That’s How The Light Gets In

I have a strange relationship with Christianity.

In short: I was raised Roman Catholic, was pretty devout despite my parents not being devout. I began getting molested at puberty (not by priests) and when I turned to prayer and God and got no response, I left Catholicism and Christianity.

I was angry at the Christian God for a very long time about that. Then we moved to Florida in 1989. Instead of Catholics, I was surrounded with fundamentalists. I’d never been told that I was going to Hell before. But apparently most of the things I loved (Dungeons and Dragons, heavy metal, fantasy novels) meant I was going to Hell. I saw my gay friends and acquaintances get harassed by religious bigots. My dentist used to wait until his hands were in my mouth to tell me about Jesus Christ saved him and how I, too, can be saved by the Lord.

Then, when I found Paganism (and converted in 1993), it was more of the same. Christians interrupting our public rituals, telling us that we were going to Hell.

It left me with a very negative impression of Christianity. One that took me a long time to get over. I still have issues with evangelical Christianity that I’m working on.

I wasn’t exposed to the good Christians. Because the people who were obviously Christian were the ones doing it by beating people over the head with the Bible (figuratively).

As years went past and I moved away from the South back to the Northeast of the country (back to “Catholic Country” as opposed to the Bible Belt), I began having experiences that softened my heart towards Catholicism…and later, Christianity.

As a radical leftist, I read about people like the Berrigan brothers and Dorothy Day who were inspired to their great works by their faith. I began to read Catholic mysticism like Thomas Merton, Thomas Keating and St. John of the Cross and went on a retreat at an abbey of badass nuns in rural Connecticut (who were not so progressive but still wonderful).

I had a strong desire to worship the Divine with devotion. I flirted with the idea of becoming a monk. When I got gravely ill in 2010, I made Confession and sincerely tried to reconcile myself with Catholicism. I wanted to retire away to a monastery and make cheese or beer or bake bread. (Monks and nuns are known for their excellent products made by hand in old-fashioned techniques.)

After serious prayer, I realized that I could not be Christian. I simply did not have the faith. I tried. So I immersed myself in devotional polytheism, which was then fairly new. Instead of a monastery, I moved into a Quaker-based intentional community with 20 other people for four years. I met some of the most amazingly generous and kind people there, people who were inspired by their faith. They were progressive. Many of them LGBT and all LGBT-friendly. They volunteered in soup kitchens. They fed the homeless. They were really good people working to make this world a better place for others.

I struggle with not being Christian sometimes. Not because I believe in Hell and feel like I’m damned. But because I have seen how some Christians have become changed due to their faith. They’ve become better people. Kinder, more generous, more patient, willing to welcome the outcast. They weren’t perfect or saints. They had flaws just like all of us do, but they were trying to emulate the Jesus they believed in.

I don’t believe in Jesus, personally. Not as the Son of God. I think we’re all the sons and daughters of the gods. But often…and now is one of those times… I wish that I was in a religion that was a community like some churches are. Where the broken, the outcast, the starving, the sinners…are welcomed. I wish that our religion inspired us to make the world a better place.

And I know that even most Christians aren’t like this. But I cannot help but admire the people who do these excellent works not to get into Heaven but because they believe it’s the right and just thing to do. Because their Lord has said it in their scriptures and they’re actually fucking doing it (as opposed to sitting in a church every week and judging others like many other Christians).

I’ve been reading books by Nadia Bolz-Weber, a Lutheran pastor in Colorado (USA) and she fully admits to being a jerk or selfish or angry or stressed because that’s what life does to us. But her God inspires her to be a better person and listen to others, help someone struggling, be present for others, and more. Her church welcomes the outcasts, the outsiders, the ‘freaks’ that other churches didn’t want like LGBT people, alcoholics in recovery, etc.

I don’t want to be a Christian. I’ve tried. But I wish I had this in my Paganism. I wish my Goddess was speaking to me and telling me to get out and make this world a better place and inspiring me to be a better person. I wish I had a community of people that found Goddess together in our brokenness and inspired us to make a better world.

I wonder sometimes if I’m in the wrong religion.



~ by R.M. McGrath on 10/17/2016.

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