Monday, September 17, 2007

In the beginning . . .

I suppose it's obligatory for every new blog to start off with an inaugural post in which the blogger awkwardly introduces himself to the rest of the blogging world (or to no one, as the case may be). In any case, here's my awkward introduction. (I'm off to a strong start, I think, using three forms of the word blog in my first sentence.)

Just to cover the basics, my name is Kevin Birnbaum, I'm 23 years old, and I just moved to Seattle with my wonderful fiancee, Jeanette. I'm originally from the suburbs of Chicago, but I spent the last four years at Harvard, from which I graduated in June with a degree in English and a minor (or "secondary field," in elitist-speak) in religion.

At this point, I'm not sure exactly what this blog will become. (Dormant, quite possibly, after I use up my entire store of thoughts in the first week.) But I felt compelled to at least start writing a blog about Catholicism and being Catholic because 1) I like to write and 2) I love Catholicism and being Catholic.

I didn't always love Catholicism. I was born and raised a Catholic, but I'd say my position with respect to the Church for most of my early life was characterized largely by ignorance and indifference. I attended CCD classes all through grade school and junior high, but I don't think they really took. The two things I remember most about my years of religious education are:

1) getting caught cheating on a test about the Ten Commandments, and

2) not being permitted to read aloud for the class a story I had written about cannibalism, and subsequently standing up and yelling "You're all gonna burn!" repeatedly for the remainder of the hour. (This got big laughs for the first twenty minutes.) (Sorry, Mrs. Kilker!)

I'm sure I believed in God back then, but He never seemed all that important, at least compared to the Chicago Bulls. And I certainly didn't have anything resembling a personal relationship with Him.

This started to change during my freshman year of high school, when I became involved with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, a non-denominational group that emphasizes fellowship, praise, Bible study, and prayer. For the first time, being a Christian began to seem real, immediate, and exciting. (I'm sure it's just a coincidence that it was around this time that the Bulls stopped winning NBA championships.) I finally had, as they say, a faith that was my own.

As my Christian faith was growing, however, my patience with the Catholic Church was wearing thin. By the end of high school, I had a mental list of grievances against the Church, almost all of which I can no longer remember. One major issue I do remember was my disenchantment with certain elements of the Catholic liturgy, especially the following exchange:

PRIEST: Lift up your hearts!
PEOPLE: (In a dull drone, usually.) We lift them up to the Lord.
PRIEST: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God!
PEOPLE: (Even more zombie-like.) It is right to give Him thanks and praise.

To me this seemed almost scary, like something out of a dystopian novel where everyone had been brainwashed by some totalitarian theocracy. No one even knew what they were saying, let alone cared! Stuff like this convinced me that something was seriously wrong with the Catholic Church.

So when I left for college I decided that I would no longer be bound up with the Catholic Church, and that's basically how things stood for about three-and-a-half years. Anyway, I think that's more than enough for no one to read right now, so I'll save the rest of my life story for a little later.

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