This blog is called Catholic-esque for a reason. I was raised Catholic and confirmed within the Church, but like many other people, I no longer belong to a parish or attend mass. Though I’ve entertained the thought of starting back up again, a few aspects of joining a church in an official capacity give me great pause.
I would like to discuss the tendency of religious organizations to target and prey upon people when they are at their most vulnerable. This could be during times of great financial loss, or even following the loss of a loved one. Churches seem to have an incredible gift for offering comfort and support in exchange for free labor.
Note to self: Dial down the cynicism.
Note to self: Ignore first note. Always be yourself.
Certain denominations of Christianity are more evangelical than others. That term, used in this context, refers to their greater efforts spent in spreading the “Good News,” or the Gospel. I’m not here to make a judgment on the various recruiting tactics employed by different denominations. I’m trying to focus on what happens after a person has affiliated themselves with a church.
Before I continue, I want to give “church” a fair shake. So…
What do I like about the idea of attending church?
A few things:
Number One: Setting aside a specific time that is dedicated to God. Ideally, Christians would then use this time as a reminder that every moment of every day is God’s time. That challenge is the most difficult part of being a Christian. We can get so wrapped up in our everyday problems to the point where we forget to acknowledge the beauty and wonder of God’s creation. We forget to treat others as the children of God that we know they are. If you believe that. It’s fine if you don’t <–italicized because I’ve used this before and will use it again and again. I want anyone who isn’t a total asshole to feel welcome here, and I’m not in the business of trying to convert anyone.
Number Two: Engaging in rituals of worship can be helpful in connecting God with the rituals of our everyday existence. I’m talking about the most boring, mundane aspects of being alive. Church is boring for a lot of people, yes. We do the same thing there every week. The responsibilities and obligations that come with being alive are also quite boring or monotonous at times. Feed the pets, water the plants, take the kids to school, pick them back up, make dinner, do the laundry–only add about a hundred-or-so other things in there and you’ve accounted for an entire day’s worth of activities you’ve done before and will do again until the day you die. It can help to think of these obligations as a way of serving God and His creation. Participating in rituals of worship can help us direct our thoughts toward God. Consider how many preparatory rituals you might engage in at home before leaving the house for the day–taking a shower, brushing your teeth, making coffee–whatever they are, once you have your daily rituals down, you tend to repeat them day after day. Whenever you have a day where you feel rushed, or something gets in the way of these rituals, do you ever feel a little “off”? Like you might not be in the right head-space? My point is that observing rituals can be necessary to maintaining our own sense of inner peace. It’s no wonder that they factor into most religious services.
Number Three: The sense of community and belonging. Sounds great, but I struggle with this because I don’t actually feel like I belong in church. I remember times of feeling disgusted by what was being said during the priest’s homily. I know I would still have that reaction if I went to church and heard those same things today. I don’t want to be disappointed all over again. This is the main reason why I lost interest in my religion and why I abandoned my faith. Only later did I start to regard organized religion as a method by which the state keeps its citizenry subdued and “in check.” Today I still acknowledge this–I can’t find a convincing argument against it. If you’re a part of the militant atheist movement and want to “convert” believers to your side, I would suggest following that thread because it certainly worked on me for a while. In my first post here, I said that I didn’t want to blame God for my failures or my perceived failures of other people. So that’s how I believe in God while still agreeing with the view that religion is used to subjugate people.
I’m about to delve more into the reservations I have about getting involved in organized religion. Let it be known that I strongly dislike the following:
-getting up early
-being told what to do
-being recruited for volunteer activities
Those are minor things though. Maybe I should never, ever go back to church. Maybe. I’m not sure yet, and I’m trying to figure that out.
One major aspect of organized Christianity that gives me the creeps is…the creeps: the people who seem to be lying in wait to take advantage of you when you’re in a vulnerable state and seeking guidance. I don’t like seeing church leaders target people who are hurting. I feel like I’ve seen this time and time again–the people who are targeted are often women, and they feel compelled to increase their involvement in church functions and activities. Have you ever noticed how many parish volunteers are women? Are we so lacking for legitimate positions within our chosen spiritual communities that all we’re good for is selling raffle tickets at the church picnic, or serving scrambled eggs at a church breakfast? Add in a thousand other tasks and you start to wonder if any religious organization could possibly stay afloat without women providing consistent, unpaid labor. Women clearly want to get involved on some level, but we’re often prohibited from taking on actual leadership roles within our churches. Women are left doing the work no one else wants to do. They are expected to volunteer for it–and they do.
Women who are single may have more time to give to their church. Women with grown children may have more time to give to their church. Women who are recently widowed may have more time to give to their church. Women whose marriages have failed may find themselves looking for support, and even if they don’t have any more time to give, you may often see them giving that time (that they don’t have) to the church. Women give a disproportionate amount of their time when compared to men. It’s not necessarily related to their station in life or their circumstances–it’s just easier to take advantage of them when they are already struggling. I think these churches know that.
I tried looking up some stats on women’s over-representation in the area of unpaid work within Christian organizations, and I was only able to find some tangentially-related articles from the Pew Research Center about women in leadership roles. I’ll link them in case you’re interested:
Women relatively rare in top positions of religious leadership
The Gender Gap in Religion Around the World (this one is incredibly thorough and spans multiple pages)
I also found this while surfing the world wide web::
When Women Start Saying “No” to Church Activities
and I know it’s anecdotal, but it’s important. I should add some kind of disclaimer that I’m not affiliated with the writer in any way. I hesitate to link to anyone’s personal website when I don’t know much about them. I also hesitate because I highly doubt anyone in the Christian community wants to be affiliated with me. My views might be at odds with theirs in some way and I wouldn’t want to cause offense. Regardless, I think that post is worth reading.
Women disproportionately volunteer more than men do. I see this every Friday when I go to the Humane Society for Kennel Enrichment (in layman’s terms, we spend one-on-one time with the dogs). I’ve been there for a year and some months. In that entire time, only one man has volunteered with us (us women, I mean). You always hear guys talking about how much they love dogs…if they love them so much, tell them to contact their local animal shelter. They could use the extra help, I’m sure.
If you want a source for any of this:
I don’t go to church unless I’m there for a wedding or a funeral. Sometimes I attend the occasional baptism. I did take my dog to the Franciscan Sisters to receive a blessing on the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi. I always loved taking our family dog to the “Blessing of the Pets” when we were kids. This was the first time in my adult life that I chose to participate in a religious service of my own accord. It was also the first time I witnessed a group a women performing a blessing. It was great, because my dog and I are both independent women.