This one caught me off guard, and while it was said casually, it highlighted a much deeper problem.  It didn’t sit well.

My daughter was getting her first Holy Communion.  Personally, I am pretty much over with the Catholic religion.  I was raised Catholic, married in the Catholic Church, and went to Catholic school for two horrible years.  So my theory is that anyone who is actually raised Catholic, doesn’t really see the point of it.  I will say, I’m not an atheist or agnostic.  I believe in God and a higher power, but it’s when we get to religion is where I have the issues.  Now more than ever.

I have a very easy litmus test for religion:  Religion should make you want to be a better person.  If it doesn’t, you’re using it wrong.  That’s it.  It’s not an excuse to be ignorant, intolerant, cruel, or violent.  In fact, that’s the opposite.  That’s using religion as a rationalization for something rotten you were going to do anyway.

But getting back to it.  We were at the “rehearsal” for my daughter’s first Holy Communion.  We were told where to sit, what to do, etc.  It’s no mystery that it is setup as a wedding, as children “commune” with God.

Everything was going OK until the priest started telling a “humorous” story about how the kids came to church the day after receiving their first Holy Communion in their fancy communion outfits, and one year there were only two boys who did it.  So the priest said he brought them up to the front of the church and then told his “joke”:  He said that it was just two boys standing side by side and he hoped that this “in no way showed that I condone or approve of same sex marriage.  You have to be careful about how you present things.”  No one laughed.  Do you know why?  Because it’s never funny to make jokes about denying people civil rights.  Why not just say “And I hope black people don’t drink from the same water fountain as we do”  Civil rights are civil rights, and you either deny them or you don’t.  Plus, this is Los Angeles.  Acting as if you’ve never met a gay person is like saying you have never seen a Starbucks or a TMZ parasite trailing a B-level celebrity with a drinking problem.  They are everywhere.

And the Catholic Church: Credibility on deviant sexual behavior?  I think not.

But what was I to do?  Call the priest out on it?  Cancel my daughter’s communion that our whole families flew out for?  No, I opted for just discussing it with my wife, who was not too happy about it either.

So the next day I kept my mouth shut and we went through the whole thing, and my daughter looked beautiful, and it was a successful event.  But in the back of my mind I wondered what lessons the church was really teaching her in her Sunday School.

Although one of the funniest things was that my wife thought my daughter would choose the cross when offered this choice:  “For communion, do you want a brand new cross to wear around your neck, or do you want money to go to the American Girl Doll Store?”  Like saying to a kid: Do you want donuts, or brussel sprouts?  Really? Are you sure?

So the weekend was a success, but it got me thinking again.  If God hated gays so much, he would stop making them.  It’s ridiculous and nonsensical.  The religious argument is always “gay is a choice”.  Ok, then can YOU remember when you decided to be straight?  If it’s a choice, YOU must have made it too at some point.

There are progressive churches in Los Angeles.   Ones that are more tolerant and understand that everyone is part of God’s plan, or no one is.  You can’t just pick and choose who you will discriminate against and use God as an excuse.  Did Jesus ever say, “Hey, these loaves and fishes are for straights only.”  Or “can I be crucified in the all-white section, please?”  No.  Which brings us back to my litmus test on religion: Does it make you want to be a better person?

I’m reminded of a quote from the movie Chocolat.  Towards the end Father Henri gives a sermon and says, “Listen, here’s what I think. I think that we can’t go around… measuring our goodness by what we don’t do. By what we deny ourselves, what we resist, and who we exclude. I think… we’ve got to measure goodness by what we embrace, what we create… and who we include”.  Indeed.