I am a practicing Catholic. As a black woman in Protestant America, this has not always been the easiest denomination to be affiliated with. The scent of incense wafting through a gothic-styled church, the embracing of the Holy Sacraments, the sacredness of the Blessed Virgin — these are the facets I am used to in worshiping God and I enjoy them. I know for many who are reading this, these terms might be unfamiliar or even disturbing. And I’m pretty sure some of you are ready to leave your pastor’s name and address for me to get “right for the Lord.” Please…save your keystrokes.
If it is one thing I absolutely abhor is people assuming that I am not on a God-blessed path, and need to leave my views and church behind to join theirs. As well-intended they may be, nothing makes my skin crawl more than hearing “I would like for you to come visit my church this Sunday”. No thanks. I’ve been hearing this line and similar ones since I was 9. I find such attempts to dissuade me from my faith and beliefs to be rude and hurtful.
As adults, we have the right to choose to join whichever faith or religious/non-religious path we feel called to. Just as I am comfortable being affiliated with my Christian denomination, I know friends who are just as relaxed in being agnostics and non-believers. No adult needs to be shown any “light”. The thing with faith is that its so subjective that a person cannot be forced to feel what they simply cannot. If I find that I find it uncomfortable trying to worship God in a church or within a faith that doesn’t match my views or standards, it is not a criticism on the person who invited me to their church or the church/denomination itself. This feeling is mine, and mine alone, and I am free and entitled to experience it.
If I had to find a contender to contest how much I detest the “come to my church” phrase, it has to be “you need a church to give you the real word of the Lord”. Oh? I guess the priest and church members have been talking about Oprah’s book club selection instead of the chapters of the Bible. Just as it would be completely out of bounds for those of us of faith to consider non-believers to be “evil” or “out of it” (as I regretfully have heard many refer to them), it is of bad taste to believe my status of being a Christian any lower than yours because I am not a member of your sect. As someone who has studied and continues to study the history of the Church, I believe that every religious sect has come from a group of people who are desperately trying to get back to the Source (God, the Universe, etc.) Therefore, there is no barometer to measure one groups’ belief against, and it is preposterous to act as if one exists.
And, of course, we have the priest scandals. People love to throw this in my face after I have respectfully turned down their invitation. To this I say, I don’t think there is a practicing Catholic (and studies prove this) who have stood with the monsters who have committed these atrocious attacks. As someone who has suffered from sexual abuse (not from a priest, mind you) and as a humanist, I feel insulted that my loyalty to my faith is somehow tied to this belief system. As there are students at Penn State who love their school, but angrily denounce the actions of Sandusky; I denounce the actions of few and hold firm to my beliefs as a Catholic.
Respect is a word that so few know the definition of. Respecting someone’s beliefs means that you do not encroach on them, forcing yourself upon them like an alligator wrestler trying to beat the person into what you believe is submission. It means that if you have questions, you ask them with grace. You listen intently to the answers provided, and if you find yourself disagreeing, you do so kindly. Trust me, its not hard.