I wasn’t much of a church boy. I was baptized when I was a baby, though I don’t remember the dipping process. However, I guess I came into sin being a bastard child so I figure the dip saved my soul – a Puebloan with sin baptized just in case he died without being saved.
Once I could walk I went to church with my Grandma and I held on to her fingers as we walked into the new, old church in the Pueblo. I looked with wonder at the pictures of the passion of Jesus Christ. I stared at the Lady of Guadalupe staring at me with her glassy eyes. She was clothed in beautiful dresses that the poor, devoted Indian women made for her.
I saw the black Jesus, the white Jesus and the crooked-nosed, bloody, scary, penitent Jesus.
I secretly imagined the saints walking out back to smoke after church even though they were always inside; standing statues, all saintly and looking sad, forever holding the holy poses of praise and prayer to the heavens.
When I was nine I made my first holy communion. I learned the prayers in Spanish and in English. I laughed at evil a few times as his beat-up, old Ford truck passed me by and he stared from the driver’s seat, waiting for dirty Indian boys to fall within the sins and temptations of man.
At twelve I was confirmed to make sure I was really going to heaven and not to hell. I had my share of the taste of the holy host. I felt the faith and even dreamed of the saints. A few times I even dreamed of Jesus – he was all tan, not quite the Mel Gibson Hollywood version, but still a holy dreamer.
In my teenage years I hung out with a drunk with an attitude and he would make it a point, every midnight mass, to yell out to the preacher, “LIAR!” The house of worship was a place for him to stay warm and he would even take communion. When asked by the priest, “Body of Christ?”, he would respond with his booze-smelling breath, “Yeah, that’d be cool.”
All of his friends would go, drunk, to the confessional and make up all kinds of sins and laugh as they told their stories later under cottonwood trees drinking cheap beer and stale vino.
One winter he was found dead in the old corral in an abandoned outhouse – frozen and twisted in a fetal position. At his funeral mass the priest said he would go to heaven and he spoke of how he was too young to die and that maybe Jesus needed another helper.
We all knew if he was going to heaven he would turn every angel into an alcoholic and ask them to go to hell for a beer run for him and his buddies.
All the brothers (maybe even the priest himself) knew the guy was going to hell. Some people are destined to and are much better off there.
Is there a hell?
Is there a heaven?
A Mormon brother once told me that faith tells you. Hmmm… maybe my faith is still wondering.
The Pueblo – even through all the insanity of being whipped in the past into believing another way in the churches: Mormon, Baptist, Episcopalian, Catholic – really believes in tradition and culture. They also believe in baptism, confession, saints, effigies, feathers and bundles and blankets. It doesn’t matter as long as you believe in something (I figure) to set your soul free. Religion is adaptive in a warped contextual way.
As I get older in this point of my life I go to church when someone dies and they have a funeral for him/her. I also go during the spring a week before Palm Sunday when they set runners off after church to run the old track for the waking of the earth. I go into the church on December 24th, after the procession, and I pray and stare at the Lady of the Guadalupe. I shed a tear for the sadness I feel and let it all go and then I light a candle for my Grandma, my Grandpa and my cousin, Paul.
I’m not much of a follower or a theologian of the church. I guess to be humble is the best way. That and sharing what little we all have.
“An honest religious thinker is like a tightrope walker. He almost looks as though he were walking on nothing but air. His support is the slenderest imaginable. And yet it really is possible to walk on it.”
~ Wittgenstein, Ludwig
We are all walking on a loose, shaky, thin-as-dental-floss rope a thousand feet from earth. As men we have become evil, wicked, malicious, cruel and treacherous. We have become every sin written about and every sin that has been thought up. However, our ego tells us that we all have angel wings and we’ve purchased time shares in a chose place in God’s great palace.
I’ve been told by a few that I am evil or following an evil way. It doesn’t bother me. Even the devil has his plan for us all.
Although I don’t believe in Heaven or Hell.
I do believe in something, but it isn’t the radical Hieronymus-Bosch-burn-in-hell-for-time-and-eternity type of mental strife.
What I believe in more is this: This is all you got, so make it good.
I believe in…
a good laugh,
a sweet smile
brotherhood and sisterhood
baking bread and breaking bread
the hip bone
and so much more that we are blessed with
|We are all blessed|
In all my years of sitting on the walls of the Pueblo looking at all the cultural encroachments and disintegration of humanity, I have considered that religious beliefs and practices that were considered central to human concerns (when truly looked upon historically to the very present day) are full of reflections of all the energy, time, deaths, emotional crisis and riches that societies of people have spent in building religious iconic monuments, paying and support hierarchies, vying for power, fighting so-called holy wars, not to mention the pathetic lies and youthful sacrifices to assure their well being in so-called heaven.
I frequently and objectively find it hard to believe that religion, as overtly wild and historically bizarre as it may seem or even be, has contributed positively, righteously or humanly to our evolution.
Go out there and live life to the fullest. Find your gift. See things grow. Watch the blessings of humanity. Your greatest enemy and fear isn’t that there is a Devil or a hell. Your greatest enemy is you. Don’t feel guilty. Guilt is man made.
“A man who has conscience is himself the Devil and hell and purgatory, tormenting himself.
He who is free in spirit escapes all these things.” ~ John of Brunn, 1320
Your faithful servant as always in thought,