Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Change of Pace

So, as I've said, I'm Catholic. I do not know if I have said this, but I'm actually a convert. I officially became a Catholic Christian this past Easter when I was welcomed into the Church (my childhood baptism into the Baptist Church was valid btw). Anyway, this decision was not something I fell into. It happened over many years, and it was in 2009 after many discussion and research when I gave in and had to admit that Catholicism is far more sensible and the original form of the Church.
While my parents did not take any time to inoculate me against the Church, they expressed displeasure with my research into their ideas (particularly my father). Also, though they did not personally try to "protect" me from the Church, there are often anti-Catholic messages in Protestant Churches (particularly those of the Baptist persuasion). Actually, I noticed that a lot of Protestant preaching consists in citing how wrong other things are, instead of what is right with their religion and why it is. I think a lot of the clergy is taught to be mistrusting of the Church and, thus, so are their followers.
Anyway, this is the first of a series of post in which I would like to trace my own religious history, mostly because I find it interesting and partly because I hate the misunderstandings that I run into when I express my faith. Please keep in mind, that I do not believe I, personally, am always right. Nor will I always behave as I should. However, I believe in forgiveness and the grace to change and strive as best I can at any given moment to be better and let the medicine take its course.
So, now I would like to talk about my religious childhood. Though I would like to first point out that, while in general I do not, I sometimes harbor ill feelings for this aspect of my upbringing. This is for various reasons which I hope to express properly, but I do need that note to be taken, as it is ultimately a distaste and sense of having the full Truth held from me that pushed me in the direction I went.
I became a baptized Christian when I was 7. This was after probably months of questions and deliberations that I posed mainly to my mother (because my minister father was strangely against my desire for conversion) until I was satisfied with the belief system. I had, of course, attended church with my family my whole life until that time, but it wasn't until I was 7 years of age that it begin to settle with me. I started feeling as though what I was being taught was true, and had to find out more specifically what I would be assenting to.
That being said, I was obviously a strange kid. Most kids that age, Catholic and Protestant alike, feel more pressured to come into the Church (however good for them it is) and do not have their beliefs as formed as mine were by the time of my conversion. It's a social thing for a lot of kids, and many take the vows without realizing what they are getting into. Granted, I could not fully understand what I was getting into (i.e. the striving, the difficulties, the pain); but, I had figured out some things: I trusted God, believed Jesus was who he said he was, and trusted what was then the Church for me to lead me in the right way.
Unlike most children, even though I had trouble staying awake sometimes, I was always very serious about faith and matters pertaining to it. I was the kid who actively wanted to read the Bible and enjoyed going to church (I just didn't always have the energy I desired). I remember my attempt to read the whole (Protestant) Bible and how Leviticus crushed me. It was a lot to remember, and I love to read.
What all this signifies is a couple of things: 1. I'm quite serious about religious matters. 2. I am a nerd about religious matters and want complete understanding. 3. I approach religious matters with a serious amount of thought and need things to make sense. 4. I'm a little weird. The latter note was not necessary (i.e. number 4), but it's late and I do not care.
Anyway, I remained devout throughout my childhold, but ran into trouble with a tendency towards sensuality when puberty struck (cause it feels like you just got struck doesn't it? Everything suddenly gets really weird). I fell prey to the early life of the internet (i.e. AOL chatrooms.) I gained fake internet girlfriends, internet screw buddies (which was done pretty much only by text and imagination...that's admittedly up my alley. I love imagination), and got into porn. I have serious doubts I would have run into porn until I was 16 or 17 if it had not been for the internet, though I may be mistaken because I did discover at one point that my father hypocritically had the same problem I was having. Anyway, a creepy man-person in a pre-teen chatroom asked if I wanted to see Britney Spears naked (this was when "Baby, One More Time" came out) and, of course, I was like yes. Honestly, I wanted to see a number of pretty girls naked. Puberty, people! That started it, and I got caught a month or two into it and it got me in major trouble; but, here is the interesting thing, I got caught in deception and because of general foolishness. What I mean is that I instinctively felt that porn was not a good thing and that it was some how shameful. Keep in mind that I actually received no proper sex talk, and did not know porn existed until my introduction to it by Mr. Creeper. I probably couldn't even have told you what to call the pictures I was viewing. They were just naked ladies and it was awesome. I felt it was dangerous and not good, but I was willing to take the risk at the time.
So, I did get caught a couple of times, but it had already grown into an addiction (especially once I discovered a particularly graphic action that often coincides with anyone's usage of porn. You know the one I'm talking about. I just did not feel comfortable shouting it out.). Also, I never felt good after I recovered from the "high" aspect of porn. I always felt kind of dirty, though that did not last that long because I was a pre-teen who was not as introspective at this point.
Anyway, I bring up porn because it began to surface in my relationship with God and my religion. Repenting became harder (as it will do when you grow more sophisticated as a person) and suddenly I felt distance from God. I had, even throughout the crappier parts of my childhood, a closeness with God. Needless to say, this was horrifying to me, and was horrifying enough for me to be afraid of losing my salvation. This was a novel idea, because a lot of Protestants believed in "once saved always saved." (note: Repentance also likely became hard because I already have trouble recognizing every thought and feeling I have because most of the intense feelings are very deep under the surface) I actually think that "once saved always saved" made me feel as though i did not get "saved" when I was 7, otherwise I felt that I would not be stuck with this addiction that made me feel distant from God. In retrospect, I was not in need of conversion because I truly believed what I had assented to, I just had not realized how intricate it can get (particularly for introspective persons like myself).
In any case, I kept coming back to God. I realized some things about that fact much later, but it was a difficult time for me when I was in binge periods particularly. These are porn binge periods, by the way. I was never much of an everyday porner (ha, porner) and instead periodically had random weeks where I could not get enough of the stuff. I could go months without watching anything. I think this is why it took so long for it to screw with my attractions. I think I would have been more affected had I not stepped up my usage. Had I been able to quit and stick to that or continued 6 month periods between real binges (about 6 months, it varied of course) I would likely not be in my current predicament. I think this mainly because the stepped up usage inevitably lead to changes in what I desired in porn, but more on that later.
Once in high school, my family started church-hopping and trying to find a home-church. This was done because my father left his post as a youth pastor at this Baptist church (he left ministry at this time). We headed into the realm of non-denominationalism, a realm I have come to see as fairly wishy-washy. I realize that they are trying to unify the Church, but I have come to see that unification of the Church is going to require people to come back to Catholicism.
Anyway, in non-denominationalism land I rediscovered my faith in science (for a while, I had decided that if given a choice between the two I was just go with God, because it was an obvious truth to me that we were created. It seemed like people were just trying to destablize things). I began to see that there are many logical reasons for their findings and that they do explain our physical universe very well. So, I started to really question the ridiculousness I was hearing about evolution and other scientific issues (moreso in undergrad). These questions did not solidify until I was well into college and studying the Scriptures and the like, so it seems like this is a good place to stop. In regards to high school, my beliefs were relatively static and I did not have a lot of epiphanies. The biggest thing that happened was that a friend of mine died in a car accident and I discovered how closed off with people I was with anything meaningful. I'm sure that came into play later. Anyway, good night.

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