This stance just frustrates me. I would imagine a good reason for not going to church is that you’re a Buddhist, not because you want to nurture your grudge.
Well, I guess it is. Some people have “a charge to keep.” I have a grudge, but I think I’ve come by it honestly. I’ve written before about my issues with religion, but it wasn’t until recently that I was able to be honest with myself about how deep those issues run and how personal they are. It wasn’t until I was sitting in the middle of my father’s funeral that I even thought about the resolve I mentioned above.
It was there that I made the decision to absent myself from anybody’s church henceforth. I’ve even considered putting my own funerary wishes (no funeral/memorial in a church or other religiously dedicated building, no hymns, no biblical readings, no sermons, no mention of “god” or “christ,” etc.), much the same way my father did before he died. It was there that I think I touched a personal bedrock of sorts.
There was, naturally, a lot of sadness attendant with with my father’s death and with going home for his funeral, and I was overcome with that as I entered the church and led my mom down the center aisle towards my dad’s casket. And I felt it as I sat on the front row as the funeral service started. I felt it when it was my turn to speak, as I placed Parker’s picture on the podium next to my remarks and touched the ring my husband gave to me on the night he proposed; to have them there with me.
Because, you see, they couldn’t be there with me. Because going home for me has always mean going as a stranger in a strange land. Because home is drenched in the faith of my father and everyone else who populates that place.
Thus, somewhere between the second hymn and the end of the eulogy, my tears dried and sadness solidified into an abiding anger. Because I realized then that, though I would bury my father on that day, I’d actually lost him 25 years earlier — and lost home too — when I realized who I was and decided to live as honestly as I could. And it was because of his faith that I lost him, lost home. It didn’t lose me his love or his pride, but it did lose me my parents’ acceptance and more. It meant that no matter what I did with my life, I would always be deficient, not good enough, in one aspect.
That faith marred my last moments with my father. It commanded that my last words to him should be a lie.
That faith required me to return home leaving my family behind, because of the many relatives and family friends that I would encounter while there, whom my parents hadn’t told (out of shame, I presume) about my “lifestyle.” So, while they all knew I was a father, I played the part of a single parent in order not to add to the emotional burden of the occasion. (Everyone else’s emotional burden, that is. Not my own.)
That faith required me to lie to one person after another on that trip home. I looked into the faces of people who’ve known me since birth, who asked why I didn’t come home more often. And, again to keep the peace for everyone else, I held my tongue and didn’t tell them that the reason I don’t come home more often is because home is full of people like them whose faith makes them averse to the reality of other people’s lives. And as a result, though they’ve known me all my life, they don’t know me, don’t want to know me, and can’t do so without threatening everything they literally believe.
I didn’t tell them that the reason I don’t come home more often is because it’s centered around the worship of a god who according to them on the one hand says that people like me can’t exist but on the other hand keeps churning us out. I didn’t tell them that, in my opinion, that means their god has a sick sense of humor at best (to borrow a phrase from Depeche Mode) and at worst makes him one sick sadistic son of a bitch. I didn’t tell them that I don’t have any room in my life for people like that, however much they might claim to “love” me, and I’m not about to do so when it comes to their “god.”
Because if a person caused me that much pain in my life and yet claimed to “love” me, I’d be inclined to think they were lying. To say all of that would have hurt someone, and probably caused them pain. So I swallowed it all, because it was easier to do so and I was used to it. That faith had required such of me most of my life.
As I sat there hearing praises sung and saw that faith — which had, supposedly in the name of love, taken from me things I should never have lost — being celebrated and comforting everyone else, I got angry. And I guess I’ll stay angry for some time as I don’t begin to know how to resolve all of the above. Nor do I know how to simply “get over it.”
I wouldn’t find it easy to forgive or make peace with a person who was responsible for even a portion of what I described above. But such a person might actually take a first step towards reconciliation. As it stands now, if I never darken the door of a church again, I probably won’t be missed anyway. After all, I never was before.