I am a Christian and I don’t believe in religion.
That very sentence seems to contradict itself, however I believe that there is a God and I accept the bible to be the ultimate guide, however I see today’s religion as complicating that which is simple; a call for persons to fellowship by forming churches has turned into politics.
I love reading and before I was eighteen, I decided to find the most influential book of all time and read it. This book turned out to be the bible. I would be lying if I said I read it diligently, it took me a year and I still fall asleep through the genealogy chapters like Leviticus. In reading this book for myself – and not waiting for a Priest/Pastor to dictate it to me over my years – I became fully aware that the book could be taken out of context, chapters read in isolation could mean different things according to different agendas.
Since, I didn’t need someone to explain the bible to me, going to church then became more about fellowship. I joined church groups, I volunteered, I tried out different churches and at every corner I meet a horny unfaithful deacon, a leading family who financially supported the church and received more prayers and accolades than others, the overweight, the ever-faithful, the gossipers, the returning backsliders, the silent parishioners, the uninterested, the unruly children of the parish saints, the old, the poor and the very poor.
If someone was over-weight, I didn’t want to laugh at then when they passed, I wanted to start a fitness class. I noticed children who wore the same clothes every week, but their parents wouldn’t accept hand out because they didn’t want to be at the mercy of the gossipers. I saw flirtations outside of marriage and people with distant eyes, crying eyes and eyes of hatred. I grew tired of looking at people and seeing sorrow.
So I left, I prayed at home, I lived a fair life and was contented and always blessed.
So why am I writing a blog on the Pope, well today I am married to a Catholic. When our daughter was born he indicated that he wanted her to be baptized in the Catholic faith, I had no problem with it. There is a time for everything under the sun and many paths lead to God, my path is best for me but she would have to choose her own path and with my blood in her veins, I know that she would ask questions and choose what makes her happy when she is an adult. My only cautionary note to my husband was seeing that I was not Catholic, I expected him to take responsibility for her Catholic walk and be an example to her.
In all of our years together my husband has never really asked me to do anything directly, not even to cook but he asked me, especially at this time when our daughter is mimicking her mother, to attend church with him. The deal is if he goes, I go.
So we began our dance, I felt very uncomfortable at first, like if someone had asked me to rob a bank, to do drugs, to strip naked and walk down Main Street. I had left bricks and mortar religion, without a second thought and was comfortable with my relationship with God. However, I comforted myself by reminding myself that I believed that this was the man I would spend my life with. I prayed and God said he was the one. While other women were dealing with drunken, violent husbands, my task was only to go to Church.
I returned home with a headache every single Sunday for six months. Excluding my primary education which was in a Catholic school, I hadn’t spent much time in a Catholic Church. It seemed to quiet, monotonous even. I had heard other preachers refer to the Catholic Church as lacking that spiritual fire; they were lead by men not by the spirit. All of the scripture readings were planned and in a book which ran on a three year cycle, it means that if you are 60 and was born a Catholic, you would have gone over that book 20 times. The Catholic people I knew were also strange for Christians my neighbor who was in church every week taking communion, was having an affair with a married man. Whenever there was a project on work that required ‘manipulation of figures’ it always went to the Catholic, she laughed and said ‘don’t worry, confession and some Hail Mary’s and that will be forgiven’. I always felt that even if I had to go to church, some day, I wouldn’t be to a Catholic church. Was God testing me?
Nevertheless, my husband flourished. He became a more caring husband and is an excellent father. He joined the men’s group and grew happier, he took charge and got ready on time, he sat in the same pew and owned it, he greeted people and walked all over the church, shaking people hands when it was time to offer people a ‘sign of peace.’ I was in shock; this was defiantly not a passing phase, so I began to do what I did when I didn’t know what to do. I began to pray quietly asking God to help me understand my role and accept it. I figured out a long time ago that I shouldn’t give God a target when it came to matters of the heart and mind; I was just setting myself up for more agony if I fixated on a particular outcome. I had to just be open to what the universe had to offer.
I prayed in the shower, on my way to work, in meetings, in the grocery, all the time asking God to wash away my prejudices and conceptions so that I could enjoy my family now. I hoped to one day move back into prayer and solitude, but my family life was happening in the present and I wasn’t enjoying it. I couldn’t ask God to change my husband; that is not my right, I could only ask God to change me. I had bad church experiences and preconceived notions, it took months for me to relax. Yes, I did relax and I began having a good church experience. There are flashbacks from the past but I have meet good people, sincere people and I thank God for showing me that I shouldn’t accept a bad experience as final and just move it to one side of my mind and lock it away.
God wants us to choose the best out of our best experiences. He took my mind’s worst case scenario and turned it around. I am still not sold on religion, but I am allowing myself to be genuinely impressed by what is impressive about it.
Many Catholics and Christians heard and saw that Pope Benedict XVI resigned from a position that usually required death to come to an end. The world predicted doom and gloom; others felt he made a good decision due to his age while others are still waiting to weight in. I am sure that there may have been other Popes who were as ill and did not resign and I am confident that the church, which is an empire in itself, would not be shaken to doom anytime soon.
This is a unique time in the history of the Church, I am not even sure people realize how unique it is. The Pope said he prayed and he believed that this was the right step for the church. He broke tradition, he shocked multitudes but he is walking by faith. That is by far the most powerful thing a man of God could say, “He prayed, he understood what God wanted him to do and he moved by faith”. For this I applaud him.
Men, even men of the Pope’s stature do not follow the will of God because of fear of what people will say, of breaking traditions. In a powerfully traditional atmosphere like the Vatican, the Pope said “he is moving by faith.” This is by far the most simple, yet most powerful principle of the Christianity; it’s the overarching theme of the bible.
I smile as I write these words.
A spiritual battle was won; no longer can Catholics be accused of not moving by faith. A battle of this magnitude, almost makes me uneasy but Pope Benedict XVI has set profound precedent and I am happy to be living in such times and look forward to seeing how this story unfolds.