Church Pews

We joke about “home churching” our kids when friends ask us about our religious beliefs. “Home churching is a lot like home schooling,” we explain. “Except that diagramming sentences takes a back seat to God.”

But a quick conversation with my BFF this morning made me think a great deal about why this truly has become our modus operandi.

I was born with Catholicism coursing through my veins. I attended Catholic school for eight years. I wore the plaid, pleated skirt (with my athletic shorts underneath for those high-intensity kickball and dodge ball games), genuflected when appropriate, confessed (most of) my sins to my beloved priest, learned the Ten Commandments under the watchful eye of Sister Helen Therese. I am Catholic. I will always be Catholic. It is part of who I am — just as much as my blue eyes come from my wayward father and my sense of humor comes from my witty and sarcastic mother.

For all eternity, I will be grateful for my Catholic upbringing. I cling to the traditions and teachings of my youth more than I willingly admit. Do I believe everything the Catholic church teaches? Not by a long shot. But I believe in the beauty, the wonder, the tradition, the mystique of Catholicism. Always have. Always will.

Chris was raised in the Methodist church. He won’t admit to it now, but as a teenager, he did the Methodist church tour as part of a singing duo known as “Christian and Quick.” (And he’ll KILL me for posting that.) I reveal that detail, however, to illuminate the fact that he was not just a Sunday morning Methodist. He was a METHODIST. His belief system was as integral a part of of his youth as mine was.

And therein lies the rub.

When we first began talking about marriage, religion continued to rear its ugly head. As a good Catholic girl, I swore I would never raise my kids anywhere but in the arms of those who had received all the same sacraments I had. As a staunch Methodist boy, he was unwilling to comply.

And that, my friends, was nearly the beginning of the end.

So, what did I do? I prayed. I said the Rosary. I communed with the Holy Spirit, I drank a lot. I asked God for guidance.

And His answer surprised me.

Because I found myself releasing my vise grip on the beliefs taught to me via my beloved organized religion. I didn’t release my grip on my own beliefs — just on some of the teachings that never really settled well with me to begin with.

And that was the beginning of a long journey of religious reflection.

In college, I studied Catholicism, Judaism, Buddhism, Lutheranism… If it was organized and had a name, I couldn’t get enough of it. I read the Bible — both as an instrument of faith and as a work of literature.

My own religion, in turn, became more internalized, more private, more reverent.

But my God never changed.

I went to Methodist churches, Lutheran churches, Episcopalian churches.

And my God never changed.

My realization wasn’t earth-shattering, but it was a personal awakening. I believe in God. Not the Catholic God. Not Buddha. Not Jehovah. But God. My God. In all His many forms.

Do I believe that my God is the only God? Well, I believe that there is just one God. But who am I to say that He doesn’t manifest himself in different ways to different people across the earth? Perhaps the Native Americans saw Him as the wind and the rain. And perhaps that windy, rainy God was the same God that I rely on every day of my life.

My big personal awakening was that I don’t believe in a religion. I believe in God. I believe in a moral compass that guides my life and the lives of my children. (Well, all my children except for George. We’ll still working on that one.) God — to me — does not equal religion. God is goodness, kindness, acceptance, love. He is the Golden Rule.

My belief system may not be right. But I did not come by it lightly. I will never take it for granted, and I would never force it onto someone else.

I would much rather live my life, my faith, my beliefs by my actions than by my words. Will I fuck it up? Most certainly. That’s part of being human. (So is my inclination toward profanity.)

The funny thing about me is that I love to go to church. A traditional Mass thrills me to no end. I love to see how other people celebrate their own individual beliefs. I must admit I’m not a big fan of the big screen TV churches. I prefer the quaint quiet of a musty chapel and an intricately carved crucifix. But I would never begrudge anyone the joy of worshipping where they are most comforted, where they are most secure.

It’s just that for me, that some place tends to be with my kids and my husband and the other people I hold most dear. Sometimes it’s in our home, sometimes it’s riding our bikes, sometimes it’s camping in the woods, sometimes it’s playing Scrabble in Brown County. My sanctuary — and where I feel closest to my God — is when the “religion” part of my religion is not first and foremost.

I understand that blogging about God is like opening a Pandora’s Box. I might as well say that my political beliefs lean toward socialism and that I have sex with goats. (That got you thinking, didn’t it? You’re wondering which — if either — of those statements is true, aren’t you?)

So, I feel I must state that I DON’T believe my beliefs are the right way, the only way, the chosen way. I love good, honest, sincere people — black, white, green, Asian, Jewish, bipolar, fat, skinny. It just doesn’t matter.

What matters is a kind, caring, generous heart. What matters is that we’re all taking this journey together. We’re each carving our own path, but those paths — when you look closely at them — really aren’t so different after all.

I’ll never force you to take my path, but you’re always welcome to join me. And if you need me to walk with you for awhile, I’m happy to meander your way.

That, to me, is what God is all about.

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14 Responses

  1. You are like my secret idol, whenever I come from school I always check my inbox to see if you have a new post. The way you think makes me realize that… There still are people who think better not just for them selves but for the community. I love every single of your posts and keep on writing whether it’s about your son or husband or just some person you don’t know because honestly you make me inspired by the way you think. And probably I’m not the only one!

  2. “Do I believe that my God is the only God? Well, I believe that there is just one God. But who am I to say that He doesn’t manifest himself in different ways to different people across the earth?”
    You spoke and said just what my husband and I were talking about this weekend – “organized religion” forcing their beliefs on each of us, without taking into consideration persons of a different belief. I love the thought that God comes to each of us, as we need him to …. Him knowing what is in our heart and mind. God is bigger than any of us can imagine, and reaches out to each of us in a way that only we can fathom! May we all continue to grow in our walk with God!

  3. It’s enough to have faith, beliefs, morals. I don’t believe I have to go to a specific building every week and profess all of those things. God knows what I believe and that I’m a good person. However, I will be sending my kids to religious ed. Why? They need a basis and starting point for their faith, beliefs, and morals as well. 🙂 Nice post.

  4. Well stated … As a Catholic I cherish my upbringing in The Church, it laid an excellent foundation. I’m just glad I didn’t know what was going on in some corners of the Philadelphia Archdiocese, if you catch my drift.

    My problem was never with the faith; it was with The Church. I never understood the intransigence, impracticality, or the way it worshiped and collected wealth.

    But I tried in earnest to go back about 8 years ago, and then the child abuse scandal broke wide open once again, only bigger this time. And I lost all trust.

    I’m a Christain that holds no illusion that Christianity is the only way to give the one God his due reverence. Be it Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Episcopalian …

    Someday I’ll tackle all of that in my own words. Hopefully as well as you did here.

  5. I’m coming upon your blog post 4 years after you wrote it, but it was such a comfort to me to read it. I, too, was raised Catholic and my husband, too, was raised Methodist. I just don’t feel the connection to the Catholic church I once did, though. I often disagree with their teachings and I find going to church to be upsetting and alienating rather than a spiritual boost. I love the idea of home churching and finding other ways to worship God that are meaningful for our family.

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