Losing My Religion/Confusions of a Catholic

Doesn’t seem like that right now, but it’ll all work out somehow.” – Marylou Villegas 

In K-12 Catholic school, we were taught to believe that the best faith was childlike; it operated without question. One truth, one truth. Questions hinted at a doubt, and doubt was dangerous. Inquisitive minds were minds trying to disprove a person of what they believed in, and that was not welcome. Regardless of that, religion had a glow of beauty around it. 

People who were very religious seemed to emanate a certain light. They were calm, happy, and others were drawn to them. They appeared to move easily and confidently through their days. When I was a freshmen in college, I credited my amazing year to the wonderful people I had met and the seniors of campus ministry. I attributed some of the qualities I admired about them to the religion that they practiced. I planned to be them in three years time. The campus ministry senior who would show the freshmen the ropes to all things LMU.

Even in high school, I looked up to my peers and how they exhibited their faith. At times, I wonder about them now. Would I still see the light that I once did or would there be something else in its place? My religion’s got me confused, and I don’t have the interest I once did in being a part of it. 

Firstly, I still believe in a Divine something or other/God. The reason I believe in something having created the Earth is because of the duality present in its nature. It is both complex and simple. There’s no random order to what occurs. The functions of the universe and its inhabitants work so effortlessly. The variety of people and ecosystems present is a work of art. It is awe-inspiring to think about how well-oiled everything is. So, for me, a God, a Divine something, some gods, some goddesses are there somewhere.

Secondly, I prefer Catholicism to overall Christianity, and there are reasons why. I’ve never loved Christianity as I have Catholicism. Same faith, different denomination, but the differences in proposed worldview are stark. Yet, even then, I wasn’t always happy to be Catholic. I loved my school, but Church was a chore. If I had a sleepover the night before, the congregation could definitely catch me sleeping upright in a pew with my best friends. The calm demeanor of the Catholic Church was no match for all of the festivities of the previous night.  Good thing it was only an hour. I began to like Church through high school retreats and when I started going alone and could really concentrate. The music pointed to a Divine being and the second reading was always my favorite.

Yet, the Catholicism of K-12 is not the one that kept me there. My first year of college, a professor of mine named Dr. Susan Abraham, and the Jesuits provided me with the Catholicism that I love.

Dr. Abraham taught me that US Catholicism is really similar to Protestant religions, and it is. Its emphasis is on sin and being saved. She presented us with a different version. Roman Catholicism holds that Jesus has already died on a cross. He’s got us. We’re already saved by virtue of his death and cannot be saved again. That’s redundant. Because he’s already gotten our back, everything in the world has been imbued with that love. Aka a term called sacramentality. Owing from that is a term called materiality. Since everything is imbued with God/Jesus, then everything is special and following a Protestant ethic of eschewing worldly pleasures isn’t needed. Which, ya know, maybe Catholics took and ran with because our Churches are elaborately decorated, which I absolutely love.

What makes my heart soar about Catholicism is: the hymns, the saints and what they represent, the rituals and sacraments (high religion, where ya attt), the stained glass, and the artworks.

About the artwork/images if you will: No, I don’t like the Eurocentric depictions. Religion has been used by white societies to claim their perceived rightful dominance in God’s eyes, and I worry about what damage that has caused on the psyche of the Western and non-Western worlds and the way that we interact with each other- who is subjugated and exalted and who is not. Yet, the strength that is present when communities reclaim portraiture of Jesus and re-image themselves is lovely. Yes, Asian, Afro Latinx, and Black Jesus. Do yaaa thing. My favorite is the Byzantine Christ however, as it’s theologically sound in a Catholic realm. Beyond the Eurocentric depictions, I worry about the reference to God as a male and how my first mental image of an aura that is supposed to beyond the world was of a Santa-esque white man in the sky, flowing beard included. It leads me to wonder what that image has done to how people perceive women or those of non-white descent. I’ve come to prefer the term Divine, even though “God” is engrained in my thought process. That’s one of my issues that draws me away from the religion I have loved and still love in some capacity: the anthropomorphization of God and envisioning of him as a man. This leads me to the main reason why it’s losing my love. 

I’ve begun to question what it took away from the world and the methods by which it did that. In March, I took a trip to Managua, Nicaragua with some other students, and we got a chance to stop by the national museum. While we were there, our tour guide showed us around. In one room, she took a minute to mention how the Spaniards/Europeans came and tried to “civilize” the native Nicaraguans by giving/forcing upon them the Christian religion as if they did not have their own. There’s also a book called “When Jesus Came, the Corn Mothers Went Away” by Ramón A. Gutiérriez which I have not read yet but the idea seems similar from the title. What did the world lose by Christianizing the people of it? And why is Christianity so concerned with what other people are doing? It’s undeniable that much blood was shed and many rapes occurred in this pursuit of a wider cross. I wonder why it’s so excusable.

I wonder what damage the construct of virginity has done to women’s personal fulfillment and the world as a whole. All of our liberations are tied up with each other. I wonder whose mental illnesses could have been alleviated if suffering wasn’t romanticized to the point that it is and if the higher powers that be were not a sole reliance. That’s appeared as one of the most dangerous things to me in recent years. I can’t speak of other religions because I know the one that I was born into the best, but the emphasis on acceptance and forgiveness and calm that Christianity has now turns me off. Good intentions, but as those tenets apply to this world, it seems to be used to justify people’s life situations and to expect immediate or eventual forgiveness from those whom someone has wronged. For example, the Dylann Roof massacre of the black churchgoers in Charleston, NC. On the news, literally the next day, news reporters were asking the family members if they would extend forgiveness to Roof for the killings. Like, is that a joke. The calmness that seems to arise from religion is something I really used to admire/aspire to/love. But now- I don’t know. It rings of too much silencing. But silencing of certain demographics only. Expectations for people to be sheep to be herded for one’s own purpose and benefit.

Personal worlds have been enriched by Catholicism/Christianity, but there has never been one singular truth to me. I believe that the Divine can have gods and goddesses and spirits working together, and that’s actually always been my thing. I haven’t always believed in Jesus as a half fully Divine person, and I don’t care that Jewish people don’t either. I believe each religion has found a slice of truth. I realize that humans have crafted our religions. We are the ones who have sat here and written down events, tales, stories. We’re the ones who have borrowed from other religions and changed names, places, and faces to suit our own context. We’re the ones who lose things in translation but also the ones who created the original words. So, I guess I’m a bad Christian but a stereotypical Catholic in that the Bible holds no supremacy for me. It’s meant to illuminate and communicate things that human beings have decided upon, but for me, it’s not literal nor historical. It’s Biblical truth; it is it’s own truth.

In addition to wondering what the world has lost at the expense of its gaining, another thing that distances me from loving my religion is how hateful Christians have seemed to me in recent years. Technically, in terms of the history of the world, the past few years and Westboro are not outliers. Christians decided indigenous people, black people, and Asian people were all some form of sub-human/savage and physically wreaked havoc upon them for that. This is a mini tangent, but that’s a reason I take issue with the designation of places as third world/less industrialized/developing. Why do we all need to work towards the same thing? And why is Christian nation extraordinaire The United States supposed to be the ideal for the rest of the world? We have set what we think is the standard, so we get to decide who plays catch up and by extension, who is uncivilized. By our own standards. But why is civilization as we define it so good and the rest of the world so bad? Alright, tangent over. But point somewhere in there is that its the same ideas as when Christianity was killing people, raping people, and forcing people to adapt their religion. Its just different now in the means and method. It appears more benevolent and goes on mission trips instead. It hangs out with children and photo ops it up but doesn’t speak to the adults. It stays in its village but looks upon the rest of the country warily. It gushes about thankfulness and worries about the hopefully life-long impact its making for the days that its there. I’ve wanted to continue to identify with Catholicism but eschew Christianity. I guess that says something about the things we consider dear to us. You want it to stand out and be special and better than its counterparts. But, really, it’s not.

I think many Christians are happy to consider themselves/their values under attack and rally with that, but I can’t.  Christians have now painted themselves as the ones either screaming in your face about how you’re going to hell or how they’ll pray for you under a mask of love but really, it’s just tolerance and that’s not love at all.

I think I sound angry, but really, I’m confused. Because I want to love my cradle religion, but it’s done so much harm, so am I condoning everything it has done and continues to do if I ignore that? These are things that have caused me to question my alliance with the Church. I recognize the benefits of having a church family and worshipping in a set location each week (if you’re not an Easter, Mother’s Day, Christmas only kind of Catholic), but where do you go when you start to wonder who that family has excluded in the past and might want to exclude in the future? Who that family only began to see as human once they made them a convert and not a “savage”?

Things like this always lead me to contemplate if ignorance is bliss. On one hand, yeah- because I might still be perfectly content to exist in my religion as is, and as it was, I was very happy with it. On another, no- because do I really love it if I’ve never questioned it? James Baldwin style.

Meeting other Catholics, estranged or not, still strikes a certain familiarity in me. Seeing a gorgeous cathedral or elements of Catholicism in people’s homes makes me feel content. The worldview of Catholicism is one I love, but I guess I just have to decide what I want to do with how I feel.

There are religious people that I still admire. Fr. Greg Boyle tops my list, but my classmates are there too. I think it’s great when people love their faith. I was super happy for the Muslim students when their center opened this year on campus, and I get their newsletter and have been to some of their events with my friends. I still remember when Sacred Heart Chapel seemed to be the center of LMU to me, and I still think our music is unmatched in its quality. Liberation theology and other forms of theology still catch my attention and interest me so much. I’ve ran into the rabbi of campus a couple of times. I have a book of Buddhism that I got from the random mini lending libraries scattered around our palm trees. One of my homeboys is Hindu, and it’s cool to see him rep how his faith influences his world and to see how he laments other people appropriating it. I respect people who faith is very important to, like the ladies from the Dolores Mission community in Boyle Heights. Its world-orienting. I get that. I will worship with you if you ask me to because its important to you and your life. I’m down with it, as long as people don’t force it on other people.

The beginning quote is from an original song by a YouTube singer. Regardless of how I feel about organized religion, I still feel like the Divine imbues the world and voices like the one she has and the passion she has for what she’s singing about shows me that.

The Church isn’t a home for me anymore. That doesn’t even really upset me because it has let me see the beauty in people who are non-religious as well, without thinking that they should be. It’s opened me to new ways of life too and to further believing that there is not one truth, especially since we’re all just making up rules, concepts, and contexts as we go along. I’m not even working for campus ministry this final school year, but those seniors from my freshmen year are still people I wouldn’t mind emulating every now and then. 

I guess the saddest part about losing a home is trying to find what can take its place and deciding if you even want anything to.

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Short Film/Doc – Life Between Borders: Black Migrants in Mexico

Director: Ebony Bailey

Mitu did a write-up about this documentary: https://wearemitu.com/newsfeed/heres-what-its-like-to-be-a-black-migrant-in-mexico/.

If you want to skip the mini-article, here’s the video: https://vimeo.com/203384382 (there’s another one with Spanish subtitles)

Anyway! I really appreciated this documentary. It follows some recent Haitian immigrants and speaks about their stories, but it also has an interview with an immigrant from African named Amadou who arrived in the 1970s. It was cool to see the different perspectives among the black diaspora there and how they perceive their treatment in Mexico. Also, I didn’t know that Africa had had any influence in Mexican cuisine, but apparently it has had a bunch. Which would actually be a really cool thing for me to look up later. One of girls, who seemed more frustrated with how Mexico treats her, mentioned that the government covered up African contributions a lot. That reminded me of America and the contributions of every ethnic group that is not white.

I don’t have much I really want to say about the documentary, except that it introduced me to a new topic and inspired me to learn more. I mainly write these so I can remember how I feel about certain things that I’ve viewed.

Anyway, off to re-watch Get Out. Toodaloooo.

 

Poems to Keep: A Poem for Jesse Romero

by Yesika Salgado 

When they found you Jesse, I understood why you ran

who hasn’t been afraid of the cops these days?

who hasn’t panicked at the sight of their guns drawn on sight?

what brown and black boys haven’t been called weapon before being called boy?

how many mothers faces haven’t we met on the 11 o’clock news, tear streaked and tired?

 

my cousin and I drove down highland park the other day

the police had two brown boys against a fence

I said your name like a prayer, Jesse

you, the new patron saint of who we want to come home

 

I have loved so many boys like you before

beautiful brown boys with names they trusted their city to hold

their aerosol cans rattling in their pockets or backpacks

they all just wanted to live forever. I know you did too.

 

your Mami says you were a good boy

and I believe her

the city does too, Jesse

we’ve been saying your name

we’ve been asking for justice

we’ve been holding all the fourteen year old boys closer

kissing them good morning and goodnight

hoping

your face

lives somewhere amongst them now

 

I have a nephew your age

his name is Andrew

the last time I was over,

I listened as he talked about a recent trip

he hugged his mother as she walked by the couch

he let his little sister lean on his lap

 

I wanted to cry the whole time

 

Jesse,

is there a word for the grief

you feel

when all the bodies

being murdered

look like the people

you love most?

 

I don’t know the things I used to know anymore

 

all I can offer

is this poem

this votive candle

with your name

 

I’ve been told your mother is still waiting for your body

that the money isn’t enough

that she never planned to bury her son

 

and my heartbreaks all over again

 

what is the word for loving someone past

tired and murdered and angry and injustice

and helpless and tired again

so tired again

 

Jesse,

you must be that word

 

sweet boy,

you are.

 

 

 

 

It’s crazy how people are so easily convinced that there is a “war on law enforcement” but refuse to believe that there is a war on black boys.

From the start, all people needed to hear was the phrase “Black Lives Matter” to be convinced that there was a war on cops, and then they got their supposed confirmation with their one sniper attack and their one shooter.

Yet, they still remain unconvinced of that war against black/brown boys despite videos, pictures, names, statistics and facts.

They don’t see any problem unless the black boy is the problem.

It is not about bad cops and good cops.
It’s about being raised in a society that portrays black boys as the Other/as an enemy/as a threat/as dangerous and obviously having people who are products of being brought up with the message constantly portrayed to them.

The cops who continue to believe that narrative of the dangerous black man are not always full-out racists. But they are the product of a racist society. And until we acknowledge that problem, we get nowhere.

Also, friendly reminder of this: Were any of y’all scared when you saw (if you saw) the all-white “militia” who was occupying a federal building with all their guns ready at hand? Did you even perceive them to be a threat? No? Exactly. Neither did I.

Be honest with yourself.
How many times have you been afraid of a black man? When you think of the scary members of society, who do you think of? And yo- I’m not judging you for your answers. I’m just saying the problem, and there is a problem, is a lot bigger than individuals. It is our society, and the images that we’re fed continually. And there is a history to this. There always is.
It is not just all of sudden that we are scared of black people- but not “those” black people, the “other” black people, as someone so eloquently told me once.

Really- almost any of us could be a member of law enforcement who uses excessive force against minorities disproportionately.
We all grew up here.
It’s up to you and all of us to challenge what is in your heart and dismantle any biases that you might have.
Y’all are the next CEOs, people in the entertainment industry, future police officers, and leaders of different corporations. Racism didn’t go anywhere among millennials. It’s still very prevalent. So challenge your heart. And if someone is telling you that something you said was racist, try being empathetic and actually listening to them before discrediting what they say.

Everyone wants to critique the media, right? Whether it’s conservative or liberal?
So, how about we start by stop letting them shape our perceptions of people? And let’s go a step further by not taking individuals to represent a whole group- if a black person, immigrant, person from the middle east, or white person has ever done you wrong, it is ignorant to let them stand for the rest of their group. That’s one person.

Seriously, y’all. Let’s stop blindly defending any and all institutions that we were taught to respect. Their ideals may be lofty and their mission might be respectable, but to critique something or point out systemic issues in its operations is not to hate the institution. But if someone does hate an institution that continually disadvantages them, you need to let them have their emotion and work with them to remedy the issue so that they hate it no longer. Think about it- if there is a person who has continually demeaned you, how much do you really like them?

Again, I ask y’all to examine how easily you were convinced of a “war” on law enforcement vs. how you’re still not convinced of a “war” on black boys. If it is about evidence, there is more for the latter.

Maybe we just need better education of all of our histories and for our American history textbooks to be honest as to the extent of slavery, Jim Crow, economic disparities and other realities.
We get a lot of facts but not a lot of context and not a lot of why and not a lot of history.
‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬ is bigger than this moment.
It goes from when we were considered property and subhuman to now when we’re still considered one-sided, violent, subhuman still, and a joke. S/o Kelly peeps who laughed every time a black person came on Channel One. S/o to everyone who laughed so hard any time the black man in Purge: Election Year said anything.

It goes to all the people who think removing someone’s “blackness” is a compliment, to people who compliment people on how mixed they look, to people who have interacted with black girls and boys and yet still somehow believed all the negative or positive stereotypes.

It goes to deflections about black on black crime without seeing that white on white crime is a thing too (most people kill other people of their own ethnicity). Honestly, that’s one of the most offensive deflections. It’s saying, “oh they kill each other, so why does it matter to them if we kill them too?” Check yourself, cause you kill one another too. And also check yourself if you think the black community doesn’t deal with other issues too. We can discuss more than one thing at a time. We got it, boo.

It goes to denoting a table the “black table” without noticing that there’s plenty of all white tables nearby.

It goes to applauding the families of last year’s church massacre for the forgiving way in which they responded and for “showing reason”.

It goes to continually denying there’s a problem until white people acknowledge there’s a problem too, and then it’s “oh, well, I guess there might be.”

And again, it’s still needing more evidence and more bodies to convince you something is wrong in the way law enforcement (as a product of our society) deals with the black population, yet being convinced from the beginning of a hashtag and one attack by one sniper that there is a war on cops.

But aye, I understand, we’re so violent, so unreasonable, so dangerous- what more would you need?

If you want to educate yourself on any of these issues, because the US education system won’t do it for you, take an African American Studies class, take a Chicanx Studies class, take Asian American- Pacific Islander Studies. If your school doesn’t offer them, the library of novels, poems, songs, film talking about perception, media, police, being x minority in America, goes back to the “founding” of this nation. I know you can find them. Check out a museum. Check out articles on line. Check out academic journals, theses, and speeches. Read more of MLK’s work beyond the I Have A Dream Speech. Read some Malcolm X. Talk to your friends. Build up your own repertoire of information.

But beyond any of that, please consider that nothing is as it seems on the surface. Nothing is that simple. Critically examine anything and everything, until you get tired of thinking. Then take a break, and think again. And look again. And dissect every little thing. We don’t just live in this moment. We live in all of the ones that came before us, and plenty of those moments showed the ugliest side of humanity imaginable. It carries.

Peace.

Also- I do not feel the need to respond to any of you, especially if you respond like a jerk. Yes, maybe conversations are good to have. But if you don’t get it, it’s not my job to make you get it. Someone else can handle it.

*originally posted on Facebook*

Brexit

2016 is like God’s own reality show. Or maybe the Devil’s. Who knows. But for millennials, we haven’t really seen anything like this before.

So let’s talk about Brexit.

It made me really anxious and sad. Had I heard about this campaign until the past few days? Nope. But- regardless, from the articles I’ve read, it seems as if the Brexit advocators were most upset over the EU’s immigration policies. Obviously, the Brexit peeps remind me of Trump supporters in the US. It seems as if their concern was nativist/xenophobic/based in thinking the immigrants were going to ruin their economy (when immigrants actually boost the economy, at least in the US). So, if I had gotten a vote, I would have voted to stay in.

Britain has this reputation of being the rational parent of the United States. Brexit basically rubs me as a hot-tempered cousin of the US.

The negative effects of leaving the European Union have already started to show themselves, or will soon. Whether it’s for the economy, the pound, the film industry, or any other industry.

But I’m pretty proud of my friends and I for actually knowing what’s going on somewhere else in the world.

It’s crazy though- with the amount of news that circulates in a day, things can seem not so important. You hear the news, relate what happened, and move on. But the UK leaving the EU, that’s a hugeeeee deal.

And a very bad move.  #ImWithIn

(and Scotland should rejoin the EU)