Barbie World + [deep thoughts]

Mystery Meat.

I hope it isn't boring when I post things about religion or politics (as opposed to my other super-exciting topics, such as the weather and my dogs). But I read through a really interesting blog post early this morning, and it's had me thinking all day.

First of all, a ton of bloggers are Mormon women. I don't pretend to be some kind of blogging expert, but it's been written about here, and here, and here. While I don't identify with their religious beliefs, I really like several of these blogs. They seem to be one part wholesome and one part humorous, plus the writing styles and voices are pretty much consistently strong. Bloggers get a bad rap for portraying some sort of rose-tinted version of their lives -- Mormon bloggers in particular -- but I see it differently. It's more about optimism. And that's what I like to read, and write.

Not that I don't enjoy the tell-all blogs too, of course. I just couldn't ever write one.

Anyway, the Mormon bloggers that I like tend to mention their faith in passing or occasionally write about it, but not focus on it exclusively. That sort of changed when one of these blogs, That Wife, recently started a series called "The Awakening." Jenna (the blogger) writes about Mormonism more often than some of the other bloggers, but in this series she examined the aspects of it that she had either come to question or disagree with. I loved it! It was so interesting to see someone -- who is clearly a religious person -- open up about changes in her beliefs and publicly explore the things she hasn't quite have figured out.

Now, there are a lot more Catholics than Mormons in this country, and I don't think our denomination is grossly misunderstood by any means. But both belief systems fall into this weird spot -- we're within the Christian religion but outside of the dominant Protestant "canopy." And as so often happens with any group that isn't the majority, Catholics -- like Mormons -- sometimes all get lumped together into one collective whole. (I'm very aware that this happens to Jews, and Muslims, and followers of all other non-majority belief systems too).

As if all Catholics believe the exact same things. Or all Mormons. As if none of them ever question the leaders of their churches, or the tenets of their religion. To be honest, I'd actually never read or listened to a Mormon disagree with their church's position on anything, but my sample size of Mormons I know or read is pretty small. A lot of the comments on Jenna's post reinforced the fact that many Mormons, like many Catholics (like believers in any religion, probably) struggle with aspects of church leadership, or political positions, or faith in general.

From a RCC point of view though, if you question things, or even outright disagree, you get labeled a cafeteria Catholic. Is there a term like this for other denominations? It's like a horrible disease. And oh, the shame. The guilt (our propensity for guilt is well-documented). The questions and suggestions (and insults!)

Why don't you just leave the church like almost everyone else has? (Dude, have you ever tried to get a parking spot or a place in the pews on Christmas Eve? They are still out there).

Why don't you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior like I have? (Pretty sure we're still Christians, actually).

Why do you belong to a church full of child molesters? (Seriously?) (Someone actually did ask me that question. In future, what should my answer be? "Why, that's the best part of being Catholic!" Please advise).

I think people sometimes see questioning your faith as a kind of chink in your armor. And they want to do something about it. To chip away at it, maybe. To show you that religion is all a crock, or that you just don't follow the right one. Or to slap a big smiley-face sticker on over the chinks if you're "one of them," with a quiet, severe warning that you shouldn't question things like that.

I'm not speaking from a whole lot of personal experience here, because my family and friends are by and large open-minded, easy-going, accepting people. Oh, and fairly subdued about their own religious beliefs, which are many and varied.

So yes, if it wasn't already clear, I'm a cafeteria Catholic. And I don't think that should be a shameful thing anymore. Rick Santorum is on the menu for Catholics right now? Yeah, I think I'll pass. Much like the suspicious corndogs in elementary school lunch lines, isn't he left over from, like, 2003? Birth control pills, like sugar in cafeterias these days, are banned? But what if I need the sugar for my hypoglycemia? (I don't, but you never know). My metaphors (really, similes) are mixed, but I think you understand what I'm trying to say. Maybe.

Why do we have to eat everything in the cafeteria anyway? What if I like smiley face fries (Mother Teresa, stained glass, veneration of Mary) but I don't care for pizza (vow of celibacy). That doesn't mean I don't want to eat at the cafeteria. It just means I'm not being a glutton;)