There’s a lot to unpack here and most of it really isn’t about this book.
I was raised Lutheran and turned out queer, which took me down Agnostic Avenue.
I was also born and raised with an unfortunate penchant for self-loathing and perfectionism and never lost a deep-down belief in some kind of God. Enter a great big beautiful holy corrupt institutional enabler: the Catholic Church. And that’s how I became a queer adult convert to Catholicism.
I felt something in the church I’d never felt before – holiness and a truth that could not be ignored. It took my breath away, dazzled and humbled me. Year by year, I continued to feel it. (I still do.) Year by year, I felt that I could trust that the church was good more than I could trust that I was good, and more than I could trust my own moral reasoning. I showed up at the parish center for a Women’s Club meeting, sat in the parking lot crying in my car, and drove home. There was something different about those women – they were more pure, more good, more soft. I was like the gritty reboot of them. I went to confession and felt guilty and dishonest afterward. I felt like I was standing in a lawn looking in the window at my family’s house, where I couldn’t go without a disguise. I felt like an imposter. This was completely at odds with the other half of me – liberal, radical in many ways, having been out for decades and being very sure about my own values.
It went on until a big event turned my world upside down and I wound up in front of the big red door of an Episcopal church, looking up at a sign that said “ALL ARE WELCOME.” It had so many similarities to the Catholic church, but some key differences. I spilled my guts to a warm, kind, smart (brilliant), ex-Catholic, sympathetic priest…who also happened to be a married lesbian. We talked for hours about my story, my big event, the church, why she left, why I was washing up as a refugee at their big red door, the fact that my parish had just fired two unassociated lesbian counselors who had been known to everyone involved to be gay for 30+ years and then abruptly thrown out like garbage. About how this and other events led me to the understanding that the church would rather I molested a child than had consensual sex with a woman or trans person. I left feeling like I’d been assured confession would make me feel – heard, understood, loved, forgiven, validated, absolved, hopeful, clean. There was a grief process for the Catholic church, but I’m Episcopalian now and couldn’t be happier or more proud. I don’t feel like two people who would hate each other, stitched together. I feel like a whole person who can be supported in my spiritual journey, who is encouraged to question things, whose moral reasoning is treated like the endowment from God that it is.
I’m catching up on the popular Episcopalian books that I haven’t been reading while I’ve instead been marinating in church-approved self-loathing. This is one. Is it acceptable that I’m only writing one short paragraph about the book itself? The book is fine. It’s a good to great primer on what the church’s deal is. It’s nothing life-changing, but the church is.