I Pledge Allegiance To…

Let’s talk about flags for a minute.

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Trigger warning: You’re probably not gonna like this post. If you aren’t going to comment with civility, please go to Tumblr and complain there like everyone else.

Flags are symbols. They are both historical and current. They represent a country’s legacy or an idea.

Let’s start with the most controversial flag as of today:

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I distinctly remember driving through Alabama and seeing this flag flying. I don’t have a picture of it, but I also don’t remember people being up in arms about it the way they were with South Carolina. To many people, this flag is a symbol of hate, dissent, and racism.

On the other hand, this flag has historical context, so it should be shown in museums and in historical-based games and on the Dukes of Hazzard merchandise because that flag is still a part of Southern culture.

Rebecca Frech says that the recent controversy over this flag is because the issue was brought up from people outside of South Carolina. “If they were left alone, they’d probably vote to move it elsewhere like we have. But once Yankees start pushing us ignorant southerners around, we dig in our heels and won’t budge an inch. I’m in favor of moving or removing the flag if the people of South Carolina want it moved. But I’m against Yankees coming in and telling them they should move it.”

I am a Yankee by birth. I was born north of the Mason-Dixon line and spent most of my childhood there. However, I’ve been living in Texas for almost ten years. I’ve seen the Southern pride as well as Southern hospitality. Heck, the Texas State Capitol currently flies another form of the Confederate flag to honor the Six Flags Over Texas. (Not the theme park.)

The Confederate Flag can be found right next to the Texas state flag.

The Confederate Flag can be found right next to the Texas state flag.

So while I understand the controversy, I feel like people have gone too far in the name of political correctness.

Speaking of politics, let’s move onto the next flag…

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This flag represents an idea. And it’s been all over my news feed because of the Supreme Court of the United States’ decision to make same-sex marriage legal nationwide. My college was ironically located in the gay district of Houston so if you drove up the block, you would see these flags all over. I’ve been seeing rainbows everywhere on my social media. It honestly feels like a Skittles factory exploded all over my laptop!

I have a good number of LGBT friends. I have friends who support gay marriage. This is for y’all:

I love you. We are still friends. I may not agree with you with where you stand on this issue. I’m still trying to understand what it means to be gay/lesbian/bi/etc and work it into my faith. I also believe that sexuality is part of who you are, but it is not the whole of who you are. We are so much more than our gender/sexuality/race/etc. This “something more” comes from our Divine creator and it reaches out beyond the tangible. I hope that y’all are open to dialogue about ways to be more compassionate towards those on the LGBT spectrum beyond government oversight.

Speaking of government…

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There are days that I love my country. And there are days that I wanna get off this planet altogether. I don’t know if I can say that I am proud to be an American right now because of how people are going to extremes in the name of political correctness. Riots break out in cities over racial issues that never seem to go away. People are taking out historically significant pieces of literature in the name of “safe spaces” on college campuses. We distrust our cops when they shoot African-American young adults, but cheer when a “cop killer” gets caught in New York. In the words of one of my favorite musicals: “How do you document real life when real life’s getting more like fiction each day?” I’m distrustful of politicians in general, especially the blatant opportunists. I want to believe that there is still good in this nation. However, maybe these events and people’s reactions to them remind me that there is a line between patriotism and nationalism. I love the ideas that this nation stands for, but the message is being distorted in the name of entitlement.

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Today is the feast day of Sts. Peter and Paul. This flag would not exist without them. This flag is also covering my face on both my Facebook and Instagram profile pictures. Why do I choose to “pledge allegiance” to this flag as opposed to the other flags I showed here?

Because before anything else, I am a Catholic. I’ve said before that I see being Catholic as something bigger than myself. It transcends beyond my gender, my race, the kinds of people I find attractive, and even the fandoms that I obsess over. The Catholic Church is the glue that binds the pieces of me together. Like Peter, I have a horrible tendency to let my passions overrule being sensible, which ends up with me coming off like a thick-headed idiot. I have the best of intentions, but end up falling short because of the actions I choose. And yet, Jesus chose Peter to be the head of his Church, the foundation that would give way to an entire legacy of popes and bishops and priests who worked hard to make the Church what it is today.

The Church is by no means perfect. Neither am I, for that matter. But through Christ, the Church and I continue to improve and grow. Like Paul, we are filled with a zeal that drives us to go around the world proclaiming the Gospel. We have a missionary spirit that can’t be stopped. We may not say what everyone likes to hear, but at the same time, these things need to be said. Jesus chose Paul, a man who spent time persecuting and killing Christians thinking he was doing the right thing. After his conversion, Paul preached compassion, but he also preached about having integrity.

So when you see this flag over my face, know that I am not doing it to set up some kind of us against the world dichotomy. I’m doing it to show who my heart ultimately belongs to. I pledge allegiance to the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.

*Mic drop*

Authentic Love Part 2: Faith Rooted in Religion

It started with a comment. I shared a short version of rejections I experienced on the Facebook page of a nondenominational Protestant who was looking for stories about rejection.

Then somebody replied to my comment:
“Just remember that it’s by faith and not religion that we feel God’s love.”

Cue flashbacks of the usual “I’m spiritual, but not religious” anthem that I hear from a lot of people. And a facepalm.

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I shared this incident with my friends who had this to say.

Olivier Coutant: On the one hand, yes, the speaker forgets that religion is the lived out expression of our faith. I also think there’s something to what that speaker said! It can be a temptation for us to get wrapped up in our pious acts and forget that our faith (our relationship with Christ) is what it’s all about.

Tristan Rios: Notice how they say “feel”. If you want to troll, maybe say, “Feel? I thought love was an action, not a feeling.” Just to kind of comment on how protestants and specifically non-denoms are overly emotional. All about the “feel good.”

Suzanne Fortin: Jesus instituted a religion: Baptism, Eucharist, laying of hands. These are always ways of feeling God’s love.

Brandon Ocampo (No relation to me): Faith in practice is religion. It’s the ultimate relationship. Where we follow His boundaries and rules to improve our relationship with Him. I might not always feel God in a pretty song, but I might feel Him by following the law. He has set forth. Jesus > Religion? Nah son. Jesus came to establish a religion. Jesus was religious. If you condemn religion, you condemn Christ. That’s not a bright move.

Rachel GohlmanOne can say “I have faith” great, even the demons believe! In fact the devils may have more faith than we do because they know it’s all real. What constitutes religion is not only saying you believe in God, but also showing it through devotions and acts of prayer. Our main way of prayer always has been the Mass and it’s not just a series of empty gestures. If anyone says it is so then ask why do people send flowers to someone they love, or write songs or take them out on picnic. Love demands action. It demands expression. This is the complement that religion gives faith.

I also would like to point out that religion is manifest in the love we give to our neighbor, in addition to the love we give to God. If a person keeps faith to themselves, there is a risk for self-assurance, an “us and them” attitude that characterizes the pharisee. By being the outward display of faith, religion obliges us to carry Christ out into the world. This is what James means when he says “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27
Therefore religion has always been part of Scripture faith. It has always been the “works” that goes along with faith. Neither by themselves save you as faith without works is dead and religion without faith is empty humanism.

While I’m not gonna respond to the comment because I don’t like starting a combox war, I will say this:

Experiencing God’s love relies on more than just feeling it. Having faith in God has to be rooted in something a lot more solid than feelings. Faith is not a feeling, after all.

Religion, and especially Catholicism, can seem particularly daunting because there seem to be so many rules. But if anything provides that tangibility of God’s love, I think it comes in the form of being Catholic.

Catholics get to see Christ present in the Eucharist.

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We smell the incense that symbolizes our prayers rising up to Heaven.

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We feel the Holy Water as we dip our fingers into the font and are reminded of when we were baptised, either as babies or at Easter Vigil after weeks of RCIA classes.

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We hear the prayers that remind us of what we believe in.

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We taste the Body and the Blood every Sunday.

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And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

God’s authentic love is manifested in having faith, but that faith is best grown when it’s rooted in a strong foundation.

All images except for one are courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. I took the photo of the Eucharist displayed in the monstrance.

Of Affliction and Comfort

There’s this misconception that religion and faith are only there so that people can feel mildly better about themselves and their lives and especially about dealing with their loved ones. Naysayers against religion compare faith to a crutch or a drug.

When I woke up this morning, I did not want to get out of bed to pray my daily Lectio Divina. I wanted to stay in my bed and scroll through my Instagram feed, even though I wasn’t even wearing glasses. But fighting against my lazy body, I got out of bed, put on my glasses, and started praying. Why?

To paraphrase a familiar quote, religion has a dual purpose: to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.

My friend Justin AKA “ChurchTriumphant” on YouTube goes more into this in one of his videos:

Or to quote one of my favorite writers

“I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”- CS Lewis

Even though I love being Catholic, it’s not always easy. I’m still trying to figure out stuff about the church that I don’t understand. I don’t like debates about politics. And I don’t have a particular group that I can readily identify with beyond my circle of friends. Back in college, I divided my time between two groups: my devout, Catholic friends who introduced me to new prayers, devotions, and saints and my non-Catholic friends whom I talk to about stuff I loved like anime, Harry Potter, shows I watched at the time, etc. Very seldom did I ever find friends that encompassed both.

But maybe that’s sort of the point. No one group of people or even one particular person can satisfy us completely. And whatever we believe in can’t just be a feel-good quick fix. All the best saints struggled with some sort of problem throughout their lives and some of them were priests, sisters, brothers, and even popes. Mother Teresa struggled with a period of darkness where she felt that God was the furthest thing from her heart, to the point of almost being nonexistent. St. Maximillian Kolbe was a war prisoner. Mary, the mother of Jesus, dealt with the loss of both her husband and her child within her lifetime and had to bury both of them. Pope John Paul II had Parkinsons’ disease. Not to mention this often heard quote:

“Jacob was a cheater, Peter had a temper, David had an affair, Noah got drunk, Jonah ran from God, Paul was a murderer, Gideon was insecure, Miriam was a gossip, Martha was a worrier, Thomas was a doubter, Sara was impatient, Elijah was moody, Moses stuttered, Abraham was old,… and Lazarus was dead. God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the CALLED!”

Faith has a way of changing people for the better. And change always requires a period of discomfort.

There is a difference, however, between being pushed out of your comfort zone and going to extremes in the names of whatever you believe in. It’s one thing, for example, for me to, say, go to a convention of 30,000 people and ask one of my favorite actors a question that ended up making him feel uncomfortable just because he asked. It’s another thing to do the stuff  that Renee mentions in one of her Lent-themed videos. Going on extreme diets, fasts, or juice cleansing isn’t as much going out of your comfort zone so much as pushing yourself off of a cliff without a parachute and believing that you’ll land safely in the water from a thirty-story drop.

So where’s the balance? The balance is with God. It goes back to what I said about falling in love with the process. Let God guide you through whatever changes you’re going through or ask God to start a change in you right now. After all, according to science, an object at rest tends to stay at rest and an object in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force.

The Legacy of Pope John Paul II

Today is the first feast day of Pope St. John Paul II. Even though I was born in 1990, I still consider myself part of the JP2 Generation. It’s just that for me, I learned more about the great pope after his passing. While Leah Darrow was beginning to turn her life around as she heard the news of Pope John Paul II’s passing and Fr. Roderick was building a following for his podcast, I was lost in a California daze. As a child, I didn’t know much about the pope and took his presence for granted because at the time, my world was limited to the Central New Jersey suburbs of Monmouth County and New York City.

It wasn’t until I started college that I learned more about Pope John Paul II. I watched a performance of his beautiful play The Jeweler’s Shop, read some of his encyclicals and letters, and learned about his life. His road to sainthood was a frequent topic of conversation amongst my friends. I often found myself wishing that I could have some kind of time machine so that I could’ve seen the pope in his prime.

But it turned out that even after his death, Pope John Paul II would make a personal impact on my life. One of the beautiful things about Catholicism is that the ones we love never really leave us when they die. When it comes to the holy men and women of the Church, there’s an assurance that their souls are in heaven.

When it came time for Pope John Paul II’s canonization, I was back in California. This time I was just visiting my cousin for her 18th birthday party, which took place the same day as the canonization. Once the party was over, I went to my hotel room and watched a livestream of the canonization via YouTube. Some of my friends were quick to point out how they used Pope John Paul II’s cross in the procession while I was excited at the sight of Pope Emeritus Benedict.

Although I eventually fell asleep (time difference between California and Vatican City), I felt the presence of Pope John Paul II as I watched the livestream. I realize now that the legacy of Pope John Paul II was there and it’s best seen by what he left behind: a generation of people who were inspired by him, countless priests and bishops who strive to follow his example, and 2 popes who continue to bring the world together.

As for me, I hope that I continue to learn more about Pope John Paul II and join the others who are carrying his legacy for the next generation.

Lent Day 36: National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month! The Catholic Gentleman posted a blog about some Catholic poets you may not have heard of or may not have known were Catholic. But for this blog, I’m going to list off some saints who also wrote poetry and tell you some things about them.

St. Therese of Liseux: One of my favorite saints (as I have mentioned), St. Therese’s best known work is her autobiography Story of a Soul and being an inspiration to Mother Teresa. She is also one of the few female Doctors of the Church. However, she also wrote poems and plays and even got to act in the plays she wrote. One particular play had her in the role of Joan of Arc. 

(Photo courtesy of maidofheaven.com)

St. Theresa of Avila: Another female Doctor of the Church, St. Theresa of Avila was one of the great Catholic mystics. She founded the Carmelite order and loved contemplative prayer. Her most well-known work is The Interior Castle

St. John of the Cross: Ever heard of the term “dark night of the soul”? St. John of the Cross came up with that term. He was one of the co-founders of the Carmelites and good friends with St. Theresa. He’s also another Doctor of the Church. 

St. Robert Southwell: A Jesuit martyr from the 14th century, St. Robert Southwell was a missionary in post-Reformation England. 

St. Ephriam: He was a deacon and came from Syria. Most of his writings were intended to be sung as hymns.

St. Francis: No introduction necessary. Where do you think Pope Francis chose his name from? St. Francis’s most well-known poem is the “Canticle of the Sun.”

St. Hildegard of Bingen: A Benedictine abbess who was talented in a lot of areas. She founded 2 monestaries and wrote what is said to be the oldest morality play.

Click on the links provided or Google search these saints. What do you think of their poetry? Do you know any other Catholic poets? Or poets from other denominations? Please tell me!

Lent Day 15: St. Joseph is Awesome!

Fr. Robert Barron’s Lenten meditation for today talks about how the ego gets in the way of becoming holier. If you ever encounter a person who has this “I’m holier than thou!” vibe, they’re doing it wrong!

A wonderful example of someone who lived a wonderful holy, humble life is St. Joseph whose feast day is today.

My friends Rachel and Kateri made this wonderful video about St. Joseph that goes beyond the images we usually associate with the foster father of Jesus.

The usual assumption about St. Joseph was that he was a widower, possibly old enough to be Mary’s father, and died sometime between Jesus’s preteen years and full adulthood, which could be supported by the fact that he doesn’t appear in the Gospels when Jesus officially began his ministry or at the Cross at Jesus’s death. Besides that, Catholics believe that Mary stayed a virgin after she was married. That could only happen if she was married to someone who wasn’t sexually interested in her, right?

But what if he wasn’t? What if Joseph was around the same age as Mary? After all, the child Jesus would need a role model, an example of the man he would eventually become. It would be hard to picture a child thinking of becoming a grown man if the prominent example is past his prime. Archbishop Fulton Sheen instead has his own theory: That Joseph was a young man, prime marriage material, and able to provide a living for Mary and Jesus.

But what would explain Joseph’s death? The fact that back then, men tended to have shorter life spans than women. Still applies to today, but back then the life expectancy gap was even more extreme. 

Point is this: Picture Mary as a teenager (12-14), since that was how old she could’ve been to marry at that time. And picture Joseph as somewhere close to that (say 13-16). And picture ALL of the things you heard about the things leading to Jesus’s birth and picture yourself as a teenager or a teenager in your life. Could you do the same things Joseph and Mary did in those circumstances? Probably not.

If Joseph and Mary were around today, their relationship status would be: “Joseph and Mary are in a relationship and it’s complicated” because according to the Catholic church, Mary was conceived without sin and they will raise God made flesh. So yeah, complicated relationship, but they made it work because they put God’s needs before their own. Mary and Joseph are the Gospel’s OTP! (That means one true pairing!)

Joseph as a young man provides a great testament to the fact that men can in fact be in control of their hormones. Read about how Joseph reacted to everything that happened to Mary and all the things God asked him to do. Notice that he doesn’t say a single word in the New Testament, but instead listens and obeys God. If men and women put God first and treat each other with the dignity and respect that God created us with, there would be a lot less conflict between the genders.

Lent Day 1: Ash Wednesday

Today, I learned a lesson in patience. I got an e-mail from my Sunday School Supervisors that there would be an Ash Wednesday prayer service just for the kids, so I decided to wait until 7:30 to get my ashes.

The rest of the day proved to be a test of patience. My co-teacher and I were planning on getting pretzels and juice for the kids, but I wanted to be efficient, so I decided to buy the food about an hour before class started.

What did I do between the time I got up and the time I actually had to go to CCE? I spent the day like I normally did, except I fasted. I made a lot of tea. I started reading Thomas A. Kempis’s The Imitation of Christ. (I seriously love that book and I highly recommend it as a Lenten reading.)

In the end, I found that my patience was still tested. My first graders were restless and excited and the prayer service didn’t leave time for snacks and juice. Thankfully, my co-teacher and I decided that we would give the kids snacks after Spring Break.

So like I told my friend: “Patience is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.” And boy did I learn a lesson in that today.

In a way, Lent is a period where our patience is tested constantly. Sometimes it comes in the form of fasting. Sometimes, it comes when you aren’t sure if you can finish that extra prayer or give that spare change to the homeless person on the street. Last year, many Catholics learned patience during the Sede Vacante period between Benedict and Francis. But as last year taught us, there is always something better waiting for us when Lent is over.

Here’s what Fr. Robert Barron has to say about today:

From Fr. Robert Barron:

Judged According to Love

The Spanish mystic Saint John of the Cross said that in the evening of life we shall be judged according to our love. In Matthew 25 the nature of love is specified. It is not primarily a feeling, an attitude, or a conviction, but rather a concrete act on behalf of those in need–the hungry, the homeless, the lonely, the imprisoned, the forgotten. It is the bearing of another’s burden.

Here’s a challenge: Over the next forty-seven days, resolve to perform a particular and sustained act of love.

Make several visits to your relative in the nursing home. Converse regularly with a lonely person on your block. Tutor and befriend a kid who might be in danger of losing his way. Repair a broken friendship. Bring together bickering factions at your place of work. Make a number of financial contributions to a worthy organization that needs help.

Numerous spiritual masters have witnessed to something odd: Belief in God is confirmed and strengthened not so much from intellectual effort as from moral action.

When a man once asked the English Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins what he must do in order to believe, Hopkins replied, “Give alms.”

As you love through tangible acts, you will come to believe more deeply and to enter more fully into friendship with God.’

And finally, here’s my #ashtag selfie.

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Four Loves Friday: Agape AKA Charity

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket-safe, dark, motionless, airless-it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.

The last section of CS Lewis’s The Four Loves brings in a form of love that goes beyond the natural loves of Affection, Friendship, and Eros. The difference of life with three of the four loves but no agape and life with all four loves is the difference between a garden and a wilderness, according to Lewis. He also emphasizes that the three previous loves are not rivals to God’s love (Agape) in and of themselves. The way that the rivalry was created was when we put the three loves ahead of Agape, an idolization of them if you will.

Think of it this way: it’s harder to find works in media that portray selfless love. Eros is easy to find, due to our hypersexualized culture. Agape is stuff saved for Oscar movies or movies that want to get Oscars. It’s harder to find in the everyday life, partially because of how selfish and skeptical the culture is. We often scoff at the “Christ” metaphors in superhero movies such as Man of Steel, we often question a celebrity’s altruistic motives, and while we all love A Christmas Carol, our minds cling to the image of the miserly version of Scrooge rather than the changed man he became in the end.

But does being selfish and skeptical really benefit society and ourselves in the long run? To make a long answer short: NO! 

No matter how hard we try to pride ourselves as an intellectual society, the fact of the matter is that we are a culture that follows our passions. Human beings can’t cut themselves off from emotion unless they want to be labeled as a “sociopath.” There’s no such thing as being “incapable of loving” because even the worst of humanity has something or someone that they love.

This is also the most theologically centered chapter of the book because Agape ties into so much of what God means to Christianity. In the eyes of Christianity, God IS Love. He created humanity to love him, but the love He wants isn’t a forced love. God NEVER forces any person to love Him if they don’t desire it because real love comes from free will. Christians don’t do good things because they think they’ll go to Heaven. They do good things because God’s love inspires them to love others in return.

So often, people think that Christianity is hateful when in reality, Christianity is so selfless that they want to protect people from hurting themselves. In the end, everyone has a choice to make, but Christians want to encourage people to make good choices. Christians don’t get anything out of trying to stop somebody from hurting themselves, if their motives are for all the right reasons. Real Christians don’t actively try to condemn others, but they admonish others.

Admonish means to caution someone, to remind a person of his or her obligations to something. Think of a child who is still learning the ways of the world. If a child was going to climb a tree, you would caution that child to be careful. If a child was procrastinating on an important project, you would remind that child of his or her duty as a student.

This all falls under the category of selfless love because the person who is admonished may hate the person doing the admonishing; he may not listen or he may condemn the other person. But the person doing the admonishing will still love the person being admonished anyway.

The best example of Agape in a person is Mother Teresa. She serviced the poor, but she never discriminated against a person’s religion. However, she did admonish wealthy countries and spoke out against abortion. Some people have hated Mother Teresa for what she stood for, but she continued to do her work anyway.

I’ll end this entry with a quote attributed to Mother Teresa and leave you to think about how our society would be if we were all a little more like her…

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

 

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

 

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.

 

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.

 

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.

 

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

 

The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.

 

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.

 

In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

How to Portray Religion in Fiction Without Causing a Riot

It seems so easy to paint religion as evil in fiction. But in my honest opinion Evil Religion (especially corrupt Christianity/Catholicism) is a cliche that needs to DIE. Ditto with the stereotypical pedophile priests, sexy nuns, loud overenthusiastic preachers, annoying Jewish mothers, and terrorist Muslims. However, I’m not advocating that religion in fiction should be portrayed in the other extreme, with constant Jesus Symbolism and heavy-handed guilt tripping.

The best examples of fictional religious works that portray religion as good without being heavy-handed are the works of two authors: CS Lewis and JRR Tolkein. Although both of them are Christian, they have a lot of secular fans. Tolkein especially because he didn’t intend for anything in LOTR to be allegorical. (But then again he’s Catholic. Catholics and allegory go together like bread and wine.) But portraying religion in a good light isn’t limited to fantasy.

A good way to show religion without bashing it or lavishing too much praise is to have characters of different faiths and figure out a common ground. I recently learned that Pope Francis used to be on a radio show with a Protestant and a Jew and the three of them would talk about different topics. Pope Francis and the other two hosts are still friends. Another example of this is a book by Peter Kreeft called Between Heaven and Hell which has CS Lewis, Aldous Huxley, and John F. Kennedy in Purgatory discussing religion.

If you don’t want characters to debate religion or if religion isn’t part of the conflict, show how a character’s faith or lack thereof drives him. But again, don’t use the whole “If I do a lot of good things, I’ll get good karma or go to Heaven” cliche. (It’s also a heresy, but that’s another post.) Instead, show a character whose faith has benefited his life so much that he wants to show it to the world through good works and altruism. Or show a character who has a lot of problems but holds onto their faith not because it’s a crutch, but because it’s their compass, their guiding light in the storm. Priests, nuns, and ministers can be great mentor figures. Not all epic stories have to include wise old monks, after all.

A common ground in many faiths is unconditional love. Buddhists call it loving-kindness. Christianity calls it agape. Jews call it ahavat olam. In contrast to the cliches of romantic comedies, forbidden love, and sexual taboos, unconditional love shines as the ultimate form of true love. (Just watch Frozen!) If you want to include religion in fiction, figure out how that particular faith shows love.

But why write about religion at all?

It seems like society wants to keep religion out of the other things in life because religion to them gets in the way of what they want to do. To the mainstream frame of mind, religion is “holier than thou” with all of its “thou shalt nots,” funeral picketing, and conservative politics. People need to realize that for better and for worse, religion is a part of everyday life and that maybe people should look beyond the often accepted “belief” that religion should be limited to Sunday mornings in a church and nowhere else. In reality, religion is a driving force for a lot of people. And no two people from the same faith are alike. In Catholicism alone, we have hundreds of saints that act as role models whose stories are as varied as comic book superheroes. But that’s another post.

Tl;dr Religion in and of itself is NOT evil. Fiction needs to fix that.