Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Stopped Making Sense

One of my co-workers is a devout Catholic. Like, go to church 4 times a week kind of Catholic. That's fine by me, it's her life, but when we first started teaching together I didn't even recognize she was religious. She would refer to her Catholicism in the past tense, and I would later learn that she was in the midst of taking a break from the church because she lost her faith. Well it's back, in full force, and sometimes it grates on me how she can manage to swing any conversation back around to the Bible, or her "boyfriend" Jesus.

(She likes to brag "MY boyfriend is a CARPENTER!")

And I'm going to say this too, but I think that some of her ideas are "out there." When we were talking about a Jewish person having to "keep kosher" she told me that's like a prison. God intends for everyone to be free. (???) I didn't even know what to say about that.

She told me a story about something she had seen on TV, where a Korean woman had her baby adopted by an American couple. The child is thriving with it's adoptive parents and is well loved and taken care of. When the woman found herself pregnant a second time, she offered this child up for adoption to the same American couple, and they were thrilled to have a daughter and sibling for their son. Sounds like a nice story, eh? My friend told me that it made her ashamed to be Korean, because this woman would give away her children and would "make a mistake two times."

We've had similar conversations about other people, one months ago when a collection notice came to my apartment for a former teacher's student loans. She decided, even after having worked with him a whole year, that he is a "bad person," because he wasn't paying his debts. I said "maybe he IS paying, we don't know!"

Judging people for their situations, or rather YOUR perception of their situation is pretty unfair, I'm thinking. I gently told her so. With the woman who gave her kids up for adoption, we don't know anything about her circumstance (I asked) and one can only imagine the possibilities. I mean, the alternatives to adoption - namely abortion is definitely un-Catholic n'est pas? And as for the former teacher, the current staff don't even know where he is, let alone what could be going on in his life.

I don't even bring any of this up as an indictment of my Catholic pal. What interests me far more is my reaction to it, (because, let's face it, everything is all about me!) and how hearing things like this feels like another pin being stuck in my pin-laden pin-cushion of a heart. The very wise Kevin over his Big Ho Blog recently wrote "religion is a tool." Please go read that post, and the ensuing comments as it's very interesting. Up until that point, in reading his "Is Religion Just One Huge Mistake?" I had been fairly, not un-moved, but more so just reading along without thought to my own opinion. The moment I read "religion is a tool," though, some voice inside me countered "religion is a crutch." I was sort of surprised at how quickly and strongly that thought manifested in my mind, and I'm not wholly sure where it came from.

I know there are a lot of religions out there, and I have limited experience with most of them, except for being born a Catholic, and attending Catholic school exclusively, from elementary school to university. There are aspects of any religion I've encountered that just don't make any sense to me, though.

I used to have a roommate in university. He would come home in the afternoon and head into the kitchen and grab all the fixins to make himself some tasty peanut butter and grape jelly sandwiches. I'd sometimes sit at the kitchen table and watch him as he stood near the sink, making his snack. He'd take a slice of bread, spread half of it with jelly, and the other half with peanut butter, fold the bread in half and eat it. He'd make six of them. It used to drive me insane.

It wasn't even that he was sticking the jelly covered knife into the peanut butter container and back into the jelly jar. Six times. (Though that in itself should be justifiable grounds for killing him.) It was the folding of the bread that made me mental. If you're going to eat six slices, why wouldn't you reserve one piece for peanut butter, and the other for jelly - and slap the two together to make one sandwich? If you're into eating halves, you could even remove the knife I stuck in your eye to cut the sandwich in half and eat it. Couldn't you? To me, there was something about the whole scene that didn't match up with my sense of logic. It's always the lack of logic that perplexes me in a thing, and I'm fairly quick to dismiss something if I don't find it logical.

My Catholic friend, a couple months ago was telling me something about the bible, or Jesus, or God, or something, and she stopped herself, saying "oh, but yes, you don't believe in God!"

I was surprised! "Hey! I never said I didn't believe in God! Why do you think that?" That's just what she assumed (I guess because I don't go to church 4 times a week, or ever.)

There's a lot of stuff in Catholicism that doesn't make logical sense to me. Get ahold of my former religion teachers and they'll attest to what a pain in the ass I was. ("So, like, you're saying they took 2 of ALL the animals on the whole EARTH, and stuck them in a boat that Noah built? How big was this boat, exactly?") There are aspects of all kinds of religions that don't make sense to me. I suppose religion in itself seems both logical and illogical for varying reasons. I'll tell you though, lately it's the people I'm meeting who are representing their religion who have stopped making sense.

The judgmental Christian. The violent Muslim. The gay Catholic. (And she's a NUN!)
Just to be clear, I'm not saying that it's WRONG to be any of these, per se; reconciling ones own self and actions with ones own faith is ones own business, but to ME it leaves me feeling confused. The Korean Jehovah's Witness who rings my doorbell 6 times on a Saturday morning who won't stop repeating "bi-bu-lah" and a whole bunch of Korean, despite the fact that I keep apologizing and saying I can't understand. So he returns to my door 10 minutes later with a woman who knows just a tiny bit more English than "bi-bu-lah." Great. Let's all stand here grinning at each other. Even in Canada I didn't think shopping one's faith door-to-door made much sense. Especially these days.

Or maybe it makes perfect sense these days. Who knows? I'm confused as hell.


Kevin said...

Great post.

It's not a contradiction to say religion is a crutch: first off, I'd agree that religion IS a crutch for many people. Second, a crutch is a kind of tool, so we'd still be in agreement.

or maybe religion's more like a shotgun...

Jelly said...

We are N' Sync.
I think religion's more like a toothbrush than a shotgun, though, but I see your point.

It's Me, Maven... said...

I agree with Kevin on this one, and I will add to that, the people who feel the need to go to mass every day or even four times a week are so riddled with guilt and have bigger issues than sinners like you or I have.

Apparently those lines in Mark and Matthew about "judge not, lest ye be judged," falls on deaf ears with your friend.

My husband is from India, and as such has friends of all stripes of humanity, to include Catholic. He was raised with the idea that the definition of Catholic means "broadminded." Unfortunate isn't it? That those so named are are the furthest from it.

And as far as kashruth dietary laws... there is a lovely little passage in Issaih regarding Jesus and how he "... did not come to CHANGE the law." If one were a Scriptural literalist, one could interpret that as both Jews AND Christians being required to obey Kashruth.

Ideally, the Kashruth dietary laws are antiquated when viewed with a modern eye; however, viewing it with an existentialist eye, there is a lot to be said about humane farming and humane (if you can call it that) slaughtering; as well as exhibiting an outward sign of obedience and love towards God.

Restrictive? Perhaps! A prison? I doubt anyone who keeps kosher because they truly want to would argue otherwise.

These types of discussions and interacting with folks like your Catholic friend are precisely the reason why I am hesitant to "affiliate" to anything other than a Quaker or Unitarian group; however, I remain on the fence as an Episcopalian, if not for anything else, but in name only, until I figure out where I should be.

captain_howdy_girl said...

when I was in college the instructor told us dogs couldn't have evolved form wolves because god created all animals separately, at that moment I heard the sound of my tuition flushing down the toilet

Patrick said...

I was hoping to read something about the Talking Heads... oh well... I guess I won't recommend a band called "Clap your hands and say yeah" to you.

Good post anyhoo. I've given up having any discussions about religion with religious people. My sensors have determined that religion and logic are incompatible.
Religion is a tool, but it's not like one of those cool 27-in-one MacGyver type tools. Oops... he didn't have tools... his thing was to make what he needed out of whatever was lying around like a paperclip, a orange peel, and a toothbrush. Maybe he had the right idea.
Anyway, religion is a tool but it's not multi-purpose. If your toilet's clogged up, you wouldn't use a hammer would you?
Next time you have a problem, ask yourself, "WTWJU?". What tool would Jesus use? Damn it, that won't work either! He'd use a hammer for everthing... he was a carpenter. He'd hammer in the morning. He'd hammer in the night.

I give up.

Jelly said...

Hi Maven! I've met some "broadminded" Catholics, the lesbian nun being one of them, but usually it seems like the more frequently one attends mass, the more likely they are to be fairly narrow in their world view, or tolerance of, well, a lot of things. (This includes my friend and my paternal grandparents.)

CHG, I can't believe a college prof would be allowed to profess such a thing. Sheesh, what sort of class was it? Actually I haven't thought about Darwinism and Christianity in awhile. I'm going to read up on it when I'm not so sleepy.

Patrick, the right tool for the job, eh?
Religion is a plunger.

Kevin said...

No one else has said it, so I'll just blurt it out:

Religion is a dildo.


Jelly said...

That's not the same as "I use my dildo religiously," is it?

It's Me, Maven... said...

See, and I always thought the line went, "love is a dildo."

Speaking of which, I just crocheted a galpal a lovely dildo cozy... :)