My Background and Religious Exposure
Religion was not a building block in my home as a child. My birthmother and stepfather were non-practicing Baptist and Catholic, respectfully. One of my birthmother’s thirteen siblings was even a Jehovah Witness. My maternal grandmother was Native American, full blooded Cherokee. Her relatives ran away from the Trail of Tears into the foothills of Tennessee and Kentucky. She had to drop out of school in the third grade to help raise her ten siblings. She was widowed and remarried by the age of fourteen to an Irish coal miner that was Southern Baptist. They eventually moved to Southern Indiana with their fourteen children. My grandmother could not read or write in English or Cherokee. She would ask the grandkids to read things for her under the guise that she forgot her glasses.
I never attended church services regularly until I was enrolled in a Catholic middle school that my stepfather had attended only for his kindergarten year. I had attended twelve public schools from pre-k to fifth grade. The St. Benedict’s students were required to attend church services three times a week. Staying at that school for four years allowed my teachers to notice the abuse going on at home and offered me a full academic and athletic scholarship to an all girls’ international boarding school run by St. Benediction nuns. That opportunity allowed me to leave home at the age of thirteen. It was here where I was exposed to different people, cultural and faiths from all around the world in one high school campus. The students were required to attend church each weekend, no matter their religious background. I was legally emancipated by the age of seventeen.
I joined the Air Force at nineteen years old in order to be the first person in my family to attain a college degree. I attended many different religious services on the military bases I lived on in Texas, as I explore and expanded my understanding of the different faiths. I found my biological father a year later in Arizona. My father’s family would personify the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) stereotype, in that they may not attend regular church services but would readily quote bible passages when confronted by anything that was in direct conflict with their conservative views, like my interracial dating or my homosexuality. I am now married to a wonderful woman, Kamie, 10 years this June. Her religious upbringing was Mormon.
My Biggest Influences: International Boarding School and Military Life
I believe I may have more exposure to several different cultures and religions than most people who were raised from birth with one religion. Unlike the middle school Catholic religion classes, the high school religion curriculum presented opportunity for other religions to be presented and discussed freely. I even took a “Concept of God” class that put the student in the shoes of the first people on Earth and have the student try to explain why things happened around...