Visits with Catholicism (2012)

“This story confirmed much of what I already believe about religion – that we created God in our own image. The presence of ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ views in a single faith is not really surprising when you consider that a faith is also a reflection of its adherents, who fall into both camps. There are parts of the Bible that portray God as a jealous, murderous bully who sends plagues upon his worshipers and condemns them to hell and others that portray god as love, charity, and forgiveness. It’s kind of like a reflection of both camps’ temperaments.”

–Amazon reviewer “White Cat”

VwCWebVisits with Catholicism chronicles my visits to the most traditional and the most modern Catholic churches in Portland, Oregon.

In the summer of 2011, for my teaching career, I took the classes necessary to be ESL certified. One of these, the Impact of Language and Culture in the Classroom, was led by an excellent instructor, who gave us the assignment to visit “cultures”, or subcultures, with which we were uncomfortable. I chose religion in general and the Roman Catholic Church in particular. As my instructor was Catholic, she was able to recommend churches to visit. I decided, for contrast, to visit the most “liberal” and “conservative” churches in Portland, Oregon. The experience taught me a great deal, even that those terms were flawed. As I told my professor, “You have accomplished true education, enlightening me.” This is the paper I got out of those visits, featuring the addenda “Prayer and the Virgin Mary” and “My Views on the Universe”.

Another reviewer of this nonfiction work, Brenda Edwards McCracken, said of it:

“The author relates a relaxed exploration of the culture between two Catholic churches. Through the lens of unedited conversations with parishioners during Sunday visits, the reader is able to compare the application of doctrine and contrast the inner dynamics between the two churches. The author provides an enjoyable account of the parishioner’s answers to his questions, including his own reactions, revealing how humans conform or clash with culture. As the author’s visit to the second church draws to an end, it becomes apparent that culture exists on a spectrum of maturity, and isn’t dictated by religious doctrine. The book is an enjoyable read. The visit to the first church was a pleasant and homey read, but the visit to the second church felt unwelcoming and made me squirm. The author’s honest account of his emotions was refreshing, and for the most part reflected my own, except I believe in God. The book confirmed my own observations about religious diversity and boundaries for inclusion, but I gained a new understanding of why some people are attracted to more traditional forms of worship where God is set so high on a pedestal that he seems to be out of reach. ‘These believers craved hierarchy and awe. Some believers wanted to feel smaller than others.’ I knew it, but I didn’t understand it until I read it from the author’s perspective. I would recommend the book to anybody interested in learning more about culture, and to churches who want to better understand an ‘outsider’s’ perception of religious diversity, how teachings are interpreted, and the invisible boundaries that include or exclude potential worshipers.”

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