A Crisis of Faith
|Self Portrait with Rosary Beads|
When I first went back to college, I took a course called Introduction to Women's and Gender Studies. It was fascinating, maddening, empowering and infuriating all at the same time, and it really forced me to look at my beliefs about how the world is. Who says that's how it is? Are the lines really so clearly drawn? Is there room for alternate ways of being? In the course of all this questioning, I had to try to reconcile my faith with my new knowledge of imbalanced power structures, and I discovered that it couldn't be done. The Church did not come out looking so good.
Honestly, I came to Catholicism kicking and screaming. To me, Christianity, and especially Catholicism, showed every sign of being designed to serve the interests of men, and I was happy with my covert paganism. Even now, I make it a point to bask in the light of every full moon, and I smile whenever I see her crescent peeking through the trees or sailing through the clouds. My conversion was only enabled by a short passage in the Book of Revelations, or Apocalypse, that glorified a woman clothed with the sun, crowned by a ring of twelve stars, with the moon at her feet. There she was, the goddess repurposed as the mother of God.
My conversion was completed when I visited the church of Saint Sebald in Nuremberg, Germany. I felt the presence of God so powerfully in that church that I couldn't understand why everybody else was walking around as if it was a tourist destination. (It was.) Why did they not feel compelled to throw themselves prostrate on the cold stone floor? Later, I learned that St. Sebald's feast day was my birthday, and I took that as a sign and never looked back.
The Catholic Church is most excellent at beating down a person's soul. It takes the stance that we are born bad and must be redeemed, not that we are created perfect in the image of God, and that informs every nuance of Catholic theology. It's difficult to live like that. The more research I've done on the origins of these theological points, though, the more I've seen that I was right, and that it's worse: Catholicism is designed to serve the interests of men, and particularly white men.
So now I find myself hovering between two competing worldviews with no way to reconcile them. I love Jesus but not the Church that sprang up in his wake. I love his Blessed Mother, but not the way she is mythologized and desexualized. The epitome of Catholic womanhood is silent, sexless, and submissive - and yet oddly fertile - and I see so many of us struggling, unhappily, with the impossibility of measuring up. I struggle with it.
I'm in a sort of religious limbo right now with no way forward and no way back.
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