A post by Chris
Like many religious, I was reared in the faith I practice as an adult. Some chalk that up to a lack of desire to challenge my beliefs– when I say I have tried to leave them, believe me I have.
I never suffered any major religious trauma. I’ve had a number of friends who weren’t Catholic, who in fact were atheists or agnostics. Where exactly to begin to explain my choice to belief is a little difficult. I guess the first time I ever really questioned God’s goodness (existence was tied to that, in my opinion) was around 5th grade. We had a border collie named Kelly. I don’t remember how we got Kelly, or how long we had her. I do remember she had a litter of puppies though… and that all but one of them either died or were put down. Kelly’s breast milk essentially was poison. Most of the puppies died before they could even really get around. Two survived, Porter and Shana. Porter made it a few months, eventually was put down when we realized he was blind and had brittle bones as a result of Kelly’s milk. Shana, well she was not very bright. Eventually, a few years later my dad and I collected her from the side of the road near our house (she dug her way under our fenced yard). Eventually, Kelly just disappeared one stormy day (thunder frightened her greatly). We looked and looked for her, but never found her. What saddened me so greatly and made me really wonder about God was the life of those puppies, such a beautiful and joy filled event– marred with a horrible reality, the very gift of a mother to her puppies was a curse and a instrument of death. One particular vivid memory, is after we knew why so many puppies were dead when my parents told us that two more would have to be killed as the digestive systems were not working, they were unable to push any waste from their bodies. The puppies were plump little balls of thin fur, not even able to stand yet. I went to my room, crawled under my bed and cried– what was the point of this, what kind of God would do this. I didn’t want those puppies to die, I didn’t even want a dog anymore. Silly I guess, I know of people who handled much more as a 5th grader. Some with far more dignity and grace than I did. I was a bit of an emotional kid back then, oh well. Eventually, I came to terms with it. ”That’s life, sometimes it sucks.” was basically my reasoning. As I moved on, my religious habits kicked in and the sting of losing so many pets passed.
The next time I really struggled was 7th or 8th grade. Having two older sisters I knew their friends pretty well. One of my sisters had a friend whose brother recently graduated our high school. He went off to school with his older brother. Coming home one evening, they were in an car crash, the younger of the two was badly injured. Being a recent graduate it was being news at the school. Updates were given over the PA as many students knew this guy. I knew him more than most of my class. The memory I have is when it was particularly grim and part of me knew he was going to die. During our PE class they came on the PA to make an announcement, it wasn’t his death, but it was an update on his situation. A few of my classmates were joking and talking so loud I couldn’t even hear it. Our coach did nothing to silence them– enraged, I began yelling at them to shut up. They turned, likely in disbelief (I wasn’t known to get mad or be violent), didn’t look like coach could believe it either. Who does that? Where is the reverence for life? Even if you don’t know the guy, it’s a human being. It’s like the old tradition of pulling over for a funeral procession, HAVE SOME FREAKING RESPECT. This experience really shook my faith in the goodness of people and by extension the God who created them. I was taught that people were made in the image and likeness of God… if that is the case, what kind of God makes people who do this.
A cousin along with 3 friends die going to see a movie, the surviving two people in the van are in hospital for weeks. The trauma of seeing their son endure the medical care wounds the immediate family irreparably. One daughter changes faith, the other leaves religion completely.
Later, I dealt with an alcoholic grandfather, his death, and half a family in denial of his alcoholism. To this day it is a subject avoided at gatherings.
At this point it isn’t much of a surprise that I was treated for depression. I was 20 at this point. Moved 6 times that I can remember, had a troubled relationship with my mom (we are great now), endured repeated attacks on my faith by “Christians” and was seriously deceived by the first girl I ever really thought I loved… so yeah, I had some issues to work through.
Shortly after that I entered Catholic Seminary and began discerning the priesthood. I want to preface this section with two things: first, I am not going into much detail as I don’t find it necessary or helpful, I knew a great many people, priests, and bishops from across the country during that time. My encounters are not necessarily involving people from my own diocese. Second, my choice to leave had nothing to do with these problems. During my time discerning, I knew gay men discerning as well as ordained. These men did their best to hide their orientation. The most startling discovery was finding a stack of homosexual porn DVDs. Second to that was a priest trying to bribe me to remain in seminary when I announced to him I was leaving. I saw how the Church was wounded by those who claim to serve her, dragged down by the willful immorality of some, and held hostage by the ignorance and cowardice of others. Here, in my questioning the answer was immediate– despite the personal wounds of the people who comprise the Church, it remains God’s vessel. I saw the good of the Church, how the Mother Theresa’s outweigh the pedophiles; how the Truth will never be covered by darkness, how the gates of Hell will never prevail.
Later in life, I was employed by another diocese as a teacher. I made the mistake of writing something online in a conversation that was inflammatory regarding the bishop of that diocese. For this mistake (the only thing I ever did wrong according to my file at the diocese and the school) I lost my job. Clearly, to me and a select few people near the situation (speaking in private) this was an over-reaction. To be honest, it shook me to my core pretty hard. I never doubted God’s existence, or his goodness, but I did question his judgement– rather, the election of this man to be the bishop and if that was His will or not. In time, I was able to forgive the bishop (not in person, doubt he even knows who I am).
What some of my friends (atheist and theist alike) don’t understand is that faith isn’t something that happens to you. It isn’t some mystical blinding light that you simply can’t disregard. In truth, you can leave it at any point. During my life, I spent a time period of 4 months without even stepping foot in a Church– why? I became stagnate in my faith, I freely walked away from it, and freely returned. Faith IS freedom, God won’t hold you captive… the devil will, sin captivates us, enslaves us, binds us to it.
Looking back at my life, I see the wisdom of God. Shortly after the puppies were born, my family moved. Shortly after Shana died, we lived on a boat for a few months. This may have been possible with puppies, but would have been most difficult. My experiences in high school made me who I am. They taught me tough lessons of emotional restraint and self control. Later, I learned how to process and express emotions in a healthy way through counseling and the issues of my extended family. I learned that often times, while people are broken and wounded the institution they comprise can surpass that and be something wonderful.
Lastly, the error of posting my comment regarding a bishop (and why I don’t list my last name on here) led me to my girlfriend– a woman who I cannot compliment enough. While my departure from the school was unfortunate and certainly I wish it occurred under different circumstances, it was in part that very departure which made our relationship possible. I love her dearly and hope to one day make her as happy as she has made me.
See readers, and fellow authors, my believe isn’t because I was reared in the Catholic Church– it isn’t because God has somehow blessed me with great things (I’m currently in debt and struggling to get out of it), it certainly isn’t because I’ve gotten what I want. I CHOOSE to believe because God has demonstrated in my life, that good can (and often does) through what I initially see as evil. I CHOOSE to believe, simply because I want to. I’ve made arguments for the existence of God, as well as for the non-existence. I’ve argued for and against morality and applied ethics.
At some point a human person places his or her flag on a hill and dares another to come take it. For me, that happened while I studied philosophy. I came to know my faith, the Catholic Church in such a deep way, I can’t consider it ever being shaken loose. At the core of that faith, is a choice to believe. The one time I’ve had a conversation with an atheist that stuck around until I brought him to that point– he simply laughed, “You could have saved me the time and said that at the start.” I just smiled and replied, “The end isn’t the education, it is the journey by which we learn.”
I choose to believe in God as taught by the Roman Catholic Church, what do you choose believe in?