As I mentioned in the first post of this blog, I thought of myself as an atheist for a significant portion of my life. When I became a UU I tried to live up to the denomination’s ideal of open-mindedness and converted to agnosticism.
But I was raised low Episcopal. Many of the trappings of Catholicism but none of the fun as far as I could tell. No incence. No confession to lighten the load of childhood misdemeanors―I was just going to have to walk around with the guilt after that time I shoplifted from the Five and Dime. No saints to ask for advice, towatch over me. And as a girl, for better or worse, no whispering to Mary in the dark (I say that cogniscent of the harm her spector has caused so many of my Catholic sisters).
Part of me desperately wanted to be Catholic, like my best friend Guilaine, who parents were from Haiti. I was secretly jealous when I went to Mass with her and she could take communion but I couldn’t because I hadn’t been confirmed yet. I grasp the irony of this for a girl who didn’t believe in God and who spent most of her time in church not merely bored, like most kids, but actively pissed off.
Of course I didn’t know then how messed up the Catholic Church could leave some people. All I could see was what seemed like beauty and mystery, and maybe even a little magic (an opinion which, I’m sure, would have horrified the CC).
In my Episcopal pews though, despite the array of drawing implements and paper my mother always supplied, I spent most of my time at a low boil, which threatened to spill over whenever I had to stand for the creeds, those statement of beliefs that―as I later learned―separated our version of Christianity from everyone else’s, staking out our turf as the “true” one.
I didn’t, in fact, believe in the communion of saints or the forgiveness of sins. I didn’t believe in sin at all. And I sure as hell didn’t believe in Jesus Christ as the son of God, in the intricate convolutions of “begotten, not made” and “of one substance with the Father” and the incarnation through Mary. The whole Trinity debacle. I mean WTF? Who the hell made that up? And what is the Holy Ghost anyway? No adult seemed to be able to answer that for me or even be willing to tackle it. I’m sorry but when you tell me a baby has to be baptized for the remission of sins―a baby!―you’ve lost me. And the Christian church lost me early and over and over again, any given Sunday. I knew in my young brain that nothing like this system could possibly be right. It seemed, in fact, so ludicrous that it also must mean that God couldn’t really exist. This is what my adolescent brain festered on every Sunday.
My parents and I had an agreement. Church and Sunday school every Sunday until confirmation and then the choice was mine. And at 15, with the oil still glistening on my forehead, I hauled ass down the aisle in my beautiful white dress and patten-leather Mary Janes as fast as was decently possible. Basta!
What tradition were you raised in? Did it bring you comfort? What questions did it prompt in you? How did it affect your world view? How did it shape your notion of the divine?