Quote of the Day (even the Week!)

mountain_128

Image by iamthepinkcupcake via Flickr

“At the very least it would mean something about every day, to the best of my ability, resisting being a fake. Resisting the fake answer, the false front, the superficial conversation in favor of something more deeply human, more deeply connected to what really matters about being alive, whether it sounds religious or spiritual or correct or not. It means worrying less about being perfect and being concerned more with being authentic or real with other people. Much of the religion I was schooled in was about putting myself away, aside, behind me in order to become something holier and closer to God. In other words, to draw nearer to the Really Real I needed to be less me. Perhaps it was a mid-life revelation or just wearing out on that that led me to a different understanding that my humanity was God’s chief gift to me and that if I was going to find the Really Real it was going to be within that and not separating myself from that. It meant that the holiest thing I could be was the flawed human being God had made me to be.” (Barbara Brown Taylor)

Advertisement

That Jealousy Thing

Anonymous Mormon girls

Image via Wikipedia

I am absolutely fascinated by that TLC Channel television program Sister Wives. Although religion is hardly EVER touched on in this program, we know that the particular sect they belong to is a fundamentalist LDS sect that still practices polygamy openly in their Utah town. And really, it’s not polygamy because they don’t legally marry their extra wives. They are only legally married to the first one and then have “spiritual” marriages after that. We will also never see the ceremony because Latter Day Saints are notoriously secretive with their ceremonies.

Last night was the season finale with the fourth wedding for Kody Brown and while it may be a flash in the pan or a tiny glimpse of what goes on in polygamous marriages, the entire season was worth watching. I watched all of them with mixed emotions. At first you are curious. Then you find yourself really sympathizing with the wives. I must say there were some very touching moments, like the birth of third wife, Christine, and Kody’s baby girl and a very poignant scene where Meri, Kody’s first wife, is helping him get dressed for his fourth “wedding.” There’s a moment where it’s just the two of them looking at each other and smiling and you can feel the love and/or sexual tension in the air and then you have to snap out of it and go, “wait, what?” she’s helping her husband marry again!! In a very odd sort of way, it works for them. They share duties with the children and they share the husband. What they cannot seem to get away from is the jealousy and that’s only natural. How can you not be jealous that the man you love is sleeping next door with another woman, even if it is another “wife?”  What’s even worse is that they DO consider it marriage so that you cannot even protest it. Meri and Kody go out for their 20th anniversary and Meri confesses her struggle with jealousy to him. She asks him, “What would you think if I wanted to have another husband?” and he answered, “I think that would be vulgar!”

And that right there is the message of polygamous marriages where the husband is king and the woman is an object used to satisfy her husband’s needs, wants, and fulfill his dreams of fatherhood; populating the earth and the next realm to come with little Browns. He can sleep with whomever he wishes after a “spiritual” marriage, but if she does, it’s “vulgar.” Yet these women all appear very happy with Cody and I guess kudos for him for keeping them all satisfied…. ahem! Or maybe in their innocence or ignorance they don’t know what that means. Who knows?  However, they are not really breaking any laws. Their children seem well-adjusted and happy. And the wives? I wonder how many wives will be “allowed” into the family fold before it’s all over?

Quitting Christianity a la Anne Rice: a Manifesto of sorts

Anne Rice

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve gotten angry with religion quite often lately. Like being part of a nation or state which also angers you because of their stupid policies and marginalizing of certain groups, finding your religion consistently betraying its preached principles is very disheartening. And although I’ve claimed atheism at various times in my life, I can never willfully give up that part of me that convinces me personally through experience a belief in a Divine Will that operates in/throughout/above/below the Universe. Many times I throw my hands up in despair and say, “No more of this bullshit for me!” Yet, I always come back.

Anne Rice has gotten a lot of flack lately for quitting Christianity. Some say that quitting Christianity is not possible. I would agree with the semantics of that. If you believe Christianity is an institution, you can quit it. There are differing definitions of “church” although I believe the church is made up of Christians no matter where they are. Others are in agreement with her and have come out of their religious institutions as well. We all agree that the polarization Christians (and all religions) cause when they insist on following this or that dogma, tenet, doctrine, or “prophetic” saying are the prime motive for our coming out. On her Facebook page, Rice has posted the various responses and there are so many that I can’t single out just one. However, I can say that I agree with her 100%.

When I became a Christian, I was not evangelized nor did I “come forward” in an alter call at a church. I had my own experience of Jesus and “God” on my own time and in my own way through personal prayer and from reading parts of the new testament. The Divine manifested itself to me in terms I could understand. It just happened to be in Jesus’ form. My first mistake after this experience was searching out a church where I could meet with fellow believers and connect with others and perhaps compare notes about our experiences. That would have been great, had it stopped right there. Unfortunately, becoming part of a community such as that seems to imply that others can become your moral compass and tell you what you can and cannot do and what you can and cannot believe. This got me wondering what the church is for then. Is it primarily a place where others can compare experiences or is it a club where only those who pay the right amount or who follow all the rules others laid down for us by others, away from the secular world and all its contaminates? Is it supposed to welcome all who wish to come to it or is it primarily set up to exclude? You will find as many explanations as there are religious sects, so nothing can be decided either way. What’s left is the kind of individualism that Rice espouses and that church leaders so despise. It is fundamentally a lack of faith in people to do the right thing at the right time and for the right reasons. I think it’s time we grow up from that.

Church leaders argue that Jesus set up these rules, but of course there is no evidence of this. The bible cannot even be counted on to accurately record the words of Jesus or to set down the history of the church without those, who happened to win the power play of sects back then, redacting those portions that came down to us ahead of time.  The one thing that convinces me that religions as practiced in the world are not absolute truth is due to the confusing witness provided by the varied sects, churches, religions, and practices throughout the world. None are in agreement. If such dogmas were ABSOLUTE TRUTH, there would be consensus about these issues and there is not. Individualism is the only answer here. Actions such as peace, simplicity, and love are its evidence. What I think these so-called leaders fear most is being out of a job! Do they not think that a Divine Will can’t accomplish what it wants with or without us?

My individualism imposes no belief on anyone. My individualism does the most good and spends my money where I see fit. I don’t funnel funds through the church and expect it will go where I want it to go. I send it directly. I don’t evangelize nor do I believe every believer called to do that. This thinking is only an institutional tool to garner the most numbers. In this day and age, it isn’t necessary to evangelize. The information is out there. It’s up to the Divine to speak, not me.  Much like the Religious Society of Friends, I believe in the Light that is in every person. This is the Light of God and it has to be trusted that whoever or whatever Divine Will is accomplishing in the world, what is accomplished is what is meant to be accomplished. The church as a traditional institution has done irreparable harm in the world by not trusting this concept. They believe “truth” is funneled through authority and hierarchy. Judaism and Islam share in the harm done and in believing in imams, priests, prophets, or “special” people. The “big three” have a lot to answer for and I’m not going to blindly follow the herd and say “They told me to” because they claim authority over me. My only authority is my conscience informed by my spirit, however that comes to me (brain, soul, outside me, whatever), through a community I choose, if I choose, and through information garnered from experts in other fields; scientific, religious, or otherwise. Therefore, I will stand or fall on my own decisions, no one else’s.

Already and Not Yet

Some time ago I “wrestled” with my own angel. Today, I found Jessica wrestling with hers. Serendipity happens. It’s lighter and more fun than “shit happening” because it makes you stop and think about what you are doing and which direction you are going. As a former fundie and one who know works in a church that follows the lectionary, I’ve often wondered what purpose the lectionary served. To me, my Baptist roots were showing when I screamed, “But it stifles the Spirit to confine biblical passages to ‘talking point memos’ from God!!” But Jessica’s post explains quite nicely why a little stifling of the Spirit might be a very good thing. Providing parameters and aiming for the long view seem very good and very reasonable things in Christianity. We all know that we are given to excess given the room. The problem with Protestant denominationalism is that we give ourselves so much room, we hang ourselves frequently! What started as a burst of freedom from the constraints of institutionalism and corrupt hierarchy turned into the Prodigal son wallowing in pig filth just because he can. Ok, overboard with the similies! But you get the idea.

The point of the lectionary is as Jessica points out; a discipline. She writes:

At any rate, the lectionary apparently disciplines the pastor into following a pattern of thought and understanding regarding hermeneutics within a community, and also tends toward discouraging the abuse of confusing passages on a credulous and vulnerable public.

That right there sums up why we need pastors to begin with. Shepherds to guide the wayward sheep. Unfortunately some shepherds are too busy boinking the sheep to guide us, but my question is, where are the good shepherds and how do we know them? Finding shepherds of integrity seems to be the search of the decades now. But we are so busy being sidetracked by these scandals to pay any attention to the work Christians are supposed to do. I’m included in that lot called the “sidetracked.” I am so put off and scandalized by the shenanigans of the clergy that I want to swear off Christianity altogether. I mean, really, how do good Christian people stay and why? I suppose the answer is in staying with the person of Christ and not the institution. And this brings me to what I discuss with my partner all the time; what does that mean anyway? How do you stay with the person of Christ? How is that made possible? And where does that begin?

Now that’s a whole other series of questions entirely. Discuss.

Can’t Pin Me Down

Pinning me down to some coherent theology/philosophy/ism is like trying to wrestle a cat into a nice bath of warm water. Ever done that? Wrestle a cat, not pin me down! LOL. It’s down right impossible. The cat gets all squirmy and even scratches the hell out of your arms and hands; may even go for your head. So it is when I try to pigeonhole myself about what I believe. Changes daily. Like my undies. OK. TMI for a Thursday.

Came across some interesting arguments against PSA or in the evangelical world: Penal Substitutionary Atonement.  Hey, I’m great with the penal part. That just invokes girlish giggling on my part, but a while back I wrote my best attempt at explaining this doctrine from a Baptist/Catholic point of view. Ever since then, I’ve come to realize that it’s the main bone of contention among believers and unbelievers. On this doctrine evangelical rises or falls.  On this blog there are other good examinations of PSA. Check it out. I find it fascinating.

“Cursed is the One Who Trusts in Man..”

People who’ve read this blog know my struggles. They know the problems I’ve had with faith and with churches and with the bible.  I’ve turned my back on all three and I’ve turned to one or the other at various times since then. At one time, I thought I had the answers. Now I know I don’t. It’s clear to me that I will never have peace about it. When things are at their toughest I know where I choose to turn, but faith has to be more than just a fail-safe method when faced with hard times, illness, or even death.

During my recent struggles with major life changes (moving, divorce, illnesses) I’ve sometimes turned back to those things I swore I wouldn’t and I’m still confronted with the same old platitudes that make no sense to me. The bible is full of them. Church is full of them. Yet no one can explain what they mean or how it should be lived. For example, I am going to attend a series of studies put on by a local non-denominational church for those going through separation and divorce. I’m doing it for the support mainly, but of course there will be bible study and discussion. None of my hard questions are ever really answered there. I’m convinced that no one will be able to answer them, but studying them is still something I’m willing to entertain. Well, to set the tone of the support group, a series of emails are being mailed to me with short devotions about divorce. In yesterday’s devotion I was struck by this:

When you are making decisions regarding a new relationship, do not make any decisions based on your feelings. Feelings are temporal and not always rational, no matter how strongly you may feel them. Be wise and take the time to grow and to build your life on a strong foundation…The Bible says you should not depend on humans—yourself or other people—to be strong for you. You must only depend on God. “This is what the LORD says: ‘Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD'” (Jeremiah 17:5).

I can’t begin to tell you how many times Christians have said this in worship, in bible study, in prayer meetings, on television, on the internet, everywhere. Yet, no one can tell me what that really means. First, how can any human being NOT rely on feelings when feelings are all we have to communicate danger, anger, fright, love, etc.? What does it mean to shut down all feelings when decision making? I’d like an example. When faced with two decisions of equal weight and import, feelings are always the deciding factor, aren’t they? And what does it mean when someone writes “do not depend on humans–yourself or other people–to be strong for you. You must only depend on God.”??

God is an immaterial entity that does not directly interact with human beings in any discernibly supernatural way. When we need groceries do we pray for them? No, we wait until we have money and we buy them. Or someone takes pity on us and gives them to us. Was God being depended on in this situation or people? I’d say the people. Yet, we are “cursed” if we turn to them for help and not “the Lord.” Harsh. Christians always like to say that other Christians are “God with skin on.” Yet when Christians fail to help other Christians the failure is always on the part of those who “lacked faith.” This is cheap simplistic faith in my opinion.  If faith is true and worth anything, it needs to wrestle with the hard issues and not fall back on plastic platitudes that mean nothing in reality.

I am really struggling still with questions like these and how that’s supposed to play out in reality and I’ve been “converted” since 1983! I can’t settle for the easy answers because they mean nothing. Some Christians say they have numerous answers to “prayer” yet others say theirs are never answered. Would any of us dare to say that those who don’t receive are at fault for “lack of faith” or “depending too much on people for strength?”  I wouldn’t dare say that. Arrogance doesn’t become us in that instance. There are times that I’d really, really like to rely on my faith again, especially when things get tough. But, in the midst of it, I’m reminded of the less than comforting answers like those above. So, I’m still going to that bible study, which starts in September. And I’m going armed with questions like these. Any thoughts before I go?

Interface and Outerface

I like the new Interface WordPress has got on their login page. Much more Twitterish and social site-ish. Makes it far more inviting to click on the top stories and blog posts for the day or week.

Re-reading old posts, I’ve realized that my “outerface” has changed quite a bit as well. I suppose it’s no secret any longer that I also blog over at Gorgon Resurfaces and at first glance this blog and that one seem juxtaposed in a weird way. But, then again, I guess we all have our public and private faces.  I’ve learned much in the last couple of years and while I take issue with over-the-top politics and over-hyped social issues or even issues that I think are touted at alarming levels when there’s not much people can do to alleviate them, I do realize that moderation in all things is the key.  Writing from both sides has curiously allowed me to meet myself in the middle.

Over here I rant. Over there, perhaps I reason and am more introspective. Here is my pop culture, political impatience persona and there is my Goddess-y, be at one with the planet persona. Here, I contemplate Christianity and even entertain it once in a while. There, not so much except in the sense that I want to leave it behind once and for all. However, I don’t give up on the idea of a Divine power in the universe, hence the Goddess emphasis.  I have always felt bifurcated in some way spiritually and politically and I feel that more and more both extremes of my personality are coming together and that perhaps… perhaps I can finally become the integrated spiritual, political, and pop cultural loving kind of person that I want to be. But I’m still working on it. Slowly and surely.