Reconstructing Outmoded Christian Ideologies in 2020
TW: Police Violence, Racism & Homophobia in the Christian Faith
My first memory of ever going to Mass was with my Godmother, when she insisted upon my attending Sunday School at Our Lady of Grace so that I could have my First Communion with our family priest (an old friend of my Nona, of course). Even at age 6, I was suspicious of the overly air-conditioned service and the lack of quality snacks — then and now, the communion wafer and sip of red wine don’t ease that assessment. My small Sunday School class was attended by other children from my First Grade class, and we usually spent the entire lesson stealing donuts from the Nuns and only half-listening to the Bible Teaching for that week. I was much too busy fixating on Harry Potter and The Legend of Zelda to be bothered with the teachings of John, Luke or Matthew.
That summer, my parents and I made a deal that year that, as long as I finished my First Communion, I could make my own decisions when it came to faith and religion from then on. At the time, I had no understanding for the power and privilege I was being offered when my parents allowed me to control my own faith, especially in South Texas. Nor did I have any understanding for the judgement and ignorance that would be laid upon my reputation in my choice to distance myself from the church. However, as many “Reformed Catholics” like myself might tell you, the teachings of the Catholic Church do not disappear from your conscious just because you stop attending Mass or visiting with your Priest. Pursuit of Freedom of Religion and Freedom in Commerce founded the United States, and, as 2020 has shown us, these freedoms can also be our national undoing.
As 2020 passes and my daily routine works to wrap itself around the New Normal, I cannot help but find myself craving the simplicity of Sunday School and my past childhood routines. At the time, there was nothing I wanted more than adventure and excitement, but now, after a year of personal loss and international upheaval, my daydreams have turned from Too Fast Too Furious to quiet Sunday afternoons spent slowly meandering through book shops, cooking with loved ones and catching up on laundry. I dream of a time when my friends and I could go about our daily routines without fear of verbal abuse (at best) or political assassination at the hands of our local Police Force.
For two years during middle school, I attended a small Episcopal School in San Antonio, where (for the first time in my life) I was required to wear a uniform, study the Bible (un-ironically), and attend Chapel everyday. Although I had classmates who were Jewish and Muslim, we were all required to recite the Lord’s Prayer, the Texas Pledge, and the Pledge of Allegiance every morning during announcements. Despite years of student protest and parental intervention, these were all non-negotiables. All while this school presented itself as an inter-faith opportunity for cultural exchange and personal growth, it only ever served as a reminder of the many ways in which I did not fit into the Episcopal Debutante Mold. As hard as school administrators tried to manage the onslaught of bullying and harassment, the memories of physical harassment, racial slurs, body shaming and homophobic remarks from teachers, coaches and fellow students are burned into my consciousness alongside my favorite Chapel hymns. To this day, I can’t wear a pleated skirt without feeling an intense anxiety that one of my old classmates might sneak up behind me to pull it up over my head or call out the color of my underwear to passersby.
Slowly but surely, I outgrow these expectations for the Episcopal Church and its members. Slowly but surely, I learn to look past outdated ideologies to reconfigure how modern faith fits into my life as an adult. Slowly but surely, I create new expectations and routines that help me make sense of a world which houses both my greatest joys and my greatest oppressors.
After countless lives taken too soon and futures destroyed, it is not so simple as to say which political party you support, nor to make claim to all the many ways you have given back in charity to your community. It is not so simple as having attended a Christian Mission Trip in a “3rd World Country” in order to pad your resume for a future Harvard or Princeton application. It is not so simple as holding up The Bible for all to witness, and making public affirmations about your relationship with God. Nor is it so simple as proclaiming yourself an Ally, especially without taking the time to consider how you as an individual have contributed to the harm of another. In our “New Normal”, you are only as good as your reputation and community at large.
It is so very easy to label yourself a Leader, Friend, Partner or Lover, but not so easy to lay the identity into practice. This year, so different from any other, offers an opportunity for radical change and evolution — as long as enough of us are willing to pay attention to the signs.
Why ‘Cancel Culture’ Is a Distraction by Jonah Engel Bromwich
How to talk someone out of bigotry by Brian Resnick
What Is Performative Allyship? Making Sure Anti-Racism Efforts Are Helpful by Monisha Rudhran
Donald Trump and Uses and Misuses of the Bible by Ian Frazier
Opinion: Mission trips essentially modern-day colonialism by Gabrielle Martinez