While I personally identify more with the stories of gut wrenching adult deconversions, I love and am completely charmed by people’s stories of being precocious kids who reason their way out by making for themselves logical connections or sudden realizations that a worrisome number of adults will simply never manage. Telling the story of her deconversion while at Catholic school, Brienne Strohl offers several charming or moving vignettes. Here is the first one:
When I was little, I loved being Catholic. I went to a Catholic school in the Midwest, where religion classes were mandatory beginning in preschool. I guess “age of reason” was a pretty accurate description in my case, because by second grade I was very serious about understanding theology. I considered preparing for first communion a grave responsibility. It was, after all, the first sacrament I’d take of my own choice. I was dedicated to understanding transubstantiation, why it matters, and what sacraments are really all about. I remember struggling with the idea of symbols; I was never satisfied by the explanations of them my mother and teachers would give.
I was told that symbols are “outward signs of inward grace”, and that they are there to help our small mortal minds comprehend God’s infinite love and wisdom at least enough to let ourselves be transformed by them. I was skeptical, even then. I was worried that symbols might actually be distractions, or, worse yet, artificial barriers designed by the Church to control my relationship with God. Why are priests the only ones who can ask God to turn bread into the Body of Christ? I wondered. If God is infinitely wise, what does He care for the infinitesimal wisdom accumulated through seminary? I felt fairly certain that the only reason priests could serve as special conduits of God’s grace was that their hearts were pure and fully devoted to Him when they made the request. It seemed implausible that the sacrament of Ordination, really just a collection of very fancy symbols, could grant you magic powers in virtue of its role within the thoroughly human structure of the Church.
I called bullshit. I decided to become a priest. “The Church doesn’t let girls become priests,” my second grade teacher informed me. I told her I didn’t really intend to ask permission.
Read about where things went from there.
What about you, what heretical theological epiphanies did you have as a kid?