The Out-of-Church Response

Photo via link

Photo via link

“I hope that I don’t burn.”

This is my typical out-of-church response when its been awhile since I last attended mass.  My sisters use it as a joke whenever I come home to the Philippines and attend the Sunday service.

Perhaps like many young Catholic Filipinos my age going to mass is just as much a habit born out of familial obligation as it is a religious devotion. What happens when you factor out family from the equation? Move abroad and find out.

Your true self surfaces when no one is watching. The same thing can be said about faith. When no one tells you to go to mass, will you?

Now I’ve always subscribed to the Church of Kindness, that you don’t have to go to Church every Sunday to be spiritual, or to be a good person. But after attending the service in Singapore last Sunday (a personal milestone!), it got me thinking again about the role religion plays when you move abroad.

Singapore is a melting pot not only of race but of different religions — Islam, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism — to name a few. Indeed it’s cosmopolitan, but in my observation  it’s not often that you see a mix race couple with different religions. As a foreign national, forget bringing home a ‘bad boy’ to mom and dad. Perhaps the ultimate test of being open minded is when you date (or marry) outside your race, someone of different skin color and ideological values. That will surely shock your parents and test your relationship.

Even holiday leaves and scheduling meetings can be sensitive to religion. If you’re Catholic, a bulk of your leaves might go to Holy Week or Christmas, because it’s not declared a public holiday in your new home. If you work with Muslims, you need to respect their time for prayer.

When you move abroad, the walls come down and the Universe becomes your church. Therefore faith is not only the complete trust in something, but the discipline to practice when no one is watching. You get the freedom to write your out-of-church response. What’s yours?


One thought on “The Out-of-Church Response

  1. Going abroad is one of the truly best horizon broadening experiences. Many young spiritual people today are “emerging” beyond the restrictions of our parents faith, toward some new, not fully understood faith that puts love first. You may not know it, but you are a leader, inspirer and early adopter of this. In your heart you know you are doing good, seeking goodness, seeking to love life to it’s fullest. I am inspired by you and your sole sisters.

    You hope that you don’t burn is another way of expressing a theology of hell. Many today are moving beyond our former belief in hell, and the implications are tremendous. I recently heard someone say, “I can’t really enjoy a party upstairs, when I know they are torturing people in the basement”. Haha. How can we enjoy heaven knowing people are burning below? How can a good God lovingly create persons with unique and wonderful personalities that God wants to know and enjoy, and then send them to burn forever? It just can’t be. If we see how horrible this is, and we are “mere humans”, how can we be more loving and kind than God? A good rule of theology is, “if you can imagine a more just and humane way of life than one attributed to God, then probably it is not of God”.

    The reason so much bad is done in the name of religion, is because of bad hell theology. In other words, if your God can toss people away to a horrible ending to burn forever, then it’s not a big deal if you kill someone for a religious reason. You’re just acting as your God has role modeled. But if your God values each human life as the most amazing and valuable thing, then you will do the same. Many of us are now moving beyond believing in hell for this reason…and the good news is that the holy scripture supports this. There is almost no mention of hell in all the Old Testament, and in the New Testament teachings of Jesus, the word he mostly uses that is translated in some translations as “hell” is the world Sheol. And Sheol was a literal place in Jerusalem, a trash dump outside the city where trash was burned. When Jesus spoke of it, he was basically saying, “If you live your life poorly, it will be like living in that burning trash heap Sheol, you will have a hell on earth experience”. There is no need whatsoever to interpret this as some kind of “eternal lake of fire”…that is an interpretive reach. So given all the badness that comes with a theology of hell, many of us have decided to let that go. I think you intrinsically “get this” and are living accordingly. Peace and love to you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s