This was so important to me I decided to blog it. It’s about something the Pope, my most favorite person in the Universe, said.
“How many times have we all heard people say ‘if that person is a Catholic, it is better to be an atheist’.”
~ Pope Francis
I’ve been running this blog for about five or six years. About a year or so ago, I stopped posting. I’ve considered sending out an explanation, but my readership is pretty small, no one was clamoring for an explanation, so I let it be.
When I read the article about what the Pope said, I decided to write a post because his comments touched on something I felt very deeply. It was as if I finally had permission to speak about something I was ashamed to know.
Separation of the Church and the State of Being:
I’m not the same person I was three years ago. I came across a recent blog post the other day and I was reminded that my faith and love for God were so profound …
“Faith that can not withstand the light of reason, is not Belief, but mere Supersition.” ~ John Donne (I think).
… and so utterly out of touch with reality.
For new readers, or readers who haven’t read this, my family experienced and lost a brutal and abusive adoption battle, complete with corruption, harassment, one assault (albeit not an injurious one) against me by a social worker, and even abusive and neglectful treatment of the children by the system. I’d relied on my faith in family, people, the justice system, my understanding of God throughout the whole process.
That turned out to be a huge mistake.
In the ruins of what used to be my life, some of the little gems of non-wisdom I’d held on to couldn’t stand up to any rational examination.
So many things I’d been taught about God and told about God and encouraged to believe turned out to be just – in my world anyway – well, bullshit. All those pleasing, palliative platitudes were as useless as the pledge of allegiance during a frontal tank assault: “God has a plan,” the frustratingly misleading “Prayer Works” and “Things always happen for a reason.” Then there’s its fraternal twin “Things always work out for the best,” and my personal favorite “God never gives you anything you can’t handle.”
There was a reason for an entire loving, healthy, safe, law-abiding family, including innocent and vulnerable children, to be traumatized and destroyed by corruption on the possible scale of Pennsylvania’s Kids for Cash scandal? God had a purpose in me feeling like my whole gut was ripped from my body with bare hands and have the people who were supposed to be helping me treat me with complete contempt? God had a plan to traumatize and scar innocent little children?
If there was a purpose, maybe I could’ve been told about it. It might have helped me all those dark days and nights for God to let me in on His Little Secret. Knowing the Grand Plan might have helped me put my body soul back together a bit sooner and a bit better, but apparently He didn’t think it was important enough to tell me about it.
God’s supposed to be loving, and I’d always heard God loved me, but none of that sounded very loving to me. In fact, it sounded pretty manipulative, if we were all permanently traumatized in the service of a whole cosmic plan that benefited someone else but left us hanging.
And if prayer worked, and people were praying for us, why wasn’t it working in our lives? Does prayer work for others but just not for us? Where does that put us in the cosmic scheme of things?
It wasn’t long before my brain took all these questions and went global. It seems none of that stuff works out for a shitload of other people, either.
Taken to their logical conclusion, these soothing little bromides must mean: there is a reason that millions of women are raped and terrorized every year, God has a plan for children who die from childhood abuse or neglect, people who suffer indignities, abuse and/or illness to the point of suicide are simply chosing not to handle it, because God wouldn’t allow it if they couldn’t really handle it. Then there were the implications over centuries of genocides (including one itsy bitsy little Holocaust) that some people might argue God, in His infinite wisdom and omnipotence, might have let go on a wee bit too long.
In this light, some of those platitudes people say every day, and I’ve heard for forty some odd years, sounded downright cruel.
I’d gone from seeing God everywhere to not seeing God anywhere.
In fact, I came to believe, maybe if I hadn’t had such profound faith in Divine Intervention, that “prayer works,” that “there is always a reason;” if I’d trusted God a little less and my instincts a little more, I’d had kept my family, those children would have kept their safe and loving home. Hell, I might not be blogging right now – I’d be outside playing with my children.
My faith in God, Divine Inspiration, Divine Intervention fell apart. The only Divinity I believed in anymore was an old Southern recipe that overpopulated 1970’s church bake sales.
Even so, far be it from me to rain on anyone else’s theological parade. I can’t lie and pretend to believe this anymore, but each person has to come to their understanding of their world in their own time, and it’s not up to me to drive the faith and belief out of anyone. Even I’m not that bitter, yet. So I kept my mouth shut. It kept the bitching and moaning about my blog in my personal life down to a minimum, so that was an added perk.
All of that said, I have always loved Pope Francis, and still do. I admire the shit out of that man. I think he’s probably more Godly than our constructs about God. So when I saw the article, I was inspired to write again. Maybe it was validation, maybe it felt like permission, but I was inspired all the same.
The Pope spoke to what I believed.
The Pope had spoken to my heart. He put the Papal Seal of Understanding on the second reason I left religion and belief behind: the failure of so many of Christianity’s self-avowed devotees to even faintly resemble what Christ taught in the New Testament.
In my old days, I walked around in a rosy cloud of thinking everyone had to be so wonderful and I was so … not wonderful, lacking somehow in some way each and every person I met was superior. Nagging, pesky little questions and doubts popped up in my brain, but I took care of them because whatever they were, they were mine, and ergo, wrong.
I knew (and tried to please) people so toxic they should’ve come with their own warning label. “Devoted” religious people who could be the meanest, most spiteful, most selfish people I’ve ever encountered. In my low self-esteem fugue state, I could be convinced by them and myself that the problem was me – not them.
So, when I started to wonder, what the fuck is up with this? Why were some of these people just so friggin’ mean? I pushed all those clearly rational thoughts back down again with a “Shush, these are Nice Anglo-Middle Class People because they dress in nice Anglo-Middle Class clothes, they have nice Anglo-Middle Class jobs and go to nice Anglo-Middle Class Church. These are the Right Kind of People.”
Eventually, riding that train of thought down the track led me straight to a derailment disaster complete with metaphorical and psychological toxic waste spill requiring the complete evacuation of everything I once believed.
The new me is a thankfully bit more skeptical.
Once I separated my unicorns-and-rainbows myth of Church People from my life experiences, I saw that the reality was less Carol Ingalls and Olivia Walton and more Bravo Real Housewives. Now, I knew some wonderful, loving, selfless, truly Godly women in the Church World. Ironically, though, these weren’t the women who sought prominence, and they didn’t wear their religion on their sleeve like a badge. Some of the most visible, prominent women showed themselves to also be the shallowest and meanest, once I got to know them. It wasn’t how it was supposed to be, it probably isn’t that way everywhere (I hope), but it was that way in the world I lived in. Given that I don’t have enough time or money to travel the globe, get a representative sample and do a full statistical analysis, I figure I have to base my new understanding on the data I have at hand.
Soooo …. I looked around with a willingness to be brutally honest, and I saw:
People who’s actions bordered on theft, who exploited the poor for financial gain (then bitched about them), touted bigotry and misogyny. There was the one who never missed a service then tried to undermine a loving marriage with lies and manipulation out of jealousy. The one who taught Sunday School then harassed and bullied family members anytime a fit of pique struck. The ones who leveraged their positions in the church to promote themselves, their personal causes, and practice nepotism. Public advocates of Christ’s teachings while turning their backs on injustice or exploitation unless it impacted their own identity group. And I was supposed to be the spiritually inferior being here?
I seemed to remember reading something discouraging all that in the Old and/or New Testaments. But what the hell did I know, right?
We’re not just talking Catholicism here. It’s no one religion’s fault. There are mean little assholes in every religion. While I know there are mean little assholes everywhere (I worked in the banking/finance industry, after all), church is supposed to be the one place working to eradicate that kind of thing, not enabling it.
If someone keeps telling you they’ve got the cure, but it sure as hell looks like they’re still sick, who in their right mind is going to think that cure works? That might be what the Pope’s talking about.
And, as before, my brain’s newfound superpowers decided to take on bigger challenges and look around in my world. I didn’t have to go too far.
The Power of Prayer to do absolutely nothing.
It was the spiritual cowardice I saw and completely resented. People wept crocodile tears and made public prayers about the poor, downtrodden, suffering people “over there” somewhere, always thousands or millions of miles away, but their response to our exploited children and destroyed family in their own community was a pat on the head, a prayer, and any combination of the aforementioned platitudes. I didn’t necessarily need a hug, although it felt nice, it didn’t put my family back together again or clear my name. I needed activism and advocacy.
I guess all the prayer and beatitudes gave people some sense of agency (and it was supposed to make me feel loved) in an overwhelming situation, but that wasn’t supposed to be the goal. It also serviced a sense of compliance and complacency that perpetuated the problem, honestly. Because, and let’s face it here, when the rubber hit the road and it was time to be counted, like Peter, they didn’t want to be caught in the crossfire of the controversy with authority.
The worst part was and still is to see almost everyone’s revulsion when faced, not with the horrible crap my family had to face and withstand, but faced just with the reality that we had to. Not everyone, but almost everyone I’d expected better from, and some people who owed us better. It was surprising to see the very few people who tried to actually help in a meaningful way. Only one would could be described as religious.
Everyone quickly become more pre-occupied with other problems. Short attention spans notwithstanding, the change in focus was, from my point of view, to causes more appealing because they were either immediately solvable (a few hours), or quite frankly, trendy, in-the-news social ills that played well to a the liberal identity, but many of which didn’t really solve anyone’s problems.
I’m not saying some individuals didn’t benefit, but these were drop-in-the-bucket feel-good gestures, some of which only had a fleeting Look-At-Wonderful-Us quality. When it came time for real action in a real situation of injustice, something that meant involvement and engagement for the long haul, in our situation … it wasn’t there.
In that light, I was disappointed. I didn’t see much of what Christ taught. I didn’t see much of what the Old Testament taught. What I saw was the same old thing I’d seen in office politics and secular community groups dressed up in a cross. The Bible might have been the platform, but it wasn’t the foundation.
Why I stopped blogging:
Truth, sometimes, is not pretty. Oh hell, often it’s downright ugly, thanks to the dank, toilet-like nature of humanity most of the time. Deep down, I’ve always known this. I knew this before I knew how to sign my name in cursive. As a young girl, I was privy to the darker side of people, and fought hard to believe it wasn’t people’s only side. In ways I won’t get into, that need ironically led me to find mostly people with mostly dark souls, if they had any souls at all.
I’ve always felt strongly about writing the truth. I don’t always mean the factual truth, although accurate representation of the facts is important – no one knows that better than I do. The rest of our culture seems to be learning that Life Lesson about six months too late. I mean the truth about life, what we know, what we should know.
In the past few years, I’ve gotten to see a side of humanity, government, existence and even religion that most people are lucky enough never to see. Every day I wish I was one of those lucky, sheltered bastards. My truth is, well, a truth that sometimes requires alternating dosages of Nexium and Red Wine. Alternating, remember I said that because that is the key component there.
There is also the real backlash to my blog in my personal life from real people in my real life. These aren’t strangers or trolls, but people I know. I’d like to think I’m ballsy and badass enough to take it, and if I had hundreds of readers out there hanging on my every word, I would. But I don’t. Some days, putting up with the obnoxious and abusive bullshit I have to confront for writing something autobiographical, all because of someone else’s imagination just isn’t worth it. (This time, however, it is.)
I can’t blame it all on them. I’d like to, but I’d by lying to myself and you.
For a while, a brief while, my life was lightness and joy and love. There were patches of unpleasantness, but I could handle them because of the abundance I’d been lucky enough to enjoy. Then the luck ran out.
It pretty much beat the life out of me for a long time. And while I’ve done a badass job of putting myself together again, it has been a DIY project, with DIY results.
Quite frankly, I’ve soured on the most of human race. It makes me wish for life on another planet with aliens. By that I mean THE Ridley Scott Aliens.
The point is, I haven’t written because I don’t believe that anyone wants to hear what I have to say. This isn’t self-pity or self-deprecation; it’s an honest assessment of our culture. Hell, half of what I need to say I don’t want to hear and wish to God I didn’t know. I’ve waged my own distraction campaign with Nordstrom (God Love Nordstrom’s!!!!) online shopping and cake decorating to choke a horse, so I’m not all that superior here.
And if I find the truth so unappealing, how can I expect anyone to want to read a blog about all of that?