*Let us clarify. By death, we mean the marriage can be dissolved for any of the following reasons: Large arguments; small arguments included but not limited to those concerning the agricultural categorization of a tomato and the merits of golf as a leisure activity or a sport; mid-life crises; general boredom and dissatisfaction with life; dirty dishes; ugly children; the discovery of anything that’s bigger, better and more interesting than what you have; drug allergies; delayed bi-curiosities and outside influence.

St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, England

Various hours

Chosen because…missing it would be like going to Rome and not dropping by the ‘ol Vatican.

Sigh. Watch this. Bride loses it because her husband’s family apparently doesn’t have the mental capacity to effectively participate in wedding day activities which, oddly enough, include a rousing game of the board game Clue.

Would you marry this woman?: Latest Bridezilla Meltdown! 

St. Paul’s Cathedral is gorgeous. I’m thrilled to go in. Until I learn the cost of admission, which is something like the equivalent of $36 U.S. if you want to get a view from the top. I bolt for the door. My tour guide grabs my elbow and forces me through the Capitalist gates. (Photo is the view from the top of the Cathedral. Can’t take pics inside.)

I’ve said this 1,000 times but opulence and a complete disregard for Jesus’ teachings – poverty, good will, helping others – is one reason I hate church as a walled institution. It’s the same reason I’m fairly anti-marriage – people get too caught up in flowers, budgets, color schemes and board games to think about what they’re doing, what it means and if it’s for them.

This comes from a recently divorced woman, a divorcee, a social pock-mark but hey, I went for ceremony when I didn’t want it and though I don’t think it impacted my marriage, I certainly let the grand idea of a wedding as well as outside influences and second hand experiences occasionally sway dealings within my marriage.

I wish more people – myself included – would go beyond the pomp. Beyond churches as symbols, holidays as economic bustiers and weddings as events.

Perfect example: The Royal Wedding. My trip to St. Paul’s happens a few weeks before the wedding, but for the next few weeks, the cathedral haunts. It’s on every news channel and in every paper, commentators speculating on guest list dust ups, Kate Middleton’s relationship with the church and her ability to look like a royal by W-Day.

I hope the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have a lovely life, I really do, but standing in St. Paul’s Cathedral, listening to reporters say things like, “Oh look at them, you can just tell they’re in love” is like nails on a chalkboard. How is marriage between  man, woman and, for believers, God, everyone but the bride, groom and God have an opinion?

I suppose the trip up St. Paul’s stairwells was worth $36 but I leave feeling the same way I do after exiting many wedding receptions. What is the point?

I must admit that I would have thoroughly enjoyed the royal wedding had I been invited, the Syrian ambassador to the U.K. hadn’t had his invitation renigged and the lovely princess sat me between him and her drug and booty loving uncle, Gary Goldsmith. That’s the kind of pomp and circumstance I look for.

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St. Joseph’s Church, Fort Collins, Colo.

8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Chosen because…good Catholic friend in town

I will never go back to St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, not because I tainted the holy water in elementary school, but because it’s the most judgmental church I’ve visited. Nothing about St. Joe’s embodies peace, love or understanding.

Before I delve into my own judgments, let me say I know it’s contradictory to condemn judgment and then judge but processing experience necessarily requires judgment. Also, this opinion is based on the 1.5 hours I spent in one church. By no means do I think all Catholics adhere to these values or lack there of.

Choice, Freewill, Abortion

From the street, St. Joe’s is beautiful. From the street, you can’t see the picture of a fetus (it isn’t graphic) framed by words urging congregants to pray to end abortion.  I don’t care what people think about abortion. Life, choice, whatever. I also don’t care about political views. Democrat, Republican, anarchist, whatever. What irritates the living hell out of me is listening to a priest tell a hundred people or so how they should feel about abortion or politics.

Unfortunately for the congregation and the advancement of peace and understanding through Christ, this priest focused on condemning those who make poor choices, such as abortion. Well, that and contradicting himself.

One of the day’s teachings included the following:

“…we should not be passing judgments on others, for this is the Lord’s right. Rather, we should joyfully await his return, when all shall be brought to light.”

Sometimes I’m a little slow, but the Bible led me to believe that there’s only one God. Google’s helped me understand that there’s billions of people on this earth so, if the relatively small St. Joe congregation judges those who abort, doesn’t that mean that more than 100 people in tiny little Ft. Collins are playing God?

Good Old Catholic Spanking

My dad was raised Catholic. He’s got some great stories about naked swimming and nun brutality. While I can’t speak to his experiences, heavy-handed Catholics continue whacking from the pews.

The woman in front of me had three kids. The husband immediately left with the little one. The poor thing was terribly sick but I would have preferred her fever and hacking cough to time with mom who, between praying and singing, occupied her time by whacking her sons on the head, pinching their arms, yanking their wrists, flicking them in the middle of the cranium with her thumb and pointer finger and threatening spankings.

Doesn’t Catholicism sound fun?

The Punisher didn’t smile, but neither did anyone else. I saw a lot of kids and a lot of young parents — good honest Catholics using the ‘ol rhythm method, holding tight to their anti-abortion stance — but I didn’t see many smiles and I certainly didn’t feel like I was part of a community. In fact, not one person returning from communion reception looked happy or even content even. Either something’s askew in the church or Christ tastes like garbage.

Not that they’d want me, but I’m passing on Catholicism.

NOTE: Once again I blew it with the pics. I took plenty, but I’m out-of-town and forgot the adapter. I’ll add them when I return.

Merry $mas

December 22, 2010

Among other things, the Bible is all about refraining from idol worship. Ask fourth graders about their idols. Football players. Pop stars. Cartoons. Some anorexic chick on the front of Seventeen magazine.

How many would name Jesus as their idol? A few I suppose. You know, those poor Catholic school kids haunted by raised rulers and swirling wrath.

Who else? How many of you adults consider Jesus an idol? Is that your only one? What about those miraculous Spanx keeping you smooth in your Christmas dress?

I’m in a cafe listening to these materialistic but entertaining women discuss their diamond rings, their bags, etc. This isn’t anything new especially in an affluent part of the country (this isn’t as big of an issue in Mid-Michigan), but it’s hilarious because many of these women are the type of women who claim Christianity because it too is a symbol.

These women will park their Land Rovers in a church lot Friday or Saturday, walk their little designer boots (type varies according to region) into the lobby — excuse me,  first their husband or some other obligated man will open the door for them so as not to disturb the tall skinny latte in their right hands or the behemoth bags resting on their left forearms — rush into the prayer room or whatever it is, daydream during the service while sipping said latte and get the hell out before the dreadful “meet your neighbor moment.”

Perhaps I’m projecting myself on others but, according to the Washington Post, retail revenues are up 5.5 percent from 2009 this Christmas season and, at least where I come from, this revenue is supporting other idols — clothes, cars, engagement rings, vacations. Anything but Jesus.

I’m having a really hard time getting through the rest of the Bible so I need to grab hold of randomness like idol worship. The girl sitting across from me has on Nike with a big swoosh, a Mountain Hardwear fleece, a Droid and Fossil jeans. I hate when companies place their labels on the outside of clothing, but if I put my clothes on inside out today, same situation.

Unless I missed the glowing bulbs, reindeer holding birdhouses (?), santas and creepy nutcrackers snuggled in the manger with Jesus in the middle of the New Testament, every single person in this cafe is worshiping some anti-Christ idol.

My parents’ house looks like the North Pole. Every room, every blanket, every picture, every decoration replaced by something Christmas-like. It’s fantastic. However none of it has anything to do with Jesus. Admittidly, we’re not relgious. My dad went to Catholic school, an abusive and terrifying experience, but us kids are heathens.

My mom tried to give us a dose of Jesus (it’s his birthday after all), but it didn’t work. For a few years, she  kept this horrid painting of Jesus in the guest room. Eventually we convinced her to get rid of it. I literally couldn’t fall asleep with that sadistic Mona Lisa looking at me.

A few days ago, I asked my mom what happened to creepy Jesus. She said she didn’t know so I asked if she had anything other than the glittery angel ornaments my sister and I made when we were kids in any of the six of 11 first-floor rooms decorated for “Christmas.”

We searched. This is what we found. Upside down. Behind a ladder in the garage.

Out of respect I cleaned up the poor guy, righted him, but couldn’t do anything about the crack in the glass.

This is Christmas. Right? Obviously the commercialization of Christ is as old as the day is long but every year it blows my mind and I have to write about it especially because Christians are not supposed to worship other idols.

I have some idols, none of which have to do with Christ but so does everyone else so what happens to those Christians? Are they nixed? So American Christians don’t exist?

Well, at least we can be charitable during the season, think of other people and their hardships. I do it all the time. I mean, my heart bleeds for the guy sitting across from me. Here I am clicking away on a Mac while he clunks away on a TOSHIBA! I have no idea how the poor soul gets any work done.

Stopping Point: Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians

If you don’t have at least one vice, don’t plan on infiltrating my personal circle. I’ll never trust you.

God and I agree on this point, he just doesn’t know it. According to this bit of Bible, God gives non-believers “corrupted minds” so they can do things they should not do, so they can entertain vice, which includes: evil, greed, jealousy, murder, fighting, deceit, malice, gossip, evil talk; hating God; insolence; pride; disobedience; lies; and cruelty.

Above all else “every man is a liar.” Agreed (women included), but what a disingenuous way to garner followers. Essentially God is saying, “since you’re human and these things are bound to happen, you’re screwed so you may as well give yourself over to me and, if you do you’ll have eternal life and this drudgery you live will disappear.”

I’ve stayed away from cliché arguments against religion, but using force and fear as a means to facilitate loyalty is repugnant.

The Book of Romans is fascinating. It’s about God’s Law and it is written like a congressional bill so if a person isn’t paying attention, they just get the fear and follow message. It’s winding, wordy (new word) and extremely difficult to follow. But the stuff Paul wants us to know — you’re bad and if you don’t love God you’re screwed — is written in plain English.

At one point Paul says (in parenthesis), “I use every day language because of the weakness of your natural selves.”

As in, listen up dummy, here’s everything you need to know. God created you to sin, but is merciful and will forgive you and let you walk among angels if you believe. Aside from coercion, this is a lie. In the Old Testament, God is anything but merciful. He doesn’t show grace, turn a blind eye, or bestow patience on sinners. He eviscerates them.

I know the Bible offers a lot of value — I see it — but this is propaganda used to fool people into letting fear overtake thought.

Now, I’m trying to remain open minded. As I said, I’ve found a lot of value in the Bible. I even found two bits in The Book of Romans that apply to my life.

“If our gift is to speak God’s message, we should do it according to the faith that we have.” If we don’t act on that faith, then we’re in trouble. But, if my faith is within myself, does that count? It may not be what God intended, but it’s faith.

Paul says that if we, as individuals, think something is right and we do that thing, we’re OK. But if we have any doubts about it, we’re guilty and therefore it’s wrong. So if I think it’s OK to kill a certain person – no doubts, no guilt — is that OK?

At one point Paul portends to address some important questions, questions no person of faith has ever answered for me. For example, if God is merciful, how can God find fault with anyone? Peter’s response: “But who are you my friend to talk back to God?”

That’s my problem. The answers I see in the Bible are ones of don’t ask don’t tell.

Unfortunately, interpretation is nine-tenths the law and I’m the outlier.

Stopping Point: Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians

* Note to the few of you hanging on despite this post: I will be traveling across the country starting Friday. I will continue the posts, but may add some travel updates as well.

 

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