This is one of those posts I’ve held back from writing, not because I don’t know what to say (Oh contraire, the exact opposite is true.) but because for the first time I’m taking the plunge into the deep end of the pool that surrounds one of those forbidden topics we’ve all been told is impolite to discuss in public; religion. I do not possess much formal education when it comes to religion, my views are based on what little I did learn along the way through two university degrees and life experiences. I will be very blunt in this post, all kidding and sassy talk aside. I will try, key word being try, to keep my emotions in check and write logically.
From the top: my parents did not raise me in a religious household. I did not know there was a person by the name of “Jesus” until I was in the 5th grade. I remember the exact moment, I first heard and read that name. I was in my advanced reading class and we were taking turns reading aloud from a book, not the Bible but some textbook. My turn came and I read like the wind, until I came to a word I never seen before, “Jesus.” I stumbled, probably pretty bad, because the teacher corrected me. . .and the other kids snickered and laughed. Not very Jesus-like of them looking back on it now, but I recovered and quickly read the rest of the passage assigned to me. I learned two things from that experience: a.) there was some guy by the name of Jesus that everyone else seemed to know but me and b.) I did not like to be laughed at.
Even without that Jesus guy being involved in (or some may argue it was due to this void) the childhood my parents gave me I know what unconditional love is and feels like. I learned what it meant to be a “good” person, what it took to be a responsible adult and the duty one must accept and provide to be a productive citizen. All of this and more without a church hierarchy bearing down and judging me or my family.
By the time I became old enough to understand who I was, what values I held most dear and what type of human being I would strive to be, the idea of religion began to become more interesting to me. Long story short, during my World Civilization class in graduate school we focused on one question the entire semester: What makes humans human? In my final paper, I made the conclusion that there is only one concept that keeps humans and our closest primate relatives separate, and that is religion. Due to this, I somewhat set out on my own personal religious journey. I say somewhat because I was still quite young, in my early twenties, and just starting to live my life. . .I mean really starting to live.
I took the historical approach to this journey. I looked at the Bible as a book review assignment; carefully regarding the time period in which it was written, the author and what we knew about him and if the writer set out a purpose for the book, was it accomplished? I looked at religion as a whole, throughout history. I knew what I felt to be true, deep in my heart throughout every fiber of my soul. And so, I set out to try to find my match, the best religion that suited me.
I knew bits of information there and some truths here but piecing it altogether was proving to be problematic. More men, and yes, women, have died in the name of religion more than any other in all of human history. This doesn’t sound very Christ-like to me. Speaking of Christ, what religion was he? Well, we know he wasn’t Jewish nor could he be Christian, since that literally means “follower of Christ.” And why are churches so ornate? Jesus, to my knowledge, never built a church. Think of all the money that is tied into those bejeweled buildings and how much good it could do around the world. No where in the Bible does it state that Jesus said for us to pray to him, it says to pray like him. Which to me means going out and actually practicing what you believe. I also knew from the first Catholic sermon I heard that it wasn’t for me. Really, I came to one absolute in my quest and it was that, Catholicism was not my cup of tea.
In fact, I wonder why anyone today would still be proud to call themselves a Catholic. I’ve asked a few people and they shrug their shoulders and say something along the lines that it’s tradition, it’s what they do in their family. Or they come from a part of the world that is overwhelmingly Catholic and they know of no other way. You have a religion in which it’s very essence is rooted in fear. Machiavelli said it was better to be feared than loved. No institution that claims to offer salvation holds to that theory more so than the Catholic church. This is a mob-like massive institution, a legal city-country entity known as the Vatican that does not answer to any higher court or body of law. From the outset, something smells a little fishy there. . . (Lesbians, get your mind out of smut river.)
I don’t want to even think about how I would have turned out had I been raised in a Catholic home and then place the lesbian card on top of the pile and I don’t know if I would be one of those suicide statistics or not. I’ve tried going to mass with sk. I can’t do it. (I’m grabbing my soap box as I’m typing this so hold on.) As soon as I hear the priest announce, to all those gathered in faith within two minutes of opening his mouth, that we are all sinners and we must repent, I’m done. How dare any one human being judge me? Yes, I have flaws, so does every other person but if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be human. That’s part of the beauty that makes this world diverse. You, Mr. priest man, are endorsing a religion filled, up to the very top, with the so-called sin you preach against. Today and throughout history your religion instills fear into people, your church hides pedophile priest and refuses to condemn or have them face any consequences for their actions against innocent children. But this is nothing new for the Catholic church, they had practice with these procedures as recently as WWII when they were busy hiding Nazis. Before, during and after the war, the church established ratlines, a system similar to the American “underground railroad,” to move Nazis, those well-known as well as nameless, out of the country and away from justice. Can I, or will I, trust that a representative of this institution to help me grow spiritually?
Catholic priests have a long list of the type of people to whom their God shuns and in fact will turn his back on and cast them into a fiery Hell if they do not repent and change their ways. Wow! Absolutely no pressure there when you hear this as a child. Again, not very Christ-like if you ask me. They spew their hate while standing on their altars not knowing, or caring, about the harm such words can inflict. The stories I’ve heard and the higher being I choose to believe in does not share those qualities. There are stories of how loving, giving Jesus was. He would go out of his way to meet, talk, heal those people on the margins of society, those the populace decided were unworthy; the lepers, women, blind, etc. (The sexism found in the Bible I can attribute to the fact it was written by men way back in the day when women were about one notch higher on the society stick than animals, based solely on the fact that men needed women to populate the earth.) Jesus went to these people and treated them as human beings. When Jesus rose from the dead, his Disciples didn’t believe it because they couldn’t wrap their brains around the idea that their Savior would come back and show himself to a woman, of all things, to carry and spread the message of his return.
This higher being, whom I call God, I believe in is all loving and I refuse to instill human qualities upon. I’ve heard this being called many things: Allah, Mother God/Father God, Yahweh, Waheguru, etc. I honestly don’t believe it matters what term you use to call. The most important aspect of all of this is that you call, by whatever name you feel is right for you. Because of this wonderful diversity we have on earth means there are multiple ways and means to call and to grow spiritually. Believers usually have the same goal in the end, we just take different roads to get there.
Now that you know my feelings toward the Catholic church, and institutionalized religion in general, you can appreciate my feelings Christmas Eve when sk informed me we would be attending Midnight Mass with her two cousins. Good news, I did not burst into a ball of flames upon entering the church. I even got past the part in which he called us all sinners without cringing too badly. I sat. . .and stood, then sat and stood some more, all the while reminding myself why we were there. Why sk and I were there in Chicago over the Christmas holidays with our Ate M. I believe we were meant to be there. Sometimes things happen for a reason and you know so because you feel it, once in a while the feeling is so strong it’s almost palpable. Did our recently departed Tito Cain play a role in this? Did he help us along our journey there to be with Ate M. in her time of grief? The road there was way too easy, literally and figuratively. At any other time, if sk and I wanted to take a week off on a whim for whatever reason, clearing both our schedules for that long on such short notice would be near impossible. Factor in that this was accomplished by both of us during the week before Christmas. . . could it have been our Christmas miracle?