I’m still young enough to remember primary school and a friend who wore a necklace with a picture of a man wearing a turban. I asked her who this man was and she said, “God”. I didn’t question his colour, culture or fashion sense because children don’t see any of these as the big questions. So I thought this was God and found out much later that it was Guru Nanak, considered to be the founder of Sikhism and one of the first Sikh Gurus.
As I grew older, my questions about religion did start coming and the earliest memory I have of questioning my own was when I was asked to pray for someone with cancer. I was 10 years old when I prayed to the Greek Orthodox icons in my bedroom each night, believing that my cousin, in her 20’s, would recover. Convinced it would work, I was on my knees every night, I prayed without fail.
She died and at 10 years of age I felt like a failure. Not only did we lose someone special, I also lost the ability to pray or believe that ‘the man in the turban’ existed. I was always told that he could help, heal and love unconditionally but there was never a conversation with any of my elders or peers to explain that he had different ways of showing me all of these things.
My negative experiences of religion didn’t end there and continued when I decided to call of my wedding to an Evangelist. I was followed everywhere by his congregation because they thought I needed saving. It was me that needed saving from them! Pests who would turn up at my place of work and home thinking I would join them because after a break-up, everyone is vulnerable; right? Wrong! I was upset, who wouldn’t be when something ends? But I was strong, you need to be if you are going to make that kind of decision.
The problem, as I see it after my episodes with religion, is its followers. Frighteningly apparent in this time of the Taliban, ISIS and in my case the Born Again Christians are the methods used to twist ancient scriptures to obtain the things they want. It is one thing to pray for someone’s well-being and peace of mind but quite another to misrepresent peaceful belief systems dating back centuries with manipulating force and fear of what will happen if you don’t sign up.
We are encouraged to look forward and use the pain of the past to build a new future but there are times when I want to look back to my primary school days and the calmness religions can bring. Turban or Loin Cloth, if you are going to wear it, wear it well and in peace.