My father, he were orange and my mother, she were green. When I first heard the lyrics of this traditional Irish song, a funny and poignant comment on the troubles of Ireland, I didn’t understand them. I was very young and the ideas communicated were so coded, they slipped right over my head. Later, when I learned how to read such codes, I discovered that the song was really about me. You see, my Protestant father really is orange and my Catholic mother really is green.
I grew up in a household of alternating churches. Lutheran, Catholic, Lutheran, Catholic. And what my parents taught me was something they never said openly, and it led me to one of my most important beliefs: that it’s okay to disagree about God.
As I got older, my own understanding about God grew. This was probably because I attended Catholic school for two years. I met a priest there, who’s name I cannot remember, and he told me one of the most profound statements I’ve ever heard. “God is too big to fit inside of one book,” he told me. This statement had its intended effect: I went looking for God in books other than the one I was given in school. Unfortunately, it also meant I got in a lot of trouble for asking difficult questions. I didn’t last long at Catholic school, but when I came out of it, my head and heart were racing to find the truth about God.
I was only eleven years old then. I’m much older now. I’ve spent my entire life looking for God in books and in the world. I’ve participated in almost all the big religious rituals. I celebrate Passover, I observe Lent and I even try getting through Ramadan. (I haven’t made it all the way yet.) I’ve even prayed to Athena and Thor, and pay special reverence to Discordia, the Greek Goddess who started the Trojan War after she was snubbed by Zeus. It’s best not to get on her bad side.
I’ve found beauty in every religious tradition. I’ve also found hatred, bigotry, and intolerance. There are some awful teachings in the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Koran. But I think those are more from the mouths of weak and frightened men than from God.
If God does exist, the idea of God should represent the best of us, not the worst. I’ve found God in churches, temples, and even in the forest, dancing around trees. I’ve found God in architecture, in poetry, in the theater and on the silver screen. And I’ve found God in the arms of a lover.
My mother and father did not suspect that their mixed traditions would lead me down this road, but when I talk about God to them, they listen. They listen because they understood long before I did.
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