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Posts Tagged ‘religion’

When Enough Is Enough

November 20, 2009 6 comments

Dear Jesus,

Don’t know if you’ve been listening lately but I have been blowing up your prayer hotline recently. Not sure if my messages got through (certainly hope they did) but decided to drop a line just for my peace of mind.

I spent a good portion of my life thinking you were just one more pretentious man whose name has been used to excuse bloodshed for 2 millenia. In my defense, I was young and unhealthily angry. I know I know, no excuse but what else can I say other than I eventually grew out of it. But my time as a…I guess militant agnostic is as close to accurate as I can get, did leave its mark.

Despite being my wholly unrepentant sinful self (slight sarcasm mode here), I do try and live up to your examples. I do my best to remain humble. I do help anyone who needs it. I do follow The Golden Rule. I try not to judge. I think I hit most of the high points of your own teachings.

However when I hear of churches who collected donations for Question One in Maine asking what they though you would do? I was pissed. Then some followers outdid themselves by proclaiming they would stop caring for the homeless if gay marriage was legalized and this was held up as a good idea instead of hypocrisy. My brain broke. And I have to wonder what you actually would say if you were to walk the Earth again in the 21st century.

I disagree with many of your followers. Nor am I particularly quiet about it.

Forgive me if this really is some kind of grave sin. Not sure where you said not to think for myself, would like to think you had more common sense from that.

Maybe I’m just bitter at being ostracisized from my own church? My faith in fellow Christians? Yeah it kinda died a little when someone I had prayed with for 2 years tells me to my face that I have no business among them if I disagree with your word. Or that they would pray I would change my mind so I would be allowed into Heaven.  “Your word” being that lovely passage in Levictus that is pointed out so often.

I still have faith in you, still talk with you, still try and live my life as best I can. Maybe I just shouldn’t go to church period and fully embraced lapsed Catholicism. Then again I’m stubborn and I know that I will come to hate myself for “copping out”.

What I do know is that when I die, if I get to the Gates and Peter or you tell me that my dissent means I will not be allowed in, I’d have to say you aren’t the person I thought you were and I was disappointed our relationship was under false pretense.

Couldn’t really be that sad as I have all ready promised a friend I would share a condo with her out in the 4th Circle. Whole new spin to the term housewarming, no?

Yours,

A disappointed Catholic

P. S. I am currently hoping my little heart out that you have a sense of humour because if not, then I am thoroughly screwed.

An Open Letter to God

March 4, 2009 6 comments

Dear God,

Me and you have had a very tumultuous relationship over the years.

Growing up in that wooden church, I learned to sing your praises. I learned that you would always look out for me if I was faithful. I learned that you always had a plan, and that there was a reason for everything that happened to us. Even when I burned myself making grilled cheese for myself and my sister because no one was there to do it for us and the cereal was too high up even if I climbed onto the counter, I still believed you were watching over me.

Then I was raped. And my world was turned upside down. In that moment, I think I started to lose my faith in you. No child should ever feel that much rage or self-loathing. And I blamed you. What kind of god could let an 8 year-old go through that? So the day I spat on the cross at the altar of the church I had grown up in and said “fuck [your] plan” I meant it with every bit of my heart.

It’s funny (and in pathetic kind of way) but as many times as my relatives would tell me I was too young to lose faith in you, only one ever entertained the idea that this same logic meant I was too young to have faith in you. Maybe that’s part of why Rose and Mami were such a blessing. I spent hours talking to them about religion over the years and I slowly found myself adopting their beliefs as my own. My Nana, my devoutly Roman Catholic Nana, was the only person blood related to me who actually encouraged me forming my own ideas. I regret never telling her just how that meant to me.

At 16, I had learned some balance. I was finally starting to make friends again. I was finally starting to let the smiling mask drop. The trip to Italy, and in specific the Vatican that summer, that summer changed my life. The Sistine Chapel was impressive but it was St. Paul’s Cathedral that took my breath away. I remember kneeling as I listened to the Eucharist when out the corner of my eye I saw something amazing. On the other side of building were a man and woman, neither could have been much younger than 70, in wedding regalia. And after the call for prayer, the room was silent and for the first time I felt this was truly a sacred place. I came to realize something that day. Nothing truly uncaring could have something so heartbreakingly beautiful built in their name.

That day, for the first time since that horrible night after I had cleaned myself of blood and fluids as best I could, I cried. No sound was made but they sloped down my cheeks steadily. I opened my mouth and began something I had not done in 5 years. “Padre nuestro que estás en los cielos. Santificado sea tu nombre. Venga tu reino.” As I prayed I felt the woman sitting beside me lace her arm through mine and begin saying the Lord’s Prayer along with me. It didn’t happen overnight, but that day killed a majority of my resentment towards you.

Now here I am, little more than a month from Confirmation and I find myself increasingly hesitant. While I have come to care for each member of my congregation as members of my extended family some of the things they have said repulse me, their view of gay marriage being the most prevalent example.

How can I say that you only meant for romantic love to be between man and woman when the people I consider my parents were both women who had been together for a decade, raised a daughter, and made me who I am. When I mentioned this point, I was met with scandalized expressions. The worst point was when someone patted my hand and said although they did a great thing for me, they were still going to Hell.

I can’t pretend to agree, I respect these people far too much to do so. I also don’t want to leave because I feel like there is still good I can do there. Good I want to do.

I believe that Jesus had it right when he said “let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

I believe in affording everyone the common decency of being treated as human being should.

I believe that we all mess up and need help sometimes and that this is OK.

I believe that we all need other people in our lives. To laugh. To grieve. To simply be.

I believe that every promise we make should be as sacred as a pinky swear is to a child.

I believe that all religion and science are merely trying to find a meaning behind it all, thus the two are not mutually exclusive.

I believe that forgiving someone is hard but a worthy effort. Forgiving oneself is harder still.

I believe that music, and flowers, and the sound of a child’s laughter are all proof that there is something greater than ourselves in the world.

I believe that the family you are born into is essentially just a starting point.

I believe that sex should have meaning behind it, not necessarily marriage.

I believe that when we think we have given it our all, we should make one last push.

I believe that something as simple as a smile can brighten a day.

I believe that love is love, no matter the packaging.

So if it all the same to you, I think I’ll stick to these ideas. I know I’ll be condemned by some for them as they are “blasphemous”. As long as I’m sharing my beliefs, here’s a last one for the road.

I believe that as long as I know I have done what I know in my heart was right and stayed true to myself, that when I die and stand before you I can do so with pride as I know I lived well.

Sincerely,

Kendall

So Hard To Say Goodbye

January 11, 2009 1 comment

What follows is a speech I wrote/ad-libbed for Mass this morning to say goodbye to Father Oaks, who passed away after fighting liver cancer for four years. Only names and locations have been changed.

“There is little more difficult than letting someone into your life, caring for them, opening up. To do so seems to go against the trend of weariness and caution so many of us develop over the course of our lifetimes. And as hard as it is, saying goodbye is that much more arduous.

I remember sitting in the office before the 7:30 service this morning, trying to figure out how to honour this man who had so very much for so many of us. What could Father Cherry have been thinking when he asked me to do this? I guess he figured I would not try and hide my emotions, something anyone will tell you isn’t really a strong point of mine.

Compared to many of those gathered here this morning, I barely knew him. I first met Father Oaks in the summer of 2007 while I have spoken to some whom have known this amazing man from the time they were children back in the 70’s. I can’t touch on that knowledge but I can share with you all what I do know. The man who I have watched let the little ones braid his hair. Who gave his all to any who needed help. Who always had an open office policy with a ready ear and a warm smile waiting.

I have met few men more humble, more open, than Father Oaks. A true class act, it has been an honour and a privilege to know him. He did his best to prove that he was just a regular man and in doing so proved how much a treasure he truly was. He was a fellow fan of Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang, a country music fan going back to the days of Little Jimmy Dickens, and quite possibly the biggest fishing aficionado I have ever met.

It is impossible to list all the achievements of his 63 years on this Earth. And it is just as impossible to describe that man with one story. But I have to try my best. It was back in March of this past year and I was in Father Oak’s office as he was asking about how I enjoy my first Sunday school class. I don’t fully remember how we got onto the subject but we ended up speaking about perseverance. He knew my past and in light of that, told me something that morning that will stay with me until the day I die. ‘That faith isn’t faith until it’s all you’re holding on to.’ And coming from a man who had seen the worst of humanity as a medic in the Vietnam War, I could not really argue that.

Father Oaks was a man who stressed more than anything else a certain love for your fellow man. Who believed in giving his all in his every endeavor. But lastly, he was a man who believed that even when a situation was its darkest, all we could do was stand up, smile, and walk forward. And as I fully believe that you are home behind the pearly gates, I have a message for you.

Thank you for all you’ve done and we will do our best to try and fill the enormous shoes you left behind. You are loved and you will be missed. Know that you left us in good hands.”

Somehow I made it through without my voice cracking. Seeing the people who I spend hours with every week, who I have gotten to know through my time in the church, hug those around them when a fresh burst of tears hit them. I watched as others stood up to share their own tales. I saw our organist playing her heart out after benediction, despite the tears running without hint of shame down her cheeks. This one man had touched us all.

That, my friends, is real power.


Photo courtesy of The Bait

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The Pursuit Of Happiness

November 7, 2008 12 comments

“Many of the great achievements of the world were accomplished by tired and discouraged men who kept on working.” – Anonymous


On Tuesday, November 4, 2008 at approximately 11:00 PM EST Barack Obama was declared President-Elect and many in the nation exploded into jubilation. After months of wondering if this country, only 40 years removed from the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, would elect a biracial man as her president, it felt like we had come far. It seemed as if America was more united than she had been since that nation-changing Tuesday morning seven years ago.

I personally was on what could easily be referred to as an election high for almost the next 24 hours. Nothing could bring me down.

You’d think I’d have learned by now that fate is determined to prove I am her bitch. Yet my stubborn ass just keeps trying her. Obviously, I have a masochistic streak and enjoy learning my life lessons from the School of Hard Knocks.

Ask and ye shall receive.

I am speaking of course about California’s Proposition 8. I had been on my way home from class when I get a call from Ruth telling me the results.

My heart dropped somewhere in the vicinity of my left shoe and a great deal of the optimism I had been feeling turned into inarticulate anger. I remember having to count backwards in Spanish just so I would not let loose a stream of profanity in public.

Hearing my own congregation speak on how we should support the passing of Prop 8 actually made me leave during Mass. I could not sit there and listen to Father Oaks, someone I have come to respect and trust, say that it was not an attack on the homosexual community but a defense of marriage. Nor could I hear the rationale that marriage was always intended to be one man and one woman.

Oh really? So I’m just imagining the stories of Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon? All of whom had multiple wives and yet are touted as men we should aspire to be similar to. I despise hypocrisy so please do not waste my time using it to strengthen your argument.

Furthermore, where exactly in the Bible does it condemn same-sex marriage? I’ve looked extensively and have yet to uncover a single verse that expressly condemns a loving, monogamous relationship between two people of the same gender. In fact, look up the story of the relationship between Daniel, David, and Ruth as an example.

As for Prop 8 not being an attack on the homosexual community, that is akin to claiming Jim Crow and the Apartheid were not attacks against those of colour but merely to protect the stability of the nation. Then some have the nerve to claim that gay couples are still afforded all kinds of rights. Even some moderates say that civil unions should be enough.

Does the phrase “separate yet equal” mean anything these days?

In four states, it is expressly prohibited for lesbians and gays to adopt children and even in the states where it is allowed, there is a myriad of rules and prohibitions that make this very difficult.

Imagine that your wife has just died. You are sick with grief and the worry that your adopted child will be taken away by the state. Then have that same child die in a car crash barely two weeks from her fifteenth birthday. Now nearly a near later, you are pregnant with twins and seriously considering marrying your girlfriend. And every day, you feel ill worrying what might happen to those children should something happen to you. This is Mami’s life.

I was asked why I care so much about Prop 8 when I myself am straight. You want to get personal, fine, we’ll go personal.

Growing up, I learned fairly early in my childhood that I could not depend on my parents. My mom had too much work to do and my dad…well, he couldn’t really be bothered to care. As horrible as it sounds, I was fairly convinced that family was largely useless. I thought marriage was something only the older generation (like my great-grandparents) could make work.

You say you want to protect the children?

As far as I am concerned I was raised by Rose and Mami. They have always done whatever they could for me. They took an interest in my life and my happiness. I will never forget me calling them my family for the first time and the crying, smiling mass of limbs we were on their pool deck that night years ago. They were the only people under the age of 70 who wanted to protect me.

I was overcome with emotion when I saw that they had long thought to legally adopt me. Those papers were proof that someone somewhere wanted me as their child, something I had long doubted. I am proud to call them my moms and would have been prouder to still to have that recognized by the state.

Were it not for them, I would see marriage as a crock of shit. So how can it be that they and those like them are destroying the institution?

I don’t understand.

It’s a strange parallel when just shortly after my parents had their first birthdays, anti-miscegenation laws were rendered to be no longer in effect. These laws had been held to protect the sanctitiy of race. Now four decades later, we worry about the sanctitiy of marriage.

Daybreak, with all the innocence and clear-sight of a child, has said it best when she said, “no one can tell Auntie Imogen (who is her godmother) that she can’t get married. She should have a happily ever after too!”

Sweetheart, truer words were never spoken.

So it is that I must temper my excitement in the wake of President-Elect Obama’s win. We have come so very far in our short history.

This is true.

However, the passing of Proposition 8 also shows that we have so very far to go.

I will not give up hope though.

Los Gemelos Nuevos deserve to have their family acknowledged and supported.

Imogen and Ruth deserve to have the right to get married should they choose.

For that to happen, we must acknowledge and stand by the fact that marriage is a right, not a priveledge.

In 1967, then Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote in the decision of the Supreme Court Case Loving v. Virginia:

“The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.”

If not now, then when?

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"Will You Be My Neighbour?"

October 31, 2008 7 comments

Here’s the skinny. I’m walking home from work when I notice a man of about middle age across from a jack-o-lantern display. I would have turned away and kept walking were it not for the fact that he carried a large white sign that proclaimed DO AWAY WITH HALLOWEEN. Even better, he very very much resembled Fred Rogers.

For those of you who are new here, I love Halloween. It’s even more exciting than Christmas to me. So saying I was a tad disturbed by this would be an understatement. After the debacle with the two McCain supporters, you’d think I’d have learned my lesson by now.

You would think.

So yet again I meander up to this protester and ask him what issue he takes with this holiday.

Kendall versus the Protester. Take Two. Ohhhhh…LET’S GET READY TO RUMMMMBLE!

Me: Excuse me Sir, but what does Satan have to do with Halloween?

Mr. Rogers: It is a Pagan holiday and has no place in a Christian country.

Me: I suppose that logic makes sense were it not for two things.

Mr. Rogers: And what would those be, young man?

Me: One, this isn’t a Christian country. Two, one of the biggest holidays of the Christian calendar started off as a pagan holiday.

Mr. Rogers: Son, words change meaning all the time. Christmas is no longer a pagan holiday. I personally do not see the good in it from a spiritual or mental point of view.

Me: I think Halloween has become our one holiday where there is no better meaning. It’s just meant to be fun.

Mr. Rogers: On that we agree, however, I don’t feel comfortable with the fact there is nothing to really celebrate. It’s merely an excuse to scare the dickens out of other folks.

Me: I can respect that stance. I’ve known families who would do other things on Halloween since they didn’t agree with it. But now that I think about it, I think there is a greater lesson to Halloween.

Mr. Rogers: And what would that be Son?

Me: That no one should take themselves too seriously.

And the Mr. Rogers look-alike chuckled at that one, agreeing on this point. We ended up chatting for a few more minutes until I said I had to go.

Me: Sir, may I ask you a question?

Mr. Rogers: Go right ahead.

Me: Will you be my neighbour?

Mr. Rogers threw his head back and laughed. He looked at me with a smile and said, “I get that a lot.”

So today I learned the meaning of Halloween. Or puzzled it out I suppose would be more accurate. At least it’s better than waiting for the Great Pumpkin to rise. Poor Linus.

The moral of today’s story? Don’t take yourself so seriously. If only for this one night of the year.

And in the spirit of that lesson, I shall leave you with a rather appropriate song from my favourite movie of all time.

Happy Halloween Folks!

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Thank God For Patience

October 16, 2008 8 comments

So for those who haven’t heard, early voting started today in North Carolina. Between people eager to vote for someone they believe will deal with the economic crisis or those who just wish to avoid the sardine-style lines at the polls on November 4, there was a decently sized turnout by any count.

Here I am, wearing a polo shirt, khakis, and my work shoes, just wanting to get home and into some comfortable clothes when I see these two women wearing McCain/Palin paraphernalia. T-shirts, visors, buttons, the works. Thanks to my Nana, I am (most of the time) unfailingly polite to people older than me. So when these women ask me if I would show support for McCain, I didn’t follow my first instinct and laugh in their faces.

Me: I’m sorry ma’am but I do intend to vote for Senator Obama when I actually get to the polls.

Woman #1: Sir, all we ask is that you listen.

Me: I have no problem with that Ma’am.

Woman #2: Did you know that Obama supports abortion?

Me: No Ma’am I did not know that. I thought he just supported the right to the option.

Woman #1: They are the same thing in God’s eyes. He doesn’t care about an unborn baby’s right to live.

Me: And a child born of rape or incest, or what if the mother is not physically capable of bringing the baby to term? What then?

Woman #1: That is not the child’s fault. It should not be punished.

Woman #2: Do you support abortion Sir?

Me: The idea makes me ill Ma’am but I support a woman’s right to choose. I believe, like Senator Obama, that supporting the decision in Roe v. Wade is the only way to avoid the back-alley abortions and needless deaths stemming from that.

Woman #2: I suppose you support marriage for gays as well?

Me: Fully. I believe in the line of the Declaration of Independence that says we are all entitled to the life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I would proudly stand beside my friends as they say their vows and look forward to the day they won’t have to travel out of state to do so.

Woman #1: But God declared marriage should be between one man and one woman. How can any God fearing Christian support anything else?

Me: I don’t fear God Ma’am, any God I should fear seems petty and thus I will not put my faith in him.

Woman #1: Sir, you must see that Obama will run this country into the ground.

Me: Ma’am, you must see that we’ve been run into the ground for the last 8 years. It’s time for a change of pace.

Woman #1: You’re young though, what do you really understand about politics?

Me: If I were supporting Senator McCain and Governor Palin, you would not ask me that question so please do not subject me to double standards.

Woman #2: So are you voting for Obama because you’re black?

Me: No, prior to his dropping from the race I was supporting John Edwards. Are you voting for Senator McCain because he’s white?

At this point, they both got offended and walked off. Sometimes I have to marvel at how much patience I have.

It’s sad but I’m ready for this election to be over.

I’m tired of mudslinging and name-calling. I’m tired of listening to my mother say only a racist white person would vote for McCain and I’m tired of hearing the only reason a black person would vote for Obama is because of his skin colour. I’m tired of hearing Obama called a terrorist. I’m tired of hearing about Palin’s family (especially her daughter) in the news. I’m tired of all the pettiness and all the stupidity. I’m tired of often feeling ashamed of my country. I want to not care anymore. But I know myself well enough to know that isn’t going to happen.

I’m just tired.

Ralph Nader in 2012 anyone?

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On Catholic Guilt

October 10, 2008 2 comments

For as long as I’ve been a member of the Catholic Church, however unofficially, I have known one simple fact.

I am a horrible Catholic.

I know, I know. Not even two weeks ago I wrote about how I had come to love God. So how am I a horrible Catholic?

As much as I love attending Mass and the people here, I know I disagree with a lot of their ideas. I hear Father Oaks speak about the evils of abortion and I try and sink down into my pew.

I am a full supporter of gay marriage. I was pretty much raised by two lesbians and have been dubbed the lesbian’s equivalent of a fag hag. Throughout high school, I caught a lot of crap for not being quiet on my views about this. Oh, the joys of living in the Bible Belt. On a side note, civil unions remind me too much of what I’ve heard of the “seperate yet equal” policies.

Before I move on, I’d like to say good job to the state of Connecticut.

Premarital sex, I’m sorry but I love sex. I’m not going to deny this. I don’t sleep around but should I get married, I won’t be up there as a virgin. This is pretty much why I also think contraceptives are amazing.

Despite the fact I personally get ill thinking of abortion, I recognize that there are health reasons that make it a real option. So for that reason, I am Pro-Choice. Which has caused some rather uncomfortable debates with my friends.

Thus the phenomena I call Catholic guilt. I have had less understanding Christians tell me that I am going to Hell for my views and if that’s the case, then at least I’m prepared.

(image courtesy of atickettohell.com)

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