Four years ago, I would have never imagined to be wearing a cross upon my neck. It’s the kind of symbol that represents everything I so vehemently protested against – organized religion, faith, theism, the concept of a benevolent God in such a malevolent world. All in the name of cause. Like an angst-filled teenager, my innocent mind sought to admonish and defame all who supported something so juvenile and impractical. Hatred, like most emotions, starts with a bang and diminishes over time – especially if there’s no real reason for the hatred to come about. It was a trend. It was a story that needed to be told.
The vocal minority, the so-called “teenage scientists,” would hop on the first anti-faith scientific fact out there and spread it, like wildfire, to anyone willing or unwilling to hear. The quest started as a vendetta against some distant establishment, something I didn’t fully understand and still don’t completely get today. But it was on a living room computer during my freshman year of high school where thoughts of rebellion bloomed like brain-fossils waiting to be discovered and placed in my mind’s museum of knowledge and other truths, facts like “God isn’t real,” “Nothing in the Bible can be proven,” or whatever. I had had enough of “faith” in my life; my parents weren’t especially religious; my grandparents were faithful, but aren’t they all? My naivety carried into my reckless and vindictive social media posts.
Imagine hearing “the truth” from a fourteen-year-old’s mouth. People often depicted me as either arrogant, ignorant, or something equally terrible in between. Know-it-all. Obnoxiously, I thought I had the whole theism vs. atheism thing down pat. Like the debate the adult’s were having was meaningless, trite, irresponsible, and immature. What did they know? How immature of me!
Once, in the 5th grade, I sat in Language Arts class during mandatory book-reading time. I pulled out our family’s version of the Bible, King James edition. At the time, I remember imagining that my teacher, Mr. Dwyer, and my fellow students would look upon my sophisticated reading material and feel like I’m a serious bookworm. Feeling smart was one of my top priorities as a bullied and ridiculed young child. But if anything, my sophisticated choice backfired, as Mr. Dwyer informed me that I would need to bring in another book to read for class tomorrow, as the Bible “wasn’t what he was looking for.” What’s that supposed to mean? It planted seeds of distrust toward faith which would later bloom.
I remember visiting our local church for confession when it was necessary. The idea of repenting every one of my sin’s to a supposedly-non-judgmental individual in the role of a priest, or deacon, made little sense to me. And, even worse, the gleam of “God knowing everything you do, and all of your sins regardless” made this mandatory act appear much more superficial, and meaningless, and awkward. That’s why I hardly told the whole truth to the priest I spoke to: I would say, “I said vulgar words in front of my parents before dinner last Sunday night,” or something easily repent-able. Nothing too extreme, like denouncing the concept of God, the validity of the Bible, and such, as I actually was doing at the time.
I wasn’t the only one. Many posters on the internet, from various websites and forums shared my previous sentiments, and probably still share them to this day. It’s the culture that the internet can have on an impressionable, attention-seeking, young child with untrustworthy friends and parents, who found a way to relish in every small and disappointing mistake I made along the way to this age. And I don’t claim to be the most unique individual in the world for having undergone a long phase of unwarranted hatred, turned gradually into a distant appreciation for the religion I so despised.
The point of this story is to inform you, whoever ends up reading this, that all things can change. I now have an incredible appreciation for all faiths, and those who believe in them. It’s a wonderfully indescribable thing. And I disagree with those who go out of their way to destroy the one core belief that their human psyche may be founded on: a faith, a chance. In a world of so much hatred, we need love.
In a month’s time, I discovered the fragility of man. I looked into the face of my dying grandfather and couldn’t control my tears, like raindrops after a sunset. He wanted me to wear his cross, something he never took off since he got it, as a Born-Again Christian. He wanted me to have it. It was one of his wishes for me. For the past month, he has undergone a list of terrible procedures and surgeries to get him on the right track. But after every procedure, he looked worse. More uncomfortable. Less at peace.
That’s why my family made an incredibly unbelievable effort to ensure that my grandfather, the great one, would pass in peace. He deserved a peaceful, calm end to such a long period of medical trauma and misgivings. It was a fitting end. He needed peace.
And today, after he passed away in Yale-New Haven Hospital, I visited my grandmother and received the cross he had worn so many times before.
Today, after years of distrust, I vow to never remove this cross from my neck. Today, I vow to carry around an image I deemed ridiculous years prior to work, school, home, and everywhere in between.
I love you pop. This one’s for you. And I will never break my promise.