Sometimes, when my family is all together, it makes me feel very, very lonely in a way that can only be cured by being alone. Maybe it makes sense. When I’m alone, I have in my heart the best things about the people I love. When I’m face to face with them, I have to deal with them in their messy personhood.
Except that, for instance, hanging out with the Professor or with the knitting group doesn’t make me feel lonely.
So, I don’t know.
I was, actually, glad to go to church. Not in a way that’s going to cause me to give up my imaginary friends and return to the mono-imaginary-friend fold, but glad in a way because I could see how it fucked us up. And I’m not saying that being Christian inherently has to fuck a person up or anything. I’m just saying that the intersection between Methodisim, the ministry, and my family was the corner of fucked up and FUUUHHHCKED-UP.
All these songs that the cantata sang were of the, as I said, “Jesus/God is my needy, insecure boyfriend” variety and I was sitting there listening to all these songs that are supposed to illustrate how much the singers love their god, and in which ways, and all of them were about how their god is alone and the only thing they need and how they want to be humbled by their god if the thought of them ever being able to make it without Him should even enter their heads.
And, on the one hand, I get that there is a limited vocabulary to try to describe some fundamental mystic truths. And that, for someone who has had a mystical experience in which she came to understand that, for instance, god is the eager groom and the church is the bride, “groom” and “bride” aren’t prescriptive words so much as words that kind of resonate in the same way the Truth resonated in that mystic moment.
And I have no problem with that. Like I said, all we have are limited vocabularies for mystic truths. Woo woo shit is woo woo shit for a reason.
But not every church service is going to be a mystical experience and, even if it is, not everyone is going to be having a mystical experience.
And so it turns out that I did sit there and listen to that music and kind of feel enlightened. Not in some holy way, but in the “Oh my god, this is what the people in my pew (my family) thinks love is.” That it is a kind of abject surrender to a capricious asshole who needs his ego stroked constantly.
And to have that reaffirmed day after day as you work for that dude and with others who behave so poorly and also claim to be working as extensions of the will of said dude?
I think that can only fuck folks up.
Maybe not “folks.”
I think it clearly fucked us up.
And, because it’s religion and my dad’s job, we can’t ever talk about it as a family. It’s too close to the bone, in a couple of spots.
This was the first time I noticed my dad giving the Butcher shit about not being married and about how no one would marry him if he didn’t have a good job.
And I thought, seeing it from the outside, how grossly unfair it is to tell someone for the first 18 years of his life that he is not like other people only to turn around and express such unmitigated anxiety towards him for not being like other people.
Fuck it, this is depressing me.
The thing I keep reminding myself is that knowledge isn’t happiness. Even if we could enumerate all the ways we’re fucked and why, it wouldn’t make us un-fucked.
Anyway, the Butcher is doing a shitty thing today. I will maybe tell you about it later, but please keep him in your thoughts. (Ha, though, in my efforts to creep in the polytheism, I sent him off with the same sentiments Frigg sent Odin off to fight Vafþrúðnir–drive safe, be safe while you’re there, come home safely.)
i empathize with this entire post, from the first paragraph to the realizations of how much church f*ked me and other people in my life up (even going to churches for weddings these days CRREEEEEEPS me out), to the knowing how your f*ked doesn’t make you less f*ked, and in fact sometimes makes it much worse.
so thank you for sharing, but no, knowing you’re not alone doesn’t make it any better either, does it?
I made my annual trek into church to please my father on Easter. It will take a year to recover from the hate and fear-mongering.
I”m with you all on this one, ladies. B., I had much the same experience growing up as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The older I got, the more every day in the Kingdom Hall was like the experience you describe. I learned all about this omnipotent, omniscient Creator who created us as ‘perfect’ beings (in His image) who were apparently tragically prone to violating his most puzzlingly arbitrary and capricious rules, then proceeded to put us all to the cosmic test by giving us a ‘short, nasty, and brutish’ existence that is just a frustrating glimpse of the glory that we could be. And the people He sends to disseminate His word? Usually some of the most flawed, sadistic, and fucked-up beings ever to be shoe-horned into His image. What’s worse, He sent His son down among us to get spit on, tortured, and murdered so that– what exactly, again? What The Fuck?
Don’t get me wrong: I was never schtupped by a priest or anything, but that upbringing seriously fucked with my head. I look at the adults who grew up in it like I did, and the ones who joined the sect later in life, and I marvel at how so many of them can seem so happy and content in it. I think ‘is it me?’ What I’d sometimes to wipe that shit out of my soul in exchange for some ordinary human decency and properly functioning ambition.
Whatever. I guess getting older and having kids is supposed to drive us back into the arms of faith, but I’m just getting more skeptical by the day. My major concern (other than the teensy nagging existential terror crammed into a nook in the closet of my psyche) is that I’ll have so little that’s constructive to offer my daughter in this vein that she’ll be ripe for exploitation by one of these crushingly misogynistic medievalist sects.
Sam, I hear you. For me, so much of my aesthetic history is bound up in the church–I learned to sing there, I learned about music there, I learned about literature and poetry and textual interperetation. Things that still bring me great pleasure.
And I know it’s just a failure of imagination on my part, but I worry about how I would pass on that marvelous sense of wonder, of being a small part of something glorious and beyond my understanding.
That’s the hard part, for me. I feel, sometimes, like I’m in exile from a place that I don’t like very much, but where all my family and memories were formed.
Aw crap. Thanks for something new to worry about happening to my kids Sam.
Sorry, W; I woke up on the wrong side of the bunk this morning. It happens a lot at the firehouse.
On the bright side, I’ve been working on a paper about the liberal relationship to religion and faith, and I’ve found much that’s encouraging. For example, Helen Ellerbe has a book wherein she contends that orthodox Christianity has spent two millennia driving people away from the spiritual aspects of human existence. That has not only led to well-documented, gross abuses of humanity and nature under the auspices of organized religion, but it arguably spawned a secular world view that has a tendency to lean toward the nihilistic and cynical. I’m generalizing and simplifying, of course, but I hope you get the idea.
The bright side: those spiritual aspects* are still there, and we are still aware of our need to connect with them. I’m hoping that my wife and I can adapt our approach to Santa Claus (and other mythical childhood figures) to our daughter’s spiritual education. That is, we will try to teach her about the belief systems available to her, and make sure she understands the often mythical and imprecise nature of those belief systems. But she must also understand the purpose behind the myths and doctrines, and hopefully somewhere along the line she’ll find a spiritual path that best suits her life.
*Define them however you will.
Having been raised Catholic and having left that religion, I struggle with these questions particularly as they relate to my teenaged daughter. I’ve come down to this: what I’ve claimed as “our church” does not discriminate against anyone. It does not preach hate or fear of others. It does not claim any ultimate truth.
What it is, instead, (and remarkably it is a very typical Protestant denomination) is just a community of people joined by their desire to be better human beings. I believe that it’s good for us all to engage in that project. I approach church ad I do government: by the people, of the people, for the people. Participating in that project is good, no matter what its formal structure.