Scene: A Catholic church in Claremont, southeast suburb of Los Angeles
“And this Christmas I want to wish that you get everything you need. Not everything what you want. But everything you need. Remember, you are here for a reason.” the priest started before the opening service.
Being raised a Catholic, the morning crawl to church on Christmas morning is an inevitable part of the day. It is the one main thing we do on every major holiday.
My dad is very traditional. It is the essence of his being. He has a very corporate nine to five, always dons the coordinating team jerseys as he watches the teams from our beloved hometown closest city, abhors technology, and, of course, is devout to his faith. It works for him. I get it. And that’s fantastic. There are times where I’ve felt closer to thinking it might work for me too. But, more times than not, it’s not been my cup of tea. Part of that could likely be attributed to it being shoved down my consciousness when I had no choice but to participate.
Another person went up to the podium with other special announcements.
“And for the college kids who are in town visiting your parents. There’s always room for you. And for the ones who have lost their faith. There’s always room for you.”
It’s not a holiday without the dose of guilt.
Religion is one of three topics that, even in my adulthood, I am not allowed to question my father on. The others are probably not surprising. One is politics and sexual orientation. Which in the recent heated discussions regarding Prop 8, as a girl whose first experiences were with another female, is probably a big thing for my father to deal with. (He still thinks it’s just a phase.) The last one in the trifecta is technology. Which, as it fuels the industries that I make my passions as well as professions is equally as dubious item of contention.
Few people realize that despite all these things, I am, in many regards, also a traditionalist. Combine that element with my fixation on anthropology and you have, this morning, a perplexed and vaguely annoyed vessel in this house of holiness.
“Peace be with you.” the priest said.
“And also with you.” the congregation responded.
“It’s supposed to be “and with your spirit.” Ethan nudged me and whispered to me.
“When did they change that Ethan?”
“It’s new. This month.”
I looked up to see cameras and projection screens on the walls. There had been a message at the beginning asking people to silence their phones while the service was going on. Since when is going to church like going to a movie? Is this really just for entertainment purposes?
“And that?” I pointed.
“That’s new too. It’s all this month.”
Welcome to the new age of worship. It’s the technology that I love trying to revive a ritual tradition. Years ago I probably would have been happy to welcome it. So why was it bothering me now? What was different? I thought about this for a few minutes. The opening words of the priest simmered a bit.
It’s not a holiday without a dose of hypocrisy.
I then did what came natural to me at moments like those, I took out my cell phone and drafted a message on a private piece of the web. Am I now an old fuddy duddy like I’ve always barked at my dad each time he’s given me a stern word about technology? Or is the same thing that brings us together, the same thing that pushes us apart?
I didn’t walk in expecting to be on camera. I didn’t walk in for a show or a series of statements to make me feel guilty. I came in for my family for a traditional ritual that is supposed to bring us together. The faith would tell me that to be ashamed of worshiping the Lord would later be punished in the afterlife. I chuckled to myself. This whole setup actually makes perfect sense.
It’s a trap.