Catholics. Among the fundamentalist evangelicals who surrounded me as I was growing up, the word bordered the obscene.

I trusted that there were good reasons for this. I was always quick to believe unflattering things that adults told me about other cultures, communities, and church denominations. I felt more secure if could dismiss as a waste of time—or as the way of fools and villains—what I did not understand. And from a distance, Catholic tradition looked suspiciously foreign, weird, and mysterious. If there was anything we did not tolerate in the evangelical worship services of my upbringing, it was mystery. The Gospel was meant to be explained, after all.

I may have sensed, on some level, the dissonance between such prejudice and Jesus’ own teachings. But if I did, I suppressed it. That sense of superiority, of being on the right team, of having Jesus’ favor: they felt too good to give up.

bright star

One of the easiest targets on my denominational dartboard was liturgy.

Catholics, Episcopalians, anyone who went to mass instead of church or participated in services heavy with recitation was treated with suspicion. “The mass is just a whole bunch of people going through the motions,” I’d say. “Kneel down, stand up, sit down, chant and sing the same old prayers, Sunday after Sunday. It’s so mechanical and repetitious,” I’d say. “In our church, we pray aloud one at a time about our own concerns. We don’t just, you know,read prayers.”

But what did I do, right after church, when I got in the family car, or ran off with friends, or walked home with my headphones plugged into my Sony Walkman?

The answer will lead us to music by The Lone Bellow, U2, Aaron Strumpel, Bob Dylan, and more. Read the whole confession, along with song recommendations from many Looking Closer readers, in my latest “Listening Closer” column at Christ and Pop Culture.