This morning, because I am a college student on break so I get to be deliciously unproductive for a bit, I watched a movie called “Christian Mingle” on Netflix. To preface, it starred the actress who most of us would recognize as Gretchen Wieners from Mean Girls, feature extremely cheesy and poorly written dialogues, and there was an extremely problematic white savior plot device used. Overall, this was not a cinematic masterpiece.
For me Christmas brings not only presents, sweets, and snow, but also, and especially over the last few years, a lot of reflection on my religion. I was raised Catholic, and while I definitely had some sticking points with the religion, it was easy to practice my faith growing up. Since I went to college, it hasn’t. I have to actively choose to attend Mass, actively choose to pray. To be 100% honest, I am no longer a weekly churchgoer. I go every once in a while. I do pray every night, but it’s not the same way I prayed when I was a child. It’s more of a conversation and reflection with whatever sentient being there is up there, and I don’t say any formal prayers.
I believe in a God, and I believe in some sort of afterlife because when life gets difficult it is comforting to know there is someone watching over me. But I don’t know if I am a Catholic.
I view the purpose of religion as a way to give our lives purpose and meaning. It’s the lens through which we develop our morality, our sense of right and wrong. It gives us community, a sense of belonging. But those things don’t only belong to religion, they can be found in other places, and I have found them in other places.
As a writer, the most important thing I strive for is authenticity. I want to be genuine, and I want to be true. Not in the way of fact versus fiction. But the most accurate and honest reflection of what is in my heart and soul. Identifying as Catholic doesn’t always feel like the most honest and accurate reflection of what is in my heart and soul. Which, to be honest, hurts a bit.
My religion was a big part of my childhood, it’s something that connects me to my family. But there are aspects of it that don’t sit well with me. Catholicism for my family is a colonizer’s religion. My ancestors were killed because they refused to give up aspects of their Hindu faith (see: Goan Inquisition). I know that the Church is not the same as it used to be, that times have changed. But if it condoned, even celebrated such acts in the past, committed such atrocities, how am I supposed to fall in love with its message of peace and mercy?
I am a feminist, and an intersectional one. To ascribe to the teachings of the Church full and wholly, means to believe that women do not have autonomy over their own bodies. To believe that love and marriage is between a man and a woman, to believe that a man is the head of the household. The Church is an inherently patriarchal system. And in the west, we not only pray to 2 male figures (Jesus and God), they always portrayed as white men. And Mother Mary, the most prominent female figure, is revered because she was born without original sin, and conceived through immaculate conception. This smacks of the idolization of the concept of “virginity.” Not even going to mention that original sin was just a woman in pursuit of knowledge, and now all of her daughters must bear the repercussions for that decision. Men were obviously an innocent party.
I don’t know how to give my heart to a religion that values an obedient woman, women only in the context of being a wife and mother, a daughter, or otherwise, given to the Church and to Jesus. Always a follower, never a leader. Women can’t say a mass, cannot baptize or confirm, cannot forgive. Only men are allowed to be true representatives of God on earth. There are parts of Vatican that women aren’t allowed to enter. What does that say about how the Church values women?
There are parts of my religion that I love. Though I don’t go often, I still find mass comforting. I went to mass the Sunday after the election, because I felt for the first time in a while, that I needed it. I needed to have faith in something. But while I was there, I realized something. It is not the prayers that give me comfort, the old white in a robe chanting, the smell of incense or even communion. It was really the sense that God was there. But I don’t need to go to church for that. I could go to a mosque, a temple. In fact, I don’t need to go to a house of God for that.
I can see God in my friends, in the organizers I know who are always fighting for justice, for a better life for others. I can find God in a book of poetry, find God in the face of my mother and my sister and my father and all those who I love. I can find and love God without the trapping of an archaic institution, and that’s okay.