an image diary

"And if he left off dreaming about you, where do you suppose you'd be? ... You'd be nowhere. Why, you're only a sort of thing in his dream! If that there King was to wake you'd go out -- bang! -- just like a candle!"

"Hush! You'll be waking him, I'm afraid, if you make so much noise."

"Well it's no use your talking about waking him when you're only one of the things in his dream. You know very well you're not real."

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

. . .


Del Rio, Dog #4


“The point was that she was a born-again Christian.”


from "The Withholding"

We became nondenominational. My mother, my brother, and me. In a family of non-practicing Mexican-American Roman Catholics. In which my father would remain fiercely non-practicing, Roman, Catholic, before divorcing my mother, watching his mother die of cancer, remarrying, and, when it became necessary for his second family to find a church, joining the Episcopalians down the street.

To be a non-practicing Catholic, as I was by the time I was eight, is to have had a claim made for you, in infancy at baptism, after which you may be exposed to the mass and catechesis only sporadically. If the claim becomes an identity rather than a foundation towards faith, it remains a prerogative of tradition that in my experience had little to do with God. For though baptism into the Church is a sacramental act of faith, the act preceded us, like heredity, like birthright. We had nothing to do with its happening to us. Often it is the grandmothers in non-practicing Catholic families who insist on the baptism of the family babies, so that with the deaths of the grandmothers and their matriarchal preservation of familial unity, the baptism relaxes its hold on the soul and allows itself to be transformed with time and with generational distance into something of an inconvenience that arises when a child is born and another sacrament by water ought to be gotten, if at all.

To have become nondenominational in this light, then, was to consent to be uprooted. To be severed from the non-practicing Catholic genealogical tree and grafted onto the limb of an everyman ministry that would have us discard the material designations of formalized religion—organizational authority, theological unity, doctrinal affiliation and tradition—out of necessity towards a free faith. “Nondenominational” was a faceless, nameless reiteration that attempted to elide a more specific identity—and to purify itself of that desire for identity, per se—as a reflection of its emphasis on spirit and its general distrust of the world of things. Hence the term “born again Christian,” which is not a tag nor a category nor a description of one’s membership in a particular religious community, but a personal and individual declaration of faith, a confession that marks the experience of spiritual conversion, even as it is declared in that moment.


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