A MinD in MoTown

Talk about hyperbolic.

If someone were to you ask what two of the most “insidious and dangerous” threats to society and the world today were, what would you answer?

Terrorism, homicide (in general), global warming (maybe not the insidious part…), AIDS (not sure about insidious here either), etc. Far from that lengthy list for so many of us would be gay marriage and abortion. However, Pope Benedict XVI seems to think otherwise*.

Reading about actions like this one from the sole person leading the faith that I grew up with make it that much more difficult to ever consider returning to my Catholic roots. As someone who very strongly believes in a woman’s right to choose and regularly advocates for same-sex marriage, how can I possibly rejoin a church that so openly dismisses both as two of the most major “threats” without consideration of every other danger that plagues our society?

Not only do I find these claims by the Pope completely ridiculous, but misplaced as well. Our world is burdened by things far worse than abortion and gay marriage. So many people regularly face hunger, poverty, sickness and immense, actual threats to life and happiness such as war, terrorism and bigotry. Yet the Catholic church, with the Pope at its helm, wastes its time on gay marriage and abortion? Perhaps this simply puts a wider rift between myself and the only faith I’ve ever truly known.

For years now Catholic officials have questioned why so many young people are turning away from the church and becoming atheist, agnostic or joining other religions. Maybe, just maybe, statements such as this one from the Pope have something to do with it.

* If you check out the article, what I continue on to say might make a bit more sense. It also helps slightly that you know I have quite an estranged relationship with Catholicism.

The divide only widens.

Warning: This post is a little, hm, heavy (that’s about the best word I had to describe it) and probably more personal than most I’ve written. Read if you wish. Skip if you wish. I just had to get it out of me…

For many, the Easter holiday marks a celebration of Jesus’ life and death. And living in the “Bible belt,” it’s obvious that this time of years carries much significance for Christians as they spend the entire week at various church services, solemnly observing their faith and the beliefs they grew up with. Prayer and family become particularly focal as they recall the sacrifices Jesus made.

And while I’m more than aware of these principles and might even take some brief period of time to recognize them, this Easter holds a certain weight that no other before it ever has.

This marks ten years since I last voluntarily stepped foot into a Catholic mass. Yep, one decade.

I was 13 years old and in eighth grade. That’s a pretty damn young age to feel as though your religious values are crumbling, but I was an intelligent child and began to see the church in a different light than I ever had beforehand. And despite my mother and grandmother’s absolute best efforts, I’ve never been able to regain that same sense of urgency I had during those formative years to attend a service even though I spent much of my childhood in those wooden pews for two hours, or more, each week.

I could sit here and speculate the plethora of reasons I turned my back on “keep holy the Sabbath,” but recalling what went through my mind ten years ago is almost as likely for me as completing a Rubik’s Cube in less than three minutes. Do I remember questioning my time spent reciting prayers with nearly 100 other followers? Sure. I also recount the moments where my particular church seemed to place more importance on money than its loyal believers. And while I’m more than certain all of these memories played a vital role in my disconnect, it baffles me even now to see how I could have pieced those together as a young teen and decided to skip Sunday masses forevermore.

My belief system remains very shaky. I see myself most often as a typical 20-something who cannot help but doubt the majority of standards other Catholics hold so dear. But I’ve never stopped believing – not knowing because truly, how can we ever undoubtedly “know”? – in a power higher than myself. I haven’t once thought that what I do on this earth doesn’t play at least some greater role than even I’m aware of. Yet those two ideals are about as far as my system of faith goes. I can’t just pick up today and be the Catholic girl I was a decade ago. My logic and personal sense of reason and judgement prevent that from ever happening.

And perhaps all of this is the reasoning behind my aggravation when others attempt to push their faith on me – which happens far too often living in the south – or my annoyance when I hear others discussing their beliefs and the importance God holds for them. Then again, maybe not. All I do know, however, is I get this strange, distant attitude toward people when I hear they are “deeply devout,” and it simply could be because I know I will never, ever be like them because of my own personal experiences and reformed relationship with Catholicism.

It was yesterday when I realized that ten years has passed since my eagerness to attend mass waned, and it’s plagued my mind a bit. I love the person I am, anti-ish church standards included, but it remains somewhat bothersome that I cannot fathom the individual I was when my religion actually mattered. And it’s a little sad that Easter means bunnies and candy rather than personal reflection and prayer. Yet maybe there’s some comfort in knowing I cannot be the only one in this world who feels that disconnect. But I wonder if only myself realized it and separated from that world at such a young age.

Ten years. Damn. I cannot believe it’s been ten fucking years. That’s a long ass time to be left fairly faithless.

I’m a textaholic and I’m not afraid to admit it.

“No meat on Fridays” is a norm for anyone who practices or even simply grew up with the Catholic faith. But I’m thinking the church is taking Lenten sacrifices to the extreme with this one: “Catholics are urged to give up texting for Lent” via the AP.

That’s right folks, the bishops and cardinals over in Italy are trying to persuade Catholics into a weekly “no SMS day” so people can refocus on the church, life without technology and apparently some conflicts in the Congo. They want followers to forego modern appliances – not just cell phones, but TV, IPods, computers, etc. – because the church feels a “wariness” toward new media and the dangers those avenues could potentially unfold (i.e. pornography, less “real life” social interaction and so on).

Is it just me or are they pushing the envelope a little far this time? Let me know what you think (after you click and read the damn article, ha)!

Off with her head!

Via the WordPress Dashboard, I discovered a link to Unreasonable Faith quite some time ago, but never made it a blog I regularly read. Then, a few weeks ago, it popped up on again on the dashboard with an article I just had to check out: How to Stump Anti-Abortionists With One Question.

I’m sure it comes as no surprise that my liberal self is very pro-choice, but that “one question” – “If abortion was illegal, what should be done with the women who have illegal abortions?” – made me think quite a bit even though there’s zero possibility of me ever believing on the most minute scale that abortion should be illegal. I’m still fairly uncertain how I’d respond and I read this blog/watched the video within nearly two weeks ago.

I recommend checking it out and, if you feel up to it, letting me know your thoughts.

Personally, I could not believe that the majority of these anti-abortionists featured within the blog’s video did not have a response when confronted with questions of punishment for illegal abortions. Perhaps that is something those who are staunchly pro-life should consider before taking a visual stand against a woman’s right to choose. In my own opinion, a religiously or morally based stance on the issue is quite understandable, but I truly think one should have a fully formed judgment on the matter and that includes potential punishment for women if abortion were to become illegal.

Fortunately, I’m fairly certain – and will remain as such – that pro-lifers will never win their argument in the court system. Or at least I’ll hope and pray (you know, when if I do) that that never occurs.

Forgiveness for sale.

Have you heard the news? If you’re Catholic and a bit sinful, you can “buy” your way into heaven at a faster rate and forego a longer period of time in the waiting room of Purgatory before your entrace beyond the pearly gates.

Indulgences have returned – check out this NYTimes article for more information because, well, indulgences aren’t too simple to explain – and apparently, the Catholic church is somewhat using them to sway the more liberal churchgoers back to confession and into the pews. So in the hopes of persuading the part-time-Catholics to return to the church, many dioceses across the country have reinstated the dispensing of indulgences for the forgiveness of sins.

In a larger-than-normal nutshell – because I’m certain you didn’t click the link – an indulgence is a means of forgiveness in the eyes of the Catholic church. Traditionally, a sinner would go to confession, explain his sins to the priest and be issued a penance, such as four “Our Father” prayers and maybe a “Hail Mary” for good measure, and lesser sins would be forgiven by the church. However, the sins still stacked up, especially the doozies like adultery and murder, when judged in Purgatory, adding toward how much time one must spend there before entering heaven. An indulgence, more or less, provides a faster track into the cloudy haven up above. Thus, for a few hours of community service or an extra fifteen prayers toward a specific saint, the sinner can receive forgiveness for his indiscretions, knocking off a few days, weeks or years from his wait in Purgatory.

To me, completing an act of kindness shouldn’t be done simply because someone wants to erase their less-than-perfect past and by the Catholic church – a church I grew up with and still deeply believe in – almost dispensing these indulgences for something in return, it’s showing that regardless of one’s actions on earth, heaven is never unattainable. And while that may be a fabulous ideal, I somewhat find it deplorable that the church would practically sell someone their way into a divine afterlife.

Yes, the dioceses involved explain that they are not seeking monetary donations for indulgences, which the Catholic church did accept centuries ago and which, furthermore, became a catalyst for the birth of Lutheranism. But accepting voluntary acts and special pilgrimages for lesser time in Purgatory sits just as badly with me as if the sinner handed a $50 bill to the priest following Sunday’s mass.

Disregarding the sale of indulgences entirely, how exactly can the Catholic church even promise potential sinners such forgiveness? How do they, as human beings just like the rest of us, truly know that a few charitable actions will shorten ones wait prior to heaven? What gives priests, bishops, cardinals and yes, even the pope, the authority to make such claims when they can know absolutely nothing of death and the afterlife that awaits? Need I even go into the scientific side of life after death and the ways in which time will be measured once we leave this planet? I think not.

It’s as if people are bargaining for their forgiveness as the church sells clemency for sinful actions without any concrete knowledge that said indulgences will have any real effect on eternity. And as someone who struggles with organized Catholicism to begin with, it’s another reason to question the entire belief system I’ve held for my 23-year existence.