Your Unique Cultural Lens: A Guide To Cultural Competence

Layer 7: Faith – Example 3


I am an Armenian-American, and as such, Armenian Orthodox Christianity is the historical religious context that I grew up around when I would attend church or participate in any religious rituals or ceremonies.  From a very young age, the fact that Armenia was the first nation in the world to adopt Christianity as its religion was ingrained in me as a source of pride.  From that decision in 301 A.D. to adopt Christianity, to the present time—the Armenian Church as an institution has been a significant factor in our survival in the face of centuries of religious and socio-economic persecution by less than friendly neighboring countries and adversaries.  However, Church as a powerful community institution does not always translate into one actively engaging in religion and believing in God and Heaven and all that the Bible preaches.

My parents, both Armenian, raised me as an atheist consistent with their own beliefs.  Though both were raised Christian, and though my father once was a deacon in an Armenian Church, their own self-reflection and beliefs as hippies during the 1960’s led to an absence of religion in my upbringing.  For much of my childhood, and well-into adolescence, I was an atheist and shared that proudly with anyone who would inquire.  More inclined to scientific pursuits and possessing an analytical mind, I could not simply have faith in a god without tangible proof.  But I did try.  In college, I read the Bible cover to cover—twice.  I tried to pray.  I explored other religions and belief systems such as Taoism and Buddhism.  But as much as I tried to find a sign or “proof” to believe, there was none.  There is no doubt in my mind that one’s upbringing plays the single most critical role in whether one will “have faith” in a higher power or not.

Currently though, I would label myself as an agnostic.  I think it is presumptuous to  assume that there is no higher power in the absence of proof, especially since there is so much of the world and the greater universe that is undiscovered, unknown, or misunderstood.  More sentimentally, I have been married to the love of my life for almost 13 years.  While she is not actively religious, she does have faith in a higher power and belief that there is something after death.  Her father, my father-in-law, passed away about 5 years ago unexpectedly and much too young.  He was someone who had presence.  He had impact, and charisma, and was a larger-than-life personality with a warm and amazing heart and ability to reflect and imagine.  At his funeral, I simply could not bring myself to believe someone like that just is gone.  How can such a force just disappear?

From that day on, I was no longer an atheist and am an agnostic who is open to possibilities.  My wife and I now have two young children, and we will raise them in a way that opens their eyes to possibilities rather than strongly steers them to a particular way of thinking.  We do raise them in the Armenian Christian faith, and as they grow older we look forward to sharing their journey of exploration regarding their own religious beliefs.