It is Easter Morning 2011. My lovely wife, RoseMary has just left for Easter Morning Mass. She asked if I wanted to come celebrate this most Holy day of the Christian calendar. I decided not to. I am just not in the mood to ponder the infinite this morning. She understands.
RoseMary is Catholic. She was raised in a devoutly Catholic country. Attended Catholic school as a child. Graduated from a college owned and administered by the Catholic Church. Then she worked at another school that was also owned and administered by the Catholic Church. All her relatives were Catholic. All her friends were Catholic. I truly do not think she ever knowingly met a single non-Catholic person before she moved to the United States at about the age of 28.
Then she met me. A Protestant. Somebody she was taught to believe was ‘of another religion’. I was attending a liberal Baptist church at the time, but she knew nothing of denominational markers. She was taught that all people who claimed to be Christians, but were not Catholics were of a different religion called ‘Protestant’. She was taught to be wary of such characters. I was a refugee from Calvary Chapel, a church that does not officially have members, and I held on to that tradition. I never considered myself a Baptist, nor officially joined that Church, although I was asked to by the Baptist clergy numerous times.
We wed in the Baptist Church against her family’s wishes. I left the Christian Faith about a year after we wed. RoseMary still struggles with the fact that I left, but she has gradually become more and more understanding as time goes by. We are madly in love with each other, despite our different approaches to life.
I have influenced her thinking. I speak openly about my lack of Faith without evangelizing. I just don’t feel the need to keep it a secret anymore. It takes too much energy to keep these things secret. I did not keep the fact that I was a Christian a secret, even long after my street evangelizing days were over, so similarly I do not keep the fact that I am a non-believer a secret. Because of this, all our church friends from the old Baptist church have gradually left us one by one. We still have many friends in the Catholic church, but we have come to understand that many of the nuns that we run into from Annunciation House and similar Catholic groups view us with suspicion.
Over time, RoseMary has found herself drifting further and further away from her Catholic friends. Not completely. We are having a celebration with several friends later today, and I am happy to spend time with them. But she is finding that she needs to be choosy with her friends whether or not they are Catholic. I have taught her that religion does not make people good or bad. It does little to change attitudes. She has come to understand that, and views many of her old Catholic friends as sneaky hypocrites and back-biters. She had let them go as friends.
At the same time, she has been making more friends at her work who are either agnostic or a-religious. She told me that she is finding a new community of people that she really relates to, and it has nothing to do with religion. Unlike everything she grew up with, unlike everything she knew before coming to this country, she is spending time with people and basing friendships with people in a way that is completely unrelated to the Catholic Church.
She has revealed to me, slowly and over time, all the things she does not believe about the Catholic Church. She does not believe ‘Sin’ exists. She does believe in Heaven but not a literal Hell of eternal fire. She hates how the Catholic church manipulates with guilt. She adores Pope John Paul II, but does not like Pope Benedict XVI, and even thinks he should do a bit of jail time. She understands that such beliefs are heresy, but she does not care. She believes as she sees fit, but does not share those heretical beliefs with her Catholic friends (at least not often), and still considers herself Catholic. Which is fine by me.
A few weeks ago, RoseMary was engaged in one of her favorite pastimes - keeping up with her old classmates on FaceBook. After the Earthquake/Tsunami disaster in Japan, many of her old friends were petitioning for prayer for those Japanese people. I stood with her, as she scrolled through page after page of her old classmates Thanking God, Asking for Prayer for God, saying the Loved God, God is Good, Love God, Thank God, Help us God, GOD GOD GOD GOD GOD…
…and RoseMary told me, “you know I am tired of this. All this religious God talk about Japan and nobody is linking to the Red Cross or talking about how they can donate. It is all GOD GOD GOD. How I wish I could tell them that there is no God. That there is no God who is going to look out for them.
then we talked about something else unrelated. I did not pursue the subject. I just let it stay where it was.
No God? Really, RoseMary?
Last weekend we had friends over for tacos and beer (an El Paso staple). They were all a-religious friends from RoseMary’s office whom I do not know well and had only met a few times previous. After loading up on pork asado tacos and a few beers we started to loosen up, and RoseMary shared a story about a religious office-mate of hers that tried to pass off a religious tract to her. We all laughed a bit at that. RoseMary said she should have tried to shock her religious office-mate by saying that both she and her husband were atheists! Uproarious Laughter.
Excuse me, RoseMary? Atheists? Perhaps that was the taco and beer talking, and again, I saw no need to pursue the subject when the friends left. But did I just hear RoseMary identify herself as an atheist?
I do not usually identify myself as an atheist. Just as I did not join a church as a Christian, I don’t now feel like sticking an identifying tag onto my beliefs. But when pressed, I confess that the tag ‘atheist’ does fit me. So should I be rejoicing that my wife RoseMary is gradually leaving the religious mindset and rejecting her traditional god? Should I be happy that I and her secular friends are undoubtedly influencing her thinking?
Funny, but I am not rejoicing. She is the same person, perhaps a little less naïve about the world, perhaps more practical, but the same person I met and married as a devout believer. Maybe I am a little intimidated by the influence I know I have put into her. Perhaps I am a little sad that she is slowly leaving her native culture, the Catholic Church being a huge part of that. Maybe it is the same feeling I feel when I consider anybody’s loss of innocence. A maturing and loss of innocence is a reflective transition in anybody’s life, but in that transition, we must let some cherished, but childish things go. I think back to our time of dating, when I would watch her sing joyously in the church choir, a smile as large as could be, and compare that to now with those innocent days of belief shattered, that joyful choir singing is gone as well. RoseMary is a naturally joyful person and is still joyful in life, but I confess, I sometimes miss watching her sing in the choir, smiling and carefree. We are not there yet. Since I don’t label myself with a belief and never really have, I feel free to call this whole religious outlook on life a journey. I think RoseMary would too, but she is stuck with the label ‘Catholic’ which was branded on her by her native culture.
RoseMary will be back from Mass soon, and we will be going to a party after that, so I should wrap this article up. Another rambling, pointless and aimless article by me. I fear getting too personal sometimes, but that is the advantage of keeping my name an anonymous and ambiguous ‘HeIsSailing’.
Until next time, Dear Reader.