I am a Robert Indiana kind of believer in God (or a higher power or however you identify or not!). That means for me – and me only – god is love. I cannot handle anything more complicated.
I gave up on organized religion when I was thirteen. It was before that but thirteen was my official and vocal ‘coming out’ as it were.
Two weeks before my scheduled Confirmation I went to our Pastor and told him I couldn’t go through with it. I didn’t believe in God that way. (Judgey, preachy, hypocritical – take your pick.)
For two years, every Wednesday evening, I attended confirmation class in preparation for the Big Day. Being Confirmed means you accept your first communion (a holy sacrament) and become an adult member of the church. (I just had to Google “drinking wine and eating wafers” because I forgot the word was ‘communion’.)
Our Pastor told me three things that confirmed (no pun intended) I was making the right decision: one, I was “…thinking about the whole thing too much”; two, “…there were probably other kids that felt the same way”; and, Three, “No one had ever in (his) 25 years of being a pastor refused to be confirmed.”
The ‘take away’ for me was it was just something you do – no matter what. Really? Don’t over-think drinking the blood of Christ? Eating his flesh? That’s epic stuff. I think that should entail quite a bit of thinking. In fact, I would vote for over-thinking.
My parents were furious. Of course, now, my mother mis-remembers how supportive and proud she was of me. The reality is she and my dad were super pissed. And, not for the over-thinking-religion-part but for the embarrassing-them-business. (She really, truly is proud of me now.)
We agreed they would not drag me by my hair down the aisle of the church to be Confirmed and I would contribute some time to the church other than attending services I found to be unacceptable.
My job was to volunteer in the basement with the “retarded kids” while their parents attended the church service. It was a small group of children who had Down syndrome.
Things I can’t get out of my head:
I hated the adult volunteer who ran this little gulag. He got off on how pathetically hopeless the “retards” were and how great he was for spending his time with them. (I hope when he died it was both frightening and painful.)
Why couldn’t these kids be in the “regular daycare” during services? My younger sister was on the second floor of the church in the “regular daycare” room eating paste. How much were these kids going to stick out? (Back then – a great deal of course. Still no excuse.)
One of the kids was not “a kid”. He was maybe twenty-five year’s old. His name was Monty. He wore a green suit – stripped tie, his shoes shined and his hair combed back. Dressed for church – just like my Dad and brother upstairs along with his parents – except he was in the basement with children who shouldn’t have been in the basement to begin with.
To this day, I can very clearly see Monty. I see him in that awful place with that terrible man. I see that in spite of his circumstances he presented himself in a dignified manner.
Even as a teenager I was very much aware he was an adult.
‘god is love’ means you get to see god in other people.