I got suckered into it with a promise of free dinner, I hadn’t been in a few years and wasn’t keen on the idea. Oh and I was still slightly drunk from the Browns game not more than an hour earlier.
Nothing like going to church drunk.
I stood there and watched the altar boys carry the candles down the aisle, thinking about how that used to be me. I remember how I believed everything I had heard, unquestioning and unwavering. One of them took the book up to the priest so he could read the opening prayer. I remember how he used to smile at me when I did it, such a good wholesome kid.
What am I doing here?
I could feel the guilt washing over me as the first reading began. I tried to listen, maybe even learn something from the Scriptures I used to hold so dear. It was nothing I hadn’t heard before; I just sat there trying to deny the alcohol in my system. I could not keep my head in the building; I just kept seeing flashbacks of myself in that world.
I sat through the rest of mass feeling a mixture of emotions I had not felt since the last time I was in a church. I can’t begin to describe what it feels like or how I got to this point.
The questioning started around the time I got old enough to think for myself. We had a sex education class, Fully Alive as they called it, when we were pretty young and I recall the boys on the playground talking about it. I thought about something the whole week at school until Sunday school finally came and I asked my teacher a question which dropped her jaw.
“How did Mary have Jesus if she was still a virgin?”
The teacher was kind enough to explain it to me, but unkind enough to tell my parents which resulted in some good ol fashioned Catholic discipline. I never forgot how my simple question was squashed underfoot and labeled “misguided,” it only prompted me to question more. It was the beginning of the death of my religion.
When I came home after the first year of college I told my parents that I was no longer attending church with them on Sundays. My mom cried and my dad asked me what the hell had happened to me over the course of one year that made me throw away 19 years of very serious faith. I didn’t have an answer for them then and to this day I still don’t.
My mother has still not forgiven me for that conversation. I was never able to fully justify to them why I left that faith behind, I still can’t justify it to myself. I know this doesn’t make a lot of sense; I just have to say something about it. I just find it so difficult that I still believe in their God, just not in the “they” who tell me what to believe and what not to. I don’t need someone to tell me right from wrong and I don’t need someone to hold the threat of hell over my head if I don’t agree with everything they say.
I don’t need that.
I did not, however, forsake everything I learned inside of that building; I carry some of it with me to this day. Things like the golden rule and the Beatitudes. Things like forgiveness and turning the other cheek. Things like love of our fellow man and sacrifice for the greater good. I may not live them perfectly but I try.
At least I haven’t forgotten everything I learned in the one hour intervals I spent inside of a church. Be it good or bad, it is just another facet of the complication that I am today