Church on Sunday

“Going to Church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.” – G.K Chesterton. 

I was raised Catholic, as the seasoned reader may already know, and spent about fifteen years in Catholic school, going to church every Sunday with my family and every other Friday with my classmates.  Around age 25, I completely dropped the “act” I’d been running since I was fifteen and first saw the quote above.  I’m not saying that one quote changed my outlook on things…it just gave voice to an opinion I could not find words for. 

I remember being young and telling my Aunt Ka, a Sister of Mercy, that I wanted to get married at the Botanical Gardens because it was the most beautiful place I’ve ever been.  She told me that I couldn’t, that I was Catholic and therefore had to have a wedding inside a church…I could have the reception outdoors, though, she claimed.

This concept was a hard no for my ten-year-old brain that wanted what it wanted when it wanted it.  I had been taught, almost daily, that God was in every living thing, including trees and grass and sunshine.  So why on earth did I need to CELEBRATE in front of statues of dead people, under a roof made by man?  It was nonsense then; it’s nonsense now.

I had a friend get married a while back and a priest came and did the vows, outdoors.  But it wasn’t an “official” wedding, according to the church.  The priest was just blessing them.  I thought maybe someday I could do something similar to appease my Catholic family…I was not yet telling my mother I was done with the whole shebang.

By the time I did get married, she was well aware of my opinions on the Church, and we butted heads a little.  She wanted some Christianity in the ceremony, and I had to keep reminding her that my husband was not a Christian, and all that would be weird for him.  Not to mention, I wasn’t feeling it either.  In the end, I got married in a little gazebo, outdoors.  The readings were all literary, the music was secular, and the officiant was my uncle who got a license online.  My mother won in the sense that I allowed her to say a prayer before the meal.  I was cool with her doing that because she mentioned Ka, who had passed by that time.  But that was it: one prayer.  That’s all the God I invited.,

But he was there, you see.He was in the trees and sun and grass and breeze.  Nature, that is where I believe God lives.

On Saturday…in the beforetime…I caught a giant fish in the Buffalo Creek.  It was a smallmouth, but there was nothing small about it.  I don’t have a picture.  Mark snapped one, but I accidentally deleted it.  Just believe me when I tell you it was a monster.  I fought the thing, hard…I’ve never really fought my fish before; usually I am far stronger. This guy gave me a run for my money.  When I finally flopped him onto shore, I felt immense pride.  Mark helped me unhook him, and I thanked him for the challenge and sent him back on his way in the stream.  Then I went home, and the world changed.

So, on Sunday, after the events, I was getting a hankering for prayer.  I’ve been arguing with my ancestor’s spirits as of late, over this mess with my mother. One of my favorite authors, Paulo Coelho, said that “Praying is talking to the Universe. Meditation is listening to it.”  So, I figured, why not try a little listening?  I’ve ben talking so damn much.

I went back to where I caught the big fish.  All I caught that day was a pumpkinseed, but it was still worth it to sit there and look and listen.  I saw God all around me, from the fish in the water to the no-see-ums buzzing about to the big tree with all the fishing line and old bobbers caught up in it.  I watched the water of the creek lap upon the rocks and focused on the word “Peace.”  I needed peace.

On the way home, I remembered it was Sunday and thought of church.  I had the same feeling then that I had when I was a child leaving Mass.  Yes, when I was small, I was relieved that the sitting still and being quiet portion of the day was over, but I also always felt that feeling you get when you visit am old friend.  Also, I always kind of felt it hearkened the start of a new, fresh week.  A clean slate.

That’s when I realized: I go to church ALL THE TIME.

Fishing is church for me.  That might sound ridiculous, but where else would I rather be on a Sunday morning? And every time I go, every time, I think of God.  I didn’t even realize it until I examined my thought pattern closely this past week.  I tend to remind myself of God in nature whenever I fish.

Now, no, I no longer believe in a stereotypical Christian God in the sky…I think God is more of a universal fabric, with an understanding that we have not yet evolved to know.  Yet…I find God in the sky, because I find him in the earth, too.

Where do you find God?

Anyway…that’s just the thoughts running around in my head right now.  That’s all for today.  Happy Thursday!

God is Not a Real Estate Agent

I am an American woman of Irish descent who is a former Catholic.  That is my basic profiling headline.  As such, there is a part of me that thinks I should sit down and shut up because I know very little about a conflict half a world away, but alas, here we are.

You see, one of the most important people in my life is an American Muslim woman of Palestinian descent, Sahar.  We have been friends since sixteen, and for us, religion has always been present in our friendship.  In youth, we examined the differences and similarities between Islam and Christianity.  We learned about other cultures from each other.  For instance, I had no idea that in some parts of the world, the land I know as Israel is actually called Palestine.  This is the land that Sahar hails from, and as the daughter of immigrant parents, she still has family there.  I can’t relate, because any close family we had back in Ireland are long dead.  I can kind of sympathize with all the disruption in the area, as northern and southern Ireland have always had their issues, but I think it’s safe to say it’s never escalated, and probably never will, to the level that it has in the Middle East. 

Growing up Catholic, we learned a lot about Israel and the Jewish people.  In school, we were taught that the Jews were like our kin.  They were the people that Christians would not exist without.  They believed in the same God as us, just with a different view on prophets and Messiahs.  It was actually used as a teaching tool to help us understand other cultures, which is cool.  But, as I’ve said before, I didn’t know what a Muslim was until I was 14.

Are you aware how similar Islam is to Christianity?  Probably not, but essentially, just like the Jews, we are all worshipping the same God, just with different views on prophets and Messiahs.  The Jews sometimes use the name Yahweh, so why do we freak out when Muslim’s use Allah?  It’s just a different name for the same basic principle. 

Anyway, my point is that I was raised to think that Israel belonged to the Jewish people because it is the land God granted to them.  And we, America, supported that.

Then I grew up and I realized that God has nothing to do with real estate.

So, for a while I was like “why can’t they just share the land?”  That seemed like the fair thing to do, and I remembered learning about Gaza in school, so I thought that the whole situation seemed fair.  After all, I was an American and taught that it was totally fair for the Native Americans to live on reservations.

Then I grew up some more and realized that was absolute bullshit and that colonizers were thieves.  I mean, you can’t just come in someone’s house and say it’s yours now.  We literally have a constitutional amendment prohibiting the military from doing exactly that, and I am positive there are other federal and state laws in place to prevent someone from just coming in and taking your house.  And this is what is happening over there…Israel came in and took the Palestinians house.

But wait!  There’s more!

Because they were sick of having their house stolen since 1948, they fought back.  Y’know, as one would in the USA had they property and a gun.  Except instead of a gun (since after all, this is not just one house, but a million,) they used some rockets.

Well, the Israeli leadership did not like this, so in a completely disproportionate response, they proceeded to bomb the bejesus out of the Palestinians.

Sahar told me that on one of the most holy days of Ramadan, they bombed the most important mosque in Jerusalem, just a few blocks from her grandparents’ house. 

For Catholic context, this would be like someone throwing a bomb in St. Peter’s Basilica on Christmas morning.

And that just disgusts me.  I mean, not as much as the photos I am seeing come out of all the dead or injured Palestinian children.  Or the fact that yesterday they bombed al Jazeera’s headquarters, which is their press hub.  Or the part where they’re blocking roads and trapping people in Gaza.  Or the bit about how they’re bombing hospitals, which is a war crime.

Tell me again why we are supporting these people?  Explain to me why Israel is in the right, and do it without God in the equation. 

I dare you.

God Does Not Hate

Two posts in two days?  What?!

Got a little riled last night learning about a friend who has gone off the deep end, religiously.  Now, I have some super religious friends, and they are pretty cool.  Sure, they post a lot of Jesus or Allah quotes on Facebook, but mostly they are a “live and let live” sort of crew of varying beliefs that have never once tried to convert me.

See, I am fascinated by religion.  I was raised Catholic, with a mother who was a former nun and an aunt who was one for most of her life.  I went to Catholic school from Pre-K to Senior year.  I taught religious education.  I know a thing or two about Catholicism.  I also went to various Christian youth groups, so I know a little about Baptists, Lutherans, and Born-Agains, too.  Atop all this life experience, I also have a love of learning about other world religions, and find myself mesmerized by cults and the like.  I’ve read a great many books, even more articles, and when presented with something unfamiliar regarding religion, I always do my research.

Which is why I don’t understand the blind believer.

Now, I consider myself to be Christian.  I believe in Jesus, and God, but I don’t subscribe to any religion because I’ve yet to find one that isn’t at least 50% bullshit.  Trust me, I have been looking.  But there are two kinds of Christians, you see.  There’s the kind that I was raised to be, as someone who had a loving relationship with God, who spreads the good news when appropriate, but never judges or forces or hates, because do unto others and all that jazz.  Then there’s the kind of Christian that seems to think God is capable of hate, and thus they should be, too.  They blindly believe that God will forgive all their sins and that they must strive to be more God-like, but refuse to forgive the sins of their neighbors themselves.  These people are hypocrites.  These are the people who will quote you the bible but have never picked up a chemistry book. These are people who will believe God forgave them for their out of wedlock child, but if that child grows up to be gay, all bets are off.  No forgiveness there.  If that child needs an abortion someday, nothing about that’s gonna keep you out of hell.  Hypocrites.

The worst, I mean the WORST, is the recently reformed.  The ones who never had a relationship with God and thus dive in head first, unaware that you don’t have to follow the bible to the letter to be a good Christian.  Unaware what it means when we say Jesus died for our sins.  Unaware that these were laws for a society that existed over 2000 years ago, and we have brand new laws now, because maybe things have changed a little over the years.  These are the people I fear the most, because they are most likely to cut themselves off from the people they love who are not in the church.

And just a reminder, being forced to cut people out of your life is not religion business, it’s cult business.  Don’t think that because you aren’t following a guru and living on a commune you aren’t in a cult.  Most cults are Christian.  Westboro Baptist Church: Christian cult.  Moonies: Christian cult.  Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints: Christian cult.  Sure, maybe you don’t have child brides and mass weddings and funerals to picket BUT if you’re religion does not allow you to love and respect all people equally then it is not a religion, it is a cult.  But I digress…

I’ve had several friends “find God” and I am happy for the when they do because they all seem to find something they had been looking for.  I am not looking for this intangible thing, so I don’t quite understand it, but I take a “what makes you happy makes me happy” approach to it.  Unless they go crazy Christian.  I just cannot.  I cannot have you talk to me like I don’t know shit about the bible, because I could school you.  I cannot tolerate hatred or bigotry in the name of God because obviously you are reading the WRONG book.  I will not be seen as a lesser person because I do not subscribe to your particular belief system.  I won’t do it.  I don’t talk about my relationship with God to you unprompted, so do not think you are invited to discuss yours with me.  (Conversion is also cult business.  Real religion is happy to have a new member but won’t make you force it on unwilling subjects.)  I know it may sound harsh, but I have spent the past fifteen years deprogramming myself from Catholicism, and I’m not about to jump aboard your train.

In closing, I am totally tolerant of all religions, but if you are ignorant of your own beliefs, or your “church” seems much more like a cult than a religion, I’m going to object to it.  I will love you from afar if I have to, but I will not support exclusion, bigotry, sexism, or the sheer stupidity of having forgotten that God does not hate.  If you believe in these things, I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to cancel my subscription to your life.  I’ll renew when your values change.

download