Sunday, March 9, 2014

Thinking things Lenten

Prior to today, it had been since early February that I made it to church with the kids so Lent snuck up on me.  The only reason I knew it was coming was from Facebook, the only place I ever find out what is going on culturally/socially.  Not watching televised news tends to keep a person one step behind the masses, which is not really a bad thing.

A number of people I know have given up Facebook for Lent, while others are giving up beer or whatever vice or distraction rings important to them.

I, however, do not ever give up anything for Lent.  Ever.

I very much remember in college fasting on Ash Wednesday(s) which made me, an already moody individual, feel like I was going off the chain.  A hungry moody person is the pits.

So much of my relationship with religion has been doing things I didn't want to do only out of guilt or pressure, and I have come to the place now where I think that is a really shitty way of trying to be a better person and forging a sense of conscience, morality and Jesus-like-ness.

I tend to live a pretty moderate life.  I don't drink alcohol with any great frequency. I don't smoke.  I don't spend money on purses or shoes or jewelry or going out to movies.  My time on Facebook tends to be pretty limited most days, unless it is a snow-day in which case FB acts as the barrier that keeps me and Child Protective Services apart (and that, no doubt, is a good thing).

If I did give up something, I would be doing it only out of guilt.  And I won't do that anymore.

For me to adopt things I should do instead of things I shouldn't do.....well, I try to do that anyway.  I try to be as nice and supportive of people as I can.  I try to be thoughtful and give to others of my time and talents.  If I gave too much of my treasure, I would be doing so out of guilt....and, to reiterate, I'm not following that path anymore.

I am a problem-child, for sure.


N asked me the other day if we are Catholic or Christian since a school friend of hers asked.  I said that I was raised Catholic, and we attend a Christian church.  I could have gone into much further explanation of how she is not an official Christian because she hasn't been baptized, that according to the "rules" I am the only one in the household who will go to heaven because I am the only one who has been baptized, although this would be Catholic heaven, and I can't speak to whether I would go to Christian heaven.  I could have explained how Catholic falls under the umbrella of Christian, that they are not mutually exclusive but to instead think of them as the brand names of belief.

But I didn't because she is 10.  I think so much of this is rubbish myself so why strap that to her back?


As an English teacher, I find myself getting bound up in the language of religion, a real sticking point with me sometimes.  I recently read this article, which I enjoyed and agreed with.  Feeling blessed or being blessed is the trend phrase of the moment, like "just sayin" or "I KNOW, right?"  As with those, I become very tired of "blessed" and its overuse.

Blessed is something done TO someone.  When I sneeze, someone blesses me.  If I went to service or mass, I would be blessed by the priest or minister.

Grateful/thankful is something experienced by us.  God does what God does, and we can be thankful for it.  But if God blesses my family with good health, is God then cursing another family whose child died of leukemia?

Without meaning to, the overuse of the word blessing has perpetuated the idea of the "haves" and "have-nots."

Yes, it is splitting hairs, but as teaching English again reminds me, so many of the words we use paint a picture that we may not fully understand.

To go along with this is my great dislike of the phrase "too blessed to be stressed."

I could go on and on (and I have, in this blog) about feeling like because of happenstance, being born in the US in the historical time I was born in to parents who raised me as they did, I am not allowed to feel whatever it is I feel at any given time.  As if having running water and food in the fridge makes me utterly immune to grief or despair or anger or anxiety or any of the negatives associated with just.simply.being.human.

To continue this discussion of religious semantics, another phrase that weirds me out is when people say things like "God spoke to me and told me...."

By saying "God told me to," it removes the individual's own free will from the discussion. Doing what God says is all well and good until and unless someone says "God told me to......hijack an airplane."  And this is why I have a problem with this line of speaking.  Too many people do (and have done) too many terrible things in the name of God.  So when I hear someone speak in this way, even though they are probably very good people who mean no ill by it, it makes me think they are Crusaders and generally pretty extreme.....and generally should be avoided.

It makes me want to ask (which I never do), does God tell you everything to do?  Did God tell you to paint your wall eggplant instead of fuschia?  How do you know it was actually God and not your own sense of self, your own desires which are strong enough that they might seem like God directly whispering into your ear?  Having OCD I know that just because something pings in my head 10,000 times doesn't mean it is God going, "Carrie, listen to me!!  Carrie, listen to me!!"  That is just my brain on its OCD rotation.

We are all guilty of thinking we know what God wants for us, which makes us all a little too big for our collective britches. I tend to believe God has bigger and better things on his omniscient plate than me and my piddly issues, and so for this reason, I have a world of uncomfortable feelings whenever I hear someone speak this way.

Sometimes it is laughable how hung up I get over authority, control and semantics when it comes to God.  It's not you,'s me.

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