Where Logic Meets Love

What Life of Pi Says about Gay Marriage (or Why I'm Still Catholic)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

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What Life of Pi Says about Gay Marriage (or Why I'm Still Catholic) | Faith Permeating Life
I had a conversation with a friend the other night about the book Life of Pi. He complained about the first part of the book being too religion-focused, which made it difficult for him to get through it to the "adventure" part of the book. I said what I liked about it was how it created this challenge with the idea that a person could consider themselves part of three different religions. His response was that he already assumed that (that you could practice three religions), so he didn't gain anything from it.

This made me think about why what Pi does -- practice three religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) -- is seen as so outrageous and clashes so strongly with our traditional conceptions of religion.

What I think is so beautiful about this book and this character is that it forces the reader to draw a distinction between two very different aspects of religion: belief and worship. When looking at religion as a belief system, it becomes impossible to adhere strongly to these three religions. You cannot simultaneously believe that Jesus was and was not the Messiah. You'd have to pick and choose what you believe from each religion.

If, however, you view religion as a mode of worship, then the contradiction vanishes. You can, as Pi does, worship one God in multiple ways. You can find Him in the temple, the church, and the mosque. And in this way, you are provided with an expanded ability to worship and to experience God. You can listen to the words of not only Jesus but Moses, Muhammad, and others, to learn more about God and find more connection to Him. You can be taught more ways to pray, both with others and by yourself.

I explain this difference -- between belief and worship as offerings of organized religion -- to explain why I am choosing to remain Catholic despite extreme anger and embarrassment at certain Catholic authorities' words and actions. I have, in my Google Reader, a feed of every news article that comes through Google News about gay marriage. It saddens and angers me every time I read about a Catholic diocese contributing money to "fight" gay marriage, particularly those churches who passed around signature sheets and collection plates during Mass to aid in this fight. I was appalled to read about the archdiocese of DC threatening to stop social services if gay marriage passed, out of "fear" that they might have to provide benefits to same-sex partners.

Yesterday a statement from the U.S. bishops came out condemning gay marriage and issuing the vague and oft-repeated claim that it was destructive to "traditional marriage." I had been subscribed to a blog of a woman about my age who was also newly married, Catholic, and practicing NFP, and I enjoyed reading about the similarities in our lives. When she published a blog post praises the bishops' decision, however, (and adding, "Way to go, Maine!") I unsubscribed. I don't think my unsubscribing will affect her in the slightest bit, but reading those words so disturbed me that I didn't want to read anything else she might have to say about same-sex marriage being a danger to our society or a detriment to traditional marriage.

So why remain Catholic, and why keep giving money to the church? I'll answer the latter question first. Because no diocese in Illinois has pissed me off yet, and because I think our priest deserves to get paid if I'm going to keep attending our church, and because he seems pretty liberal and possibly not a personal believer in the "evilness" of gay marriage. (On the other hand, apparently our church is conservative enough that even though we clearly filled out our registration to say "Mr. & Mrs. Michael and Jessica ______ and listed me as the "head of house," we still got our envelopes that said "Mr. & Mrs. Michael ______.") Also, I believe in tithing because I believe that it is an act of faith, and if the money is used for unjust purposes without my knowledge, then that sin is on the spender, not on me.

The first question, why I remain Catholic, brings me back to the point I made at the beginning of this post. I am not Catholic because I need an organized religion to tell me what to believe. I am Catholic because I find that Mass is the method of worship that resonates most with my heart.

I spent a summer traveling the country with a Christian organization and going to all kinds of different worship services, and I missed going to Mass. When Mike and I went to visit one of my friends at a different college and went to her worship service, we went to Starbucks afterward while she was teaching Sunday School, and the first thing Mike said to me was, "I'm so glad we're Catholic." To which I responded, "Me too." It had nothing to do with anything in particular preached during the service, just in the method by which it was carried out. People accuse Catholics of not really participating in church because we just go through a ritual, but you know what? We stand and sit and recite prayers together, we hold hands, we shake each other's hand and give hugs. At this service I could have sat there and slept through the entire thing and no one would have noticed, that's how disconnected I felt from what was going on. Catholicism is how I best connect with, experience, and worship God.

If you understand that about me, you understand why I am completely open to other people belonging to different religions or different denominations of Christianity. If I were Catholic because I believed that the Catholic Church's teachings were the one right way to think about God, then I wouldn't and couldn't be so accepting. But I don't think there's one right way to think about God or talk to God or pray to God or worship God or experience God. This is what works for me. I would much prefer someone to be a devout Muslim than a forced-into-it distant uncomfortable Christian.

I believe the Catholic Church will get its act together on the gay marriage issue eventually, even if it takes 100 years or so. Nothing I do is going to change the fact that the Church does things really, really slowly.

Update: Here are some other posts explaining my views on gay marriage.
...And Then the Bishops Threw a Tantrum
What Is Marriage For, Really?
Also check out A Resource Guide to Christianity and Homosexuality

A Quick Update on Life

Saturday, November 7, 2009

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I was able to successfully start putting my family's home videos on DVDs, and I am SO excited about it. I have the first six years done so far, for a total of 9 DVDs. I go over to my parents' house every Sunday to work on them while Mike is at work. My sister sits and watches me sometimes, and my mom and even occasionally my dad will sit with me and figure out who people are (I make labels pop up briefly on the screen) and where we were and what certain events were called. It's probably my favorite day of the week. My sister keeps asking if she's been born yet, but the rate of one year's movies a week, she probably won't be born until sometime after Christmas :)

Life is good. Marriage is good. Mike is his usual self, which is one part infuriating to about nine parts patient, loving, and thoughtful. I fully expect him to remain so throughout the rest of our lives. We are currently planning out the house we want to build for ourselves in about 10 years. How that will fit in with having kids, his career, etc. My parents still appear not to grasp the concept of my being the primary breadwinner. Oh, and speaking of my career, with all the layoffs happening in publishing, I've pretty much decided that ideally I would like to stay in higher education and do as much freelance editing as I can. I think that would be a good balance for me.

My sister's spending the night here tonight, so I need to get things picked up a bit and run some errands. I like having a normal, routine life.
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