The Enlightenment: A College Student’s Eye Opening Experience
When one chooses to believe in a religion, one concentrates in giving it its all, or at least devoting their life to this chosen way of living. Attending another church or any religious site outside my own sounded intimidating when I discovered I was obligated to do so through this project, but after doing so, I am rather thankful for the opportunity and enjoyed it very much.
Since one of my aunts is Christian, I chose to visit her church, the Christian Fellowship Church located on Royal Palm, West Palm Beach. There I met Pastor Todd Mullins, head of the church and contributor to the founding of many other churches in the county. He seemed like a very happy person with a big bright smile on his face. He referred me to Juan Padilla, the head of the Spanish speaking division, and the person who helped me with all my questions.
He told me about how their religion is centered on the belief of the *Godhead. He told me how their beliefs are centered in the idea of unity with Jesus, serving others, and teaching what they learn to others. That way they can spread God’s word and embrace him.
Chris Fellowship started as a Bible study of five families, then around 40 people, and it kept on growing it eventually became a church of almost 30,000 people with multi regional campuses in South Florida.
This campus of Christian Fellowship is enormous. It looks like a well structured public school. There s a central building with several rooms. Services are held in the main room, which can hold up to 250 people. Since services can be uninteresting for the younger generations, there is space for the eighteen and younger to “hang out and be with God” as he tells me. Then there is the big-open air backyard where everyone of every age comes together to talk after service and be one big family.
However, the axis mundi of this church is not a place. Rather, it is The Bible. Every single person has The Bible as the one thing which by they live by. They all know several verses by heart, and recite them every single time they see the need too. Instead of giving advice, they sometimes just recite a verse of The Bible and let the advisee figure it out.
In the Christian Fellowship Church, God’s world is being recreated when they all meet at church on Saturday afternoons or Sunday for service. They all go talk before the time of service to talk, attend service, and then go on to eat all together in the backyard, play with the kids in their section of the building, or stay after service in the front of the church catching up with the other church members. They all talk about what happened during the week, ask for or give advice, and collaborate in the church with anything they can. They are creating a peaceful and loving environment to resemble God.
Services are held in order to purify the church member’s spirit. They are meant to bring the community together, to a loving and forgiving environment. Everyone is always welcome and people are treated all the same. When people attend these services they do so to get guidance through life. They do it to feed the soul. The service begins with am small band singing Christian music, and then they introduce the pastor, who continues the service with a sermon. People are free to say amen at any time, put their hands in the air, and move as they please. In contrast how my usual Sunday mass occurs, this one had people crying of happiness and giving thanks to God numerous times per minute. This time for them was clearly very meaningful.
Symbols are almost forbidden in this branch of Christianity. The most that can be represented is a cross without any scripture of Jesus Christ crucified in it. They believe that God is almighty and nothing on earth can represent Him. Hence, any symbols are seen as evil’s way of tricking people.
I recognized almost every referenced utilized in this service. Since Catholicism is a branch of Christianity as well, I was fortunate enough to walk in to the service with some background information I have known my entire life. In this service in particular, they talked about the story of *King Salomon. I found this very curious because it is a particular story I keep close to my heart.
Overall, I enjoyed the experience of opening my mind and indulging myself in a different branch of my religion. Meeting new people and watching the way they behaved at service was eye opening and heart touching. Unlike a lot of people I see on Sundays at my church, they were actually more concentrated in what the pastor had to say, than in other things going on.
However, they all seemed to be greatly excited about God and their religion, to the point where it seemed excessive. In particular, I disagreed with the fact that they associate anyone outside their religion with the profane and impure. As if it is only them who know the truth of life and the correct way of living. If they speak about spreading God’s word, forgiving the bothers, and loving the neighbor, they should act on it and respect people’s different point of view. Different people have different concepts, especially regarding a person’s spirituality. They seemed to be fanatics instead of members of a religious group. It is almost as if nothing else existed outside of their religion, and everything else is evil and doomed to rot in hell.
The idea of going to heaven seemed to be the main issue. This made me doubt if it’s the religion what they are following, or rather the idea of being pure and having the ability to enter heaven once they are in the afterlife. Do they want to follow a lifestyle or get the ticket to heaven?
In my opinion, we are no one to judge anyone. We are here to learn about respect, love, and forgiveness, and should act according to that. The fact that they repeat they enforce loving God and acting the way Jesus did on Earth was contradicting to me because of the fact that they tend to degrade people outside their branch of religion. Regardless of everything, I am thankful for this opportunity to get out of my comfort zone. It opened my eyes and made me feel as if I was traveling to another place on Earth.