I grew up in a Christian family. I was born to a traditional Southern Baptist family, and attended church, Sunday school, and Vacation Bible school until I was 8 when my mother converted us to Catholicism. At 9 I began attending Catholic school, going to Catechism classes and Vacation Bible school. Steeped in the Catholic church and all of its traditions I was by all accounts and measures a complete Christian.
I have spent the last 22 years carrying on that tradition. I have taught my children to know God and Jesus. They have all been christened and the oldest two have gone through their first Penance and first Communion. I have read the Bible to them. I have taught them to pray. I have taken them to church and signed them up for vacation Bible school. My oldest daughter attended Catholic school for the first 6 years of her education and before I even considered homeschooling, I toured the local Catholic school for the Princess.
Christianity is what I have always known.
But about 3 years ago things changed. Not in what I did with the kids, but inside of me. I started to question my faith. I think it started when the Husband went through a phase of telling me about all of these news stories about children being heinously abused, neglected, and killed. I couldn’t reconcile these stories with the loving God I had grown to know. “Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them! For theirs is the Kingdom of the Lord.” Matthew 19:14. How can God let such horrific things happen to small children? This question haunted me, it still haunts me.
At this same time, I started seeing a lot of Christian friends and family using Facebook to share their thoughts, feelings, and opinions. Thoughts, feelings and opinions that were seemingly filled with hate- hate of people different from them- different color, religion, socio-economic status, and sexual orientation. They were being very uncharitable, unforgiving, unkind, unloving… Un-Christian. During this time of inner turmoil and struggle, this display of anti-Christian (or the ‘Christian’ as I had come to know it) weighed even heavier on me. How can people claiming to represent Christianity have such utterly anti-Christian thoughts, feelings, and opinions?
I started reading a book, The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible by A.J. Jacobs. This is a really great book about A. J. Jacobs’ journey to follow the Bible quite literally. It is humorous and profound, spiritual and interesting. I highly recommend the book. What I took from the book, was how obvious it is that the Bible was written, translated, and interpreted by man, not through divine intervention. And I think with this in mind, it becomes so clear how Christians, in particular, have really chosen to pick the part of the Bible that they want to follow and ignored the parts they didn’t. Some of those choices have been more obscure parts like rules regarding hair style and dress; while other choices have been more dramatic.
What struck me with this was the fallibility in nearly every aspect. All of the things that we believe about God and Jesus could be so very, very wrong because it was written wrong, translated wrong, interpreted wrong, or just not what we choose to read.
How can I continue to believe in a God that allows innocent creatures to suffer so horrifically, or follow a religion so filled with hypocrites spreading hate in the name of their God, or continue to put faith in a book and all that book means to faith when it is so clearly fallible?
And thus, here I am today…. a few days before a holiday meant to celebrate the birth of a Savior that I’m not sure I even believe in. A holiday that at one time in my life was one of my absolute favorite holidays because of its religious component. I guess it’s the mother in me, but my feelings are much like Ricky Bobby in the ridiculous prayer scene in Talladega Nights- my favorite Jesus is the tiny little baby Jesus. The miracle of God becoming a tiny human.
But now I am where I am. I still set out my nativity scenes. I still remind the kiddos that Christmas is not about Santa or the presents or the candy canes or the cookies, it’s about the birth of our Savior. I hope that they don’t see through me and know that these words I speak are just words, and not a deeper level of faith. For them, I want to give the gift of faith until they are old enough to choose for themselves.
We will continue our faith-based traditions: reading the Christmas story from the Bible in Luke 2: 1-20 on Christmas Eve and attending late night mass Christmas Eve. I will continue to passionately sing Christmas songs like What Child is This? and Silent Night and Away in a Manger with all of the passion I have ever had. I will cry every time I hear Pentatonix version of Mary Did You Know like every mother should, moved by the idea that a young girl named Mary became the mother of God, a future so unfathomable.
I don’t want to lose myself to the commercialism that has become modern Christmas. I don’t want to forget the beauty and magic and peacefulness that is a true Christmas. Even with a severely waning faith, Christmas will still hold the resplendency of religion.