Dear Ana Marie Cox:
Your recent essay in which you announced your Christianity quite literally blew up. Many people talked about it and were moved by it, and it didn’t matter which side of the aisle they fell on: liberals, conservatives, centrists, and political agnostics all took something away from it. I think it’s because your piece reminded us that we shouldn’t be co-opting our faith for politics — which, sadly, happens far too often.
I’d like to continue the trend you started. I’m certainly not well-known like you, but nevertheless, I’m hoping that I can at least make a small impact with this piece. Unlike you, though, I’m not “coming out.” I’m very open about my Catholic faith.
But many people might not know “why” I’m Catholic. So here it goes: I am a Catholic because it saved my life.
Dramatic? Sure. True? Absolutely.
When I was in high school, I was not religious in the slightest. I believed in a god, but he was an abstract and distant god — something like the demiurge or the great mystical watchmaker, not the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. I was more deist than Catholic, even though the latter is the faith in which I was raised.
I was also miserable. I was picked on and I was moody. I’d come home depressed, and I’d wonder why people were so nasty, even though I was nice to everyone. Because of this, I fought with my parents and sister constantly.
One time, I invited people over to my house, and I set up snacks and drinks in my basement, and I waited, but the drinks grew warm and the snacks slowly started to get stale, and then when I realized no one was coming, I went back upstairs, dejected.
At a particularly dark moment, when I figured I’d damaged my relationship with my family beyond repair and assumed I would never have meaningful friendships again, I shut my eyes and went to bed, hoping that I’d wake up dead.
But then I went to college — a Catholic one. And I joined chapel choir, even though I couldn’t sing. Why? Well, I knew it would get me to Mass. I didn’t see it at the time, but I know that it was Providence starting to pull me in. So I would go to church and I’d sort of observe things on the periphery, but I didn’t fully commit. It was as if I were a child afraid to go swimming.
In the meantime, though, I began to take classes, which introduced me to the intellectual depth and richness of the faith. Before that, in CCD, I learned that Jesus loved me and that He died for my sins. Okay, cool, I always said. But what else is there? Oh, and whenever I’d hear of the saints, I always figured they were like comic book heroes.
In class, I met St. Augustine, who partied hard in his youth and became infatuated with some really stupid ideas. If you take away the partying — I didn’t do that much in high school — you had me. I really connected with the guy, and he showed me that the saints really are just normal, broken people. He later became one of my intellectual and spiritual heroes.
My friendships that first year were good, but it was hard for me to really open up to others, because I kept thinking back to high school and I’d always say: What if they’re just using me? What if they actually don’t like me? What if they talk about me behind my back?
My sophomore year, a good friend of mine encouraged me to go on a retreat. I obliged. I spent many parts of it purposefully alone, lost in thought. I told everything discussed herein to a then-religious brother, and he told me to seek God. Okay, I said to myself. But how?
I found out later, when we were all at group prayer. People shut their eyes and then began to ask God for help with family members who were ill or dying, or for support with struggles in school, or to simply become better. I began to see the power of faith to move people, and I realized then that faith — of whatever sort — isn’t something that you merely attached to your name as a descriptor. It’s real.
I realized then that I have worth and that I matter. We all matter. Because, as you put it, we are “saved not because of who” we are or what we have done or didn’t do, but simply because we “have accepted the infinite grace that was always offered” to us.
All of us are God’s children, and He will never stop loving us.
That is why I am Catholic.
Please join the discussion on Twitter. The essay above is the thirteenth in volume 2 of the cultural discussions between the writers of PJ Lifestyle and Liberty Island exploring the history of counter-cultures, the future of conservatism and the role of new, emerging counter-cultures in restoring American exceptionalism.
For Sundays we’re going to start a new series of Inter-Faith dialogues and discussions following the style of Jon’s open letter. Write a letter to someone in the culture explaining part of your religious and philosophical journey. Want to contribute? Check out the articles below, reach out, and lets brainstorm: @DaveSwindle. Send submissions to DaveSwindlePJM AT Gmail.com.
- Frank J. Fleming on February 26, 2015: What Is the Future of Government? Why It Won’t Look Like Star Trek
- Aaron C. Smith on February 26, 2015: What Is the Future of Superheroes? Why They Need To Start Killing Super-Villains
- Mark Ellis on February 26, 2016: What Is the Future of Gen-X Manhood? Adam Carolla Vs Chuck Palahniuk?
- David S. Bernstein on February 26, 2015: What is the Future of Fiction? You’ll Be Shocked Who’s Fighting the New Conservative Counter-Culture
- Aaron C. Smith on March 2, 2015: The House Loses: Why Season 3 of House of Cards Utterly Disappoints
- Michael Walsh on March 2: What the Left Doesn’t Get About Robert A. Heinlein
- Frank J. Fleming on March 3: 8 Frank Rules For How Not to Tweet
- Susan L.M. Goldberg on March 4: 7 Reasons Why Backstrom Is Perfect Counter-Culture Conservative TV
- Frank J. Fleming on March 5: What Is the Future of Religion?
- Aaron C. Smith on March 5: The Future of Religion: Why Judeo-Christian Values Are More Important Than Science
- Spencer Klavan on March 5: Not Religion’s Future: ISIS and the Art of Destruction
- Chris Queen on March 6: 5 Reasons Why Big Hero 6 Belongs Among The Pantheon Of Disney Classics
See the first volume of articles from 2014 and January and February 2015 below:
2014 – Starting the Discussion…
- Sarah Hoyt, March 22 2014: Interview: Adam Bellow Unveils New Media Publishing Platform Liberty Island
- David S. Bernstein, June 20 2014: What Is Liberty Island?
- Adam Bellow at National Review, June 30 2014 kicking off the discussion: Let Your Right Brain Run Free
- Dave Swindle on September 7, 2014: Why Culture Warriors Should Understand the 10 Astounding Eras of Disney Animation’s Evolution
- Dave Swindle on September 9, 2014: The 50 Greatest Counter-Culture Films of All Time, Part I
- Dave Swindle on September 19, 2014: The 50 Greatest Counter-Culture Films of All Time, Part II
- David S. Bernstein on November 19, 2014: 5 Leaders of the New Conservative Counter-Culture
- Liberty Island on November 22nd, 2014: A Unique Team of 33 Creative Writers
- Dave Swindle on November 25, 2014: 7 Reasons Why Thanksgiving Will Be My Last Day on Facebook
- Kathy Shaidle on November 25, 2014: Is America Overdue for a Satanic Revival? (Part One)
- Dave Swindle on December 2, 2014: My Growing List of 65 Read-ALL-Their-Books Authors
- Kathy Shaidle on December 3, 2014: Is America Overdue for a Satanic Revival? (Part Two)
- Mark Elllis on December 9, 2014: Ozzy Osbourne and the Conservative Tent: Is He In?
- Aaron C. Smith on December 22, 2014: The Villains You Choose
January 2015 – Volume I
- Paula Bolyard on January 1, 2015: 7 New Year’s Resolutions for Conservatives
- Susan L.M. Goldberg on January 1, 2015: The Plan to Take Back Feminism in 2015
- Kathy Shaidle on January 4, 2015: Did the 1960s Really Happen? (Part One)
- Andrew Klavan on January 5, 2015: In 2015 The New Counter-Culture Needs to Be Offensive!
- Clay Waters on January 5, 2015: The Decline and Fall of Russell Brand
- Mark Ellis on January 5, 2015: How Conservatives Can Counter the Likable Liberal
- Audie Cockings on January 5, 2015: Entertainers Have Shorter Lifespans
- Aaron C. Smith on January 6, 2015: How Mario Cuomo Honestly Defined Zero-Sum Liberalism
- Stephen McDonald on January 10, 2015: Why the New Counter-Culture Should Make Strength Central to Its Identity
- Stephen McDonald on January 16, 2015: The Metaphorical War
- Kathy Shaidle on January 19, 2015: Did the 1960s Really Happen? (Part Two)
- Frank J. Fleming on January 20, 2015: What if Red Dawn Happened, But It Was Islamic Terrorists Instead of Communists?
- Mark Ellis on January 21, 2015: Adam Carolla: The Quintessential Counterculture Conservative?
- Aaron C. Smith on January 29, 2015: Objection! Why TV’s The Good Wife Isn’t Good Law
- David Solway on February 2, 2015: For a Song To Be Good, Must It Tell The Truth?
- Mark Ellis on February 6, 2015: President Me: Adam Carolla Vs. the Scourge of Narcissism
- David Solway on February 6, 2015: ‘Imagine’ a World Without the Brotherhood
- Kathy Shaidle on February 9, 2015: Was Rod McKuen the Secret Godfather of Punk Rock?
- Aaron C. Smith on February 10, 2015: Kick NBC While It’s Down: Use The Williams Scandal to Set the Terms of the 2016 Debates
- Spencer Klavan on February 12, 2015: How to Apologize for Your Thought Crimes
- Kathy Shaidle on February 16, 2015: David Byrne: Creepy Liberal Hypocrite
- David P. Goldman on February 18, 2015: Understanding This Bloody Truth About the Bible Will Save Your Life
- Lisa De Pasquale on February 20, 2015: Why American Sniper Is a Much Better Love Story Than Fifty Shades of Grey
- Spencer Klavan on February 24, 2015: How Bad Ideology Destroys Good TV: Why Glee Crashed and Burned
Image Illustration via Shutterstock / TijanaM