“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” –St. John, the Bible

“Just as a mother would protect her only child with her life, even so let one cultivate a boundless love towards all beings.” –the Buddha, Karaniya Metta Sutta

“Love is the answer, and you know that for sure;
Love is a flower;
You got to let it, you gotta let it grow.” John Lennon, Mind Games

So here is some pretty decent advice on love from three different religions (yes, today the Beatles is my religion and no, you don’t want to argue that point with me). First of all, lemme tell ya, I used to be very religious; there was a time I could reasonably and intelligently discuss Catholic soteriology with a freaking Jesuit. I loved my god and my faith; I ardently studied the Bible (including the deuterocanonicals) and the Catechism and, as if those weren’t boring enough, Papal Encyclicals. Seriously. I was also a parish lector, a daily Communicant (which merely means I “assisted at Holy Mass” all the fucking time), I attended the monthly “Eucharistic Adoration & Benediction” (admission: I kinda miss those times of reverent worship and deep, personal prayer), I prayed the Liturgy of the Hours daily, as well as the Rosary, and, after a year of study and formation, I was officially received, in a beautiful Mass and investiture ceremony, into the secular order of Carmel. Finally, me and Jesus were {{{just like this}}}. So, yeah, that religious.

To make a looong ass, family-wide deconversion story short, here’s how it commenced: an interim Priest brought an awkward but affable fellow to Mass one day, whom, he said “had been away from the Church for some time,” and “had wished to find his way back.” The Priest asked my husband, an RCIA instructor at the time, to sort of “take him under his wing,” and help re-catechize him. Soon this fellow was assisting the Priest, and even talking about entering a religious order. Both the Priest and his “helper” became family friends, enjoyed meals in our home, and got chummy with us and with our kids, though there was something… a little off… about both of them, that we ascribed merely to heaping tablespoons of the extra zeal of the clergy.

Fast forward to some bizarre, creepy comments made by the “friend” that raised every single one of my Mom Flags, the resultant internet search, and the nauseating discovery of this man’s big, ugly mug on a Meagan’s Law website. Yes, he’d been “away” alright– away in the fucking clink for child molestation. THANK HEAVENS NOTHING HAPPENED, but it was close– TOO DAMNED CLOSE– and, when it all came out yet nothing serious was done to protect the parish’s children, we saw through it all, and extricated ourselves and our brood from all things Catholic faster than you can say ciborium. Or pedophile.

After the last “Te Deum” was sung, and the final “hurt and betrayed” email was received (it seems many of our former parish pals now believe we are headed to hell in a stock car), we got to really sit down and have some good old, heart to hearts with our three adorable altar boys (the fourth lad, our youngest, hadn’t yet served at the altar, but was in training at the time we left). Well, during these tender and illuminating talks we learned that, as it turned out, each one of our kids was absolutely, gut wrenchingly terrified of god.

My husband and I were gobsmacked.

We did not preach a fire and brimstone version of Christianity in our home; quite the opposite. My husband and I are wacky artists and musicians (even our lads look the part by osmosis, I guess). Hubby and I had also found our way to Rome via fun-loving Protestant Evangelicalism, so we may have unwittingly brought some of the party with us (well, I was actually raised Catholic, but that’s a whole ‘nother story). Our family was the eccentric, 80s-music-loving, “artsy” Catholic family, who dressed weird and made equally weird art and– when we weren’t having RADish crises at home– were known for our collective joy and ready laughter (we even made the nuns crack up, I swear to god). Sure, I home schooled for a season, but not in a denim jumper, if you get what I’m saying. Teresa of Avila’s “Lord, save us from gloomy saints!” was my go-to saint quote. Our god was big and generous and kind and benevolent and forgiving and chock fulla love, love, love– all the time!– and, we believed, dug good jazz and good beer and had a terrific sense of humor (e.g., the platypus). In the event you screwed up with this god, and it would have to be a pretty big screw-up at that, you simply hit up the Sacrament of Confession before the Vigil Mass on a Saturday night, and the angels rejoiced and all was well in your wee, Catholic world again.  Yes, wee.

Because in hindsight, it was a sincere faith, but an itty bitty one.  Much as we wished it not to be, our church’s theology (when taken to its logical conclusion), and hence our church, and hence Christianity in general, is stodgy and intolerant and oppressive and tribal and even tyrannical, I’ll go as far to say, and seemed to create an “us vs. them” mentality in the pews. Additionally, half of our own children suffered from early trauma related attachment disorders, for chrissakes. With them, there was no getting around the elephant in the chapel: that this “Father,” God, who came up with fun things like snow and honeysuckles and rainbows and baby hippos could also ultimately reject you, one of His own children. Sure, it would take some doing, but it was always a possibility.  Talk about an adopted kid mindfuck! Yes, that was god, or, at least, what they got out of Him. And had I been willing to be 100% honest with myself back then (I was a pretty decent 90 or sometimes 95, but not a 100 percenter in those days), I would have had to admit that, deep down, I myself harbored a similar fear.

So we’re talking about capital G “God”– who’s supposed to be perfect, right?–and “in whom we live and move and have our being” and all that stuff, and our primo example of How To Do Life Correctly– yet here am I, not only a mere mortal but also one helluva hot mess most days, with two kids who are ready for a lunatic asylum and one who’s ready for juvie, YET *I* WOULD NOT REJECT ANY OF MY CHILDREN, EVER.

Hmmm… are you with me?! like, I’m more moral than god; or at least, hella more loving.

Omgggg, I seriously don’t know WHAT the HELL the hubs and I were thinking, raising our littles in this church! I could punch The Old Us! For real!!

Well, he and I started out as two young crackpots ourselves, and religion worked for us for a while, you know, typical story… but then I guess we kinda got stuck there. So maybe I’ll cut us some slack for now.

Okay, back to LOVE. You know, I actually began this post wanting to write about love, and look where I ended up. Sheesh. Me and my monkey-mind. I got about a million stories and they all wanna tumble out at the same time. So, I dunno… stay tuned, I guess.

Well, I may no longer believe in a god, but I’ll tell you what: I still believe in love.

I’m hoping the Bible is correct that “perfect love drives out fear,” because what is the root of my sons’ reactive attachment disorders if not all-encompassing fear? Fear of abandonment. Fear of rejection. Fear of lovelessness. Same with my PTSD kids: fear, fear, fear. And the Buddha is right that humans ought to “cultivate a boundless love towards all beings,” because just imagine what that would really look like in the world, if we could actually pull it off? And John Lennon is right that “Love is the answer,” and “Love is a flower” so “you gotta let it grow,” because what IS the answer, if it ain’t love?! And love isn’t dead and love isn’t static; love is alive, and love, if I let it, will grow.

I love all my ducklings, the two that wriggled right outta me and the two whom the stork dropped off, kicking and screaming. Yes, they are currently driving me into a strait jacket (well, all but one), but I love the lot of their adorbz, fuzzy, adolescent faces anyhow, and just writing about that love makes me want to hug and kiss them until they get embarrassed and go, “Aw, come ON, Mom!” So when they get home from school that is exactly what I shall do, heh heh heh.

And I am so, so thankful their dad and I finally woke up and smelled the incense, and got them the hell outta that crazy-ass church (though I’m sorry it took such a close call for us to wake up!).. If any or all of the four ever decide to believe in a “god” again, they have my blessing, because hey, it worked for me for a while, too; I just hope they find one as admirable as the one we tried to convince ourselves existed, you know, a god who digs good jazz.

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