Faith and her Church

It has been an interesting couple of days on Facebook. My friend, Kayla, posted an article about gay marriage…basically in support of it…and, as always, the post sparked a lively and very heated conversation. This then transferred over to her blog where she has a series of posts about faith. This particular post has to do with reconciling Catholic church beliefs with her own personal beliefs and as always, she asked her readers and friends to weigh in on the subject matter. Now, I could have just written a comment on her blog, but I decided to devote a post to my opinions on this matter instead.

First, I will start out by saying that I am supportive of gay marriage, especially in the political realm. I believe love is love period and whether it happens between a man and a woman or a man and a man, it doesn\’t change much of anything at all. Besides, I don\’t believe the vast majority are 100% gay OR straight either, rather that sexuality, like so much in this world is found on a continuum and most of us fall somewhere in the middle. (Look at a bell curve, that\’s all I\’m saying). At this point, I\’m sure that some of my friends will already by penning their response about how misguided I am. By all means, go ahead. There\’s also a really good chance that this post will make me sound irrevocably un-Catholic and I\’m sorry about that as well. I really love the Catholic Church and couldn\’t imagine being anything else, but over the years I have come to realize that I view religion, spirituality and the Catholic Church in a very different way than most people do.

For me, It\’s incredibly difficult for me to be very doctrinal about the Church, because in a lot of ways, Catholicism isn\’t necessarily all about belief or faith. For me, there is this unshakable human undertone about everything in the Church. It\’s just so tangible and human. The art, the incense, the bread and the wine. These are all things, real things that the Church uses to connect us to something bigger than ourselves. It\’s the tradition part of the Church that I love the most. It\’s the Church part of the Church. I can get spirituality from any  religion, but when you\’re looking for an institution, it is hard to find anything more effective than the Church. If collective effervescence is what you\’re going for in a religion, the Catholic Church has perfected the art and morphed a handful of beliefs into something so much more than merely a religion.

I kind of liken it to being Jewish. Catholic is about an identity, there are family implications involved. There is an undeniable community. It serves a social function, and it\’s a function that we desperately need as a people. We need to believe in something. We are going to believe in something whether it\’s the Catholic Church or another church or science or the fact that there isn\’t a God. For me, the Church provides a very structured and secure place to fulfill that need.

This view, as you may notice, has it\’s issues, especially when talking among Catholics. Normally, people think I am reducing the Church to very human entity and de-emphasizing the God and divinity part of it all. I\’ll be honest, I have a real struggle with faith. My personality, the very core of who I am has a real problem with believing and trusting….anyone….including myself. So, when I hear the idea that faith alone will save me I automatically know I\’m screwed. As much as I might want to believe and trust, I find it impossibly hard to do. But, as much as I struggle with the belief part, I can totally get behind the Church part, the community part.

One of my favorite moments talking about faith was with my old co-worker who is an ex-priest turned sociologist of religion. He told me that the Catholic Church was different because you didn\’t need to be educated to be Catholic. Unlike the protestant religions, you don\’t really need to know how to read or write or anything to be Catholic. In fact, the Church has this long doctrine about who is Catholic. It starts out with the confirmed and baptized Catholics. That\’s an easy one, of course they are Catholic. Oh and Protestants still believe in Jesus, so they are umbrella-d under the Catholic title. Oh and the Jews were there in the beginning and kind of started this whole thing so they have a connection. Oh and Muslims too, because there are connections there as well. And I suppose you can\’t discount the other religions of Hindu and Buddhism because, let\’s face it, besides the details, they have very similar beliefs and while we\’re at it agnostics can\’t really be blamed for their disbelief because they really are trying and it we really want to get down to it, the fact that you are human at all makes you one of God\’s children and as long as you are not a huge atheist who is actually defiant against all form of truth, beauty and love (which would be extremely rare, if not impossible considering the breadth of what beauty, truth and love can be) , there is still something that connects you to God and therefore the Church, because the whole point was for the Church to be universal.

So when I think about that, it\’s hard to be too intense about the details, especially when the details are the very thing that is breaking the Church apart in the first place. I sincerely believe that the greatest threat to the Church and God\’s message of love are the people within the Church that adhere so strictly to the rules without retaining the general moral behind it. The older I get, the more I realize I would rather be around someone who is wrong but humble than someone who is right and unyeilding. It\’s an unbecoming personality trait. I would rather choose love and happiness over being right in almost all aspects of my life. I wasn\’t always that way, but the more I get to know myself, the more I understand that my place isn\’t to argue about details that 1) I will never truly understand and 2) are unnecessarily divisive to the what it means to be a good person.

And who says we shouldn\’t pick and choose what we get from religion and spirituality. Why is that an unforgivable rule? Who made that up? I think it may be better to simply not believe in an aspect of the Church you cannot get behind then pretend to believe it and then act in hypocritical ways when push comes to shove. Why can\’t we use all the tools we\’ve been given to get closer to God, including common sense and discerning minds, which we were kind of created with in the first place. I think I should be able to incorporate Buddhist practices in my Catholic beliefs and recognize the connection between Mary and a goddess in Hinduism. There is no limit on what God does to reach us, so why should we limit ourselves to find him? If I feel connected to God reciting a yogic meditation or praying or marching for Gay rights, I have a duty and obligation to follow that connection as far as possible because in that personal passion lies a personal goal and mission that I believe we all have.

\”As he told me \’You don\’t want to go cherry-picking a religion.\’ Which is a sentiment I completely respect except for the fact that I totally disagree. I think you have every right to cherry-pick when it comes to moving your spirit and finding peace in God. I think you are free to search for any metaphor whatsoever which will take you across the worldly divide whenever you need to be transported or comforted. It\’s nothing to be embarrassed about. It\’s the history of mankind\’s search for holiness….You take whatever works from wherever you can find it, and you keep moving toward the light.\” – Elizabeth Gilbert Eat Pray Love

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