My grandmother: ‘Yes you are; you are coming with me.’
M: ‘Why? Give me a good reason why.’
G: ‘People go to church because they want to be good and do good.’
M: ‘Really? How about the hypocrites and the liars?’
G: ‘What? What are you talking about?’
Me: ‘I am talking about people who lie and cheat; and the men who go to church but then go home and beat their children and wives. I think the church is not doing a good job at teaching them anything. I don’t want to go to church. I’m not going.’
Grandma, raising her voice, arms up in the air: ‘You’re a pagan!’
Lucia, my maternal grandmother was religious, believed in God and wanted Ioana and me to accompany her to church, pray and get the weekly blessing; in other words, be like all the other kids going to church with their grandparents. My sister, 3 years younger than me, was happy to do so. Not me. I hated it all; the rituals, the frankincense and the smoke from the candles; drinking from the same cup as everybody else; the endless rhymes recited or chanted by the priests. The church going people, wearing mostly black and looking all virtuous, pious and subdued frightened me, especially because I knew some of them and they were abusive with their families. I saw no good reason why I should be at church, and as soon as my grandmother took her eyes off me, I seized the opportunity to run back home.
My reaction to religion and church was visceral. At that time I included God in the same bag, so I reacted, ready to start an argument whenever I was told to be a good girl because God could see me. To me, God was a character like Santa Claus: fictional like Santa, only mean and vengeful. The idea of God infuriated me and I fought with my grandmother over and over again. I rebelled against the rituals which seemed archaic and with no purpose. I had a fight to pick with God too. What I understood about God at the time made no sense to me. I did not like God at all: he was petty, got upset, punished people, was moody and unjust; and on top of everything he supposedly required me to go to church, which I did not like.
Today I am grateful that I was given the freedom to formulate my own opinions and that the heated discussions with my grandmother forced me to find arguments that held. I was allowed to think for myself, even though the communist school was working hard to do the opposite. Not wanting to go to church proved to be a wonderful thing.
I still don’t go to church, it is not something that I can connect with.
But with God… I do.