I was raised Catholic, and like most people my age who were raised Catholic I no longer attend church on Sundays. We’re “recovering Catholics.” That’s what so many of us call ourselves. We’re still disgusted with the Church for the way it covered up the sex abuse perpetrated against my generation and roll our eyes at the Church’s stance on things like abortion, gay marriage and women’s rights. And yet, like so many of my generation, my Catholic upbringing formed so much of who I am and was such a huge part of my young life, I find it difficult to entirely eschew that part of my identity.
When asked if we’re religious, we say, automatically, “I was raised Catholic.” Everybody knows what that means: I no longer believe the way that I once did, but being raised Catholic is like having been in ‘nam. It’s something that never leaves you, no matter how hard you try. Those memories of old men blowing incense in your face while wearing gold dresses and touching little boys on the side are hard to shake. The stained glass windows, the sound of the organ, sitting in the wooden pews, standing, kneeling. It never really goes away. It’s inside you somewhere. The sacred heart of Jesus, the Christmas play, Mary. The Eucharist. It’s all there, inside you. But not the crucifix. Because Jesus that thing is gross.
And yet – in spite of the way I feel about Vatican doctrine and the ridiculousness of single, out-of-touch old men trying to tell young women what to do with their bodies and how to make marriage work, I don’t begrudge having been raised Catholic. I learned a lot about being a Good Person from the things I heard in church, even though the priest espousing the Gospel to us was later defrocked (disrobed? stripped of his position?) for improper touch. I wanted to be a Good Person, not just because only Good People go to Heaven. I just liked the idea. The meek shall inherit the Earth. It sounded right. Somehow all this shit I’m swallowing now, it’s gonna pay off later.
I’m pretty much agnostic now (sometimes believing more strongly, other times thinking the concept of God is kind of a joke), but I value the way the idea of God has gotten me through the rough patches. And that has been the payoff. Somehow this notion that there is a giant man in the sky with long hair and a big robe who will hug you from heaven if you need it and carry you on the beach when you’ve had one too many wine coolers to walk without falling down and getting sand all up in your bikini has been very comforting to me. The image of Jesus but as God but totally as a bro (a homeboy, if you will), there’s something righteous about it, if you know what I mean.
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