Friday, June 18, 2010

Faithful Friday - In The Beginning

A month or so back I mentioned I was in the midst of taking RCIA classes on my journey to become a full blown, communion receiving Catholic. I promised then to tell y'all a bit about my faith journey from a reluctant baptist -- to an anti-organized religion non-believer-- to my current leap of faith.

I've struggled to fight a launching point without trivializing both my anger of old and my new found or at least newly rediscovered beliefs. This post in particular will no doubt come across as silly but I have decided to go back and talk about the very roots of my distrust of churches.

This may come as a surprise to y'all but I was a fairly pampered kid. I didn't mean pampered as in my parents bought me everything I wanted. That certainly was not the case as were in now way an affluent family. I was raised by my mom in a single parent environment. Even before my mom and dad divorced he was never around. He was a hardware salesman who worked out of Albuquerque some 200 odd miles west of Amarillo. I can't even say for sure when my parents actually divorced. That's how little of an impact on my everyday life the event had.

Nonetheless I have very little to complain about my childhood. My mom worked so more often as not I stayed with my great grandmother. Granny Bartlett, as I called her, catered to my whims to the point that she would send my great grandfather to the store every morning to buy whatever I wanted for breakfast, and lunch. Toasted coconut marshmallows? Yep, if that's what I wanted, that's what she fed me. And they were among my faves. Grandad Bartlett was an ice cream man. he drove an old International truck and spent his spring and summer time afternoons driving around the neighborhoods in north Amarillo providing cool refreshments to the throng of children. And I sampled freely from his wares.

Granny Bartlett was a religious woman and my earliest recollection of church and the bible is of her reading the good book and quoting scripture. She was a Baptist but had originally been Methodist back in her hometown of Bethany, Missouri. I of course loved my Granny Bartlett with all my heart.

But my mom became worried that I was too dependant on my Granny. She felt I needed exposure to other kids and more of a school environment to prepare me for Kindergarten.

So she decided to enroll me in a nearby Methodist pre-school.

I didn't want to go. I cried when she dropped me off, but then again I cried when she left me anywhere other than Granny Bartlett's.

I eventually blubbering but still I wasn't happy. The other kids happily sang along to Jesus Loves Me This I know while I silently brooded. I remember begrudgingly playing Hokey Pokey, but it is lunch that scarred me for life.

I was a tremendously skinny kid. A poor eater to say the least. And the gruel they served up wasn't about change that. Yeah, I know peas and mash potatoes is not what most of you would call gruel. But even at that age I was a meat and brown gravy carnivore. Well that and toasted coconut marshmallows.

I refused to eat. One of the teachers, I for years described her as a Nun, became angry at my refusal to consume the peas and mashed potatoes. Long story short, this woman enlisted help to hold me down in the chair and force the food into my mouth.

To this day my mom will steadfastly say this never happened. She will point to the fact there are no nuns in the Methodist church as her proof. She is right about the nuns. I'll admit that much. But I was only a kids. Four years old at best. I'd never been to a Catholic Church so what the hell did I know about nuns?

However, I was old enough to know when someone was force feeding me mash potatoes. I can still close my eyes and feel that woman's rough handling of my head and jaw. I DID NOT IMAGINE THAT.

Is it trivial? But a small, brief moment in time? An event that probably has next to no impact on who I am today?


But, that was the first time I realized the world was not all rainbows and unicorns. And the fact it happened within the walls of a church may or may not have shaped my resentment of organized religion. But it did instill one thing, deep into my subconsciousness. People do bad, even in the name of kindness.

My mom, never believed me, but let the record show she never took me back to that place. She tried a few others over the years, but in the end I always came back to my Granny's Bartlett's.


Annie said...

Well, that's a pretty nasty story and I can see why you'd feel the way you did. I hold my own grudges about the organization of religion but try to remember that God is better than the people who represent Him.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

An ugly mix of shaming behaviour, brute force and discounting of reality -- that would be enough to turn many people off the religious setting in which it happened. I bet you still can't eat mashed potatoes and peas without thinking of it.

Bernita said...

Hmmm, wonder if she wore a black dress and a white Alice hairband...

Val Conrad said...

Laughing at Debra's comment about you eating mashed potatoes and thinking about it. HAHAHAHA... Not a single mashed potato has graced your plate, I've little doubt.

I too hold a grudge against those within a chuch who, perhaps in their own way, saw their viewpoint as God's way and mine as a sin. However, when one of them told me I'd go to hell for working Sundays as an EMT, I told them I'd be THRILLED if people like them would stop having heart attacks, crashes and babies on Sunday so I could take the day for other things.

Hasn't happened yet, though.

I also spent a good portion of early schoolhood refusing to eat what someone slopped on a plate. Nary a green bean has ever been touched. I get it. :)

Thanks for the explanations, though - it says a lot about where you've been and where you'll go.

Tish said...

Are you going to explain how your beliefs were steered toward Catholicism? Have Jennifer's? The kids'? Just curious

Travis Erwin said...

Annie-As I'll reveal later I have much deeper grudges than this one.

Debra - Peas are green so I never eat them and I didn't eat mash potatoes for nearly 30 years after this.

Bernita - I don't think so so not sure where the nun idea came from.

Val - Only in the last few years have I eaten mashed taters and only then if drowned in brown gravy.

Mark - Yes Mark I'll get there eventually.

Old Kitty said...

Oh you poor poor man. What a thing to do to a four year old! How awful and horrible and I hope that "teacher" is now suffering in the deepest hades and being tormented by demons! :-(

I'm so glad you had Granny Bartlett and great grandad too!! And I'm so glad that even if your mum didn't believe you about that nasty teacher she was there for you throughout.

There is bad but there is plenty of good too. I hope the good nullifies the bad more!

Good luck with your spiritual journey!

Take care

Terri Tiffany said...

I'm sorry this happened to you--I'm also sorry you connected it with God and how he is toward us. I hope life got better!!:)

WordVixen said...

Horrible story. :-( But I am looking forward to the rest of it!

You know what you need to help with the painful memories? Salad. A nice, big, leafy, green salad!

Anonymous said...

I do so love people who have made the church look so terrible. I have memories of being shamed in a preschool, but it didn't make me hate school. I even have memories of being shamed at church, and I still went to seminary. United Methodist seminary, which is different than plain Methodist, but still.

Then again, I work at a church where we marry gay couples and don't talk about God with gendered language and go out for margaritas after committee meetings.

I have often thought about converting to Catholicism, so I am excited that you're pursuing it, Travis. Catholicism is actually a very social-justice, forward-thinking theology; as in most of Christianity (well, and life - I mean, we hate all corporate types because of Enron and all politicians because of Bush - er, uh, presidents), it's been poorly represented in many places.

Natasha Fondren said...

I've been through a lot of religions thus far, but I started out Methodist. That HORRIBLE experience aside, to this day, I am thankful that I got such a good education about the Bible. When later I changed churches, no matter which church, I could run circles around the people in the youth group or Sunday school or whatnot when it came to knowing the Bible.

That is AWFUL, Travis.

jerseygirl89 said...

How awful! And to ruin mashed potatoes for you too. . .ugh. I'm really interested in hearing about the rest of your journey.

Barbara Martin said...

I've never had any bad experiences related to religion or the churches I attended. I can say that I was bored out of my mind at Sunday School in the first church I went to: United. They did not make the bible stories interesting. I was a wee bit of thing then: 5. I do recall getting into trouble for being opinionated.

My personal experiences with God have nothing to do with going to church, nor with any aspects of an organized religion.

Travis, you experience had nothing to do with God, only the mindless deeds of church representatives. Surely as an adult you recognize this.

Richard Levangie said...

What you're describing is abuse, plain and simple. I have NO doubt that it occurred exactly as you described.

It's only now, looking back, that I understand that I was raised as a fundamentalist Christian. And I was taught that Catholicism was the One True Faith. There was no other way to get to heaven.

And yet... I'm old enough to remember being taught by nuns who would grab your hair and slam your head into the blackboard if you couldn't solve a math problem. And nuns who were as sweet and gentle as a summer breeze. I can tell as many kind stories of priests and nuns, and many that would make your hair stand on end.

But my problems with Catholicism don't stem from the questionable or even criminal behavior of individuals, but from my belief that Catholicism has completely lost its way. The last two Popes have washed away the last vestiges of liberation theology, and Vatican II, and are now circling the wagons. I live in a place where child abuse by priests was rampant, where the Bishop of Antigonish was JUST arrested for possessing child porn. Yet the church in Rome continues to bob and weave and suggest that they are the real victims.

Sometimes I wished that I lived in Colorado, so I could attend a real church like Aerin's.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I sympathize because I have a grandson who likes almost no food at all. Especially not meat. I hope no one tried that on him at school. He doesn't go to church.

Travis Erwin said...

Old Kitty -- The good in my life has definitely outweighed the bad.

Terri- I don't think I connected with God so much as I did the people running church.

Wordvixen - You can be quite evil when you want to be.

Aerin and Natasha -- I do not blame the Methodist church or any other as a whole. Much of my anger and resentment of religion stems from my own shortcomings, but if I'm going to talk about my journey I have to describe the things that occurred along the way.

Jerseygirl - Truth be told I don't like the texture of mushy food so most likely i never would have become a big mashed tater fan anyway.

Barbara - i do recognize that fact. I'm just trying to relate the things that chased me away from religion in the first place.

Richard - Make no mistake I do not think the Catholic church is immune to poor leaders and even criminal behavior. But it is the history, foundation, core beliefs and most importantly the leader of my local church as well as the community of its member that makes converting the Catholicism the correct decision for me at this point in my life. Don't worry I'll elaborate in later posts.

Patti- No meat. He's the anti-Travis

Design Goddess said...

I think it's wonderful that you are exploring the Catholic faith! (I'm a little biased though since I am Catholic.)

Good luck in your endeavor. I think you'll come to truly love it. I'm actually a little envious since I am a "cradle Catholic" I tend to take it for granted. Only recently have I begun rediscovering my faith and religion.

God bless you and your family! :)

BTW, you should check to see if there is a Catholic radio station in your area. They have great programs on it!

mielikki said...

Thank God for Granny Bartlett!!
I had a babysitter do the same thing to me with watermelon, of all things...

Melanie Miday-Stern said...

Tavis, I can totally understand why you would really dislike mashed potatoes. My son is anti-vegetable and fruit to a point. Thankfully mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, and V8 Infused juice are his favorites. He's my meat lover too! :)

Kudos on your journey. I can't not wait to read the rest of your story.

Lana Gramlich said...

The atrocities of any organized religion know no bounds...Which is partially why I'm an atheist.

Phats said...

That's a bad story i definitely see why you have the feelings you do my friend! I for one believe in God but not organized religion.

Hey WELCOME TO THE BIG TEN!!!! We are so glad to have Husker Nation now apart of us :)

Lyn said...

I want to hear more about Granny and Grampa Bartlett.

prashant said...

God is better than the people who represent Him.
Contextual Ad Network India