I don't want controversy, to be honest. I'm not sure I think about these things as much as I have in the past, but a friend asked me to write about religion and more specifically Christianity. We have spoken - her as a Christian and me as, well, not, about something we both find disconcerting and that is the seeming disconnect between what a christian believes and how they act upon that belief.
I don't think I can approach this without context. I grew up Catholic. My mother still is. I think my sister might be, I don't know. I know the family is pretty well composed of believers, My uncle is not. No one really knows what my father thought. I certainly don't. It should be a part of me. I received a Catholic education. I read the bible and - until high school - really believed it. I didn't have much of reason not to, all of it was accepted in my house.
But I'm a curious guy. At some point in school I started to question everything. It didn't really seem to add up or bear scrutiny. I asked a lot of questions and I don't recall ever feeling terribly satisfied with the answers. Many of them were open and indicated a need for faith. "It's a mystery of faith." "It's dogma." "It's true because it has been revealed." As it became clear to me that religious definitions of "truth" were inextricably bound to "faith" it became harder and harder to adhere. It seems an ouroboros of sorts that a think is true because we believe it to be so.
It's a circle I can't complete.
What finalluy killed the whole thing for me was at mass on a Wednesday. We had mass at lunch time in my Catholic High School and I went sometimes. The gospel reading was from Matthew (18) and dealt with forgiveness. Peter, the rascal, asks Christ about forgiveness on the ground; not divine forgiveness, nor perfect love, but how we take care of neighbors. It goes like this:
"21Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”22Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven."
It seems like a pretty great way to live. If folks screw up you forgive over and over again. 490 times. That's a lot. I thought - and think - it's probably a good way to get through life. I try.
The only downside of it is that it's a part of the outline for Sin. Meaning, once it's been decreed it must be adhered to. Otherwise you risk Hell and eternal absence from Grace. And right there it all broke.
That hell thing, that's not 490 times forgiveness. I know, I've had this dogmatically explained to me many times and it still never adds up. We choose a distance from God. Sure. Whatever. In the end this will always mean to me: Be good and love everyone or I'm done with you.
And that's a crappy thing to say. At least as crappy as the stuff God said to Job. It's a problem for me thatI'm not going to overcome. I haven't ever been so upset with anyone that I would create a place of torture and loneliness for them, but my all loving God has. And Catholicism fell. Comepletely.
So I don't believe a word of it. And I don't want to. That doesn't sound like perfect love. I'm "imprfect" and I can do better. That's not a club I want to be a part of.
Next stop . . .
Beowulf and the Untranslated Christian Ethic. I wrote a long paper about it, but I'm gonna write the abstract here.