On a recent Sunday afternoon, I found myself with F3 men I’ve come to know, respect and love. One, whom I know to be a good man, professed how too many Christians forget love and acceptance as a religious basis. Five minutes later, he said he might take a bat to the next car he saw with an Obama sticker.
Used to be this sort of self-contradiction, kidding or not, pushed me further away from continued dialog… yet this was different.
In this safe place in F3, no one admonished him — the small PAX group simply laughed, stated this seemed a bit extreme, and all learned from the exchange. Men of differing thought acted rationally and with respect. (And no one was really going to take a bat to anything, anyway.)
The moment reinforced a feeling I’ve internalized yet have not fully stated, specifically that F3 men openly discuss matters of opinion or faith without fear of judgment. Perhaps it’s the first two Fs that built and build to this place, but humbly I’ve been asking myself how this realization could happen for me?
How did I, a man of undefined religion, become deeply engaged with a group that speaks openly of spirituality and the concerns we have in our lives?
So, What Are You Exactly?
Let’s get the easy part out of the way. I am asked from time to time what my religion is, and I mostly defer. But the answer is simple — I don’t have one, at least so much in the sense of “a particular system of faith and worship.” Because of this, technically I’m non-denominational or “open or acceptable to people of any denomination.”
Now, I want to be clear that being without religion doesn’t mean you’re without belief in God or faith. Hardly.
Faith is an extremely personal journey. I can not know what you need or what happens inside your head, and you can not know mine. I have my own set of demons and desires to be better, and it’s most likely they are different than yours. I disagree one set of “rules” (religion, e.g.) to follow could fit all people, yet I want to be clear — I don’t believe I’m “right,” I just don’t know. I only feed my ego if I tell you how to live, and for my journey, this point matters.
This almost always leads to the next questions — have you ever had religion? Your name is Jewish, right? [Footnote]
To the first, yes. To the second, well, sort of.
In the Jewish faith, you’re the religion of your mother. I grew up the son of a maternal Methodist and paternal Jew, and a divorce made this more complicated.
My mother was raised in a small town where everyone went to church on Wednesdays, sometimes Saturdays, and always Sundays. At my Dad’s, it was off to temple Saturdays and sometimes Friday nights. So between parents and very religious grandparents trying to “stake their claim,” I could spend much of my week in some place of worship depending on which adult had custody when. (I also went to Catholic school one year and went straight from there to a Jewish summer camp. Chew on that for a minute!)
Yet no matter where I was, I felt contradictions and lack of accepting my other parent’s world(s). I was uncomfortable.
It’s because of this mixed background, I purposely and openly accept all people of any religion. I believe the religious have started their journey of faith in a way that makes them comfortable, and open my mind that this generation can be the one that drops its disdain for opposite thought. In this way, I believe the idea of trying to live a perfect life is both self-defeating and unnecessary — all that is necessary is trying to improve.
Back to F3
In 2011 when Tango Delta gave me the EH, I was certain I would ignore workouts with a religious undertone given my experiences. In all honesty, I’d lost some of my self-study spirituality since arriving in Charlotte. In hindsight, I probably didn’t want to be reminded.
Yet many of the Lizard King’s ideas resonated; leadership, fitness, camaraderie, a men’s group, and — yes, ok — there was some some sort of faith involved, too. I agreed to one workout… the next day’s Six Shooter. I would run, see if it felt “safe,” and maybe out-run the guys and say “thanks for the invite.”
Turns out the early PAX saw right through my pauses, including guys like BlackBird, SeÃ±or Chips, Dredd, OBT, and CRocket, who to this day remind me about those early wonderings. In any case, something subtle yet very obvious to me happened that day now that I can look back.
No one asked me to come to their church or even asked where I went (a first for me in Charlotte). No one said I should believe this or that. The undertone was only of higher purpose as husbands and fathers and community members, not of preaching a specific doctrine. So I came back the next week, and the next. And I realized soon thereafter I needed this kind of third F more.
And that’s this post’s message.
I have found a group — not a church or a temple — that supports me more so in my personal journey than either of those two buildings ever did. And it’s not overtly pushy nor is it unavailable if you want it. It is not religious, but it has many who base faith thoughts on religion.
My belief is that this group understands faith and religion are not the same… F3 not only has room for both, but we must foster difference and non-judgmental awareness if we truly are to be leaders.
So if the third F is your personal third rail and has prevented you from fully engaging, touch it. It’s bigger than you and me, yet the shock is less than you might expect.
[Footnote] — this is not to say I can’t take some good-natured ribbing on my beliefs, which I get are different. Heck, even my F3 nickname is based on a fictional Jewish character in a terrible movie. So there.