Tuesday, December 12, 2006

'Tis the Season...to Doubt

Gay and Evangelical, Seeking Paths of Acceptance

I feel bad for the subjects of this article. And, as we're in the thick of a season that has long been my favorite, maybe it's time to say why.

Most people who know me now know me as a very, well, agnostic person. I seeth at the notion of organized religion, and I think it's a bit arrogant to claim knowledge of an entity on the basis of an old book while simultaneously claiming the entity to be beyond all human comprehension in his majesty and glory.

See? There I go again.

And yet, folks who've known me a bit longer know that there was a time when being a good churchgoing boy was very important to me. I went every week as a child and all the way through high school, even as I chafed at the idea of being confirmed a Catholic. (I went through with it, though; technically speaking, in the eyes of the church, I'm one of them.) Even when I went off to college, I trudged off to Mass, held on Saturday nights so as not to conflict with the Sunday morning Lutheran service. I knew all the hymns by heart and could have been a reader during Mass without more than glancing at the page. Anyone who suffered through CCD will know that this was above and beyond the requirements. I loved being Catholic.

But all through this time I knew something was amiss. As it began to dawn on me what that something was, it got harder and harder to go to church. I started crying during Mass. At first it was simply tears at the beauty of the story--that the holiest of holies would give up his only son to make recompense for my wicked ways--but eventually the tears turned bitter, as I realized I was losing the stories, and the church, and everything I had known. And my wicked ways, in the eyes of the church, were partly, though not entirely, to blame

It's been at least eight years now since I was a regular churchgoer, and I don't miss the hassle of it. Meet the Press on Sunday mornings fills in nicely, though it does remove one way I might meet more friends who live close by. But I do miss the songs, the stories, and the feeling of inner certainty I once had. I've been thinking about it a lot, lately, wondering if it wouldn't be easier to just give in to the crowd and make myself believe.

I won't, of course. But that doesn't mean I don't occasionally look at the Christmas tree I've set up in the front window, surrounded by a little holiday village and stacks of carefully wrapped gifts, and wish it all meant the same thing to me that it does to others. Or that I don't look at the manger scene atop one of our bookshelves and think about what a beautiful story it represents. The holiday cannot help but permeate the season. And that brings me great joy--but it cannot help but be permeated by a tinge of sadness.

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