November 5, 2006

Are you there God? It's me, Cagey.

Part 1 of a 4 part series where I examine the current status of my Eternal Soul. (Part 2 can be found here, Part 3 here, and Part 4 here.)

Awhile back I decided to go to church every Sunday through New Year's Day, a Mass I've always loved because it's a nice way to start the year. It's more of a social experiment with myself, than anything else. I've been having a maj0r crisis of faith - not in God, but more in organized religion. I believe in God, I am just not sure about the nitty gritty details. By making a commitment to go to church for the next few months, I am hoping to see if it makes a difference. Maybe I will end up enjoying it? Maybe not? Maybe I won't see ANY differences. I also made a commitment to floss my teeth everyday. Not related, but in the same vein.

My relationship with God and religion has taken a path akin to a spider web. An OLD, abandoned spider web, the sort you find in the autumn where it's apparent the spider has crawled off to die. The paths tend to go a in a circle, tracing the same paths, ending up nowhere in some cases. Over the years, I have attended a variety of religious services for a myriad of reasons with friends and family - Methodist, Presbyterian, Jehovah's Witness, Lutheran, Catholic, Episcopal, Baptist, Southern Baptist, Assembly of God and so many evangelical, "free-for-all" churches than I can't even count. And then in my undergrad years, there was what I call my Islam Epoch.

I am now Catholic. I "signed up" in my late 20s before I had even met X. Then, when I met X, a nice born n' bred Catholic boy from India, everything fell into place. Decidedly, we are Catholic and I doubt we would ever join another type of church.

My own family is a mix - we have no particular religion. My father's dad was Jehovah's Witness (recent generations) and my father's mom was Baptist (recent generations). I am not sure what my mom's family was. So, for me, religion has always been a blank slate.

I learned about God from a babysitter at the age of 5. My mom is not religious and my dad was going through a major crisis himself with God after having gotten back from the Vietnam war. In 1st grade, I desperately wanted to go to church with my friends. My mom had to talk my dad into it, but she did. My friends would pick me up and take me with them - I don't remember the demonination of the church, oddly enough. In 2nd and 3rd grade, we lived in town and then I would walk to church by myself .

In 4th grade, my dad started to go through some major soul-searching and began attending the Episcopal church. He started taking my sister and I to church with him on a fairly regular basis. Sometimes, my mom would come with us, but she wasn't really enamoured of the whole thing. By 6th grade, my parents were divorcing and my dad continued going to church. We would attend with him on "his weekends". He continued going to the Episcopal church, but also started attending an evangelical church. A grass-roots church that began in Lawrence as a group of students getting together as a bible study. Like many born-again Christians, my dad became very zealous about religion. He has mellowed out now, but there was a period where he "lived and breathed" All Things Christ. I also went through a period in high school where I really "got into" church.

Then, I went to college. Where things got radical. In my freshman year, I started dating a Pakistani. A Pakistani who had had a pretty western upbringing, had not grown up in Pakistan and was not religious. I, however, became very interested in his religion and absorbed everything I could that was Islam for the next 4 years. I can see now, that from a cultural perspective, it was fun meeting people from all the world and as a bonus, I loved learning the classical Arabic for prayers. However, now it is hard for me to write about this period of my life. Most kids explore a bit when they go to college, just not like this. It's not something I regret and if anything, it kept me out of trouble. Most muslims are just honest, God-fearing people trying to take care of their families. Furthermore, considering the climate we live in today, I am grateful for my in-depth, hands-on knowledge that I have of muslims and of Islam. For sure, I have a unique perspective when attempting to sift through all the ignorant crap out there that the media tries to shove in our faces. However, for many reasons that I am not going to get into here, I chose to turn away from Islam in my mid 20s. And then, I went exploring again.

I had always felt comfortable in the Episcopal and Catholic churches. In my late 20s, after careful deliberation between the two and conversations with my dad, I decided to convert to Catholicism and went through the Adult Rites of Initiation. One thing I find most interesting is that when I became a Catholic, Olathe Grandma started passing along family heirlooms that were Catholic. It turns out, long, long ago, some of our family was originally Catholic, but was sorta kept a secret for reasons I can only fathom.

So, that's where I am today. I have more about this, but will use the rest of the Sundays in November to ponder.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Interesting! I was raised Lutheran, but now I reject Organized Religion. But there is a beautiful Catholic church a block away from me that always makes me smile.

Monkey McWearingChaps said...

I was going to write my own God post!

I'm still pretty staunchly Hindu-Buddhist but I really do believe in Jesus. I just don't believe in Church. Like any of them-but to boot, I don't give a hoot for temple or Hindu ritualism either. I do, however, staunchly believe in the underlying philosophy of both Hinduism and liberal Christianity. The only reason I still identify as a Hindu as opposed to a general spiritual "non-organised" religion type person is that I believe religious ritualism can be valuable in that it passes down certain cultural traditions-which is the big reason I'd want to raise my children Hindu (ritualistically) to a certain extent. I would encourage them, however, as they grow older...to keep the ritualism in the background and really THINK about what they believe.

I honestly cannot wrap my mind around either/refuse to believe in 1) detailed rules on how to live life 2) an angry corporeal parent-figure deity 3) that a supernatural deity's grand plan is monotheism which pretty much keeps me far far away from both Judaism or Islam. Though the one thing I have always appreciated about Judaism is that they don't believe in conversion (I don't believe in conversion by the sword/active evangelism but I do think that if your personal behaviour causes others to emulate you b/c you're THAT great a person and you model your religious philosophy to that degree...those are the only real conversions. Everything else is fear mongering)

< { .p said...

I would like to offer something. May it encourage you in whatever direction that you shall take it. You have likely heard it said to you before, possibly a countless number of times, and I encourage you to think not of these but of the simple truth that is contained within/underneath-in-the-open the words.

God loves you. Always and forever, just as you are and as all that you will become, He loves you. You may have been fortunate enough to know love, in small amounts or large, from other sources. God loves you more - than all of this, individually and put together and the whole sum multiplied by itself as many times as there are loving experiences that you have had... at least. By and for and with Him, Amen.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post. I think a lot of bloggers tend to shy away from posting on religion.

My father is a Methodist minister, so I grew up only in Methodist churches. As a kid I was allowed to visit other churches with friends, but never really explored any other religions. It is something I've always been interested in, but never took the time to learn about. We currently attend my dad's church, but I also have very mixed feelings about organized religion. There are many pros but just as many, if not more, cons. That is something that I argue with myself over a lot.

Leah said...

I love my version of Lutheranism, but in any organized religion people are going tend up taking from and adding to the church for their own reasons. It's the whole "we're human, and therefore imperfect" thing. I find organized religion easier to deal with when I remember that no human is perfect - even sometimes the ones in charge of churches...

Jenny said...

Hey cool! Its talk about religion day! I did it too. This NaPoBloMo thing is really tickling me, because I don't normally get all that deep on my blog, and now I've done it twice in five days. I thought I would be all blocked and throw in a one-liner everyday, but I find if I let myself I can ramble pretty well.
I like your post. I think there are alot of us of similar generational range (I am 34) with families, who are really unhappy with the face of organized religion. I find myself smugly satisfied about this poor sap in the news this week, and the huge irony of his situation. But then I am overcome with guilt at that smugness, because it comes from the same intolerance that many evangelical christians have for everyone outside their sphere of influence. I am no better. I'm learning.

Anonymous said...

Hey you! I Love your blog.....actually came across it accidentally cause I was looking for a template for my own blog! I love your postings! My girlfriend and I are starting a rant blog called rants in your pants to try to unite women in their crazy, yet purposeful rants! I guess our blogs will have something in common. Anyway, your blog looks and feels (feels?) fab! Ours looks like pure crap right now! (the really stinky baby brown yucky kind)

Anyhoo, I really enjoyed your own rants!

Celebrate Woo-Woo said...

Visting by way of Fussy and talk of NaBloPoMo emblems...

I have pretty much given up on trying to embrace any organized religion and agree practically whole-heartedly with monkey mcwearingchaps.

Good luck in your quest for enlightenment.

Jenn said...

I love your analogy of the old spider web going in circles, going no where. It's a perfect way to put it.

fresh dew said...

responding to some of the comments.. i went through a stage when I bitterly abhorred what I thought was organized religion.. then I discovered it is not really so much of that, if it is from God.. God says clearly in His Word that authority is instituted or at least allowed by Him.. and all human beings are imperfect. This means that although no church or institution is or can be perfect in this world, nevertheless there is some usefulness for it. God also said in His Word that , despite the gross imperfections of man and thus of the church, the church is nevertheless a very beloved part of God's being . One Body Many Parts (1 Corinthians 13). Many times it is choosing to bless rather than wonder why other people don't bless us - choosing to give rather than to focus on why others are not giving to us - choosing to love, choosing to FORGIVE .. choosing to focus on God and His love for the church rather than the bitterness I can naturally have for individuals (who after all, are as imperfect as I am)...

I went through it, trust me , the bitterness and the gall, but through it all, I discovered God's faithfulness and that if he can forgive me, I can forgive all the people who have intentionally and unintentionally hurt me.. including sometimes our anger at our parents (yes, our parents for what they have done or not done).. or other authority figures.. or people in the church (we become cynical; huh! these are church people and they are like this.. so we become cynical and resentful).. or even a little bit angry inside at God himself...

but.. God is faithful, he is watching you .. and he really cares. for you. He really , really cares for you.
'Cast all your cares on him.. for he cares for you.' He really does.