I know I haven't blogged a lot lately, but life has been crazy. Mercy & I have been working non-stop on our fundraising event coming up, Ange and I are leaving for Portland on Saturday, and I've had some other meetings and school stuff to attend to. I have some very serious blogs coming up (including this one) so I didn't want to just dash them out without giving them the thought and time I thought they deserved.
So this is a semi-strange blog for me. I very intensely believe that religion and all things religious should be kept to yourself. I think religion, like many other controversial subjects, are best kept private and discussed with very few people. However, since this is my blog and I'm never sure who reads it besides myself we'll just pretend it's a dialogue with myself and a conversation for posterity's sake.
I was born and raised Catholic. I went to Sunday school, did my first communion and for many, many years our family was an active practicing one. Not just a high holidays kind of Catholic. Like every Sunday, couldn't eat before mass, kind of Catholic. But even when I was really little I remember thinking "Ahh, these are nice stories, but they clearly not real." I felt about Jesus the same way I felt about Cinderella. Nice story, but clearly just a story.
Now there are only 2 Catholic Churches in the Ben Davis area, so most of the kids I went to Sunday school with were also kids I went to school with. When I hit the pre-teen years I began to realize that my parents entrusted me with making some decisions of my own. Of course this went to my head and I started demanding all kinds of freedom and decision-making skills. Sometimes I won, sometimes I didn't. But I did learn to voice my opinions loud and clear. When it came time to be confirmed I declared that I would not be participating. This was a major coup in my life. The funniest part is that my dad, who is not Catholic, was appalled while my mother, who is Catholic, was not. Later I would find out this was because my mom was having her own doubts about the Catholic Church, but at the time I just wondered why the heck my dad cared so much. I think now, in hind-sight, it was just because my dad likes to do things as expected and doesn't like to be a non-conformist that much. So it wasn't that he cared that I didn't want to be confirmed, but more that I wasn't following the path that was chosen for me. It also raised eyebrows at school when I didn't show up for confirmation classes. My Catholic friends were all like "Where were you?" and after I told them I was choosing not to I think they thought I'd lost my mind. But I hadn't. I made a clear choice. For you non-Catholics, being confirmed is basically signaling that you as an adult are making the decision to take your faith in your hands, and now you aren't being forced to church by your parents. Since I was a doubter, I said no.
After that our attendance at church quickly dwindled. We continued to go to Church on Easter and Christmas, but other than that, not so much. My parents got divorced, but for whatever reason (probably the same as above) my dad continued to take us to the Catholic church for these holidays. It continued this way until I came home from college and refused to go to church on Christmas. My dad again was appalled but let me stay behind. I think that was the last time he went to Catholic Church. I can't recall it ever happening again. So sisters, if you are sad about missing church, sorry, blame it on me. Since then, I've been in any church only a handful of times, and until the last time, never really be completely free choice.
Over the past few years I've been hanging out with a number of fairly religious people. I have some friends who are very strong in their faith, my brother-in-law is very passionate about his faith and about religion in the public sphere in general and we've finally, I think, gotten to a point of understanding where we can have a respectful and thought provoking discussion about religion without either of us getting too irritated with the other, as well as all of my African friends who are definitely, definitely more religious than anyone I now. But probably the one person who I've spoken the most with is Mercy. When I finally "came out" to Mercy as a non-believer she nearly died. Seriously. I think it was the shock of her life. And ever since then it's been this running dialogue between us. And frankly, she's probably the only person who I could really have this conversation with. Mercy is Catholic, but she is basically a Free Choice Catholic. She's very open minded about religion, but even more importantly, she believes religion is deeply personal and would never, ever dream of pushing her views on anyone else. She has never once made me feel bad for not believing in what she believes and has never tried to convince me that her religion is right. And I really respect that. I know of very few people who can do that. She lives her faith strongly, but without pushiness or judgment.
Since I've known her I've been thinking about God and spirituality a lot. I don't know that I'm ready to commit and say that I'm 100% this or that, but I've been reading a lot about Buddhism and just thinking about God, spirituality and religion in general. This past trip to Nigeria really changed my perspective in a lot of ways. I can't go through everything that happened and all of the ways that I felt impacted by something on this trip, but I really feel like this trip has changed me in a lot of ways. I have another blog post that is coming up that is the prime example of what I'm talking about.
I know I haven't said a lot about what I am definitely thinking and feeling, but that is intentional. I really still am not sure. I know that my thoughts and feelings are evolving but I'm not ready to commit to anything specific just yet. But I'll keep you posted.