Let me tell you about being raised Catholic. When you're raised Catholic, you go to church because that's what your parents tell you to do. That's what they did, thats what you will do, and thats what your kids will be expected to do. If you volunteer as an alter-server, good for you that's mad brownie points and you will probably get the bigger gift at Christmas time. You make jokes out of Sunday school, and mostly just go because they always had Oreos and punch. You memorize prayers that mean absolutely nothing to you as you recite them. You have your First Communion in 2nd grade, and are expected to believe that the bread and the wine are not just a symbol, but actually Jesus Christ's body and blood (because they put it into a magical box the night before and it gets turned into flesh). You go to confession as often as your mom makes you, I've actually been dragged there several times. You are 8-years-old and expected to confess "your sins" which end up being "I fought with my brother" or in my case "I threw a pair of safety scissors at my brother." Or you just end up actually sinning because you are making up lies to tell the priest so it looks like you actually sinned and he can give you penance and then you can go pray a set of prayers and, wah-lah, your 8-year-old, mobster self is brand new and free to go home and play. Then you are in 9th grade, I was actually in 8th grade because I was a year ahead which gave me even less power in decision making..(just kidding, you don't really have a choice) to become a legitimate member of the Catholic Church. You get a sponsor and a Saint name and thats about as exciting as it gets. They don't hold you underneath the crucifix and brand your skin, surprisingly enough. They just swing a aspergillum thing at you and make you recite some stuff. Then you go home and eat cake with your sponsor and they tell you how proud they are of you and give you a dainty cross necklace.
Somewhere in the midst of the whole Parish School Religion process you are filling out workbooks on top of all your other homework with apostle names and words like "mercy" and "forgiven." There is also a week before confirmation where you spend 48-hours in the church basement and they try to convince you that you are there to make a commitment to God, even though you are in 9th grade and all you are worried about is standing at the cool spot on the hill at the football games and not saying anything stupid. I pretty much just slammed all of what being raised Catholic is, but here is the one good thing I took from it.
At the 48-hour thing they have some huge surprise at the end for you. They do the same thing every year, and all your older siblings and kids at the church know what it is but they aren't allowed to tell you. They give everyone a table and a box of tissues and "surprise" here are letters from everyone in your family telling you how proud they are. It's nice, but I'll always remember the letter my godmother wrote me. Let me just start off by saying my godmother is straight-up one of the coolest people I've ever met and if I could be like her one day, I wouldn't be able to complain. She lives in a tiny, brick cottage on a hillside in North Royalton with a beautiful garden and black dogs and a motorcycle. She has seen all 50 states and more, is single and does everything she loves and from what I can see, she is one of the happiest people I know. I've always envied her calm, cool independence and her knowledge about the world. Anyway, she wrote something along the lines of this,
"Lee, you know I'm proud of you. I know I am not the best influence when it comes to going to church, but my church is out in the woods and the whole world"
I've based my faith off of this simple letter ever since.
I go to mega-church sometimes now. I don't really like them that much. They're pretty cult-like too. They keep the air conditioning too high, but always have free coffee. They always have a really pretty girl with a really pretty voice singing, accompanied by some hipster kids playing guitars. There is a whole section of young adults wearing snap backs and button-ups..I always wonder why they are there, and I bet they wonder why I'm there too because I almost always feel like someone judges me every time I walk into a mega-church; they do a really nice job of using diversionary tactics when it comes to the lgbt community...
This is the sad stereotypical Christianity I have more recently grown accustomed to though and I usually don't let it bother me because sadly I'm not at church for fellowship, sorry that's just honesty.
So why am I there? Why am I going to a mega-church?
I'm going to take a stab at what my motive is here, and I honestly don't know if it will be right.
Maybe I'm there because I like listening to pretty girls sing.. seriously though it always makes me bawl, but the good, happy kind. Surprisingly enough, the coffee is pretty good, even if they give you the smallest cups in the universe. I usually drink all my coffee (burn my mouth every time) in the first 5-minutes while they ask for your money and talk about what's going on in the community kinda *******. After that, a pastor gets up there and I hesitate to put my guard down most of the time he preaches. Usually I think about, "what if this was a badass lesbian pastor, that'd be so cool..I need to find one of those churches." Then I feel bad for letting my mind get off track and then I remind myself that it's okay, I'm human and that's why I'm here.
I've gone to a mega-church on and off for like a year and I still hate the throwing your hands up in the air, clapping kinda stuff. Maybe that's the raised Catholic thing still kind of embedded in me, my mom was always so strict on proper etiquette in "God's house." I don't like all that ****, though... I can respect it, but it's not for me. So I sit there or stand there and listen to the music and hope the pastor doesn't underhandedly say something ****** about gay people because that would **** to have to find another church, even though it's about time I do. I wont lie, I'm reminded of my strengths usually and find a lot of bravery in myself; in my humility and vulnerability sometimes, in the fact that I play my weaknesses as much as I play my strengths but I don't let them define me, and my ability to pick my battles and save my breath. I usually feel pretty good when I come out, like I can stop fighting with the world about things and stop breaking my own soul for no reason. But things usually go back to the way they were, because that's most of the battle and that's faith. It's an extremely hard thing to come to terms with and accept all of yourself and that you were defended. It will be a lifelong battle of all types of acceptance, and I might never find a physical church I actually like and feel comfortable in, but I always have the woods and lakes and oceans and the world, and that makes me pretty happy.