9.8.06

Sammy's Faerie GodMom Struggles With Her Faith

Again.

Posh Spice-Beckham is also a godmom - to Ginger Spice's baby, Bluebell ("Bluebell"??? WTF???), so we FINALLY have SOMETHING in common aside from our looks. She only WISHES her GodBaby was as cute as mine, though!


Last weekend Shannon and I flew to LA to celebrate Samantha Hope's baptism. I was so honored to be a part of the ceremony, much less asked to be Sammy's Godmother - not a role I take lightly! I must confess I'm a bit humble to be anyone's moral guide, much less a baby as special and wonderful as Samantha Hope.

She's the cutest baby I've ever seen, and I used to be a child photographer. Her Christening was such a great experience I've been rethinking my status as a "NEVER AGAIN! NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER... (ad infinitum) AGAIN!!!!" lapsed Catholic. I've made the huge step of removing the "ad infinitum" from after the 758th "NEVER!" Msgr. Fleming, pictured above, was one of the reasons for this.

(You can thank the Rev for this next introspective bit. He made the mistake this weekend of asking why I stopped going to mass, which I had done religiously (pun intended) up to three times a week until I was about 19.)

Sammy Hope shown here giving a physical illustration
of Auntie Jo's fears of being a terrible moral guide




I really do miss the ritual aspect of the Catholic mass - the "tinkles, bells, and smells" as my ex-seminarian friend Matthew used to say. I've been looking for years for a religion to park myself in and I keep coming back to Catholicism - mainly because I was raised Catholic and it's therefore the most familiar to me, having been surrounded by it throughout my formative years and well into adulthood. I have SO many issues with the Catholic church, though, I can't see myself coming back wholly unless it was my terms, which pretty much would mean redefining the faith altogether, (and I just don't have the energy to fight Mel Gibson at every turn, though I could certainly outwit him if his best offence is calling me "sugar tits"). I'd feel like a liar and a poseur if I started identifying myself as a Catholic when I don't believe so much of the doctrine and dogma, but "once a Catholic, always a Catholic" is a phrase that embodies so much more than just the fact that you're born into the faith and/or baptised. The faith follows me around as closely and as quietly as my own shadow - invisible because of the clouds when I look for it, vivid as blood when I least expect to experience it. I can't imagine myself wholly immersed in any other religion. I can't imagine myself, for example, as a Protestant even though I agree with far more of the religious beliefs many Protestand religions hold, for example, those of the Quakers and Methodists. Actually, my beliefs fit pretty squarely with those of the Humanist, Quaker, and Buddhist faiths, and I definitely feel most comfortable with Buddhism.

As for Catholicism, to tailer it to Jo: First off, that whole "immaculate conception" thing would have to be revisited. The fact that I think Jesus was really a great great person, I'd even go as far as to agree he was maybe the greatest who ever lived, but I can't bring myself to believe he's actually the son of god. Like, God's his dad in the same way that my dad is my dad - that's the part I can't wrap my brain around and accept. I can accept the concept that as we're all children of god, Jesus is the son of God and we're all equal and start from there, but the basis of the Catholic faith, of Christianity, for that matter, is that Jesus is God's one and only son. Questions of his being wholly or half-divine have sparked wars and genocide. If I can't accept that fundamental premise, I'm obviously not a Catholic or even a Christian. Interestingly enough, several priests and priests-in-training I've spoken with also have trouble with this and understand my dilemma, and struggle with it all their lives. Hence the the whole "faith" issue, I suppose.

Secondly, I think the Bible is a wonderful book, but I do not believe it is accurate, infallible, or literal truth. I believe it's open to interpretation.

Thirdly, I don't believe in heaven or hell. Except for terrorists, child abusers, and rapists, who will have their own special hell to face when they. It's hard for me to imagine them sleeping peacefully for eternity they die.

And don't get me started on the treatment of women, homosexuals, and non-Catholics, or on the oftentimes bloody and corrupt history of the papacy.


Besides all of the big glaring problems I have with Catholicism, I have had my own experiences where I wondered why my God remained quiet and wouldn't send me any form of comfort, and I stress again I've had a pretty awesome life overall. I've seen others suffer horribly firsthand, and have heard of millions more on the news and throughout history book. Yeah yeah yeah, I know, "God works in mysterious ways." That answer does NOT cut it for me, and is one of the things that mainly turned me away from the Church. I don't claim I'll ever understand God, or even have the capability of doing so. I'm so much more comfortable with the idea of a, um, "being" for lack of a better word, sentient but not physical, that plays no role in our personal lives whatsoever, that doesn't care about us at all individually, certainly doesn't weep for us, is only waiting to be discovered. Like a 14-year-old playing hide-and-seek in a labyrinth the size of the universe.

To make the understatement of the year, it's a hard concept for me to put into words.

"I don't want to start any blasphemous rumours
But I think that God has a sick sense of humour
And when I die I expect to find him laughing."
-Depeche Mode
Blasphemous Rumours

But why do I care? Why do I feel like I'm missing something and should settle into a religion, me, who has the best of everything and has NOTHING to complain about? I have wonderful friends, an amazing, witty, smart and loving husband, I grew up wanting for nothing, raised by incredibly caring, loving, and nurturing parents, the part of a close-knit family with siblings that drove me nuts (and vice-versa), but whom I would throw (and have thrown) bullies into a dumpster for - why do I care about a God or belonging to a faith? I guess I'm asking myself out loud and insistently now because I've taken on the role of Sammy's GodMother, but I've been struggling with Catholicism for a third of my life. Just when I thought I had it licked and was doing just fine sans religion, I met some amazing and actually approachable priests (I've met many who had no time for my silly questions growing up). I was pretty stunned to find out that they struggle with the same questions I do every day.

Look at this picture though. Is it any wonder I want to settle my religious identity problem so I can focus that extra ten percent of my energy on this gorgeous man and my adorable GodBaby?

Shannon and Samantha. Sammy is shocked to hear that her
Auntie Jo may identify more strongly with the Anglican faith than any other religion.
It has all of the "tinkles, bells, and smells" of the Catholic mass, but is far more inclusive.
And it's English.
Never mind the part about it's foundation being based on a king's desire for a divorce...

I do, however, appear to have a looooooooooooong way to go to thinking like a "good Catholic, " seeing as the Belief-O-Matic tells me that I have more that twice as much in common with Islam than I do with Catholicism. That isn't saying much because I only match 14% with the beliefs of Catholicism.

My BeliefNet "test" Results.
These have remained consistent every time they've tweaked the "exam":

1. Unitarian Universalism (100%)
2. Liberal Quakers (90%)
3. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (90%)
4. Neo-Pagan (80%)
5. Secular Humanism (78%)
6. New Age (77%)
7. Theravada Buddhism (76%)
8. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (75%)
9. Mahayana Buddhism (63%)
10. New Thought (63%)
11. Bah�'� Faith (63%)
12. Scientology (61%)
13. Taoism (57%)
14. Reform Judaism (55%)
15. Nontheist (53%)
16. Orthodox Quaker (53%)
17. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (48%)
18. Jainism (46%)
19. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (43%)
20. Hinduism (42%)
21. Jehovah's Witness (37%)
22. Sikhism (37%)
23. Orthodox Judaism (31%)
24. Islam (29%)
25. Seventh Day Adventist (25%)
26. Eastern Orthodox (14%)
27. Roman Catholic (14%)

I have no idea how to end this and it's way too long as it is. I think it's appropriate to end with a quote, the end of which my friend Katie taped to my door in Oxford for no apparent reason and I've kept ever since. I can understand why the Devil so envies the simple faith of the 18-stone merchant's wife, but if a god gave us these amazing minds to work with, would [s/he] want us to feel settled, contented and at ease "knowing" that we know god and so THAT's all settled!?

That's a whole 'nother blog.


"God preserve me from it, but one can't help complaining sometimes....One can see you are young. My dear fellow, intelligence isn't the only thing! I have naturally a kind and merry heart. ...Without criticism it would be nothing but one 'hosannah.' But nothing but hosannah is not enough for life, the hosannah must be tried in the crucible of doubt and so on, in the same style. ...If everything in the universe were sensible, nothing would happen. There would be no events without you, and there must be events. ... For all their indisputable intelligence, men take this farce as something serious, and that is their tragedy. They suffer, of course... but then they live, they live a real life, not a fantastic one, for suffering is life. Without suffering what would be the pleasure of it? It would be transformed into an endless church service; it would be holy, but tedious. But what about me? I suffer, but still, I don't live. I am x in an indeterminate equation. I am a sort of phantom in life who has lost all beginning and end, and who has even forgotten his own name. You are laughing- no, you are not laughing, you are angry again. You are for ever angry, all you care about is intelligence, but I repeat again that I would give away all this superstellar life, all the ranks and honours, simply to be transformed into the soul of a merchant's wife weighing eighteen stone and set candles at God's shrine."
- The Devil speaking to Ivan in Dostoyevsky's Brothers Karamazov

1 comment:

kellypaul said...

Faerie GodMom, Paul and I were disappointed to see that no one had commented on such a thoughtful and personal post. We are honored that Sammy has such a wonderful GodMom who truly grapples with the big issues rather than just settling for an unthinking, knee jerk acceptance of what other people tell her. That's the kind of independence and intellectual curiosity that we know you will foster in our daughter.

As for the substance of your post, I will paraphrase (or maybe outright rip off) one of our parish priests, Father Paul, who reminds us frequently that faith is a journey and not a destination. He's very candid about the fact that there's an ebb and flow to spirituality, belief and faith. Personally, I think that the panoply of religious practices and beliefs may be, in part, God's way of reaching out to people on their own terms. As Father Michael, the very cool priest who did our wedding, explained, he didn't have a problem with interfaith marriages (like ours). He compared Islam/Judiasm/Christianity to approaching the same mountain from three different directions. I thought that was a good summing up. I just think what's important, ultimately, is to keep searching for how God speaks to each of us personally - which of the paths to the mountain makes the most sense for us. That's what I hope you'll impart to the Perfect Goddaughter in the event of my demise!

One theological correction - I think you've conflated the immaculate conception with the virgin birth. The immaculate conception refers to the idea that Mary was preserved from the stain of original sin so that, in term, Christ was not touched with sin. I realize that this, too, is a stumbling block for lots of Catholics, so maybe I've given you one more item to add to your list!