Monday, January 24, 2011

First steps of my journey

I don't expect this blog to be of any great value to the world.  That expectation is the only thing that allows me to post anything at all.

I have been tempted to write a blog about my religious journey for a while.  The idea of writing something akin to St Augustine's confessions was a glamorous idea.  I fancy myself a capable writer and a sound thinker.  However, when I tried to write something...  it was rubbish.

So, with more humble expectations and no promises, I've decided to start today.

I have been a Christian as long as I can remember.  My family is Catholic, and they sent me to a Catholic grade school and junior high.  This beginning had pluses and minuses for my spiritual education.  I was surrounded by other Catholics and I was taught a great deal about my faith.  But while being surrounded by other Catholics makes you comfortable with your faith, it also leaves you unused to defending your faith.

I went to a public high school -- the local Catholic school was a good school, but no better than the public school, and a lot more expensive.  I had a great time in high school, and I still keep in touch with many of the same people.  I also for the first time encountered a large number of people who were not Christian, and some vehemently anti-Christian.  I did not deny my faith, but I learned to keep it to myself.

To this day, I tend to be shy about my faith.  The popular conception of Christians is not a good one.  Admittedly, some Christians have worked hard to build up this reputation -- through the sin of judgment and through a refusal to listen to opposing viewpoints, Christians have often been, to be blunt, mean and ignorant.  Until people know me well enough to know that I am not mean and (hopefully) not too ignorant, I don't advertise my faith.  Perhaps my strategy is a good one for improving the reputation of Christians, albeit slowly.  Perhaps I am just a coward.  Perhaps both.

I went to Santa Clara University for my undergrad degree.  Santa Clara is a Jesuit university, and typical of Jesuit schools, they required me to take 3 religion courses.  My faith became somewhat more sophisticated, but at the same time weaker.  I stopped going to church almost totally, to the consternation of my family.

In the years since, I sometimes started going to mass again, though usually never for more than a few weeks.  I enjoyed sleeping in too much on Sundays, and Saturday nights I was usually busy.

Living in San Jose, I encountered people from all over the world.  Many of my closest friends were from foreign countries, and most of them were not Christian.  Learning about other faiths can be enriching, but it is challenging to hold to your faith when none of those around you believe as you do.

I decided to return to grad school.  I am now a PhD student at UC Santa Cruz.

Grad school will either make you an atheist or a theologian.  There is little ground in between.  Every idea you hold will be challenged by those around you.  That process will either strengthen or destroy your faith.

I began to go to mass again.  In part, there were Sunday evening services on campus which were convenient.  In part, I was looking to form more connections with other students, since I knew no one.

I did not find the masses particularly satisfying, in large part since the bulk of students were undergraduates.  That was not unexpected, but still a little disappointing.  A friend convinced me to visit her church, Vintage Faith.  It was a protestant church, but several friends were going (including an atheist, an agnostic, and another Catholic) so I felt comfortable.  (My friend is a great proselytizer).

Vintage Faith is....  different.  Coming from a Catholic background, rich in ceremony and ritual, Vintage felt like a town hall meeting.  People brought in coffee drinks (from the attached cafe) and there were giant screens with PowerPoint slides.  I am pretty sure that those things are some kind of sin according to Catholicism.

Vintage's rituals are also frankly hysterical.  "First, I want you all to pat your head, to symbolize your desire for knowledge of the Lord.  And rub your belly, to signify your hunger for His word.  And hop on one foot..."

There is also a bit more of the "Yay God!  Isn't God awesome?!" cheer-leading than I care for.  Nonetheless, Vintage does several things extremely well.  The sermons (when not of the 'Yay God' variety) are very enlightening, and they excel at building community.  I have always considered those to be the two most important components of any church gathering, and so I have made Vintage my religious home.  I still feel out of place at times, but I feel that Vintage has brought me closer to Christ.

My plan for this blog is to serve as a journal of my spiritual journey.  I do not know where it will end.  I hope that it may be a good read for any who come across it, but for the most part, I am writing it for myself.

God bless.

No comments:

Post a Comment