Most of you will remember me as the guy that spent most of 2012 writing the Aging Hip Replacement column. I really enjoyed it but stopped because 1.) time was becoming a very real issue and 2.) I felt like I had taken the concept as far as I could on a weekly basis. I had attempted to be funny and poignant, I touched on all things in my life big and small and was beginning to struggle to find topics I felt worthy of discussion. There are only so many times one can wave in their fist in the air and shout “those damn kids” for all the world to hear or bemoan the passing of time. So I stopped. My intention was to maybe write a CD review now and again, maybe a list of my top CDs for 2012 (which I’m still promising myself I’ll do) but certainly I wouldn’t commit myself to write any sort of column for any prescribed amount of time. And then a funny thing happened…let’s call it my search for God, or at least my search for God’s voice. I was only a week or so into this search (here’s a spoiler alert that we won’t really touch on in this column, this whole thing will more than likely be ending in my conversion to the Reform sect of the Judaism) when I thought, this would make a damn good column. I can’t be the only person that goes through this. Maybe where I end up is a little strange for most but the search has to be one that many people have taken on as well.
So, before we start the story of my search let’s spend this space today giving you a little background on what I’ve been dealing with my whole life. If you know me you know rarely is there a straight line in my life. If you know me you also know that there’s a whole lot of crazy in my background which accounts for the zig zagging line for any course I’ve taken.
If I asked most of you reading this what religion you are you’ll have an answer. Without thinking you’ll say something and for 99% of the people that have an answer it will be the Judeo-Christian faith of their parents. If I ask another question, something along the lines of why are you that faith your answer will probably start with that’s how you were raised and you grew into the faith, etc. I have no problem with that. For a few of you, you may have been a little daring, if your parents were Catholics you may have decided to buck the trend and become a Methodist. For you there’s probably a deeper meaning or a reason for the schism. I won’t even venture a guess as to why you made that decision, it’s your personal reason and I have no problem with that either. In fact, I have no problem with anyone that’s decided on a particular path of faith, even if that path is no faith at all. I know many, many people who have chosen not to believe in god. I have no problem with them either. In fact, for most of my adult like I was one of them.
I was born into this world as a Catholic. I was baptized and was Catholic long enough to take part in what’s called my First Holy Communion. I’ll be honest with you, even then I didn’t feel like the religion fit me. I was only a kid so I can’t even tell you why I felt that way but I didn’t. I think that’s the thing about religion, it either fits or it doesn’t, there is no in between. My problem with Catholicism is that most people who call themselves Catholic go to Church at best on Christmas and Easter and then live life without stepping into a church. I don’t know what it is about the religion but at least for my money it seems like there is no personal relationship with the religion, no relationship with god and certainly no reason to go to church week after week. In fact, may people I know who call themselves Catholic don’t believe in what I think are basic tenets of the faith—they don’t agree with the church’s stance on abortion or homosexuality, think premarital sex is OK, etc. Now I have no problem with you thinking any of those things but I do have a problem thinking those things and still calling yourself a Catholic.
Luckily for me fate stepped in. My mom and dad got divorced in the early 80’s. At that time the Catholic Church was still pretty serious about their beliefs. If you got divorced there were consequences. As a result, my mother left the church. For the next few years I was able to live life without any sort of religion except those weekends when I went to stay with my dad and we all went to the Eastern Orthodox Catholic Church that had the masses that seemed to go on and on and on. There was a lot of incense. There was a cantor. There was chanting in Slovak. It was incredibly long. There was nothing there for me. I didn’t even like the donuts they made after mass, they were just doughy and dipped in sugar or had jelly in the middle. There was no chocolate or cream, no transfats. Like I said there was nothing for me.
After we moved to Connecticut my mother decided that we would begin attending a Born Again church. This began the descent. These services were hours. To say that there was a cult mentality would be a disservice to cults. Every member had an odd look and an odder story of how they came to the faith. They were in a mental hospital and delivered by Jesus, they were in abusive relationships, had been alcoholics, you get the picture. And the actual service itself was very 1970’s revival. It was a weekly occurrence to hear people speak in tongues or pass out from “the spirit”. These things went on and on and on and were followed by pancake breakfasts. They made me long for the days of my dad’s church.
As we moved or for one reason or another we began to go through these type of evangelical churches pretty quickly. Each church was more bizarre than the last and each had their own peculiarities about them. Eventually my mother became a protester against abortion and surrounded herself with a group of people who all were part of some evangelical movement and each believed they were basically a modern disciple. They were ready and willing to go to jail for their beliefs and really felt we were in the last days of the world. Now, I don’t want you to get me wrong. There was no cult leader here, no allegiances to be sworn. These were all just broken people who clung to whatever religion they had and their belief that abortion was bringing down society. Some of these people were Catholics, some Methodists, some Evangelical, etc. As a result I attended pretty much every Christian religion under the sun. Needless to say none of these religions fit. How could they in this environment. This little movement of my mother’s became almost survivalist. They believed they were martyrs and eventually the government would come for them and they would only have each other to count on. I was a teenager at this point and knew from the get go that these people were nuts and phonies. I could see right through all of them. The kids were all members of the youth group, and were seen as outstanding members of whatever the heck this movement was. They hated me and my brothers. We had long hair. We listened to rock music. We weren’t going to willfully get arrested for any cause unless it was one we chose. You get the picture. Here’s the thing though, we were exactly who we appeared to be, there was no false pretense. These “good kids” were going out and getting drunk on the weekends or laid and then going to church on Sunday and Wednesday and Thursday and every other day their parents forced them to and pretending they were pillars of society. I may have been getting drunk or laid but I didn’t pretend I wasn’t. I had a Doors back patch on my jean jacket, you could tell exactly who I was.
My point is that this wasn’t going to be the faith for me either. In fact, the thing it did more than anything else was push me away from religion for years to come. I could go on but this is supposed to be a column and not a short story, memoir or novel. Next week I’ll spend a little time talking about my years as an atheist and depending on how long that takes my foray into Eastern Religions. We’re getting closer to the present day. I hope you’ll take a look next week.