BFFs In Heaven: Finding the Right Reason to Join a Religion


Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return (Genesis 3:19)

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the day of repentance and the first day of Lent for Christians. I am a lapsed, or what I call, hibernating Catholic.

(Waiting for the Lightening Bolt)

When I was born, I wasn't baptized into any faith; both of my parents were agnostic. My father had been put through Baptist Sunday school and wasn't going to do that to me or my sister. When I was about 9 years old, I was with my parents sitting in a church for a wedding and I asked my father, "Who believes in God?" He answered, "people who can't dream."

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I came into the Catholic church, not because I had an epiphany, but because my best friend Cathy from high school insisted that I get baptized so that I could be in heaven with her. That's all it took for me to start taking catechism with the Monsignor at Our Lady in Heaven church up the street. Cathy was ecstatic -- she came from a very large Catholic family and I was her first trophy. I always believed that since I am Chinese, it made her extra points.

I went through two months of slow indoctrination into the Catholic church, the private classes were after school, so I was already half awake by the time I got to the Monsignor's office. I distinctly remembering falling asleep during the part about Moses. During this time, both my parents put up with it and offered no support. Finally the day came for me to be baptized and confirmed at the same time. I only remember the part when Monsignor asked me which saint I had picked, I said "Anastasia," the martyred Roman saint. In reality, I just loved the name.

(So far no lightening bolts have hit me)

Then it was time to receive communion and the body and blood of Jesus Christ. At this point I looked over at a beaming Cathy and thought, heaven must be great if she's this happy.

Since then, I have maybe attended church less than 100 times. My passion for the church was based on a friendship that faded away the day I graduated from high school. Cathy long since disappeared from my life (after saving my soul from limbo, she moved onto to the military and we parted ways). Now when I look back at those days, I am amazed at what I did for friendship. It's not maturity that has changed my feelings about religion, it's about my antithesis towards ritual and a set schedule.

(Still here and not a smoldering pile of ashes)

I respect whatever religion anyone chooses, for me, I just need the right reason to join.

I never done good things
I never done bad things
I never did anything out of the blue,
Want an axe to break the ice
Wanna come down right now
- lyrics from Ashes to Ashes by David Bowie

Image: Ophelia Chong Getty Museum

Artist, designer and teacher Ophelia Chong explores her adopted city of Los Angeles with an eye and ear for the small moments that tests the duality of being an Asian American. Join her on her journey every Thursday on KCET's SoCal blog

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