Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Seeking II

For a whole rainbow of reasons, I’ve never been comfortable with the concept of "shopping" for a religion. For one thing, I was born into the "One True Church," which, as a matter of policy, frowned heavily upon any such practice. Hellfire licked at the heels of the Catholic who even considered the possibility of finding "more" or "better" at an altar without a crucifix hanging above it and flanked right and left by curtained confessionals. The lingering affect of having cut my teeth on that spiritual provincialism is a persistent unease with the perceived disloyalty of going from church to church until you find one you can live with.


Childhood prohibitions aside, I simply lack the social "eptitude" required for the search. One of the primary functions of any church body worth its tithe is to make new-comers feel welcome. Very welcome. Extremely welcome. Way too welcome. For a devout wallflower like me, whose modus operundi in any social situation is to hang back and disappear into the woodwork until I’m comfortable enough to stretch a testing toe toward the waters, all those warm handshakes, friendly hugs, and ebullent invitations to coffee and donuts after service are enough to send me screaming toward the exit before the first candle is lit. It is a cultural ritual for which the most enthusiasm I can muster is to simply grit my teeth and bear it.


And then, there is the problem of my left-leaning political philosophies. I challenge anyone who is not a card-carrying conservative, or at least willing to fake the credentials in the interest of peace, to wade into the arena of Faith without fear of being burned at the stake, or worse. I know I won’t be happy being a closet liberal in a right-wing world. Been there and done that, and I have no intention of doing it again.


Considering all this, I must have felt, ultimately, a deep need for things of the spirit; acute enough to give me the courage to set my qualms aside and launch a quest for a spiritual home. Loneliness and fear can be powerful motivators. The loneliness of a life lived to an ever-increasing degree inside my own head; the fear of moving ever more swiftly toward the end of that life, and having no idea what might lie beyond. And needing to believe that something does, if only to calm my fears enough for me to be able make it to the end without losing my mind. Does this constitute a deep spiritual need? I suppose not. But I guess I thought that desperation for human connection and a need for reassurance on the question of an afterlife were good enough reasons to embark upon the search. Perhaps the purity of my motivation, or lack thereof, was responsible for the outcome of the visit to the first church on my list.

to be continued...

7 comments:

Cynthia said...

This is such excellent writing. Despite all the differences between Catholicism and my Southern Baptist upbringing, the discouragement to find a different religion from the major religious institution of my youth is something I can really identify with. With its emphasis on literalism, there was always the vaguely hidden implication that other churches were just doing it wrong. It did make seeking more intimidating at first. Then there's that whole balance issue of being welcoming enough. If there's too little, the church feels cold, too much, and you feel pressured. I've been to some churches where the friendliness felt almost cult-like in its desire to make people feel like they belonged. As for political issues, that became part of the reason for my search. I'm really looking forward to seeing the rest of this series of entries. A church can be a point of either crisis or strength in one's life. It can be a tremendous tool in nurturing one's spiritual life, but my years of going solo taught me the crucial distinction between church and spirituality. Sorry this is so long.

Gannet Girl said...

" I challenge anyone who is not a card-carrying conservative, or at least willing to fake the credentials in the interest of peace, to wade into the arena of Faith without fear of being burned at the stake, or worse. "

Honestly? This has never been an issue for me. It's hard for me to imagine it being an issue in Portland. It's only with the advent of the internet and the forway of the religious right into presidential politics that I have even discovered the whole conservative side of Christianitym (and realized that if we ever move south, looking for a church will take on another whole dimension). There is a whole arena of progressive Christianity that seldom makes its way into the headlines.

Your description of Catholic discomfort with the gleeful Protestant process of church-shopping is one of your best yet. However, you are way too effective with the suspense here. What HAPPENED???

Gannet Girl said...

That would be "foray" and "Christianity." Honestly, they looked ok when I typed them.

ckays1967 said...

Lisa...

If ever you thought of writting a book, this is the stuff with which to fill it. This series of postings are rivoiting.


Now, please finish.

Did you get your gift yet?

ckays1967 said...

is rivoiting

Marcy said...

Lisa, Your words are smooth and flowing and beautiful..But how dare you keep us in such suspense!!!!! I am hooked on your new digs!

emmapeelDallas said...

Ohhhhh, I agree - I'm in suspense here. And btw, I couldn't agree more with what you said about "all those warm handshakes, friendly hugs, and ebullent invitations to coffee and donuts after service are enough to send me screaming toward the exit before the first candle is lit." So tell us - what happened?

Judi