LESSON 9: the bendable religion

A nice, short Lesson of Wood that deals with Woodism and how it can be combined with other religions and belief systems if needed.

Written summer 1998, re-written winter 2004

My parents decided to enroll me in a private Catholic school but not because they wanted me to grow in the Catholic faith.

My parents are semi-devout agnostics-shash-devout Catholics, which is a strange mix, I know, but a mix you usually get when your family is Latino. Typical Mexican religious traditions suggest that you barely pray or go to church, except for a funeral or a baptism or a wedding, anywhere where alcohol is available, and yet someone loses a job or gets put in jail and suddenly all these saint candles appear with these outro archaic saints like Saint Loquoutious of Narcolepolvanea or whatever. They're lapse Catholics but devout Catholics. Typical Mexicans, you know?

So when they enrolled me in a Catholic school, it was because theye didn't want their "Steevie-Weevie" hurt in any way. From the day we were born, I was a freak. I was 35 pounds underweight, mixed with my glasses and dark Mexican skin. I would no doubt get chewed up and spit out in the public school system.

I found school to be difficult. Here was this religion my parents were against but everyone else forced down my throat. I fought, kicked, screamed, and eventually layed down.

I am an ex-Catholic. But I didn't become a Catholic without a fight. In retrospect, my flight from Catholicism wasn't just something that magically happened when I went from a naive child into the age of reason, but it was a long, lengthy series of trials and tribulations that eventually led me down a path away from organizaed religion and into religion.

This is a nice little story that I can relate to you all ...

This one, although it happened way, way, WAAAAY back in 1985, it still seems as fresh and new as if it happened to me just yesterday. And thinking about it, to this day it'll still bug the shit out of me. So here goes ... in third grade, in the little private Catholic school that I was enrolled in, we actually had a NO WRONG ANSWER TEST. Can you believe that? We actually had a "no wrong answer" test. I wish to Wood that in my adulthood life of fast-paced business that I could have the equivalent of a "no wrong answer" test, you know? Well, the first question on the test was "Three years ago, what did you think God was?"


I got it wrong.

I got that question wrong.

One more time for dramatic emphasis - on a "no wrong answer" test, I actually got a question wrong!

Have you ever called a nun a bitch in your head? Yeah? Have you ever called a nun a bitch in your head more than once? Yeah? Well, this exact moment was the first of many for me.

I walked up to the nun teacher and asked her how I could geta wrong answer in a NO WRONG ANSWER TEST. She said that my answer was blatantly wrong and blasphemous and that's why she marked me wrong on that question, to teach me a very important lesson. I told her she was wrong to tell me what to think. I got detention, as well as the foundation of a reputation for being "evil."

The first friday of every month, the school would force its students to attend confession. People would regularly get detention for refusing to confess sins. So all the men in my class, every single one, all had THE LIST.

If you've ever gone to confessional, you know exactly what I'm talking about here because EVERYONE knows about THE LIST, even if they don't know about it.

THE LIST is a subconscious compillation of B.S. sins that you fabricate in your head to tell the priest in lieu of actually telling him your sins. I mean, why tell perverted Father McDougal about how you love going home and watching your brother's porno movies or that you regularly smoke pot behind the bleachers after school if you can tell him "I don't treat my brother as nice as I could treat him."

And God forbit if you were to ever confess a REAL sin to the jackass.

And I should know. One day, I decided to confess a REAL SIN to the priest. I told him that I steal pornographic magazines from my father and read them alone when they go work out at the health club. Going against EVERYTHING CATHOLICISM PREACHES, the priest told the PRINCIPLE, who sent me to her office and sat me down and gave me a lecture of the sins of the flesh.

Those goddamn bastards!

But as much as I tried to fight it, I pretty much just went with the flow back then. The pull of Catholicism was too great. I blindly worshipped what everyone else around me worshiped and if they were to jump off a cliff, then I would have pulled up my pants and jumped along with them.

But no matter what the school threw at me, it didn't stop my surreal comedy and my subversive nature. I worshiped the religion but spent my time fighting against the people in it. When I was in eigth grade, I got detention for being AGAINST the Gulf War. I got detention for speaking my mind within a religion that saught to silence me.

After I graduated out of Catholic school and into high school, I tried to hang on to Catholicism. I became involved in the LIFE TEEN program, an organization aimed at making Catholicism "HIP" to the youth of America. Here, I found a blanket from reality. My religion became my escape.

I debated leaving Catholicism until I met Alex, the catholic youth counselor.

Unlike everyone else you see in church, he was REAL, he was ALIVE, he embraced his imperfections as well as his religion in a way that was extremely comforting to me. Everyone else seemed like a fake, upper-middle class whitebread little "Leave it to Beaver" cardboard cutout family whereas Alex could talk about having a hangover and his love of Jesus Christ in the same sentance and mean it! He was my hero and the man who ALMOST brought me back to Catholicism. Or, better yet, brought Catholicism back to me.

He was a late twenty-something man with a goatee, long black hair, smoked, drank, listened to Zeppelin and the Beastie Boys, and also happened to be Catholic. He became my mentor and through him I realized that Catholicism was right for me.

When I graduated, I signed myself up as a counselor of high school Catholic teens, hoping to become a mentor to others just like Alex was to me. And within my first year, Alex was fired and I left Catholicims.

The official reasons were that he was a bad example to Catholic teens and was, to be politically correct here, a bit too "friendly" to some of the young, troubled Catholic high school girls. But it wasn't that which led me away. It was the way that the church, the school, the organization, and the entire parish painted Alex. He was a sinner. He was a liar. He was Judas. He was evil. Spoon-fed lies from a mountain of backtalk and everyone believed what they said. And, sadly, all the other teens and counsellors just ate it all up.

Suddenly, almost overnight, Alex was evil. He was viciously forced out of an organization that rightfully should have forgave him, seeing as how that was Jesus' schtick. My faith in Catholicism, in all organizations, was just completely lost without him. I knew, deep down inside, that I would eventually be kicked out, too.

It was then that I met Mary. She was skinny, funny, blonde, and beautiful. She was also Mormon.

Obviously, the odds were against us. I was a Mexican ex-Catholic dating a Nazi-esque Mormon girl. Everyone thought we would never last but I didn't give up. I dated her for a year and a half, not out of love but out of religious experimentation.

Mary wanted me to convert. She felt I would HAVE to be a Mormon. I didn't see it that way. Why couldn't we live together with a combination of our religions? What is wrong about gathering together a series of tennets from the religions around you to create something tailored for YOU? Why couldn't a Mormon date an ex-Catholic? Or, more importantly, why couldn't Mormonism and Catholicism get along? My creation of THE ED WOOD = GOD HOMEPAGE signaled the end of our relationship.

Religions don't mix well. It's something that I never understood. You would think that Catholicism and Christianity could do so much more for so many people and help save so many lives if they were to come together and sort of unify their like beliefs into one belief, to put their differences aside and try to get down to the important business of helping people out. But no. Religions mix together like heated sports rivalries and that's a damn shame because if they were to just try and unify their ideas they could help millions.

When I was going through Catholic school there was one day back when we were in sixth grade where the head priest guy, the monsignior I believe, came into the classroom and allowed us to ask him any question that came to our mind and he would honestly, point blank answer it the best that he could. What a chance, huh? Well, I asked what the difference was with Catholics and Christians. And the monsignior told me that all Catholics are Christians but not all Christians are Catholics.


What the fuck does that mean? All Catholics and Christians but not all Christians are Catholics? What kind of cryptic b.s. is that, huh? That makes about as much sense as the f-en Matrix sequels. Jesus Christ, I think that even Jesus Christ said "What the fuck" about that little nugget of wisdom.

But that also proves my point in a way. That stupid little phrase, given to me by an appointed soilder for God himself, is indictative of the relationships between religions, which is a tense, vague one. There are specific lines of division between religions that are as friendly and inviting as downtown Korea.

I never understood why this was, or why can't you just mix religions, like soda, and get a nice, bold flavor from all of them. Every religion thinks that their religion is the one true religion and that's why every religion sucks ass. But Woodism isn't your everyday religion. It's more of a movement for inner freedom than some sort of restrictive set of rules or a hereditary belief structure. And Woodism goes well with other religions as well. We may not be the only answer out there and we will not get jealous if you enter a temple or a mosque. We're an open-ended religion.

What makes Woodism special is that it's a bendable religion. In so many belief systems, it's all or nothing. "You have to believe is everything we say and nothing else." You can be Mexican-American but not a Christian-Mormon or a Scientologist-Jew.

With Woodism, you create most of the moral rules you believe in within our system of beliefs and it is within that framework that you have the possibility of adding whatever other tennets you so care to follow. It is this central belief within Woodism that makes it the religion for the people!