I did something awful yesterday.
Well, I didn’t do it yesterday, but it all came to a head yesterday. I did it a few weeks ago, when Sam interviewed me for his series on the Art of Blogging. I started to go off about the online Evangelical culture that makes me crazy and I conflated that culture with the way I was raised. I lumped my parents in alongside Matt Walsh, who is not my favorite blogger. If someone illustrated that section of the interview, they probably would have drawn me mashing them all together into a ball with some eye-catching insults, then kicking that ball as hard as I could and doing a little victory dance.
When I gave the interview, I had a nagging sense of unease about that section. I had planned on going back later and fixing it, because I didn’t want to upset my parents. But I got busy, and distracted, and I forgot. When I glanced over the interview yesterday morning, that section didn’t even register with me.
It wasn’t until my mom got up from the couch yesterday afternoon with tears in her eyes and the interview pulled up on her Ipad that I realized I had left it as it was. I tried to defend myself and explain why I didn’t mean it that way, but my own syntax in the interview proved me wrong. I stopped trying to explain it and listened to my mom tell me that she didn’t want to make me feel bad, but that the caricature I had drawn of my upbringing simply wasn’t true.
I sent Sam a frantic facebook message asking him to change that section, and poor Sam, stuck at a tire shop on the way to a gig, couldn’t get wifi. It wasn’t till he was on his way home that he pulled over at a grocery store to get wifi and change it. I felt like an ass for that, too. More so because it didn’t rectify the offense, it just covered up the evidence.
My mom is right. It wasn’t true. I may have experienced a big-haired, God, Guns, and the GOP culture by proxy, seeing as how I grew up between Ft. Worth and Dallas, but that was not the culture in my home. My parents did not raise me like that. As my mom said yesterday, they raised me “to learn to love God more every day.”
There is a kind of convert zeal that is unhealthy — the “scorched earth” kind, where you’re so on fire for your new faith that you want to burn everything you left behind to the ground. For me, this has been compounded by the antagonistic, estranged-sibling relationship between Catholicism and Protestantism. Just like it’s easy for a former Catholic to find, in Protestantism, a cure for all that ails them, it’s been really easy for me to find in Catholicism a cure for all that ails me. I don’t want to equivocate here — I believe that the Catholic faith has the fullness of the truth, or I wouldn’t have converted. However, I do want to point out that what my parents taught me is the most important thing they could have taught me, whatever their religion.
Christianity is not an intellectual system, a collection of dogmas, or a moralism. Christianity is an encounter, a love story; it is an event.
-Pope Benedict XVI
My parents gave me a priceless gift when they raised me with Christ at the center of our family life. What I said about them in the interview, and the general way I have characterized my upbringing, is not a small mistake. It’s a genuine injustice, and I apologize for it. To them primarily, but to everyone else as well.
I talk a good game about mercy and love, and while I have it in spades for people I’ve never met, I haven’t bothered to spare much for the people I’ve known all my life, and the people who love me the most. It’s cowardice mostly, since it’s easy to love strangers twice removed by the impersonal vortex of the internet. It’s hard to love family. It requires something besides nice words — it requires putting myself away, being content to let the opportunity for a zingy one-liner or a hyperbolic description of Protestant culture pass. It requires recognizing that earning the fleeting chuckles of a few facebook friends is a poor substitute for the honoring and loving my parents. It doesn’t speak well of me that I didn’t recognize that until the ish hit the proverbial fan, but it would speak even less well of me if I let it pass without correction.