Saturday, May 31, 2008


I was born Roman Catholic but when I was 10, my mother was converted to Pentecostalism. I was confused then because I attended Catholic schools and was dutiful to attend regular mass. Then all of a sudden, it changed. I am not a Catholic anymore and should not be attending those masses that they required in school. I became one of the iglesias, the term my classmates referred to non-Catholics. It took me several years to really get used to the new identity. My mother, as I remembered, also struggled as she attended 2 services (Catholic and Pentecostal)each Sunday for several months before deciding that she has to pick only one. The rest is history.

I always referred to the religion that I grew up with as Pentecostal. This way,I think, it explains my idiosyncrasies such as having no sense of style (baduy),feeling guilty all the time (or is this part of being a woman! Who knows?), not finding speaking-in-tongues strange and totally ignorant of pop culture.

At the age of 14, I decided to be baptized. I felt then that I was obliged to follow all the rules of the church. Our religion is not what you called a mainstream religion. It is kind of radical. There are so many ridiculous restrictions especially for women. Women were not allowed to wear pants, cut their hair, wear jewelries and wear make-up. These were difficult for my mother at first as she had worn her hair short for several years. Also, it was prohibited to watch movies in the theatre but maybe okay at home. Owning a television was discouraged. Also, Christmas and Fiestas were not celebrated. Men and women cannot swim together in a pool. Women were required to wear skirt even in a pool! There should not be any display of affection while dating. I can go on and on but you can see the point. It is like growing up in a convent. It is, probably, not a big deal if we lived in isolated place where we never interact with other people. Even our closest relatives found us strange and this made my mother isolated from her family and became more involved emotionally to the church.

Being involved in this religion was both a blessing and a curse. Curse is a harsh word but I cannot think of any word. Blessing and curse just go together. It is a cliche. Anyway, I will say there are different intensity of curse --slight, mild, moderate and severe. It is a mild curse. Blessing because it gave me focus in my teenage years. I used to feel different from every person in school because of my religion. I looked different. I did not know any secular music. It was a struggle but my religion became my crutch during those difficult times. It probably guided me to focus on my future versus the then immediate need to be popular or at least fit in. Curse because I was ignorant of everything else in life!

Then, during and after college, I decided to try other Protestant churches. I attended countless denominations but in my futile attempt, I realized I did not belong anywhere. Maybe I am just too rebellious for organized religion. However, last year, after my third miscarriage, I was invited by a friend to this church. I did like that particular church as it is closer in style to the church that I grew up with but tamer. It was a comfort emotionally to be in a familiar place and presence. I started attending regularly, hauling my reluctant husband and father who just ended up falling asleep during every service.

Then, one day, I stumbled upon this audio book by Christopher Hitchens God is not Great. He posed many shocking facts about major religions. This changed my perspective. I began to doubt religion again. Concurrent to this, the pastor would regularly include his own political agenda in his sermon and this turned me and my husband off. We would see people walk out during his sermon. Then, every Sunday after that, it seemed like my mind and heart were somewhere else but my body was in the church. I felt like a hypocrite. I have not been back to church since December when we attended a Christmas concert.

Guilt is in my mind every Sunday morning. I should be in church. The political pastor, I learned, just retired. The interim pastor called and checked on us for couple of months after we stopped attending . We still receive their bulletins regularly through the mail. Temptation to go back continues to haunt me. "Maybe this Sunday." I regularly tell myself. Then, there were chores and projects to do. There just not enough time!

I have been in both sides of religiosity - religious and non-religious. I will say at a current time, I am not religious. The good thing about it is I am less guilty (except for Sunday mornings) and less judgmental. However, I still crave for that feeling of peacefulness when I was in the spirit of praise and worship. Belief in omnipotent, kind and loving God is carved in my heart and mind forever. Someday, I hope, Spiritual is the adjective I can use to describe my state of being.

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