I was raised Roman Catholic and I tend to say that a lot. I don’t much think of its impact because most of America still believes in some kind of higher power. When I was a kid, being raised Catholic was a bit of a novelty: it was difficult to explain my very pagan-looking religion and the rituals attached to it but it was a quiet religion and I enjoyed Sunday school and going to Mass on Sundays with my grandfather and family. But we’ll jump back to that in a minute: I wanted to talk about personal theology not because I’m a masochist but because I realize that despite me just saying that I’m Catholic there’s plenty I’m leaving out.
Roman Catholicism is a serious, somber and intense religion. It follows ideas that are ancient and in fact it is the seriousness of Catholicism that keeps me attached to it. God is busy. God has a lot to do. God created everything and He doesn’t always have time for my flighty concerns like relationships and how many cupcakes I should eat.
When I was 9 or so my father took me to his more energetic evangelical church and I felt incredibly uncomfortable with this. I felt unsure and afraid of people jumping around and flailing about, speaking in fake languages. I was worried about a God and a Jesus that were in each and every detail of my life: always watching. I didn’t find comfort in the all-seeing, all-following eye of God: it terrified me. They were also anti-science and anti-Pokemon, Harry Potter and other video games: we’re gonna get to that in a minute.
My dad died when I was 12 and I talk about that a lot because it did shape my life. I returned to Catholic school and Catholic worship but my father’s funeral was at his overzealous church. While coping with my father’s death I heard plenty of things that at the time and do still now seem callous and did shape my personal theology.
Your dad’s in a better place.
Was our home not good enough? Why take him?
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
That’s incredibly mean to say to a child. Does punching you make you stronger?
God never gives you more than you can handle.
I’m 12: I can barely handle my classwork and extracurriculars. Boys are also very confusing.
God has a plan for all of us.
And this one apparently means I don’t get to have my dad?
Needless to say, I did what most kids did during that time: I turned away from God. I didn’t like His world of indifference and bad things and I didn’t like that He stood by hanging out in a tree or something just watching me suffer (as I imagined God did at the time: I was an angsty kid, we’ve been over this.) I didn’t find much comfort in anyone’s theology but still went to Mass (mostly because I had to) but it was in 7th grade in my Catholic theology class that I discovered a doctrine I did understand: Deism.
Deism’s main tenant is that God made the universe and world (He’s known as The Great Watchmaker) and set the world in motion and just let it go. He backed away. He’s off now doing other things: probably knitting, maybe? But He doesn’t impact the day to day life of an individual. This kept my free-will issues in check and helped me cope with a world that took a relatively young man from his family. The overactive daily involved God of other religions just seemed like Superman or Batman: a selective force who seemed too active in some people’s lives and not active enough in others.
But Deism didn’t take away my Catholic nature. I am baptized and such in the Roman Catholic Church (working on Confirmation: I have my saint name picked out and you’re welcome to ask me what Saint I wish to take on) and I never really let my religion change how I felt.
Being Catholic doesn’t mean I can’t be a fangirl (clearly). Being Catholic doesn’t mean I have to be Anti-Science: if anything Intelligent Design is one of the most faith-affirming things I’ve found (the Universe is vast, indifferent and we are moments from falling into utter chaos and distress but yet we float on perfectly at least for now). Being Catholic doesn’t mean I have to ignore evolution: Pope John Paul II said that evolution in the Neo-Darwinian sense was fine. Being Catholic doesn’t mean that I have to be content with intolerance or ignorance of other faiths in fact I’m charged and encouraged to learn about other theologies and ways of worship. Being Catholic in general doesn’t mean I have to support senseless hatred or cruelty: if anything to me it’s the most peaceful of religions if applied in certain ways (and this is a very current statement: being Catholic for many years meant LITERALLY taking up a sword and LITERALLY fighting for your beliefs). But it also meant having to unfortunately cherry-pick some of my personal theology: I’m fine with birth control and contraception and my ideas concerning LGBT issues and rights are to say kindly and mildly not conservative, at all.But knowing that I can be liberal with my social policy and still be a backyard astronomer doesn’t mean I am unaware of the trials of what being Catholic meant to those even a few years ago: Lookin’ at you, Giordano Bruno and Galileo.
But my personal beliefs in a God that is somewhat busy and absolutely too busy to be bothered by the concerns of one tiny fangirl is even at odds with my family. My aunts believe in, despite also being Catholic, that very personal God: a God that is always with you. Always hanging out. Always there. Like Odin (we’ll touch on paganism and Catholicism WAY later, trust me.) And there’s nothing wrong with that: it’s just not my personal theology.
So there’s a shallow dive into my personal theology: it may end up answering a few questions you may or may not have about me, your humble author.