Saturday, 16 March 2013

My (brief) life as a crafty Christian

With the new Pope installed in The Vatican and Easter not too far away, it seems the time is right to make a shocking confession.

I had a brief flirtation with religion when I was in grade three... and craft made me do it.

Mosaic inside St Peter's Basilica: an example of Christian "craft"

You see most kids at my primary school were Anglican, which meant the weekly religious education class for that denomination was packed.  This also meant there were limited resources to do anything more than recite the Lord's Prayer.

Meanwhile, there only seemed to be a few stray Uniting Church kids roaming around and because that class size was more manageable they got to make cool Christian craft.

So I defected.

The Vatican aka Pope HQ: also home to some pretty nifty Christian "craft"
In what can only be described as the Christian equivalent of tunnelling under the Berlin Wall from East Berlin to West Berlin during the Cold War, one week I just started fronted up to the Uniting Church class.

Sure enough, this denomination defection became a slippery slope to other things.

Inside St Peter's Basilica: more "craft"
Before I knew it I was forcing my family to say grace at mealtimes, I was saying a prayer at night, and even making my Mum wake up early on Sunday to drop me off to Sunday school.   (Now, not that I was judging as I'll leave that to the Lord, but she only dropped me off and picked me up.   She didn't stay for the church part.  Just saying.)

Hell, I even attended a weekend church camp where I made a neat little knick-knack holder out of paddle pop sticks engraved with the words "Jesus Loves Us".

I was on a craft-fuelled religious high.

I wanted desperately to believe in it all.

The Late Pope John Paul II at The Vatican.  No doubt admiring the "craft"
Can you imagine how much amazing craft I would have created by now had I stuck with it?  Egg carton-crucifixes.   Multiple versions of mini-Jesus made from pipe cleaners.   The only thing standing in my way would have been access to a quality glue gun.

Unfortunately, my pragmatic side began to shine through well before grade three ended and I began to doubt the whole thing.   Not my craft abilities - they were indisputable - but the whole religion business.   I felt like I could only keep it up for so long.  It all just seemed so man-made and contrived; a bit like my knick-knack holder.

Don't get me wrong, I can see the appeal of religion.  No doubt it would be wonderful if there was a driver's manual for life.  The great unknown would be unknown no longer - or at the very least in the hands of someone more capable than ourselves.  A single deity, or many, watching over us from above. (God they'd be bored watching me - hope they've got cable television up there.)

Sadly, I just wasn't buying it.   And still don't.   Even the unveiling of a brand new Pope this week doesn't do it for me.

One of my brushes with religion: The Late Pope John Paul II in St Peter's Basilica

Not to say I don't appreciate the role that religions have played in the history of the world.   It seems much of the world's most amazing art and architecture owes their origins to different religions.   As an adult I've had the fortune to see some astounding examples of other religious "craft", such as those at The Vatican and elsewhere.

As an non-believer, I can also appreciate the similarities between many religions and how they have shaped different cultures.  I can see they were created to give people guidance and hope, and urge them to be "good".

And so perhaps the single best thing religion can give us is not something that any one religion actually owns exclusively; the concept of living a good life and treating others with kindness, love and respect.

Oh, and it can also give us some pretty cool arts 'n' craft as well.

Michelangelo's Pieta in St Peter's Basilica

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