Friday, December 11, 2009

The God Box

Bizarro is brought to you today by Circular Thinking.

I recently saw Julia Sweeney's ("Pat" on SNL years ago) one-woman show "Letting Go of God," and was very impressed. Like me, she was raised Catholic in a pretty seriously Catholic family. Being indoctrinated from infancy into any religion is a powerful thing and can affect the rest of your life. Julia's show is about how seriously she takes matters of spirituality and her journey to discover the meaning of it all. I recommend it if the subject interests you. It got rave reviews, which are well deserved.

I met Julia once in the greenroom of a small theater in NYC in which we were both performing in the same variety/comedy show. I think we are about the same age and I now know that our spiritual journeys have been remarkably similar. We both were raised to take religion seriously, which we did, then spent years of our adulthood educating ourselves in an attempt to make sense of it all.

This cartoon has nothing to do with her show or that journey, I just wanted to mention it. This cartoon is simply a humorous take on confessional booths, which, for those unfamiliar with the peculiarities of Catholicism, are small wooden booths in which you speak to a priest through a tiny window. The idea is that you tell him your sins and he gets god to forgive you.

My first trip to one of these booths was in the first grade. We were taught what to say and do and led into the booth to kneel before a screened window and tell a stranger (the priest on the other side of the wall) our "sins." Most six-year-olds have very few sins, of course, so the exercise is primarily meant to teach you submission and instill in you a deep-seated sense of guilt and self loathing. This sort of ritualistic Big Brother mentality can screw up a person for life. And it does, as I can attest and Julia explains so articulately in her show.

The good news is that you can find release from these ghosts if you work at it. Eventually, you can get out of the box.


Anonymous said...

As one who works for the Church I can safely say the days of the "box" are long gone, save for the memories of we who remember those claustrophobia-inducing booths. These days we have open-air "Reconciliation Rooms" which has made the Sacrament a lot less imposing and a lot more like "single-serving therapy."
Of course, working for the Church compels me to go back to "the Box," if for any reason because I don't have the heart to tell my pastor/boss about what I do with those 2.3 GB of Erica Cambpell pics.
Keep up the good work!

Unknown said...

I always find these thoughts so interesting because I come from the complete opposite end of the spectrum: I was not raised religious and had to discover it on my own and stumble and it was incredibly frustrating and I wish I had had some religion in my upbringing. I am not trying to say you are wrong or I am right but just that it is funny and as a parent I have no idea if my daughter will appreciate religion or have to unlearn it. oh well... add it to the list of parenting choices that she will have to work out in therapy.

Allan Koay said...

i grew up a Catholic, was baptised as a child. and i have become an even more staunch Catholic after my car crash two years ago, because of the things I experienced, felt and "saw." and most recently, a friend's death further strengthened my faith because of her exemplary life. (that friend, btw, was of a different religious faith.)

when it comes to religion, no one can say who is right or wrong. one's relationship with God, or lack thereof, is a very personal thing.

but as i always say, people wrongly blame religion for all the problems in the world, when the real problem is really people. human beings interpret/misinterpret religious texts according to their biases. some, of course, would argue that if there were no religion, then there wouldn't be all these religion-related problems. but personally, i think we would have even bigger problems. but that's just my personal belief. why do people not think that maybe we should just nuke the entire human population? no people, no problem. :)

as for the God Box confessions, it's not just about going into the box and getting the priest to have God forgive your sins. what's in the heart is far more important, that we should be truly remorseful and be willing to change ourselves for the better. people too often treat confessional booths as "magic boxes" that they forget this.

btw, no, i'm not offended but find that cartoon very funny. :)

Anonymous said...

My own Lutheran upbringing, which I didn't appreciate at the time, gave me a good solid grounding in all parts of the Bible. This has been most useful in my later life when religious-fundamentalist nitwits start spouting nonsense based on incomplete or incorrect quotations. I can slam 'em chapter and verse, and though I am not religious, I must say I do enjoy it.

Unknown said...

NPR did a great piece on this show a little while back (
Although I never saw her show, it was a good introspective into her work. It even mentions some of her dastardly deeds. You Catholics are crazy.

doug nicodemus said...


Anonymous said...

I Grew up Cathoic and went to 16 years of Catholic school...I was brainwashed,but somehow I escaped the guilt and bad stuff of the Catholic church...The church has beautiful wonderful things about it...Just like life....I don't always go to mass,but when I do, I love it...Well if it a liberal one with lots of dancing,singing,clapping,etc....I call myself an American catholic...I have probably been excomunicated a million times...I go to women priest masses...Love my faith journey...Trust me I used to be a big time guilter...Not'' nomore''...One has to work on that....Peace Love and Joy