Lately… frequently… well intentioned, good people, who I deeply respect, have been reminding me it’s time to get religion back into my life… even after I’ve assured them that… while I’m no longer a churchgoer… I’ve NEVER lost my faith in God.
To be sure here… my already strong faith had grown even more so during the early years of our new millennium. At life’s fork in the road… I had experienced some eye-opening incidents, where I believe I had been an eyewitness to Divine Intervention… and… as a result… had been spared much anguish.
Yet, even after factoring all that in, I still don’t feel a need to rejoin the flock… and no getting around this… I did “stray”… so long ago… while I was still just a kid. So, just how, pray tell, does someone, so young, wind up leaving his church permanently?
Well… to answer that, I’m reposting an excerpt from my old MySpace blog. I’ve since polished / freshened it up a bit… but in essence this is what hit the www back on Monday, July 17, 2006…
I was raised a Catholic and attended mass at St. Andrew’s on a regular basis up till the age of 10 (or thereabouts). The way I remember those Sundays, church services were the venue for the frivolous and foolish to show off their just off the showroom floor, upscale, shiny muscle cars and be decked out in all their “Sunday best” finery.
While still in the parking lot… the men were almost at the point of popping open the hoods to show off their engines, while the women were squinting to scope out the (“oops… I forgot to remove) price tags from their dresses and fur coats.
What all this crass materialism had to do with Godliness… I’ll never know.
Once our congregation did settle down in the pews, it was “show time”. Of course, the mass, spoken in Latin, didn’t help matters much, either. It all sounded like gibberish to me. And… for all the good the Priest’s sermons seemed to be doing… to make better people out of the aforementioned “fashion models” and “car buffs”… well… long sigh… he needn’t even have switched over to English.
If the private lives of these shallow Halles and Hals were anything like what their public images projected, I suspect a goodly percentage of them were living out their Monday through Saturday existences doing whatever they damn well pleased. What did they have to lose when all they needed to do was “faithfully” show up each and every Sunday to receive their absolution? Of course, in turn, that’d also reconfirm their well in advance, booked reservations for that “Heavenly” Hilton in the sky.
One could practically hear the Priest huckstering into a bullhorn (while the keyboardist played the circus calliope)… “Step right up, folks… it’s God’s five-step program to eternal salvation! 1. Live a life of depravity. 2. Hop into that dark confessional. 3. Boast about your sinful exploits. 4. Receive your penance. 5. Let that little “cookie” melt in your mouth… they’re baked by Keebler elves!”
At that point the Priest (channeling the Price is Right’s Johnny Olson) would beckon “C’mon Down!” to all who were seeking “Holy” Communion…
…that being the final cue to the organist and parishioners. Within seconds, the aisle leading down to the altar had become something more akin to a catwalk. Folks… get ready for this!
If this had all taken place… oh… say… about 13 years later, the organ player would’ve really let ‘er rip and the churchgoers would’ve been whipped up into a disco frenzy… really strutting their stuff / shakin’ their booty on their way down the aisle to “salvation”.
But… by then… the hour had groweth late. Once again, Sunday services were winding down. All that was left was the benediction followed by everyone bumpin’ and grindin’ out the doors.
Out in the parking lot, one could smell the raw gasoline and burnt rubber… hear the revving of the engines and squealing, screeching tires. At the drop of the flag THEY WERE OFF!!!
Cough! Cough! Wheeze… Hack-Hack-Hack!… Excuse me folks… that was one hell of a nasty cloud of burnt rubber and unburnt petrol! Well now… long sigh… welcome back to the present.
So… did I embellish my above-mentioned boyhood experiences?
Yes… but not by much. In my defense… this cast of clownish church characters are the culprits who soured me on organized religion… and from my POV… that all puts their foul behavior in fair territory for me to field.
As I see it, it’s either my continuing to poke fun at them or my winding up in the funny farm. If I were to add anything else to my past blogged observations, it’d go like this.
I come from humble beginnings. So for me to have seen other Catholics shamelessly, collectively flaunting their elevated station in life had sent me home each Sunday feeling depressed re my impoverished life. Now… I ask…
A. Is not Mass supposed to elevate one’s spirits?
B. What respectable religion sends anyone home in an emotional, gray funk?
Additionally… my hat’s off to our current Pontiff, Pope Francis. He’s a man who’s been staying true to his own humble background. To that end / toward a new beginning, he’s been fumigating the stuffy, musty stagnancy, which permeates the Catholic Church. He finds his church’s irreverent, irrelevant, rot from the top down, gold-plated, stain-glassed imagery just as repugnant and off-putting as I do.
Folks, I am prepared to recant all the negative stuff, which I’ve said above, and promptly send this blog to the trash on the day where I find a parish where mass is held in an austere locale… oh… say… within a log cabin-like structure… perhaps even in the clearing of a dense forest during Michigan’s warmer months. Services where Golden Rule focused sermons emphasize how we can all work towards the betterment of our vast global community… roll up our sleeves and pitch in to make the dawn of each new day a bit brighter for those who are having a rough time… and… both want and need our helping hand.
I don’t believe my maker would ever plunge me into eternal damnation for leaving the Catholic Church. After all, that all knowing God would already know that the Church I had attended as a boy… had left me…
Left me utterly disillusioned.