It’s okay to not know in the sense of one thousand troubles failing to equal a single doubt.
A significant part of interacting with other people is to be troubled by them in some way.
I don’t mind that tension at all.
I collect friends who’re not reflections of me but who challenge my thinking. It’s not that I want to debate all the time. That’s no fun. It’s just boring to have the same type of people around, giving back to me ideas and opinions I already hold.
This was a reason why I rejected organized religion.
I love the idea of family, of community. For all my talk of individualism and finding personal freedom in a decidedly unfree world, I do need people. I have always wanted a large family, and I have spent a portion of my life in search of a partner to build something along those lines. And it did appear that dream was for a while completely out of the question for me, but it never stopped me from small hope.
I really, really enjoyed my time in traditional Catholic circles because it seemed to satisfy my need for that familial dream.
Gummy Bear (also known as The Evil One) was a cradle Catholic, which usually means they’re completely oblivious about the religion. She was. She had no idea why she was Catholic. She just was. Her parents were. Her siblings were. She was. Simple. I, on the other hand, converted, and I did so as a romantic gesture to her. I wanted to make that stupid, awful, horrible relationship work … Don’t judge me. It made a crazy sense at time.
I was instantly revolted by post Vatican II Catholicism, the Church of today. They were luke warm Protestants, and the Mass was ugly and uninspired (have you ever attended a Jehovah’s Witness service? Bland. Vanilla. Dreadful. Yeah, like that). Vatican II in the late 1960s was the Church ushering in the modern world. The muscular, sure Church of old turned fey, embraced ecumenical puffery, and committed organizational suicide. Catechesis turned from the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) to some kind of United Nations pamphleteering. Fads like social justice consumed the Vatican II Church. And, likewise, the faithful left in droves. Once filled to capacity parishes were stripped. Nuns abandoned their habits. Priests eschewed cassocks. No more Gregorian Chant and gorgeous liturgy – now, the average Mass has folk guitars and bongos. The priest is stand up comedian. It’s nasty.
Since I had a firm foundation in the history of Western Civilization, I knew the Church had a decidedly less hippie tradition. I knew there was substance somewhere.
I found pockets within the fabric of the Church community called traditional Catholics or Tridentine congregations, The Old Latin Mass. These were remnant parishes who rejected especially the liturgical innovations of Vatican II, and with that they also tended toward more traditional values generally. Parishioners dressed well for Mass, suits and tasteful dresses. Women wore veils. Pull the average traditional Catholic out into the parking lot, and she could tell you what a Sacrament was, could recite ancient prayers, and was well-versed in current Church controversies. Have that same exercise in a regular Catholic church, and you’d be lucky if the parishioner even knew when to kneel. The contrast was stark.
I was home, spiritually.
I yanked Gummy Bear and my little family to join the local cranks, the Tridentine or Latin Mass congregation. LPoS took to the liturgy almost instantly. It’s easy to understand why. The ancient Rite, now officially known as the Extraordinary Rite, is a moving Caravaggio. It is a dramatic painting, styled in the tenebrism, or shadow play, developed organically over centuries. Each movement is exact. Every word, every step has deep meaning.
I don’t mind telling you I had some of the deepest personal revelations during this time. Ironic, because I came to understand how important rejecting spiritualism, rejecting Revealed religion, rejecting religion, and rejecting supernaturalism is to my worldview. Far from hating the Church, as most who lose their faith do, I came to love it more. Strange, huh?
I knew the unleaven bread was not bathed in Transubstantiation. I knew the priest was not Persona Criste. I knew the water was just water, and the wine was just wine.
It was sort of like being at a party when you’re the only one who is sober.
Because of the traditional community within the Catholic Church, I rediscovered the strength to confront myself. It is such a loving and generous community. Several who mentored me were amateur philosophers. Far from holding degrees or the requisite curricula vitae in order to refer to themselves as professional philosophers, they LIVED in philosophy. They were engaged in the drama of life. They weren’t just consumers or observers. They were participants. I admired their sense of duty. I admired their sense of honor. I admired their sense of commitment to principle. I admired nearly every aspect of how they lived.
Just one problem.
There isn’t a god. There wasn’t a Christ. And, being good students of Aquinas, the Doctor of Doctors of the Church, they knew if I didn’t believe in a god, I couldn’t believe in a Christ, and I couldn’t believe in Holy Mother Church. I would merely be a spectator in their drama, and a blasphemous one at that.
As a testament to them, I could no longer attend Mass regularly. What I mean is I so respected their values I needed to honor my own sense of self. I had to leave. I wasn’t feeling it anymore. Not their fault. It’s not you, it’s me. But, yeah, something like that. I was tired of not being honest.
This would be a fateful step for me, and one that would eventually lead me to find my core values again, to reclaim them, and to deepen them.
I believe I so love my life now, even in the face of pure hell by nearly anyone else’s standards, because I surrounded myself with people from whom I learned, Trads. No, I didn’t absorb the lessons they would have hoped (and, in all honesty, they’d be the first to condemn me), but I gained so very much by their example.
We agree there IS objective truth. We agree there IS objective morality. We agree in absolutes. We agree about the importance of loyalty, honesty, obligation, fidelity, and duty. We agree, in my opinion, on the most substantive questions of life.
Out of conflict came clarity. Out of suffering came grace.
And I mean it.
Craig Edward Kelso is the author of Anarcho-Capitalism (2014), a primer on the philosophy of peaceful, stateless cooperation. His curriculum vitae include a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from San Diego State University, and a Post-Baccalaureate secondary education credential in both Social Science and English Language Arts. Kelso taught for nearly a decade in the American public school system, and was voted by colleagues Teacher of the Year, twice in his short tenure, earning numerous accolades from chambers of commerce, mayors, state assembly persons, governors, congresspersons, senators, and even Wal-Mart. Currently he struggles to earn an opportunity to be employed, working as a laborer, dishwasher. He is deliriously happily married to Myra Kelso, living in Southern California with their adorable children.