Monday, February 05, 2007

Question answered.

In a comment on a previous post, Candace wrote:
"erin, here's a blog entry idea: why are you so drawn to Catholicism? Inquiring minds do want to know."

It's a good question, so here is (hopefully) a good answer.

Since I was a child, I have been drawn to different types of religious traditions. I read every book my elementary school library had on Judaism. In the fifth grade I was so fascinated by Greek mythology that I made an attempt to learn Greek on my own (I was not very successful). For the entire length of my memory, I have been fascinated by religion, particularly the more ritual aspects of it. I find a lot of beauty in the traditions that have been performed over and over, through thousands of years.

The irony is that while I was fascinated by religious tradition, I was raised in a religious environment lacking in any such tradition. While this particular church may be an excellent fit for some, for me it was a very stifling, frustrating environment. The churches I grew up in were not legalistic in a visible sense -- there were no rules against makeup or jewelry, and no one insisted that women could not wear pants (although they were frowned on in church). I can remember those types of legalism being criticised by my church, but despite that criticism there was a deeper, more insidious sort of legalism present, as invasive as cancer, and just as destructive. This legalism was of the "because I said so" sort that discouraged questions and created a maze of rules, unspoken but nearly as tangible as the pews on which we sat. These rules dictated not only spirituality but social mores, dress, and lifestyle, and they seemed designed to make someone like me, who did not fit with their expectations, feel completely inadequate. As I got older and dug deeper, I realized that the reason questions were so strongly discouraged in this church was because there were no answers. The majority of those rules and beliefs were based on nothing of more weight than "because pastor says so", and while pastor may be a very smart man, I saw no need to base my life on his interpretation of something as important as Scripture. After graduating from high school, that dissatisfaction with the church in which I had been raised, paired with some life trauma, sent me into a period of intense searching for a God I could believe in, and i way I could worship him in freedom He promised. Through that search, and through the influence of a really amazing couple who have no idea how much they impacted me, I began my investigation of the Catholic church.

When those two items -- the love of religious tradition and antipathy for the lack of reason and scholarship in the church of my youth -- are combined, it becomes clear why I would be drawn to the Catholic church. The Church is filled with beauty and ritual, and has a rhythm unique to itself, seen not only in the mass but in the marking of time throughout the year. Beneath the rituals lie two thousand years of scholarship, so there is always a well-reasoned, thoughtful answer to the why, as well as the what. The Catholic church appeals to both the senses and the mind, and so satisfies both the artist and the scientist in me.

The inevitable question, then, is why I have not yet converted. It's complicated. As much as I am drawn to the Church, there are still a few things that I am less than certain about. I also realize that there are members of my family that would be upset if I converted, and while I know I cannot make decisions based solely on what my family prefers, it is something I have to take into consideration. At the moment I am in a place where my earlier problems with the Protestant church are not an issue. If I ever choose to leave the church I am in now, I will probably investigate the Episcopal church. Even though my search is no longer as frantic, I doubt it will ever end.

I hope that answers your question -- thanks for asking!


Candace said...

Thanks Erin - I really hope you didn't feel you owed me or anyone a reason. I was just curious. I know you know a lot about it, without having been raised in catholocism, so that's why. But I understand.

Erin said...

I was happy to answer! I know people wonder, so I am glad you asked!

heather said...

interesting... i totally skimmed this and will be back later to read it all - i promise... are you familiar with the enneagram?? you should read Richard Rohr's book about it (he's a priest :) - might explain some of these tendencies in you...