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Pop Theology

I.  God and Monsters

Earlier this summer, J and I used the handy excuse of a Newbury Comics moving sale to spend way too much money, which is how I became the happy owner of seasons 1 and 2 of Supernatural.  I am slowly re-watching them all (in order, of course),  which is why, when the quote meme popped up last week, my choice came from "Houses of the Holy", since I'd had it on the night before.

I was spoiler-free for the new season, so I had no idea that all the territory about faith and angels covered in that ep was about to get terrifically relevant.

Or that Dean Winchester was about to join Grace Hanadarko on the list of TV characters that I am currently obsessed with that happen to have stalkers of the winged variety.

I did suspect the power the boys were dealing with might be other than demonic as soon as the seeress lost her eyes, because I've always been discomfited by the Old Testament stories that emphasize how much damage looking directly into the face of God would do to a person (hence the need for a burning bush.) 

Though I'm interested in seeing where both shows go with their stories of last chance angels  and roads to redemption, it so happens that I don't believe in helI. I don't think God is the cause of any of the myriad ways we humans suffer in this world and it doesn't make sense to me that the Divine would care to so inflict us in the next.

It has been pointed out to me that this would seem to negate a basic tenet of Christianity--no threat of eternal damnation, no need for Christ to die to so save the world. 

I still have no trouble calling myself a Christian. 

II. Origins

Once upon a time, had the Roman Catholic church been amenable to such things, I might've been a priest.

This was 20 years ago, and at least in the suburban Long Island parishes I grew up in, there was still a place for thoughtful, progressive, social-justice oriented Catholics in the church.  (It may be that I got this idea by paying more attention to the folk music than the homily, but hey, these songs derive from the primary text.)

Every Sunday, we'd stand up to say the Creed and I could feel the rhythms and ritual wrap around me like comforting arms.   And celibacy seemed like a refuge, a  blessing. 

See, I  was something of a misfit teenager, serious and shy and awkward.  And I had a shameful, disturbing secret: I thought sex was disgusting. 

I'm not talking here about being fearful or not ready.  This was physical aversion, and the only thing I really understood about it back then was that I had better not let anyone else find out, 'cause there were names for girls like that, none of them pretty. 

I actually spent time trying to figure out whether my clearly abnormal feelings about sex could be God's way of telling me I had a calling.  Except the no-women-priests thing kind of ruled that out.

(I know there were nuns around our parish--we had an elementary school.  But my mom did all 12 years in Catholic school and pointedly chose otherwise for her own kids, and Saturday catechism classes were taught by lay volunteers, so I'd never actually met one and really couldn't picture that life having anything to do with me.)

Thankfully, my attitude about my sexuality healed as I got older and grew to understand from whence it came.

My understanding of the Creed evolved as well.

Do I believe in a literal Resurrection?  Not every day.  Not anymore.  But I'm a poet.  Claiming something's a metaphor is no way to weaken it in my esteem.  I believe in the story of the Resurrection and all the truths it delivers: though fragile, love and hope and joy survive.  We can sustain these gifts, in and for each other, if we are only willing to try.

III.  I'd Like to End with A Story

In the last few years of my grandmother's life, she moved to a new neighborhood and, in her late seventies, she wasn't able to get very much involved in her new parish.  So when she died, the priest who came to say a few prayers at the wake wasn't someone who knew her personally.

Still, it surprised us a little when he got up in front of the casket and asked her name.  Nancy, said my father.

No, no, said the priest, what was her name?

Oh, said my father.  Annunziata.

And the priest smiled. 

When an Italian woman of her generation is called Nancy, he said, I know her name is really Annunziata.  I love the name Annunziata...it means, God has plans for you.

He said more, of course, but I don't remember it nearly as well, because I'd already heard what I needed.  

Their respective angels have said as much to Grace and Dean and I'm oh so happy to be along for the ride.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 22nd, 2008 03:28 pm (UTC)
Posts like this make me so happy that you're blogging.

Sep. 23rd, 2008 12:33 am (UTC)
Re: awesome.

Speaking of awesome...your timing rocks. This was one of those posts that I was totally second-guessing (jeez, why would anyone care about all this weirdo TMI?), so that was very nice to hear!!

Oct. 8th, 2008 01:59 pm (UTC)
Fresca here--I seem to have forgotten how to log on...

What a great story about your grandmother's name!
(And a great reminder that once in a while priests do say the right thing!)
My Sicilian grandmother went by Sarah, but her birth name was Rosaria. I always thought Sarah was such a boring variation, and in my early 20s, I used "Rose" as a nickname in her honor.
But I love Rosaria best, and I have a rosary from the town where she was born.
Prayer beads--another thing the church has right.

Thanks for writing!
Oct. 10th, 2008 04:27 am (UTC)
Hi, Fresca!

Thanks for the thanks :)

When I got to Beginning Italian in the eighth grade, the teacher called everyone by the Italian version of their name, if there was one. I guess it was lucky there was a Nancy in my class, because it wasn't until I reported this at home that my dad said, well, yeah, that's Grandma's name, too.

My other grandmother was a Rose (in her case, the full name was Rosina, but I never heard anyone call her that, though both Ro and Rosie got lots of use.)

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )