Thursday, April 4, 2013

Holidays, Faith and Family

It's the week after Easter, the chocolate is probably half eaten by now (if it's not gone completely), and we are back into our normal routines.

I had practically forgotten about Easter for a while, until one of my Google + followers, Dan Brill showed me a post he had written last year on Good Friday about what it's like to be former Catholic during the Easter season.

You don't realize just how much most holidays in the Western world revolve around religion until you give up religion.The post was so good, that despite the fact that Easter has already been over for four days now, I would like to share it with you (I have his permission to publish it to the blog):

Good Friday. It’s pretty much the same every year. I’m usually the last guy out of the office. Other people have ducked out early for church with their families, or have at least conveniently found religion on a nice afternoon leading into a long weekend. If all else fails, it’s opening day for a lot of teams. But I hang around for a while to tinker with the code, the spreadsheets, and the data. Sure, the market has been lousy lately, and margins are razor thin. It’s stressful. But when I do my job right, it all adds up. It’s rational. 

Stressful though it is, it’s easier to deal with than the childhood memories of being dragged off to church during Easter week. On Thursday. And Friday. And Saturday. And Sunday. I’ve come to think of it as the week of the bleeding knees: stations of the cross, and rosaries, and crucifixes, and altar bells, and the smell of incense, and confession, and being told that He died for your sins and without him you are unclean in God’s eyes, but hey I’m just a kid and I didn’t do anything, and you have no idea what you are saying young man, andwe aren’t even worthy to be washed in His Blood, and He gave that to you, and you aren’t even grateful, and the ones that can’t be forgiven are those that were taught the Faith but turned away. You have to have Faith!

Whoa. Calm down. That’s a heavy trip to lay on a kid. So I have to have Faith. OK, I will. I’ll try to have Faith. I want to have Faith. But there are parts of the story that just aren’t adding up. It must be my fault. I must not understand it. So I think about it. I read more. I look at the evidence. What the hell is wrong with me? This still isn’t making sense. 

Faith. Everyone I know and love seems to have it. My family, and the kids at school, and my friends, and every grownup I know has it. And I’d love to have it. But I can’t pretend it, can I? Or is everyone just pretending it? 

The years go by, and I’m in high school. Everyone still has it, except for a couple of kids. One who says he’s an atheist. And he’s brilliant. And he’s depressed a lot. Sometimes he can’t get out of bed he’s so depressed. And everyone is Concerned. There are a couple kids who are Wiccans. And they are brilliant. And nobody knows what to make of them. And everyone is Concerned. But I’m not trying to shock anyone, and I don’t want to Concern anyone. Don’t you see I’m trying to get Faith! I’d love to make this work in my head. Yet I can’t seem to get it.

College comes and goes. Still nothing. I go to grad school. I get married, in church, because it means a lot to all those people I love. So I lie, and tell them I have Faith, and I’ll raise my children in the Faith. But I won’t. And I don’t. And I can’t. My mother cries. She says she knows she won’t be seeing me in the next life. And that’s why I can’t. Why would I want to be part of an organization that makes mothers think their own kids are going to Hell, even though they have tried to get Faith?

Jesus, you seem like such a great guy. I’d just like a little Faith please. Because everyone who has it seems happier. 

The more I think about it, the more I think you were a great guy. But just a guy. A guy with a teen mom, a guy whose dad taught him a trade, a guy that was decent, and tried to tell other people to be decent, to worry less about the rules, and more about what the rules were trying to accomplish. And you pissed people off and made them uncomfortable, and threatened their positions of power. So they killed you. 

And a century later, you were smothered in magic. And a thousand years later, believing the magic was enough; we could be horrible and brutal to each other, but as long as we said we believed the magic, it was cool. And two thousand years later, the magic doesn’t make sense either. But as long as we say we believe the magic, even though science yields better results every day, we are thought of as good and upstanding people. We get the golden ticket, and poof, everything is dandy. We reward those who have the capacity to believe the contradictions, or at least not look at them too closely.

So here I am, Good Friday again. And once again, I wrestle with Faith. 

What can it mean to have Faith? What can it possibly mean to say you believe in Jesus if you live in the 21st century and have even a rudimentary understanding of science, or have made any effort to read a little history? 

As far as I can tell, only this: keep loving each other. 

When some humans are awful, refuse to believe that humanity is awful. Love them anyway. 

When you think you should just hunker down, build a wall, and keep your own family safe from the world, tear down the wall and get engaged in your community. 

When some people have crazy beliefs and you can’t even believe the words that are coming out of their mouths, remember that they probably had screwed up childhoods too. 

When you feel like screaming at some illiterate, racist, homophobic, misogynistic buffoon, lower your voice, speak with reason, and appeal to those in the community that are tired of all the shouting. I believe there’s more of us than there are of them.

When you see someone working the system, remember that the system probably worked them over first. 

Kids suffer from poverty more than any other group.

When it would be easier to take up the sword, talk a little more. And a little more.

Call your mom and wish her Happy Easter. She did the best she could.

Happy Easter everybody. Keep the Faith.

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