So I attended a friend’s wedding at the last place I ever thought I would – a catholic church.
Having grown up in a catholic home, it brought back lots and lots of memories, most of them painful and depressing.
If you need context, imagine the father figure from Chimamanda Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus and you’re not far from what my dad was like. Little surprise that I grew tired of the hypocrisy quite quickly. And I was glad to be gone and done with everything catholic.
The last time I stepped foot in a catholic building or even came across anything remotely catholic was over 9 years ago. I’ve diligently kept my distance. I rarely even think about it.
But the memories all let themselves back in on Saturday. I didn’t even go in the hall until I absolutely had to. I stayed outside while the priest said the familiar prayers and made the familiar gestures – the prayer of the faithful, the hail Mary, asking the laity to share the sign of peace, the prayer before and after communion. I still knew them.
Upon seeing people approach the altar, kneel and accept the eucharist, I remembered a time I took communion every Sunday while my dad made sure I ate the bread (I had developed a habit of spitting it out immediately after as a sign of rebellion).
So many memories, most of them bad.
I was shocked when I blurted out, to myself (cos I was the only one standing outside),
” I hate this place. I hate everything this place stands for.”
I was shocked. I chided myself. I never hate. But even more curious was the fact that I didn’t feel bad. I knew it was the truth. I peeped into the hall where the mass was being held and smirked.
Again I caught myself thinking again, “What a load of crap!”
I hated being there. The only reason why I attended the wedding was because my friend was a really close pal. He got me through some rough times when I was in school.
I looked at the priest, dutifully saying the mass and genuflecting and making the sign of the cross. I felt contempt. In retrospect, he’s probably a nice guy. He looked like a nice guy. I’ve met a lot of nice Catholics. Some of them are even close friends (my personal editor is Opus Dei).
But it all counted for zilch at that point.
I knew I was biased. I knew and I didn’t care. Those memories hurt till today.
Suddenly I understood a few things.
I suddenly understood why some folks hate Christianity so much. It’s not their fault. Some of them grew up in abusive environments, and their only model of a Christian was the perpetuator of such abuse. For some, their parents lived one way at home and turned into totally different people in church. That kind of hypocrisy is hard to ignore or get over.
And for those who try to “convince” such people that Christianity is good, not bad, you’ll probably have better luck trying to convince a bird that it’s a leopard. Words are mostly useless. There’s nothing you could say that could win them over. No words could have won me over. We know the lingua; we can speak it. We know the doctrine; we can practice it.
The best you could do is pray for such people. Words mean zilch.
In case you’re wondering, I gave my life to Jesus Christ a few months after I left my dad and the catholic church. I worship in a Pentecostal church. I’ve been happy. Fulfilled even.
I’ve always wondered why people who grow up in church sometimes end up leaving and hating the church. Now I know. I understand.
If there are any such people in your life, you should love them, pray for them and be the best example of a Christian you can be. It’s the best anyone can do.