Thursday, February 04, 2010

a disconnect.

Brace yourself. I'm gonna talk about religion for a second. But only for a hot second. Now, don't worry--I'm not gonna get all preachy or judgmental or anything. Good heavens, the last thing I want to do is push a reader away, scare him or her off. I just want to explore something that's been on my mind lately. And, heck--maybe you can help. In fact, I hope you can. So I hope you'll stick with me on this one.

Religion is a touchy subject. It has been for me for a reeeeeally long time, as a matter of fact. I grew up surrounded by some people who said things that made me feel bad about myself, made me feel like I was doing the wrong things, thinking the wrong things, believing the wrong things. That I wasn't a good Christian.

I'm not only a Christian, I'm a Catholic. That adds another level to my situation.

My mom's mental illness manifested itself in some pretty scary and disregulated ways, which resulted in my first experiences with Catholicism and All Things God and Jesus being not so good. In fact, they were awful. And I had other people in my life who weren't Catholic, but were Christian (some born-again {whatever that meant}, some non-denominational), who spoke in a language I didn't understand and talked about Jesus all the time. In every sentence. And it pushed me away. It all did. I folded up into myself and hid, batting away anything and anyone that tried to bring Jesus, religion, or Christianity into any equation or experience. I couldn't handle it. It was trauma. It was all trauma-related. It was my Vietnam.

Fast forward to now, and I have come to a place in my Catholic faith that I'm really comfortable with. I love Mass. It's so beautiful to me. The sacraments? Awesome. I love God like he's my best friend. You may recall my award-winning post in which I express my desire to have a beer with the big G. And Jesus? Dude, if I could be more like any human that ever lived, it'd totally be him. I mean, he was, like, it. But I don't agree with everything the Catholic Church teaches. And so, some may say that completely disqualifies me from actually being Catholic. I disagree. Until God looks me in the eyes and says, "You know, Laur', you were a really sucky Catholic," I'm not going to worry too much about it. The truth is, I'm just trying to find my way through this thing called life as best I can. I mean, aren't we all?

With that being said, I've been trying to find some other Catholics out there--specifically, young adults who are modern, hip, living in this world like the rest of us--who are, well, on that same journey. Who will help me feel like I'm doing okay with it all. Validation. Yes, that's it. From other Catholics. I've found a couple of cool blogs for Catholics, but when I go online and stumble upon blogs written by Christians, I feel a bit alienated. Because although I'm a Christian, I'm a Catholic, and that separates me from other non-Catholics. Because we actually do believe some different things. And so when I'm on these Christian blogs, I feel like there's virtually no Catholic representation at all. And I feel like I can't relate to non-Catholics sometimes because 1) I don't always get some of the language/vernacular they use, or what I've experienced as a constant reference to themselves as Christians (i.e. "As a Christian, I've decided to....", "As a Christian, I feel this about xyz....", "As a Christian, I shop at...", etc.) and 2) we really do believe some very fundamentally different things, which makes me feel like we don't really share a faith.

I mean, I read a blog post once where the writer asked if Christians should smoke. I was like, What? And while I really like this blog and the way the writer writes, I sometimes feel alienated, because it feels like it's all about what people do as Christians. And it makes me feel like the human side is negated. It feels like they're saying they're Christians first, and every single thought and action revolves around that, and it seems like it's obsessed upon, and it brings back my trauma from earlier in my life. And it makes me very, very uncomfortable. Maybe I'm generalizing, or even judging (that's not my goal! I promise!). I just don't experience of lot of Catholics who talk in that way, nor have I experienced it much in the blogosphere (with the exception of Catholic Chicks). Maybe that makes me a bad Christian, or not really even a Christian. Or, and this would suck, a bad Catholic. Or maybe I just need to talk to more people. Open myself up more for the possibility of not having a disconnect.

Does that make sense? I feel like I'm rambling and being completely inarticulate.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, why does that disconnect exist? Or is it just me? Am I the alien? Do the non-Catholics want us to stay away? I have no idea. But I'm noticing it. And it makes me sad. I mean, I don't like to categorize people as Catholic and non-Catholic, but there are fundamental things that non-Catholics probably won't ever understand or relate to. And so that creates a bit of a separation. At least for me it does.

I just want to yell from my blog sometimes, "Where my Catholics at?!" Or does anyone even care? Am I too liberal? Am I not Catholic enough? Am I a lazy Christian? Am I alienating? Does it even matter? I'm proud to be Catholic, and I want people to see that Catholics can be cool and modern and hip and not push people away or make them feel alienated or judged. Maybe I'm failing miserably at that, but I really hope I'm not. Gosh, I'm probably waaaay overthinking this crap, aren't I?

Ugh. My head. Anybody got any help for me?

with love from Pittsburgh,
Laura

12 lovely bits o' feedback.:

Duel Living said...

I was baptized Catholic, and made my first communion...but I never really felt like religion was something that fit into my life. I was friends in high school with a girl who's mother was a born again...and she scared the shit outta me. She was an exorcist...literally! That was a turning point in my life when I shunned anything religion based...because of fear, the unknown...the darker side of faith. I consider myself Agnostic...I just don't know if there is a God. I don't like it when people try to indoctrinate me, preach from upon a pedestal, judge without basis. So I guess, what I am getting at...is I am not really in on the whole Catholic/Christian separation. But I feel that separation from anyone who is profoundly religious...and can't except that I am not. I believe my heart is good, my personality geniune, my morals intact...and isn't that all that really matters? If there is a God...isn't he the only one who can judge us all in the end?
I say...be what you want...believe what you will. As long as we get along...everything is kosher.
P.S. I admire the way you share your relationship to God as something more current, hip, and understandable for those not ready for the Amens and the knee bending.
****Sorry for the long shpeel***
xoxox,
Brandi

your friend laura said...

brandi,

no apologies needed, my love. i'm glad you shared what you did. and i think i can understand a bit where you're coming from. in a way, i feel like my traumatic experience with all things religious might actually be a blessing in disguise, because i ultimately want to be an example of an approachable lover of God. that whole preaching from a pedastal thing you mention? totally turns me off, too. i just can't believe that God's all "fire and brimstone" and that his followers are the same way. it just don't sit well in my heart.

so. i'ma try to be a reacher-outer, a connect-er, someone who lives her faith in a way that just reeks of kindness and love. yeah, i'm human. i'm gonna screw up--a lot--but i'm gonna try to make it right when i do.

it's my hope that people who read my blog won't be put off, won't run for the hills, won't feel like i'm preachin' from a place of judgement or whatever.

love. that's what i want to spread. i hope you feel it. i'm glad you're here. truly. i love your responses, i love your openness in your comments, and i hope you keep coming back daily.

big hug,
laura

Your Friend Brandi :) said...

My friend Laura....of course I will keep coming back daily. Your relationship with God...for me, is like a friends relationship with their parent...beautiful, protected, educational, loving. I've said that religion scares me...but maybe it's just organized religion. I don't want to be scared into believing in God...that just seems wrong. But when I read what you write, that simple relationship that fills you with such joy...it brings me a little closer to something that I guess is faith. I can't admit what there is...I can't name it to myself...but there is something, energy, power, and it's good.
You aren't turning me off from you blog...but I can't speak for someone else. So cheers and keep it up. You are a beautiful writer.
xoxox,
Brandi

Eileen, Founder, Organizer, Mayor and Chief Cook And Bottle Washer of the Anger Management Girls. said...

I went to Catholic Schools for 18 years. Yes, 18. Grade School, High School, College, Graduate School.
I have more Catholic education than most nuns for cryin' out loud.
Having said that, here's my two cents.
First, I think Catholics are the last remaining group that it is socially accepted to discriminated against. You can make fun of Catholics and people somehow think that is ok. No Cathlics need apply to political correctness.
Second, I have nothing in common with most Christians. They actually read the Bible! (Joke, because most catholics weren't raised reading bible)
But, seriously esp. the moral right wing Christians. They scare the heck out of me. I think they are neither moral, or right.
My faith is always with me. Even though I may not act it most times. I swear like a trouper, but know if I am going to hell, it's certainly not because I said shit on a regular basis or ate meat on Friday during lent.
I may not agree with everything the Catholic church stands for, but as a whole, I agree with much more than I disagree with. And I think it's ok that people don't agree with every single thing.
Just like husbands, you love them most of the time, but certain things just drive you nuts.
For my 50th birthday by childhood friend and I went to see the Pope in Rome.
There I was sitting on the alter with the Pope with my mother's rosary beads in my hand. It was one of the most emotional moments of my life.
Lastly, just like family, I can bad mouth all I want about crazy caatholics----just don't let me hear anyone else do it. I will protect it fiercly.
(Sorry for the horrible English, I must have been absent the day the nuns were teaching grammar)
Good post. Really made me think.

Akirah said...

Mmmm. I kinda understand what you're saying and I'm not a big fan of the disconnect either. I went to a Christian school and many times there was an attitude that Catholic didn't actually mean Christian. Like, Catholics aren't real Christians? I dunno.

And I'm not sure what I'm typing is making much sense either. It'd prob be better for us to email or talk to each other rather than blog comment. I think it's a really interesting topic you bring up.

Your New Best Friend. said...

Dear Friend Laura,
I've just recently started reading your blog....and I admit, I LOVE YOU!!! And I'm a full-blown, born-again<---yes, I said it--- Christian. :)
Here's the thing, Martin Luther separated the protestants back in the day and I think what's happened is the protestants have taken the title of "christian" when there are plenty of catholics out there that love Jesus, thereby making them Christians. So the labels matter as much as the sizing at Target. Sometimes I'm a medium, and dang-it, sometimes I'm an XL. Don't worry about the labels dear girl.

May I humbly, as your new best friend, suggest you actually read your bible? St. Francis of Assisi (one of my personal faves), Martin Luther, and all the great ones, had life changing, foot stomping revelations AFTER they started reading their bibles. Just sayin'.

Any time you want to chat about it, or anything, look me up. :)

Eileen, Founder, Organizer, Mayor and Chief Cook And Bottle Washer of the Anger Management Girls. said...

Well HAPPY BIRTHDAY you sweet thing!!!!!
Enjoy being snowed in during Birthday-Rama!!(The week before and after your actual birthday, making it acceptable to celebrate for two weeks)

laureen said...

hey girlie, so fun seeing this post today after our lovely cuppa and talking. much thinking there for me. keep writing, it's cathartic. i know. and i keep listening eyes on you. xo

Becca Rae said...

Hello my dear. Ok, as a "born-again" Christian, I have a slightly different take, yet I can relate to so much of what you said, and a lot of what the other commentators have said too. Regardless of what any one says, or how hard we try, everyone has some sort of prejudice in them, some sort of judgments they've made towards others and people of other religions, or those who profess no religion, those of other cultures, skin colors, backgrounds, etc. Because we're HUMAN we will all unfortunately hurt other people at times, we will fall into "religiosity" or judgmental-ism (if that's a word) especially if we have been brought up in families, schools, churches, or other institutions that spend a great deal of time focusing on religion. Just as a person who has been or is being abused learns to fear, feel guilty, and has incorrect thinking deeply ingrained in their subconscious - religion brings a lot of guilt, condemnation, rules, regulation and legalism which when focused upon, causes a person, myself definitely included, to push other people away and make them feel condemned as well. I know this sounds crazy to many people, but I, as a born-again Christian, despise religion. I am NOT saying I despise churches, temples, etc, the beautiful architecture, the reverence toward God that people can have when practicing any particular religion, nor am I judging a person's heart because they are "religious". However, as for me and my experiences, a lot of my own mental health battle has been caused due to my own "religiousness" and it causes me a lot of pain, confusion, and at times, deep despair. When I try to earn God's favor, or do right by his standards, I fall flat on my face every single time-because it is and always will be impossible to measure up to perfection. Like someone else just mentioned, the extremist right wing conservatives, especially if they profess to be Christians, can be so judgmental and hateful they are totally in contradiction of the Gospel of Jesus Christ – that Jesus came to the world to SAVE it, not to condemn it, or judge, or make us feel so awful about ourselves that we feel totally unlovable. I am finally beginning to realize that religion does damage, it separates people from one another, it is man’s attempt to earn the favor of the creator of the Universe, and that is and always will be impossible. For me, I have accepted that I will always fall short and no human, except one, has ever measured up. That one was Jesus Christ, the “God-Man”. But as the Bible says and what I strongly believe, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:17 (the often forgotten verse in the Bible right after the one most Christians know so well - For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.)

Catholic or non-Catholic, if you have accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior, you have been “born-again” – unfortunately the “born-again” mentality that it sounds like you’ve encountered is just more legalistic, religious nonsense. “Born-again” does not mean a crazy, judgmental, extremist group of people – people that are acting that way are, as most of us are, trying to earn God’s favor which is and always will be impossible. The phrase “born-again” means your spirit has been born again, of God, not by our own means but by a free gift from an ever merciful and loving God. There is NO condemnation in Christ Jesus. That’s what I’m standing on…otherwise I will end up back in the nut house again someday.

your friend laura said...

you guys are awesome. seriously. all of you. i can't tell you how much your comments mean to me! i admit, i was a bit freaked out at first to write this post, but i'm glad i did. i think it opens up some important lines of communcation and discussion. sure, i might get a troll who leaves a nasty comment, but your words make up for that stuff, so thank you in advance (if necessary!).

seriously, though. i think this is good. look at us all talkin' and expressin'! sure, we may not all agree on everything, but we're just explaining where we're coming from, and i think that's great.

big hug,
laura
p.s. dude, do you think jesus would read my blog? just wonderin'...

Jo said...

I'm new to your blog and am so grateful to have stumbled onto this post!
My dad was Baptist. My mom is Catholic. I was raised in the Baptist church, even though I was baptized Catholic.
Flash forward to now, when the only churches I feel truly comfortable in are Catholic churches, which I am only in for weddings or to check out the beautiful architecture.
I have considered converting fully to Catholicism. The only thing is, and allow me to really throw a wrench into this, I am pro-choice. I think that pretty much excludes me from becoming a practicing Catholic.
Oh the confusion!!

I'll be checking back in with you. Love your blog. Love your honesty.

Michelle said...

I know exactly what you mean here -I went to college in the deep South and several times I was told that as a Catholic, I was not Christian. What? I am also amazed at the disparity between "christian" and "catholic" ways of speaking/referencing things. My two best friends are born-again chrisitans, and while I love them with all of my heart, I just do not get that aspect of their lives. To me, constantly referencing being a christian or doing something the "christian" way seems pompous or even phony. Just be a good person.