Sunday, July 10, 2016

Catholic community: sexuality vs wealth

Over the past 10 weeks I have been involved in a Catholic parish through attending Mass, talking with parishioners after service, participating in a Pastoral Plan Listening Session, meeting with two spiritual directors, and joining a theology discussion group.  Finding a Catholic community that values hospitality was a long and difficult struggle.  My enjoyment of this one is mingled with hesitation that it may all crumble into more of the same shame-focused elitism I'd found at other parishes over the past 3 years.

A significant portion of this hesitation roots in my sexual activity.  The vast majority of parishioners are married parents, and the few single members I've met seek to join them.  I've been open about my intention to continue "single" and childfree to no response, I think they either don't know how to react to that or just see it as none of their business (hopefully the latter).  What I haven't revealed, though, is that I'm polyamorous.  It hasn't come up in context.  Sex & sexuality, in fact, haven't come up at all.  Which is both a relief and frustrating - I prefer being casually open altogether.  Neither my sexuality, nor my focus on sex ed, nor my polyamory play a large role in my spirituality; which only baffles me further when religious communities use those standards for judgement.

Contingent with my hesitation to be open about my polyamory is the wealth of the parishioners.  Every Sunday the church's parking lot fills with BMW, Lexus, Mercedes, Audi, all new.  I've been to two parishioners' houses and was stunned at the luxury.  Infinity pools!  4 car garages!  Stunning views of suburban Texas hillcountry!  Marble countertops, multiple fireplaces, second story balconies, full wine racks, cathedral windows, oriental rugs.  It's made me reconsider my material wealth.  Although I'm not in a place to give financially, I've begun seeking out ways to give my time.

Sidenote: growing up Catholic in the MidWest, I saw dirt poor parishes and incredibly wealthy parishes and everything in between.  Both blue collar and immigrant parishes were commonplace.  Here in Austin, all Anglo parishes I've found have been white collar upper class - the only others are Latino, and I admit fault for knowing very little about them as I know almost no Spanish.  Anyway, maybe the parishioners' wealth here is so obvious to me because it's so uniform.

The idea that I would be shamed for my sexual activity when I share the pew with those who live with such incredible material wealth is chafing.  I haven't been to Confession in 16 years and this disparity is a new reason to avoid it further.  I'm honest, open, and safe with my lovers: nobody is hurt (and there's nothing anyone can say to convince me that we're "hurting our souls").  But when I see that wealth, I see food withheld from the hungry, shelter withheld from the homeless, medicine withheld from the sick, and justice withheld from the imprisoned.  And yet big names in the Church condemn my actions first.  It remains to be seen whether or not this parish with join them, or if they'll continue to try to meet me where I am.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

God vs. Humankind

I've written before about the abusive parish in which I was raised.  In the years after I left that parish, I was very angry at God.  How could God allow such horrible cruelties, especially upon children?  How could these Christians preach about compassion and divine love out in public, but in private lock children in their basements without food or make children kneel on broken glass?  In my mind, largely because these abusers had told me so for so long and so violently, there was no distinction between God and them.

Although my relationship with the Divine continued, it was very narrowly compartmentalized.  MY God was loving and giving and powerful, THEIR God was malicious and preyed upon the weak.  Great pains were taken to differentiate myself from organized religion altogether.  Anger, obsessive defensiveness, and passive aggressive vengeance dominated this time.

After college, I mended my relationship with a whole God by separating God from humankind altogether.  This was when the healing process went from painful to soothing.  All the boundaries began to fall between God and I.  Could this have been done if I hadn't put up such a large wall between other people and us?  Probably not, as at that time the only people I knew who were interested in spirituality at all were very aggressive anti-theists.  Ultimately, I wasn't going to allow anyone to damage the new, awe-inspiring relationship I had with God.  And the most direct and effective way to do that was to separate God from humankind altogether.

That doesn't seem to be working as well anymore.  The need for spiritual community has arisen regularly for the past few years, only to fade away as I refused to make myself that vulnerable again.  Now that I'm seeking and finding community, though, I'm questioning if that boundary should still remain up.  The last thing I want to do is to let down my barriers only to have someone or a group of someones give me good reason to put them back up again.  As to seeing God present in any human being, that is a long way off yet.