Chapter 14 - In which I accidentally become an Episcopalian.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m living in a parallel universe. I wonder if there’s another universe where I still go to the same church and believe the same things, because the universe I’m currently inhabiting feels like it’s story was scribbled on the back of a napkin by a writer hopped up on caffeine and sleep deprivation.

It’s the end of the world as I knew it, readers. And I feel fine. My wife, unfortunately, does not feel fine. Which means that I don’t feel fine either. Not really. My wife has always complained that I don’t want to do anything outdoorsy, but when I invite her on a thousand mile trek through the spiritual wilderness, she balked.

She’s been very patient with me during my spiritual downsizing, but my agnostic tendencies frustrate her. I would be quite content to remain in the spiritual wilderness, throwing up my hands and saying “Who knows?” in regards to the whole God/Jesus thing. But the life of a spiritual hillbilly doesn’t appeal to her.

Instead, she suggested, why not try something different? I pointed out that writing a snarky anonymous blog counted as something different, but the resulting glare indicated she wasn’t buying it. She suggested we try attending a Catholic church. She loves the liturgy and the fact that they took Communion every week, and ever since leaving our former church, she has been thinking about becoming a Catholic.

I was doubtful that my staunchly feminist wife would really be happy as a Catholic. I suggested we try an Episcopal church, which I had heard was similar. She was skeptical, but then one of her friends agreed that it was a good idea, so of course that clinched it (married people will know what I’m talking about).  We attended a smallish Episcopal church down the street from our former church.  She was immediately sold: it had female deacons, liturgy, Communion every week and a plethora of Obama bumper stickers in the parking lot.

Well, it turns out that the membership policy at this church is a bit more lax than our last one. After a month of attendance and a casual meeting with the priest, I got a phone call from him saying that they would be introducing new members at coffee hour next week, which to my surprise included us.

What’s a heretic to do? When we met with the priest, I mentioned that I considered myself more of an agnostic than anything else, but I guess that’s not a deal breaker. So I’m left with two choices: attend and make my wife happy, or not attend and make her sad.

So I’m compromising the best that I can: I attend but don’t really participate. I sit, stand, and kneel at the appropriate times, but that’s pretty much it.

I feel like a fraud.

My wife tells me that having a relationship with God is like being married: you don’t always feel warm fuzzy feelings about the other party, but that doesn’t mean that you just check out. Sometimes you perform the action even if the feelings are present; in a marriage, this means you say “I love you” even if you don’t have butterflies in your stomach at that exact moment. In spiritual matters, she told me, you go to church even if you don’t feel like you love God at that moment.

It’s a good analogy. But the problem is, I’ve gone beyond the point of not having warm fuzzy feelings for God. I’ve progressed/regressed to the point that I doubt God’s existence, and if it does exist, I don’t believe that he loves us in the same way that I love my wife.

If God exists, I think it loves us in the same way I love my cat. I love my cat, but if it needed a $10,000 operation to save it’s life...well, tough luck, cat.  Also, I had it’s testicles removed so it wouldn’t pee all over everything.  Come to think of it, my cat probably thinks I’m an asshole.

To make matters worse, there’s the issue of our children. My wife wants to have them baptized. I don’t, but I figured it wasn’t a big deal. Then another couple had their child baptized and I heard what the parents are expected to say during the baptism. Needless to say, they were not written with agnostics in mind.

I feel terrible about the whole situation. My doubts and cynicism are hurting her, but I can’t just shut them off (even if I could, she wouldn’t want me to). The only thing to do is press on through the wilderness, and hope I come out the other side. That’s a journey my wife can’t take with me.

So I will come in from the wilderness every Sunday, shave, shower, put on clean clothes, and join my family at church.  

Not for me. Not for God. For them.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like an excellent reason to join a church. Going through the motions of the liturgy for family solidarity is no more fraudulent than singing along to lyrics you disagree with in order to participate in a choir or chanting along with a yoga class that you attend for the exercise.

    You may even find that the liturgy has meaning for you in the midst of your agnosticism. Meaning that you create for yourself, rather than the literal meaning it is assigned.