15 November 2007

The One about God (Part I)

I was just about to leave the house today when the doorbell rang. It was two young men doing mission work for the Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints. I'd seen them around the neighborhood earlier in the week, and to be honest, I was relieved that they hadn't come to our place yet. The last time a pair were in the neighborhood they just told us about a PBS program that was going to be on and went on their way. Today, they were a little more persistant.

Let me just say that I respect that these two young men have a calling to do this sort of thing, but I'm also uncomfortable having someone try to evangelize me. I remember when I was living at my parents house, once, a woman and her 8-year old daughter came to the door. She asked me if I knew whether I was going to heaven. I told her no, because I don't think anybody knows that. That's for God to know. She wasn't pleased and I finally had to shut the door on her to get out of the conversation. I felt bad shutting the door on her little girl as well, but I was in such an uncomfortable position that I didn't have any other way to end the conversation.

Today, the pair of Mormon missionaries told me that they believe that Jesus visited the Americas. They even showed me a full color portrait of Jesus with some lovely native Americans. Squanto might even have been one of them. They quoted some bible verses (which, for all I know were completely made up) and asked me if I'd like to know more--all after I told them I was Catholic.* The entire conversation made me extraordinarily uncomfortable. I understand the position these young men are in and that this mission work is what enables them to marry in their church, I respect their decision to believe that Christ skipped over all of Europe and decided to visit Utah instead before he was crucified, I even admire that they believe in it enough to want to convince me. But I'm not interested in being converted. I wasn't sure where the conversation was going, and I was running late, so when they asked "Would you like to set up a time that we could come back and tell you more about this?" I answered by simply saying that I didn't think so, because "I'm too devout in my Catholicism."

I could almost feel the angels cough a collective "bullshit" as I sensed the lightning about to strike me down.**

The truth is that I'm a horrible Catholic. I've gotten worse over the last few years. There are things about the religion that I love, but there are so many things about the religion that make me boil with anger that I often wonder if I should remain. I mean, come on, we now have an ex-Nazi for a pope. And Joey Ratz ain't the looker that John Paul was, let me tell you.

So claiming my devotion to a religion that I waver on was a surprise, even for me. It certainly wasn't the out I was expecting to use when I started to talk with them. This is something I've been thinking about a lot lately. As Little Man gets bigger and bigger, I wonder what we should do about faith and about religion. I'm not ready to leave it, yet. It's too much a part of my family culture, but I also have trouble supporting the church in much of what it's done. I hate its stance towards women and I think it needs to stay out of people's bedrooms--that's just for starters. But I think the church gets things right, too. I like that there's no biblical literalism, I like that it believes there are other paths to God. (although, I do understand that the church prefers that you use their own, private gilded path)

This is a hard issue for me. It's one that J and I struggle with and debate about fairly regularly. It's something that I think is really important, but I'm not ready to make any decisions yet. I'll write more about it later, but until then- what do you think?? Any moments of doubt or conversion that helped to show you the way?? Because the two guys at my door today apparently didn't work.

*My mom told me once that a good way to get rid of certain types of evangelists is to tell them you're Catholic-- apparently, there are some things worth than being a heathen.
**In case you aren't aware, Catholics are good at guilt.


Mad Grad Mom said...

Oh, ld, I know you know this is my big issue, too.

"Any moments of doubt or conversion that helped to show you the way?"

It seems to me it's more about those moments showing me what's not the way. I full-heartedly believe there's no such thing as "the way." I think of my spirituality as highly personal, something that can't be fully understood by someone not in my position. Of course, this may boil down to my nearly pantheistic (mayeb even pagan) tendencies.

When I was a teenager, I never felt more at peace than when I was out hiking in some of the natural areas around my hometown. I seem to identify these moments as moments of intense spiritual, (meta)physical (is it possible to be metaphysically aware?!?), and earthly awareness. Maybe this was my moment.

But organized religion is a concern because I feel an intense need to protect Skeet from evangelicals when he's in school. The last thing I want him doing is telling someone trying to get him to go to The Church Of God and His Holy Rollers is "My mom worships statues of fat women with giant breasts!"

I don't personally believe that there is an answer. I think that is the nature of our spirituality. And if I'm wrong, there's a special seat reserved for me in the 6th level of hell.

LD said...

I've always personally believed that if there is a place like Heaven, I'm fairly certain that it doesn't have a single evangelist in it.

Mad Grad Mom said...

Amen, sister!

Actually, they'll probably be sitting right next to me in hell.

c... said...


this is a big issue for us too. Anna's probably more ambivalent about religion than I am, but we both think of ourselves as *culturally* Lutheran. And, maybe unlike mgm, while there is a lot about spirituality that i feel is individual, it is the participation in a community drawn together by something bigger than themselves that I most ache for in the context of religion. It's religion as practice and discipline and communal that means something to me ... and that we have been utterly unable to find in the region of corn u, even being pretty flexible about what brand of protestantism to be involved with.

Mad Grad Mom said...

I like that notion of community, too, just not in a religious sense. Does that make any kind of sense?

I like the idea of being connected to people through a common interest, not necessarily something bigger than themselves. I mean, after all, aren't we all connected together in a similar fashion?

Okay, I know it is different but I think that the result is similar. People who care about and for each other, who become part of larger emotional support systems, who understand a common experience, and therefore, create a bond.

So it's not that I don't feel communal value in it. I do. I grew up knowing that kind of community. Believe it or not, I had perfect Sunday school attendance at my church from 3 years old to 17 years old! So, I do long for that sense of community. I guess it's more that my sense of of my spiritual development is very personal.

Maybe if I ever get off my duff and go to the UU here I'll change my mind.

LD said...

That makes perfect sense. I thinks it's hard for me, in part, because I grew up going to mass every single week, and when I was in college and living in PA I found church communities that I looked forward to attending each week. The leaders of those communities created a sense of peace and invigorated my spirituality. I haven't found that here at all, but I'm also not really interested in trying other churches. Being Catholic for me is like being Italian-- it's as much cultural and an identity as it is a religious practice.