Loving Thy Ignorant Neighbor gets Hard

March 8, 2013
It has taken me two, somewhat bitter years of high school to realize that quite a few people hate my religion, Catholicism. Voices in the hall crack jokes about pedophile priests, or the flaws in the creationism theory; that’s just the surface. Online harassment is worse, and websites and facebook posts pick and poke at it, maybe so somebody hiding behind their computer screen can feel a bit more intelligent before they go back to laughing at pictures of cats. Agreeably, most people don’t participate in this; the few who do don’t always realize the pain they inflict on others.

I have a quite a few Christian friends, and we like talking and comparing our beliefs, or praying together. Still, some of my close friends do not believe in God or have experienced spiritual nurturing. “I don’t understand why you worship… some creature in the sky,” mutters my new friend, a foreign exchange student from Germany. “Religious people bother me, barking bible verses and stuff,” says another. Explaining why I believe what I do is useless; some people cannot understand what it’s like to have faith in something that cannot be proven.

I have worshipped God my whole life, starting out in a Catholic elementary school. At that time, all my friends and teachers were also Catholic. For the most part I was oblivious to much of the world outside of my sheltered, religious bubble. My class was guided in the right direction by our teachers and parents. I passed elementary school aware to stay away from the wrong people, avoid drugs, and keep my grades up. I was ready for Middle School, but it was not what I expected. Starting sixth grade, I no longer had to wear a uniform, and I developed a style for brightly colored, blocky clothing (thankfully I grew out of that phase). Of course, I became friends with people who did not believe in God, but nobody really cared about spiritual beliefs. Everyone was too caught up with ‘who’s dating who,’ and whatever ‘what's-her-face did now.’ I was still naïve, especially compared to most of my peers who had been in a public school their whole life. It seemed like every time I heard a new swear word, everyone around me had known it since the second grade. I made it through Middle School drug free and still kept in touch with God.

High school is way different than Middle and Elementary school. All those little preteen dramas suddenly do not matter anymore, and many students would rather talk about more intelligent things. That is why the topic of religion is brought up frequently; it is an easy target for those looking to prove intellectual dominance. I quickly discovered that people judge who I am, and what my religion is, based on the actions of others. ‘Oh, that priest molested a child? That must mean his whole religion is corrupt, and must have nothing to do with his mental problems.’ For some reason, a lot of people seem to use this logic. I don’t know if those people realize this or not, but Catholics don’t just run around molesting people.

In fact, the majority of good Catholics make it unknown to others that they are Catholic. We go to church, go to school or work, live happy lives, and worship God without obnoxiously preaching to the world. I know, I know, part of being Catholic is spreading God’s word. I think it’s possible to do this without standing on a street corner telling people they will go to hell if they don’t become Christian. A small minority do this, or maybe live sinful lives, and think calling themselves Catholic and claiming it in the name of God makes it better. People like this give Catholics a bad reputation, even though most of us are nothing like this.

I understand that a lot of Catholics are hypocrites, but that’s not a logical reason to attack all of Catholicism. Ever group, religious or political, has hypocrites, whether they are Atheists, Conservatives, Buddhists, Liberals, Islamic, etcetera. In American society, these groups are not attacked as publicly as Catholicism and other denominations of Christianity. In school we are told that people have a right to religion in our free country, so that man in a turban has rights and doesn’t need people publicly attacking him for using them. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a teacher defend Christianity, yet I hear them criticize it frequently.

Honestly, I do not care if somebody around me is an Atheist, a homosexual, a prostitute, or whatever they want to be; it is their life choice and I choose to let them live that way if they don’t want God in their life. Unfortunately for me and others, some of these people think if someone religious tries to ‘change their ways,’ they receive a free token to criticize and abuse what I believe and keep close to my heart.

It doesn’t feel good.

As a final message, some people (you know who you are) need to wake up and look around. Yes, priests have molested children before and will pay the price for it in Hell, but does anyone ever consider the moral goodness that good Christians bring into the world? Don’t judge me and my religion because of a few sinful people. People tell me all the time that I’m wrong. I’m wrong because of science, I’m wrong because I’m brainwashed, that I’m wrong and I shouldn’t have a choice but to agree with them. Guess what? Spewing obscenities at a fifteen year old girl is not necessary.

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RarelyJaded This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 24, 2013 at 11:48 am
It isn't just Catholics. I've written a paper in English like this, about all Christians. It's definitely hard growing up in this generation, when everyone's so cynical about a religion they knowingly and frequently choose to misconstrue. Suddenly religious freedom is the right not to hear other people's beliefs—since when did the Constitution stop allowing freedom of speech?! If anything, repressing evangelism causing ignorance, if nobody has the right to share their religion. So anyway, ... (more »)
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