Monday, April 14, 2008
I'm not a regular church-goer. In some societies I might be regarded as a heathen for not attending. This Sunday St. Gregory The Illuminator Armenian Apostolic Church had its groundbreaking ceremony for a $1.8 million "Founders Hall", much-needed space for the church, which was built in 1966. My family, incidentally, helped lay the cornerstone of that church. The new "Founders Hall" facility will have classrooms, a large multi-purpose room and be an asset for the growing church community.
I've struggled with religion all my life. When I was a kid, my dad read to me from one of those children's Bibles. You know the ones: large, colorful illustrations of Adam and Eve, Noah's Ark and Jesus but strangely no mention of Sodom and Gomorrah. I guess the illustrator had trouble drawing that. Anyway, dad read me the story of Noah's Ark and got to the part where the Lord rained upon the Earth for 40 days and 40 nights and not a spot on Earth was dry. Now my small brain wasn't stupid. I knew about the Himalayas. I knew about Mt. Everest. I knew that 40 days worth of rain wasn't going to cover the snow-capped peaks over 29,000 feet.So I disputed it. My dad's response, like any suburban father's when his son started questioning anything was "Do you want to argue with God?"
So that was it. Shut me up through fear. Kinda like what the government is going now. No discussion, no talking logic, just flash the vengeful, supernatural Lord's wrath at me and frighten me.
Growing up in the Armenian Apostolic Church is a weird experience, because nobody outside the church knows what it is.
"Is that like Greek Orthodox?" they ask.
It isn't. It's got more in common with Coptic Christianity than Greek Orthodox, but who cares?
That's the trouble with Christianity in general - it's like the Baskin-Robbins of world religions: several different varieties and everyone has their own favorite flavor.
It was difficult to attend that church because the services are in Armenian and if you don't understand Armenian, you just sat there confused. It's like listening to Charlie Brown's teacher rattling on for two hours: "Wah, wah. Wahhh, wah, wahhh, wahh, wahhh..."
During college I joined a Unitarian-Universalist Church. For those of you who don't know who Unitarians are, they're like the Woodstock tailgating party who parked their WV Microbusses in a field and just formed their religion. Unitarians were a Protestant branch that thrived in New England and are very liberal. How liberal are they? If you are a pantheist lesbian midget you'd fit right in. I met a lot of good people there, but sometimes the politics got in the way. Like discussing the policies of the Clinton years at a wine, cheese and hashish party following the service.
When I lived with my wife, we attended Catholic church. There were a few things I liked about it, namely the inspirational music and artwork showing Jesus' ministry. There also were a few things I hated, namely everything else. I know the Catholic Church has its controversy with the sex scandals, but it was this "holier-than-thou" attitude and hypocrasy that turned me off. I mean, if the Catholic Church was so great, why did the Protestant Reformation happen? Martin Luther's "Fuck You, Rome" speech in 1517 was the first time anyone stood up to the Pope. Now the church is in damage-control mode and spinning itself as progressive. They just released their new slogan - "The Catholic Church - We Haven't Tortured Since the 17th Century".
My spiritual journey is far from over. I take wisdom where I can get it. I thank God privately every day for being alive, but I still don't attend church regularly. I get whatever grace, lessons and enlightenment from books, nature or other people.
And if that means going to an Armenian Church for a day and hearing people who talk in a foreign language or going to a Catholic Church and listening to some priest who probably diddled a fourth grader, or even meditating in the lotus position and asking Buddha to smite my enemies like the vile dogs they are, then I feel spiritually whole and connected with a divine power.