A Pagan went with her husband to Episcopal church and afterward they had lunch at a Mexican restaurant next to two "very certain about everything" Catholic boys who had just finished mass at Our Lady of the Hills.
The Episcopalian and the Pagan tried desperately to tune out their conversation so we could have a nice, non-controversial lunch, but the boys pontificated loudly, and without a measure of compassion, about atheists, lesbians, transgendered people, and Protestants.
Episcopalian Husband asked Pagan Wife if she had indigestion as she furiously stabbed her beans with her knife. "Yes, you could call it that," she muttered.
If the boys could hear me and could pick up on my passive aggression, nothing about their countenance or the tone of the conversation seemed to indicate so.
I call them boys, because despite being at least 18 (probably around 20, really), they spoke about these big ideas of their faith with certitude, arrogance, and ugliness.
I saw my young Baptist self in them, which was annoying to be reminded of. How dare they remind me of me when I just want to eat my beans?
Pope Francis recently said that faith without mercy is an ideology, and I have to agree, no matter what that faith is, be it aggressive pagan shamans, self righteous Baptist girls, or Very Right About Everything (TM) Catholic boys.
This type of attitude, this certitude, is what keeps me on the outskirts of Christianity, peering in, as an ex-Protestant/ex-Evangelical. I peer in because the horror of the cross and the glory of the resurrection is alluring to a hurting soul. I pull that curtain back quickly because the attitude of the followers shakes me to my core. You can say that's wrong on my part, but it's religious trauma syndrome, it's real. You can't claim that spiritual community is essential for faith development but then claim it has no responsibility for faith death.
Granted, this type of black and white thinking exists in paganism as well, but the great part about a disorganized religion (as many refer to Paganism) is that I don't have to listen to it. The annoying part about those two Catholic boys was that I had to listen (the restaurant was full, no switching of tables was possible), and on a purely surface level, sure, everything they said was "correct" if you compared it to their cathechism. But it wasn't loving. It wouldn't heal a wounded soul. It wouldn't tell anyone about the balm their Christ offered.
I was upset because I had researched their religion intensely, and I knew the good parts of it, and I knew the parts of Catholicism that make it absolutely breathtaking, and here they were, ruining it with their certainty that atheists were dumb and sexuality was this easy, black and white thing they figured out in an hour over a burrito.
And I remembered what broke this Baptist girl apart, and it was loss, and grief, and pain, and realizing I had ZILCH figured out about anything, and I still don't have anything figured out, but I find balms where I can and hold on tight and imperfectly to love and mercy and I research everything in the hopes that maybe someday something will click.
As U2 sang, I still haven't found what I'm looking for. I'm worried that in this messy, spiritual journey that Christianity is my inevitable destination, and the reason that worries me is because, well, the Christian God had ample opportunity to help me stay but instead I left but now little pieces of it keep popping up everywhere. Where was this when I stopped calling myself a Christian? I wonder.
I hope that they too, will walk the wounded road. I don't want them to lose their Catholicism. I do not wish anyone the loss of their spiritual homes or the trauma of realizing the place that was supposed to care for their soul decided to trample it instead. What I hope life helps them lose is their certitude, and softens their faith so it has room for mercy and love above all else. I hope they listen to their pope.