Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Indulge me

This is still funny after 40 years.

I grew up Catholic, attended catholic school, went to church every Sunday. I don't think I was ever a very spiritual person, even as a kid. However, I used to like to read about saints - I liked the drama - and my friends and I would act out the communion ritual by cutting up a piece of bread with a bottle cap to make hosts. Once, I wrote a letter to the Virgin Mary to intercede on my behalf and ask God for a pony. I coveted my scapular, my rosary beads, my white dress shoes and my first communion dress.

Things I liked best: the pomp and circumstance, the statues, votives, the formality and solemnity. My chapel veil, folded in quarters and bobbypinned to my hair. Ashes on Ash Wednesday, getting my throat blessed, and trying to unstick the host from the roof of my mouth with my tongue. The song "Faith of Our Fathers" and writing 'J.M.J' on my papers at school.

Things I didn't like: Confession (ugh - my confession was the same every time). Kneeling, standing, sitting, kneeling, standing sitting. Mean nuns. Actually saying the rosary. Father McGee - couldn't understand a word. Fasting before communion. My Lenten vow -giving up candy - which I'd break at the first opportunity and then feel guilty about it. Wondering how many mortal sins I've committed in the last 30 years.

As an adult, I've dipped my toe into a dozen Protestant churches. Lutheran services are similar to catholic ones, except w/out the transubstantiation and the pope. I've tried them out, but I'm afraid Protestantism isn't my bag of chips for several reasons.

My impression of most preachers: used car salesmen. Except instead of cars, they're hawking God. He's great, so why the heavy-handed sales pitch? And why make me feel pressured into buying extras I don't want? I've had the distinct impression there were strings attached if I attended service, and I should hire a lawyer to read the fine print.

Full body immersion baptisms in front of an audience. No WAY.

Speaking of fine print, what's with all the biblical quotations? Why break out every sentence and build a dissertation around it - why not just read the whole damn passage? Why chop it up into little pieces, each line poured over, dissected, fondled and micro-analyzed ad nauseam?*

And horrors, they always want to point out the new visitor - which is like being Nancy at the end of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" where Donald Sutherland points to her and pod screams.

The only thing scarier was the 'speaking in tongues' business. I was told it was 'God's language." If that was God's language, God was incoherent and inebriated, and he freaked me out.

Attending a fundamentalist service for the first time? Warning: Confess you eat human flesh - no problem, you're forgiven. Inject heroine into babies? Amen sister, god loves you. Mention you're a catholic? Your entire family are idol-worshipping-heathens-doomed-to-eternal-fiery-papist-damnation-whore-of babylon-unless-you-accept-Jesus-as-your-personal-savior-before-it's-too-laaaaaatttte!!! Ouch.

I guess I'm uncomfortable with in-your-face, Bible-thumping, kumbaya worship. Give me the smell of incense and the chill of holy water any day.

*Here, I quoted several lines from the Bible (easily found with a search thru Google), so you might say I'm contradicting myself. Frankly, it's possible to cull Biblical quotes and make an argument for or against just about anything, which was my point, sort of.

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