Tuesday, May 11, 2010

the God thing

Silent, solitary prayer

Isn't it easy to only talk to people you agree with? To only read the newspapers you like, the authors you admire? Isn't it easy to live in your own microcosm, never setting a foot out of the boundaries that define who you are, your own values? I am the first to say yes. My life is full. So full that I rarely spend time with anyone who is not deeply important to me. I work best alone. I write alone. I give the rest to my family. I have so much fullness. I must make a concentrated effort to step outside of my comfort zone, and I try to as frequently as I can fit it in. Who are we anyway, if not who we define ourselves as in respect to others, to our environment? That is a lesson I learned well after so many years of expat living.

In my attempts to wet my feet in the zones which are not so comfortable to me, I have encountered something I hardly expected. The God thing. It's incredibly ironic to me that the God thing would touch me personally in the US. Italy was awash with crucifixes... in nearly all of the public buildings, including the schools. I remember once someone commenting that children who were not baptized in the Catholic Church grew up as bestie (beasts), a comment that I thought rude at the time, and sadly, pitifully ironic now. I found the blending of organized religion and the state utterly offensive. I remember commenting to my husband that this was one piece of me that absolutely would not budge. I grew up with an American flag in the classroom. Shouldn't the Italian flag be the only symbol allowed in my children's schools? He could only agree and sigh... this was Italy, after all.

Oh, the irony of what is happening today in America, right in front of my nose. When did it become so easy and blasé to talk about God? How much you love God? Pray to God? Commune with God? When did that word become so easily to say, so easy to bend to anyone's will? I cannot think of anything more profoundly personal than one's spiritual beliefs. But the shouting out in America about God and country is so loud right now, that I can't help but feel like no one has any idea what they are really saying. The Bible banging is the drumbeat to the crescendo of a chorus of people claiming God as their champion and their own, glassy eyed and monotone and droning, an ever growing mass of voices all sounding alike, all without passion or reflection, all with a spark of righteous fervor in their cadence. These unwitting soldiers have usurped the church on the corner, the temple, the Flag, the Bible, the loudspeakers. Their volume makes it impossible for them to think or reflect, and the lines they march in, so scarily like those of an army, make it impossible for them to stop and ponder, or to turn. How startling to have come across the ocean back to the land of separation of church and state, only to be confronted with an army of automatons. How bleak.

In the end, we are all free, so thankfully free, to choose, change, renounce, convert, be born again, dead again, free again. The beating of a drum may be seductive, and make our quandaries dissipate, our decisions easier, our loneliness more bearable, but is it really worth it? Is it easier, less demanding, to ponder quietly or shout in chorus with a gang? Is it worth the trouble to attempt to understand your adversaries, to learn from them, or to claim that you have God on your side, therefore you need not bend. The God thing is a blaring loudspeaker, soothing and searing, drowning out room for discourse or debate. How I wish someone would unplug it.


Michelle | Bleeding Espresso said...

I've been thinking about this too lately, how Italy is supposedly inundated in Catholicism and yet, it's really not much of a substantive issue in my daily life (yes, crucifixes everywhere, but not really discussed)...and yet you can't get away from God in "separation of church and state!" America.

Another great post I think you'll enjoy:


Julie @ jublie's blog said...

Well said. It's easy to judge. I've put Christian as my facebook status label. Now it is just a label?

Religion is a deeply private personal matter that each person feels it their own. I like to think it is a collective good. My grandfather summed it up for me when he told me, Julie, at the end of the day, Muslim or Christian, it's important to be a good person.


Anonymous said...

very well said.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

This is something I think about every. single. day.

Beautifully stated, Jennifer.

BTW... my son and his friends (and I) were at a counter protest against the Westboro Baptist Church who were supposedly showing up to protest a local production of The Laramie Project (they never did end up showing up, but it was a good experience for many to have that rally about acceptance and support in any case) and one of my favorite signs was "We Need Separation Between Church and Hate." That's another thing that's driving me crazy - is using spirituality to perpetuate hate and/or ignorance.

jennifer said...

I really contemplated before writing this (rare!). But I have been pondering this for a while. I really loved the sign you saw, Jen.
I am stunned by the regularity with which I hear the words God, War, and Guns coming from the same person's mouth.

Mary said...

When I was still living in the states, all the God talk made me uncomfortable and the hypocrisy made me angry. Here in Italy, I'm surrounded by religion - the town festivals are religious based, the church has processions periodically throughout the year, there are crucifixes everywhere if not a statue of the Madonna - yet, I don't feel that creepy, crawly feeling as if someone was telling me all their deep, dark secrets like I did in the states whenever someone would start talking about how much they love God. Now I've noticed that it has become even more militant in the states. It's ironic how a country which supposedly counted freedom of religion as one of its pillars now seems to be turning into a militant religious state.

Jennifer said...

Once again, you've aptly described one of the reasons I am so uncomfortable with American politics.