We went to mass this past Sunday. Just 3 of us. We didn’t wake up our oldest because 1. He is 23 years old and 2. He claims to have gone to church enough to last a lifetime. Emma, at 12, seemed to accept her fate. Especially after I pointed out that she could go to church every Sunday for years and not catch up to her big brother or sister.
As I listened to the readings, the psalm, the Gospel and the amazing music from Dr. Carlin, I tried to sort out ideas about my faith that have lasted into adulthood. I aim to throw away all the superstition, mythology and that very sticky stuff (plaque) that formed me, and get to the root of my faith, and do a little spring cleaning. I ask myself all the time, “Why do I think that? Do I really think that? Am I supposed to think that? Where did that idea come from?” And often I have some assumption or belief that is still around from childhood-and often the misunderstanding of childhood that goes along with it.Here are some other things I’m sorting out on my Lenten journey:
God: I clearly remember being in the tub, quite small, and pondering God, timelessness and the universe. So how did we get saddled with the vision of God as a white bearded guy wearing a white robe? Trade out the robe for a red suit and you’ve got Santa Claus. (In my childhood opinion, he was God’s right hand man-riding shotgun through the sky) Change the white beard to a brown beard and you’ve got Jesus. I don’t think of God as male, and neither do most religious folk, but he sure is depicted that way. People think you’re nuts if you say God and “She.” and they roll their eyes. What is that about? Besides centuries of oppressing women, I mean. I guess we needed to qualify and quantify God-who is too big to imagine, and we got stuck with Santa. Who is kind of nice, after all. But, can we grow up already?
The Bible-(Which version?) Should be taken with a grain of salt. I am in the communications business and I can tell you there is a huge change in a document from version one to version 2001. All kinds of crap gets thrown in there by legal. And HR. And you’ve read stuff that was translated badly, haven’t you? Even without the language translation thing, the bible is confusing, contradictory, and puzzling. It contains history, poetry, fairy tales and calculated bullshit. There is some value in it, but don’t ever use it to make a point. Somebody else can use the same document to contradict you.
Virgin Birth-Really? In the first place, it turns out that THAT concept lives because of one translation into Greek. Most protestant bibles don’t use the word, virgin. But the Catholic bible turns on this. In the second place, this is an old literary construct used to attract followers and show folks that this guy, Jesus, is the real deal. There is a Hindu god with the same miraculous virgin conception, don’t you know. I can hear generation 1 Christians from the PR team now, “If that’s what the folks want to hear, then that’s what we’ll tell them.” Are there any adults who sincerely believe this? I am not sure many priests are even on board with this one. When questioned, they start to dance around the word “virgin” and it’s other spiritual meanings. But, this teaching does come in handy if you plan on oppressing women for centuries. Virgin=good. Sex=whore. Nothing in between. Makes it hard to achieve a powerful position in that set-up, yo! Does it matter to me that Mary was a virgin? No. What matters is Jesus’ message. So, I’m ready to let this one go.
Lazarus, Jesus Walking on Water, Water into WIne-There’s a Hindu god who did these exact same things. Again, this is like the Virgin Birth, and designed as a PR effort to indicate to other cultures that this guy, Jesus? He’s the real thing! He can do what your god does, and then some! Does it matter to me that Jesus did these things? Again, the answer is no.
Prayer (Rosary, Stations of the Cross)-Growing up, prayers were either set prayers that we were tested on in CCD, recited from memory and by rote,(as fast as possible!) or they were abject pleas for help! While I am quite sure God isn’t up there with a big ole inbox full of requests that he either grants or denies, I DO think there is value in prayer, but I think my upbringing largely missed the boat related to meditation and contemplation, which are grownup forms of prayer.
Holy Water-Ever since I read about how much fecal matter is in the holy water, I do NOT bless myself with it anymore. And neither do my kids. We are okay. This is just superstition anyway. I still “bless” myself, “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” to get in the swing of things at church. It’s a nice ritual to prepare yourself for prayer and worship. I just don’t need to douse myself with fecal water. (People! Wash your hands! Can we make this any clearer?)
Communion Wine-While their isn’t fecal matter in there (supposedly!) there IS backwash! Gross! I’ll just take the paper wafer thanks, and worry enough about it being on the factory floor and handled by people there who don’t wash their hands! Gross!
Confession and Sin-I’ve never felt better after going to confession. In fact, I feel worse. This has always been so. But I still think there is value in self examination and a desire to improve ourselves, and tear away habits and thoughts that keep us from God. That is just what “Sin” is. I don’t like the Catholic idea that you can confess, say some prayers and keep on beating your wife and kids for a week, until you get another clean slate. This seems wrong. It is surely NOT what is intended with confession, I’m sure. It’s just what happens.
Jesus-A total rebel! He said that everyone is worthy of dignity and respect and value. Everyone. No exceptions. And we must treat all people well. This is revolutionary stuff. I like it! I still struggle with it. The struggle is good!
Whew! I’m tired. There is definitely more to explore here, but I think it might want to become a book. I could probably blog daily on this topic of faith and religion daily for a year, and not cover everything. Suffice it to say, that I’m trying to continue growing in my faith. And part of that is throwing out the rubbish, and tidying up. Easter is almost upon us! We will enjoy the rituals and I will probably wonder about them too. (Really? Bunnies? with eggs? WTF? The chocolate is CLEARLY meant to be Holy food. It feeds my soul after all….)