More than One Way to Skin a Cat(holic)

Had an odd experience this week, in that the Missus, the Midget and I were invited to witness my sister-in-law’s conversion to the Baptist faith. The Missus and her whole clan were raised Catholic but my SIL married into a family of Baptists, which led her to start to consider this process. No gripes against her husband, as he’s one of the most decent men I’ve ever met and the only thing I’ve ever been able to find wrong with him is that he’s a Bears and Cubs fan.

My biggest problem with this whole thing was the concept of certainty that people were holding about their religious structure. In listening to the prayers there, it seemed to me that there were very few differences in terms of the core beliefs between her former and soon-to-be religions. It wasn’t as if she was moving from a religion that viewed Jesus Christ as a deity to one that worshiped house plants and Henny Youngman. The use of the baptism, the petitions of faith and even a few of the songs (got an interesting version of “How Great Thou Art” rolling in the place) had clear crossover.

And yet there was a sense within that church that they had “saved” someone from sheer peril and the evil of her former faith. During parts of the early prayer service when they talked about how my SIL was “finding Jesus” I wanted to pipe up with, “Yeah, she kind of found him before when she was baptized, received communion and participated in confirmation in another branch of Christian faith, but hey, let’s not ruin the narrative.” I also had a moment during the “spontaneous praying” in which someone noted that the country was founded “for them to worship Jesus” and I wanted to break out my handy copy of the First Amendment for my “spontaneous prayer.” The Missus probably captured the feeling best when she said, “It’s like after you get your ass kicked in a softball game as a kid and they make you line up and say “good game.” You know the other kids aren’t thinking it was a good game. They’re practically laughing at you for having sucked so bad.”

I think I finally came to the conclusion that there is a reason I dislike the people I dislike. These folks were like many of the Republicans I know, the Duke basketball fans I know and the other general toolboxes who seem to propagate talk radio. The conviction of absolute certainty that THEIR WAY is the ONLY WAY discomfits me in many ways. I have faith in God, I worship as I see fit and I am happy to discuss the merits and drawbacks of the choices I’ve made. There’s not a sense that this is right for everyone and yet at the end of the day, I’m happy with what I’ve done, right or wrong. However, the people who feel the need to squeeze you until you cry “uncle” to adopt their philosophy aren’t going to be people with whom I feel comfortable.

Maybe that’s just me, but if someone has to be right at all costs, chances are, they’ve been wrong all along.

6 thoughts on “More than One Way to Skin a Cat(holic)

  1. From the other side, as a Catholic, I can confirm that many of my fellow Catholics would have acted similarly if your SIL had converted from a Baptist to a Catholic. The reaction would have been that she’d gone from being a snake-handling weirdo to a Sublime Supporter of the One True Faith. Gotta love the boxes they try to put us all into. Or not.

  2. Back when I lived in Texas, I had a rather eye-opening experience with a rather confirmed Baptist. We were having a group discussion about religion, and the majority of folks involved were very non-judgmental, having dabbled in everything from pantheism to mainstream Christian to Buddhism and all sorts of other stuff. The general trend of the conversation was that, yeah, there are probably many paths to reach the Divine, and many names for It. And this really set her off: She said we were disrespectingher religion. Since her faith specifically states that it is the Only Way to salvation, then be being tolerant ofall religions, we were implicitly denying hers.
    I had never been called “intolerant” for being tolerant before. As I said, a real eye-opener.

  3. The way I’ve always seen it is that female Catholics have more power than female members of other “strict” faiths. Female Catholics seem to be able to choose either to be subjugated by their religious faith (Rose Kennedy would be an example) or to cheerfully use their faith as a tool to rule (very many Catholic moms I have known). Female Baptists/Pentecostals/Jehovah’s Witnesses etc. are bound by their religion almost from the day they are born, and if you have ever attended a wedding within these religions, where the bride is lectured as part of the ceremony on her expected behavior as her husband’s extreme subordinate, you can understand the difference. Ask yourself how many Catholic women you know who would tolerate that, and how many of their boyfriends/husbands would expect it (or at least how long they would expect it before being set straight).

  4. My bad moment like this was at my grandmother’s funeral, when the preacher gave a spiel about those without God being without hope, while here we are, her mostly-agnostic-to-atheist descendants, sitting in the front row. I got pretty bitter about it, and when I got home, left a pretty bitter comment over at Pandagon (which may have been eaten in their server changeover, dangit!) on a pretty relevant post that happened to be fresh at that time.
    Oddly enough, that was also when I finally learned that my grandparents’ faith was Baptist (I’d always assumed Lutheran, what with them being Scandinavians in Minneapolis), and furthermore, that my grandfather had worked for Billy Graham for quite a while, back in the day. It’s been an interesting surprise.

  5. When I was a small Vulcan it was a SIN to even GO into another church!
    BTW, the book The Authoritarians explains a lot of the thinking of Right-Wing Authoritiarins and Fundimentalist. That Black and white thinking is something that comforts them. Personally I do a lot of black and white thinking in life and it is a constant struggle. I grew up with some very story RWAs in a Red state. If it wasn’t for my Star Fleet Academy training I would be lost.

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