Someone once told me a joke, “do you know how to make sure you’re kid’s an atheist? Send them to Catholic school.” While the joke isn’t a knee-slapped, I see the truth in it. I’m a Catholic school survivor. From first grade to senior year of high school, I was enrolled in religious schools–uniforms, prayers, alter serving and all. However, it wasn’t until after my schooling ended that I started to think about my relationship with faith and God.
There’s a wonderful poem by Chris Abani called “Faith” that I need to find, but it more or less says “the further you pull a away from a rubber band, the faster it comes back to you.”
I miss my relationship with my faith. I was disillusioned with it because of the people I went to school with. I went to Catholic school all the way from 1st grade to graduating high school. I went to an all-boy Catholic school and I’m surprised I survived. The people I went to school with weren’t exactly the shining examples of Christianity I wish they could have been. They were lecherous, perverted, and all around assholes. They prided themselves on making students cry (one of the Christian brothers transferred schools because he had a nervous breakdown). In class they were so dismissive of their faith, but ran back to it because “God forgives.”
Basically, I was taking that I could be as much of an asshole as I wanted. Treat people poorly, break every commandment and tenant of religion, but it’s ok. Because God forgives.
So much racism. So much sexism. So much homophobia. I was given the chance to transfer out my freshman year–to go to a co-ed Catholic school and been put into a new school with my sister, but I chose to stay because well, I had a scholarship and I was concerned about my parents saving money–that and I didn’t want to pull my sister away from her friends and her life.
I never felt like I belonged in my faith because of how the community treated me, so I became distant with all aspects of my faith. Now? I don’t know *what* I believe these days. My faith structure has shaped into a form of the teaching of Christ, meditations from Buddha, and other parts of Taoism, Filipino/Chican@ animism, and a little mysticism.
I even think of the schools of Satanism through the lens that my friend Wing explained to me. They mentioned how there’s this negative connotation of Satanism as being evil, but it’s about the celebration of life in the here and now, and to celebrate because there’s no guarantee of the afterlife. Hell, looking at how some of the churches of Satan reacted (and reading some of their tenants against rape and violence), they’re responding more Christlike than some of the Christians I know and grew up with.
I’m hesitant to go back to a faith community because of my experiences, in fact it makes me really resistant to find find because I’m now always questioning what are their ulterior motives and if they are hiding behind their faith instead of celebrating it–a la the Salvation Army, Joel Osteen, etc. etc. Those who I find out I am drawn to don’t speak of their faith, they live compassionately and humanistically.
I take away from this the idea that my partner told me is in the Quran, about charity–acts of charity should be kept private because charity that is known or talked about becomes a selfish act. I feel this is the same way with faith, faith should be private and celebrated privately. Works done in the name of faith are their own reward.
Faith and faith systems are an identity sphere and a social identity category, and as I teach identity is always evolving, so I guess my discomfort with my own faith is a sign that I am growing.