passage in the Bible, I would probably go with Psalm 134. But my favorite verse is Jeremiah 29:11.”
6. What advice would you give to someone in a similar situation to yours?
“It is difficult to imagine another person in my situation as suffering or hurting for whatever reason. I want them to know that they are not alone and that the pain will not last forever. I tell people all the time my metaphor of coals and diamonds. We are all coal: brittle, filth, and worthless on our own. LIfe will put us through fires and pressures; those who give up are those who are weak in spirit and will crumble in the ashes. But those who can withstand it all will transform into beautiful, priceless, unbreakable diamonds. So we’re all coals and you will be a diamond one day. You just have to go through the process first. “
7. Who is your favorite Biblical figure besides Jesus?
“It is hard to choose a favorite Biblical figure. I want to say a woman like Ruth or Esther, but as a a modern-day feminist, I don’t find them much empowered. I really have an admiration for Paul because he was Jesus Public Hater #1 and he was completely turned around by God. To be able to make such a positive change is inspiring to me.”
Would you like me to interview you for this project? Email me and I’ll interview you! My e-mail is:
firstname.lastname@example.org. You’ll notice when you click on that, the subject “interview” is in your subject heading. I will only accept interviews if “interview” is the subject.