16 November 2007

The One about God (Part II)

Or-- the problems I have with Catholicism....

Ever since we moved out here into the land of corn, I've been wrestling with the issue of religion. To start with, we haven't really found a church community that doesn't either bore me out of any spirituality I might have had or make me boil with anger. Churches out here are super- conservative. They admonished people to vote for the Shrub because voting for pro-choice Kerry was a sin. I sat through one memorably homily where the priest told us this lovely story about how he saved a marriage by convincing the wife to go off of birth control--the husband wasn't happy, but apparently that doesn't matter. We finally found this tiny little parish composed mostly of Koreans that we actually liked, but then we had Little Man, and church with a 1 year old just doesn't seem worth it.

But as I've wrestled with trying to figure out where we belong, I've been forced to confront issues about the Catholic church that I find intolerable. For instance, we were flipping through the channels one day and came across the Catholic TV station. On it, two nuns were explaining how women's health care in Africa was nothing more than a euphemism for abortion services. They went on to explain that without all this (apparently unnecessary) prenatal care, the infant mortality rate would necessitate that women have more children. Wha?? Or the mass we attended in Ohio where the priest was rallying the congregation against electing congressman Sherod Brown by quoting Bush as a great protector of life. Huh?? In what flipping other universe??? And, I completely and utterly blame the stupid Ohio one-issue-catholics back in 2004 who elected Bush because he is against abortion. This is on top of the fact that the church does stupid things like cover-up for pedophile priests, refuse women a full measure in spiritual life, and tell people in Africa that condoms are useless because the sperm are small enough to swim through them. These, to me, are dangerous, ridiculous ideas and actions that do more harm and spread more hate in this world than good.

These things all make me question my ability to remain in the faith. If I have a daughter, can I really raise her in a religion that teaches women that they aren't worth as much as men, that even if they feel called to serve, they will never be able to?? Can I really give weekly offerings to a church that will fight against my reproductive rights even as its members abuse children? These things worry me. They bother me.

The problem, I think, is the difference between the religion and the faith. The religion has an awful, torrid history of conquest, domination, and intolerance. When you walk into St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, you can immediately understand why Martin Luther railed against the church--the sheer wealth that spills out before you is astounding. The Church is a government, a business, an economy-- after all, there's nothing in my faith that makes me understand why there's a souvenir shop on the roof.
What? You didn't believe me?? You can shop above the heads of tourists and crypts of saints for all of your religious goods. Don't forget the rosaries emblazoned with Padre Pio or Pope John Paul.

But splitting the religion from the spirituality is the hard part when you're trying to raise a child to have some sort of faith in something beyond himself. You can't explain to a child that "we're Catholic because we're supposed to be, because it's what our family does and because there are certain salvageable things about the religion. Even though we believe there's other ways to get to God, to believe, or to have faith. Even though we believe that everyone's faith is equally valid, because we believe that only God knows and can judge. Even though we believe that you can praise the higher powers without sitting through stuffy masses that leave you uninspired and with a noisy and angry soul. Even though we know that there are other gospels, that the Bible might have been divinely inspired but certainly was written by some men back in the days of yore. And that we believe you should and must argue with this one, "true" church, because without growth, faith is static and dead and useless. Even though we can't agree on what heaven looks like--or if there even is one. Even though we have so many reasons for turning away."

The council of Nicaea would not be amused.

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