Today marks the first day of Lent. For a Catholic, this means having something ready to be given up for 40 days, pizza for dinner tonight and every Friday until Easter, and making sure you get your ashes. For those of you who may not know, I grew up Catholic, and still consider myself to be one for the most part. Growing up Catholic meant going to CCD once a week, having grandma lecture you about the things you’re doing wrong, and not really being able to explore that there is a faith other than the religion.
However, some of you may know that I have two really awesome people in my life (my best friend’s parents) that are Lutheran pastors, as well as I also hang out with a lot of people who are studying to become pastors at the Yale Divinity School. Because of this, I sometimes hang out at the Lutheran church or attend a Lutheran service – much to the dismay of my Italian grandmother, who luckily will never figure out how the blogosphere works to read this.
Now, why am I telling you all this?
Well, by hanging out with that group combined with my upbringing, I realized some stuff.
I realized religion is something that shouldn’t be forced upon your throat the way it is in Catholic school. Religion is something that should be done willingly. In CCD, there was a lot of ‘nos’ and things classified as things you can not even dream about doing – i.e. sex before marriage, being gay, divorce, meat on Fridays, so on and so forth.
What really drew me in from the Lutheran church was how welcoming they were, and happy to be where they were. There was no mention of the word ‘no’ – in fact, they often would talk about faith issues, as well as ones of social justice. There was no mention of the rules – just the simple discussion of this God and how God does awesome stuff.
As I get older, I constantly think about faith. I sometimes doubt God, as I think many of us do. My relationship with religion is that I consider myself to be Christian, a mixture of Lutheran and Catholic. I plan to get married, when the time is right in a church, preferably by one of my pastor friends with my organist friend playing in the background. I plan to teach my children that there is a God out there who loves them. However, I am not sure which church will be the one I bring them to. I want to teach them the traditions my grandparents taught me, as I will never be able to forget the look of pride on my grandmother’s face when I got confirmed. But, at the same time, I also want them to be able to have a religion that was as welcoming as I felt when I went to the Lutheran church.
As Lent approaches, I will be eating pizza today and thinking about the many blessings I have. Religion is something that is messy, and has a crazy connotation especially nowadays. However, I believe that to get to a point of peace, all religions should think less of the nos, and more of the community and conversation . . .
. . . Just like the Lutherans do.