I am sitting at the piano in my church, it’s the middle of the service and there are some people being brought up to the front of the church who want to become catholic.
I’ve been playing piano for various church choirs for nearly 13 years at this point, and although I really do enjoy playing for choirs – I’m really starting to doubt my faith. There have been a few things that just seem…off…but what is about to happen was the beginning of the end.
A lovely young couple with a few kiddos. a young adult, two elderly people, and a woman in her late 40’s are all nervously smiling standing up at the front while the priest introduces them and reminds them that they are about to embark on a 7 month journey to learn about catholicism before they will be “allowed” to attend the full mass.
Which I remember thinking was really weird, because if you were visiting and not catholic and didn’t want to become catholic, you were able to stay throughout the whole service. It’s not like they said “okay, all catholics get out now, we’re going to do something secret.”
We clapped to welcome them, and then it happened.
The priest instructed each of them to kneel before him and kiss his ring before they could begin their instruction.
I don’t have a poker face and my facial expressions don’t always know how to use their inside voices, so I’m sure “what the fuck?” was written all over my face.
I mean, what the hell was happening? In the bible they talk about how Jesus washed his disciples feet, served the poor, and cared for the ill. And this human that was supposed to be guiding all of us to be more like Jesus was being very much un-Jesus-like.
Kneel before him and kiss his ring? What the fuck was that. It still makes me so outraged.
I started to disconnect a bit more from the church then and dove more into developing my own belief system and understanding of the world. I called into question some of the teachings of the church that I didn’t and had never agreed with.
I have never been concerned with if it’s right or wrong to love someone because of your gender and their gender. Love is love, and I truly believe that.
The Crusades are an abomination, there’s no other way to look at it.
The erasure of indigenous spirituality across the globe in the name of christianity is ethnocide and cultural genocide.
I truly believe that we are meant to treat others in the same way that we want to be treated – but saw the catholic church doing exactly the opposite. Instead of loving and accepting people for who they are exactly as they are (like Jesus supposedly did), some of the christians I knew were some of the most judgemental, assholish people I’ve ever met.
The moment that did it for me came a few months later. I was putting my things away after a rehearsal with the youth choir I was directing at the time when two of the youth came running up to me and said “We’re going to make a CD? Is this real?”
It was news to me.
The youth group of the church were going to a conference that required them to travel out of the country and it was going to be expensive. One of the mothers of one of the youth in the choir told the kids that they were going to make a CD as a fundraiser without even asking me if I would be open to that or knowing what would have gone into making a CD.
I felt a bit stuck, but also excited at the opportunity so I set up a few meet and greets with local recording studios in the area. We received multiple quotes, which I figured would have ended the discussion right then and there with most of the estimated costs being around $25,000 to $30,000 to record and produce.
That’s a big upfront cost for a small church choir, so I figured it would be done and done. The mom who had told the youth they’d be recording a CD and I sat down in a Wendy’s restaurant to talk about it after our last meeting and she said said “well that seems expensive but reasonable.” I was surprised by this, of course, and repeated the estimates to her. Her eyes went super wide and she said “Oh, I thought it was going to cost $2,500.”
I told her that we could tell the choir at the next practice together and we parted ways.
Later that week I received a call from the owner of one of the studios who said they would help us make our CD pro-bono as a training exercise for their associated sound engineering college. We would just have to handle the recording and producing rights to the songs we wanted to use.
I had to sit down. I was so shocked and after thanking him profusely I called that mom to let her know that we had been given this incredible gift and that the youth were going to be making a CD!
My outrage boiled up again when I heard her say “We should both pray and thank god for guiding this man to give us this gift.”
Wait, what now? I thought we always read in the bible about how god gives us free will to do whatever we want. But now you’re saying that he didn’t’ give free will to this human and instead made him gift us the CD recording?
Sounds like confusing bullshit to me that steals the credit for this man’s generosity away from him.
We recorded the CD and it was an amazing experience, which I may share more about in another episode, but it was the last thing I did with and for the church.
After the CD was released I announced that I was stepping down and would not be continuing to attend as a member of the church. I took my music books, music stands, and instruments that I had bought for the choirs over the years, returned my keys and left.
A week later I received a very aggressive phone call from the new office manager and youth coordinator accusing me of stealing from the church.
I had receipts for everything I took and it all had my name on or in it – but I had no fight left in me for this, so I returned everything. Thankfully I had the support of my partner now husband on that day because I was shaking so much and felt so activated while in that building.
All the peace, the quiet dark nights playing the piano alone, the supposed love and understanding that was taught there – it was all gone.
The building felt oppressive. Unsafe. Broken.
The rumors that followed my leaving still break my heart to think about, and contribute to my religion-related PTSD and trauma. I still struggle to go into churches of any religion and have a strong nervous system and stress response when I do.
I feel like I’m going to pass out, die, get hurt, never be safe again, and it requires a lot of self-management to this day to be able to walk through the doors of any church.
A few years ago my partner won two tickets to a cello concert where a philharmonic orchestra cellist played an absolutely stunning baroque cello and played some of my absolutely most favorite pieces. But I barely remember any of it because the concert was in a small local church downtown and I spent most of it trying to breathe and not slip into a panic attack.
I can absolutely respect someone else’s faith and will fight to protect someone else’s right to practice that faith. However, I will not respect nor tolerate when that person uses their faith as an excuse to hate another human.
Trans people are human, there is no real solution to the Israeli/Pakistan conflict, gay marriage shouldn’t be a debate – it’s just marriage, one human declaring their love to another, all humans are made equal and I will continue to fight for their equal rights.
The song that lights this fire in me on the regular is by Hozier – Take Me To Church because it does such a great job of highlighting the hypocrisy. I can’t tell you how many times I have thought “that’s a fine looking high horse” to someone talking about why their faith gives them permission to hate.
So instead of believing in some big bearded dude in the clouds, and some pointy horned red creature in a firey pit – I believe in love.
I believe in our innate ability to create more love,
And I will fight to the death to defend my ability to continue to believe in love.
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