Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Church in Uganda

I went to church.  I haven’t been to a proper church since my grandmother insisted I receive my communion and my mom bargained with the nuns to make sure I only had to go through one year of religious classes and not two.

“I taught her all the prayers,” she said in her thick Brooklyn accent, on the phone with the nuns.  “She knows the Hail Mary, she knows the Godfather…”  My other mother almost peed herself laughing in the background.

I did go to classes for a year, and I did receive my communion.  And I did learn the difference between the Godfather and the prayer: Our Father. I haven’t been back since.

But Uganda is religious, and primarily Christian. And if I’m going to live in this country, I might as well try to understand it.  It may be a good opportunity to continue my personal pilgrimage (ChelseaToSea: On Science and Faith) to get a little faith myself, or at least not be so afraid of it.

I got up early on Sunday morning and met up with my coworker, her two sisters, her mother, her father, and her tiny niece.  Her niece loved me. Took my hand, looked adoringly in my eyes.  And then hated me, scowled whenever I looked at her and insisted she sit next to mommy and not Chelsea in the church pews.

The church was simple and not at all like the Catholic church I grew up going to.  The pews were movable wooden benches and everyone had to bring their own bibles.  The ceiling was high and white and cracked.  Cows looked on through the windows.  And there was music.  Not the high, silvery notes like the Catholic choir, but deep belly notes coming from drums, alto singers and a saxophone player.  There was a TV screen in the background sharing the lyrics so that you could sing along. I loved it.  I swayed and danced and clapped and sang and the niece started to like me again (kind of), so I could use her as security blanket and danced with her.  They served a delicious lunch and then we kept singing. 

“I could really get used to this.  This is a ton of fun.”
And then it started. 

“We have a lot of money to give to the needy today, but not, of course, if you’re gay!!”  The crowd burst out laughing and applauding.

“I am married, to a wife, she is a woman.”  Another round of laughter and applause.

I felt like I was undercover.  A gazelle wearing a lion skin in a pride.  A black woman hiding under a white pointed cloak. 

If there is a god, wouldn’t it want us all to love in every possible way? Why would it punish us for acts of love?  Wouldn’t it want us to be open and loving and caring toward everyone?

If this god preaches that my parents belong in the bubbling circles of hell just for loving each other, then this god is not my god.

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