Religion

I’ve mentioned that T is going through the process to convert to Catholicism.  The program is called RCIA (the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults).  Every week I seem to be comforted by something I hear.  T and I usually have a little chat on the way home from the meeting.  The last two weeks our pastor has been giving us a bit of an overview on the bible – New and Old Testaments.

I was raised Catholic, but I wouldn’t say that we were a religious family.  We attended mass weekly, my brother and I went through CCD (religious education) through our sophomore year of high school.  But we didn’t really do anything outside of mass that spoke to me of religion.  We didn’t read the bible.  We didn’t pray before meals.  We didn’t really talk about God or Jesus.

Unfortunately, I have a negative connotation to those who read the bible regularly.  I have never enjoyed being “preached” at.  I have never liked it when someone tries to “convert” me by telling me their “saving” story or about their relationship to God. It felt contrived.  If someone said “I’ll pray for you”, it felt like an insult.  Like somehow I was obviously weak and couldn’t handle things.  (Have I mentioned I have a deep sense of pride, and it’s hard for me to accept help – even when I need it?)    I have always felt that my belief in God was my own and that your beliefs were your own and we didn’t need to discuss them.  Granted, I never felt confident in my ability to talk about the bible.  We always discussed bible stories in CCD, but they never stuck with me.  I never felt connected to them.  So maybe I was just insecure and didn’t want to seem ignorant.

I also have always connected those who “preach the bible” with negativity.  I’m not sure I explain that sentiment.  I have rarely felt preached at while at church.   I have always felt a comfort within the Catholic church that what was being preached was kindness and respect.  (I know that the Catholic Church has rules that don’t jive with this.  There isn’t equality between men and women.  There isn’t respect for homosexual relationships.  But I have never witnessed negativity in this regard.) I high school I remember there was a lot of talk of that phrase ” What would Jesus do?”  I openly mocked this concept.  It seemed silly to me, simplistic.  Kind of life Nancy Reagan’s campaign to “Just Say No.”  But there is so much truth to that phrase.  Jesus was a man who didn’t turn people away.  He did all he could to help other people.  He was kind to the outcasts of society.  Do you think he would have turned away from gay people?  He certainly didn’t shun the prostitutes and the lepers.

Last night after class I asked our pastor about the Crusades.  Saying the time of the Crusades was not a peaceful time is an understatement.  I specifically asked how does the Church justify the crusades within the teachings of Jesus.  His response was honest.  He said that nothing can justify the Crusades.  They happened at a point in history where the church was very corrupt and was run more like an empire.  He also said that because the majority of the population at that time was illiterate that the common man only had what they were told to go on.  So when a priest/politician said you are going to do this in the name of the church because we think we need to overpower those who don’t believe in Jesus, the general population didn’t think to object.

Another thing he said last week was that when people started to break out from Catholicism and form new churches, it was usually as a result of corruption within the church.  The groups that pulled away were looking to get back to the root of Christianity and away from the corruption.

It also comforts me that my pastor and others who have dedicated their life to the church openly admit that they don’t know all the answers.  This may seem silly.  Of course no one has all the answers to questions that are based on FAITH and mysteries.  But as a child, I didn’t question those in authority.  If someone played a role of authority in my life, I let them lead. So the thought that the adults in my life were much smarter that they could have ever been!  I guess that’s why sometimes I have feelings of being a fraud as an adult because I feel like I don’t have a flippin’ clue about what I’m doing!  I’m just winging it and hoping for the best.

Every week in class they ask us a question to discuss amongst ourselves in small groups.  Last night’s question was why do you do things for other people?  Do you do it because you think it will get you into heaven?  Do you do it because you want people to acknowledge you with pats on the back?  Do you do it because it’s the right thing to do?  Do you do it because you think you should?  Okay, that was more than one questions, but it got me to thinking.  Why do I do the things I do for other people.  Mostly it’s because I follow my heart and try to do what I think is best for the involved parties.  Do I like pats on the back?  Heck yeah.  Everyone needs to feel appreciated for what they do, but that is not my motivator.  Have I ever done things thinking, “ok, if I do this then God will be happy”?  I can’t say that I’ve ever thought that.  Maybe in the karmic sense of it.   I always get extra nice while driving right before I have a road trip.  I call it “car karma”.  If I put it out there that I’m being kind to other drivers (i.e. letting them cut in front of me, leaving space for someone to make a left-hand turn while stopped at a red light), that maybe I won’t get stuck behind all the big semis and slow drivers.

Sometimes we can get caught up in the busy-ness of the day-to-day life and forget to smell the roses along the way or forget that other people have busy lives too and maybe they are having a bad day and we should be kind.  I’m guilty of that as much as the next person.  But I try to remember that I’m not the only person living in this world that matters.

So, how’s this for a deep post for a Friday?

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4 responses to this post.

  1. There’s a lot to think about here, and I appreciate your perspective. I grew up in the church (protestant) and a few years ago, my sister converted to Catholicism, so I’ve had the opportunity to examine faith through both lenses and I DO NOT feel like I have all the answers! It is refreshing for me to hear that you find comfort in knowing that people of faith don’t always have the answers. Someone close to me who is a Christian is very, very frustrated by the fact that he doesn’t have all the answers and feel like it makes his faith less credible to others. it is good to hear that you don’t perceive it that way! I will enjoy seeing your posts as you process the things you are considering 🙂

  2. Hey, Kirsten…I got your email saying that you left a reply…I’m feeling kinda clueless here, but I can’t find it! help!

  3. Posted by girlsworld on October 10, 2009 at 7:46 am

    Cynthia,

    Thank you for commenting on this. Talking about religion makes me feel so unsure, but I am learning so much and feel like I am truly being exposed to my faith for the first time. It is very bizarre! I find it a little sad that your friend feels inadequate for not having all the answers. One thing that I heard last weekend in my CCD training was that once we think we know God, that is when we really don’t. That is so profound, but at the same time that is WHY we call it faith.

  4. Kirsten,

    I am excited for you. These are important questions and it’s great that you are finally to the point where you can express your thoughts on faith. I think that there are many layers in the process of building a relationship with God. I do agree that when we think we know him, we don’t–at least not fully–and thus another layer in the discovery process. Soren Kierkegaard writes about the concept of the “leap of faith”–that point where we acknowledge that even though we don’t have the answers, we know enough to make the decision to jump in and believe. I think that point is different for all of us, but it is important to know that even though we may never have all the answers, it doesn’t stop us from beginning a relationship from wherever we’re at.

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