A Cold Stare - Planned section for a book called "A Journey of 'Faith': Memoire of a Transformation from Christian Child to Atheist Adult"


From time to time memories of my former life as a Protestant Christian come back. Some of them are pleasant, some unpleasant, others simply perplexing.

There is one that came to mind today that is still perplexing to this day.

Years ago, I had decided to confirm myself into the church, ironically, this was only a year before my dramatic transformation into unbeliever would take place.

As part of the "confirmation class," which I found unbareably dull at most times, we had to go visit the religious services of a synagogue and a catholic church. I don't know what the purpose of this was, perhaps they thought it would convince us of the truth of our own faith? Before visiting Immacculate Heart of Mary, I had thought the Catholics as brothers and sisters in my christian faith. That view would be harshly challenged by a fateful trip to IHM for a sunday mass.

Let it be mentioned that one Saturday night we also visited Rockdale Temple. I was impressed, and quite surprised [given the history of how Christians have treated Jews] on how hospitable, friendly, and even delighted the Jewish members of the Synagogue seemed to be that we were there. If I remember correctly they invited our Confirmation class leader to "come back anytime." Now, they could very well have been trying to convert us. But it struck me as odd that I had more fun and was more comfortable among these people of a different faith than I. We danced with them to a peppy and catchy tune while singing in Hebrew and they even let me hold their synagogue's copy of the Torah. I remember being awed, flattered, feeling unworthy, and feeling confused. Didn't they hold a grudge against christians for the pain we had caused them?

Apparently this particular congregation did not.

I still remember this incident with a feeling of warmth and smile as I think of the accepting smiles of the Jewish congregation.

Oh how this contrasted with the IHM congregation!!

From the moment we entered that building that sunday morning, the very air was dense with tension. As the catholics filed in, dipping their fingertips in a basin of holy water and spreading it on their heads as they crossed themselves, I could see them glance briefly at us with curious, yet suspicious cold eyes.

I knew from the moment I entered that church that my protestant group of teenagers wasn't welcome there... although granted, it was unspoken... and there was an air of fake hospitality with the Priest. Who answered our questions with a masked tension on his face before we entered the sanctuary.

I remember my christian child-like mind thinking "What on Earth is their problem? The Jewish people we visited last week weren't even part of our faith and they treated us better than this! Why are they giving us such cold stares? I thought we were all brothers and sisters in Christ! What is going on here?"

Throughout the mass service there were people turning around occassionally to give us curious and hostile, suspicious stares. Children would look at us with mere curiousity, but their mothers and fathers would quickly admonish them to turn around, pay attention and not stare at the protestant confirmation class.

I couldn't hear them saying this, but I knew that they were saying it because of the nervous look they had when their children started to look at us for too long.

We were a bunch of dumbfounded, 14-year-old pariahs.

There was very little speech among us as the mass continued. I can't be sure, but I think many of the other kids were as unnerved and awkward as I was.

The defining moment came at the time it was to take communion. The catholics lined up to drink wine out of the same cup and recieve a white square wafer. It was quite different from the practice at our church, but I felt entitled to recieve communion with my christian brothers and sisters. I started to stand up to join them. I could feel the power of Christ calling me.

Suddenly one of my confirmation class leaders put her hand on my arm. I spun around in surprise. Her face was slightly pale and drawn and she shook her head at me, a serious warning on her face.

I was confused and hurt. Why couldn't I recieve communion with the Christians who went to this church? Why would they think me unworthy of the love of Christ?

Many things about that day made no sense at the time but make perfect sense now.

I was badly rattled and my feelings were hurt.

I couldn't understand why these brothers and sisters in faith were so hostile. The Jewish people from the Rockdale temple had opened their arms to us like brothers and sisters, but the Catholics at IHM, shunned us like a stain at the back of their sanctuary. Little was I to know that this rattled piece of my treasured beliefs was only the beginning of my real journey. A journey that would save me from myself, and from the poison of my faith.

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Comment by Frankie Dapper on September 13, 2010 at 11:41pm
Your excerpt is a nice lead to exploration of cultural and institutional antisemitism. It certainly gives a transition to discuss your metamorphosis. I do not know that there is much out there on the psychology of indoctrination in religious families. Your insights in that area would be interesting. And of course the force field after a successful indoctrination is a related area to cover along with the wherewithal to help the coma victims out of their sleep of reason. Good luck.



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