Growing Out of Church

Interesting article about a prominent church author leaving the institutional church. The comment that caught my attention was this one the blog author wrote:

Finally, John Eldredge says, “The accusation is that we are backsliding, but the fact is, we are living a richer Christian experience than ever.  It’s mature Christians who have opted out of church.

That’s a good way of putting it. Church is mainly designed for new believers who are clueless about what it means to be a Christian. Once done teaching that, it only makes sense that one gets “out of school” as it were, and goes out into the big world as it is. It’s like leaving home for the first time to go to college or to get married. Some of us leave happy homes and have a hard time getting out there. Some of us leave bad environments and can’t wait for freedom. Church is like that. It’s a religious school for the baby Christian. I know that I felt church could no longer offer me much, especially if I was learning and believing vastly different things than they were willing to teach. When someone with an insatiable curiosity chooses to stay in that environment, one learns to either turn off one’s questioning ability completely or come up with some pretty creative answers to hard questions. Like going to the movies, when you go to church and listen to what they tell you, you need a high threshold of suspension of disbelief in order to get through it. At least I did.

I miss it sometimes.  However, while I can romantically and nostalgically remember my time in church, while I can read about doctrinal disputes and dogmatic questions, while I can keep an eye on the establishment and decry the base wickedness of clergy abusing children or parishioners swindling each other, I cannot seem to accept it all at face value any longer. There’s a time I’d like to crawl back into that comforting womb and be innocent and wide-eyed again (not that I was ever that!).  But leaving church is like the child who realizes her parents aren’t these god-like beings she always thought they were. She discovers they too have feet of clay and don’t know what’s going on either. They just act like they do. It’s an evolutionary necessity to get the young raised and out the door. So like a parent, a healthy religious institution should send “mature” Christians on their way into the world like we send our children into adulthood. Wouldn’t that be the logical thing to do? Because what makes it all worth it is that moment you realize that you are now on your own. It’s scary, but what a giddy, wonderful feeling to be free and trusted to make your own decisions about your life!

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“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?

Where In The World Have I Been?

Hello everyone! Yes, it’s been a while and I feel as if my brain has been on hiatus for quite some time. Many, many waters have passed under the bridge, one of which was interest in church or religion, which I have not missed one scintilla since last we spoke. I had made an earlier attempt to go to church, if you’ll recall, for the love of singing in the choir and seeing people I knew. I also tried to renew what little faith in God I had left, but I must say it was a failed enterprise. I was also working up an extremely good case of apathy. Yes, those were the days.

Well, I’ve missed y’all, I really have. Some have not missed me. I had become quite intolerable to some of my readers. But others have been very, very supportive. And why must I always talk in riddles? Come, come, let us be plain speaking shall we? Perhaps in time. Right now, my secrets must remain, but my desire to continue blogging is renewed and ever strong. Why? Well, because I just can’t keep my damn mouth shut that’s why!! 🙂 I ask for your toleration, if not outright interest, as I do so! It’s good to be back.

The Heart of God Rather Than The “Heart of Christianity”

On this blog, I’ve always tried to be completely honest about matters of faith and non-faith, my sometimes agnosticism, and other personal matters. I’ve wanted to show that despite how some Christians act in public and despite how some who have no faith act, there can still exist a middle ground in which these matters are by no means settled. I am uncertain most of the time about the state of my heart when it comes to matters of faith. There has never been a time, since my conversion in 1983, when I did not think about God, Jesus, or the church or when I didn’t think about matters of philosophy and how we all fit into the various views out there. That’s just me and the way I’m wired. You see, I see nothing wrong in asking the hard questions, in learning the hard answers, or dispensing with the nonsensical.

I’ve often thought I need a therapist to help me sort out all the conflicts I deal with on a daily basis, but who has the money or the time? Blogging seems cheaper, if not completely free of the wisdom of inflicting my weirdness on the public at large. Blogging is also missing sometimes that healthy give-and-take between people and also that naked honesty wherein only truth-telling can thrive. So yeah, there are those shortcomings. But, there are always weirder people than me out there in blog-land, so I don’t fret most of the time. Who was is that said “Don’t go looking for a spiritual director, one will find you when the time is right.” Well, the time is now, whoever’s out there willing to take me on! You can show yourself cause I really, really could use one. In the meantime, I just keep on inflicting it upon you whether you like it or not. I want you all to know that there are people who have faith out there, just maybe not in the things you may have faith in. There are those out there (me included) who believe that Jesus is the Eternal Christ and who came to spread the Love (kingdom) of God to the ends of the earth and that, mostly, men have severely botched the job. They’ve set up rules and conditions to keep people away from God’s love. I call them “the gatekeepers.”

So, in this mood today, I ran across something at explorefaith.org that got me thinking about how simple Jesus’ message really is. Someone wrote to the website and asked, “What is the heart of Christianity?” Dr. Marcus Borg and the Rev. Anne Robertson responded (the words in bold are their emphases):

For me, the heart of Christianity—Christian fundamentals for our time—would be, first, the reality of God. Without a robust affirmation of the reality of God, Christianity makes little important sense.

Secondly, the centrality of the Bible. To be Christian is to be in a continuing, ongoing conversation with our sacred scriptures.

Thirdly is the utter centrality of Jesus. Christians are people who find the decisive revelation of God in Jesus, in a person. That means when Jesus and the Bible [contradict] each other, Jesus trumps the Bible.

The fourth fundamental is that a relationship with God is known in Jesus. Christianity is not primarily about believing; a relationship involves a much deeper part of ourselves than simply the content of our minds.

The fifth fundamental is a concern for the transformation of ourselves and of society. I’m convinced that the Bible from beginning to end is both personal and political, concerned with both spiritual matters and social matters, and the life of Christian faithfulness involves both of those. —Dr. Marcus Borg

To me, the absolute center of Christianity is embodied love. In my reading of the Bible and in my experience, that’s it…hook, line, and sinker. In Genesis it is God’s love embodied in Creation, with every part dependent on every other part for perfect function. When human beings couldn’t seem to keep their part of the harmony going, God embodied love more specifically in human form, in the person of Jesus. Jesus thus becomes both the embodiment and the revelation of God’s love.

Christians consider themselves to be the Body of Christ…those who try to continue to embody God’s love in and for the world. If it is not done in love, it is a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. It matters even more than faith, Paul says. When Jesus is asked in Luke 10 what must be done to inherit eternal life, the answer is to love. Love is at the center of Creation, because God is love. Embodied love is at the heart of Christianity because that’s who Jesus is. —The Rev. Anne Robertson

I would agree with both of their statements except for one thing. In Borg’s statement I would put Jesus second and emphasize the point: “…when Jesus and the Bible [contradict] each other, Jesus trumps the Bible.”

Of course, many will wonder how we can know that what Jesus said are really his words and not the newly forming church hierarchy’s own words inserted into early documents. Well, we can’t know that for sure, but what we can know is that Jesus’ overall life and mission are visible for all to see in the words that are there. He brought a message of inclusion for all those that humans deem undesirable. The New Testament is full of examples where he welcomes those caught in sin or those ostracized from communities. And I believe it translates over to today. Those we wish to exclude, he includes. Those we hate, he loves. There are no conditions. I would add to the above statements that the heart of Christianity SHOULD be: Love God (however that’s defined) with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength AND Love your neighbor (whoever that is) as you would love yourself. (Mark 12:28-31– Mark is the earliest and most reliable gospel tract).

Sadly, I don’t see too much of that love going on right now. I see more religion and rule-keeping more than love. If this makes me a deconvert from religion, then count me in. I am forgoing what passes for religion for true spirituality. Some people can’t seem to see the difference, but there is a huge difference. God does not reside inside church buildings. It is we who bring God to church and it is we who can take God back out of it again. God (however that is defined) dwells in the heart. Forgive me if I’ve not shown much of my heart lately. I’ll try to do better and thanks for being willing to be inflicted with my meanderings.

Blessings!

Sunday Morning, “Death Proof,” and Making My Own Space

I swear to Goddess I’m two people. One week I wake up desiring church, ritual, and the whole patriarchal nine yards. Another morning, today, I wake up and the thought of church makes me slightly bilious. I find that I’ve successfully bifurcated myself into one half that respects societal norms and another half that follows passion and my true self at any cost. I realize this dissociative nature stems from my childhood where there were always the “secret” and the “public” spaces in which I moved. No one was supposed to find out about the “secret” outside of the extremely carnival horror household I grew up in. The public self was an extension of that self that acted without any holds barred, one freed from the “birdcage” so to speak. More often than not this led me into more dangerous situations as I grew older, but they were situations of my own choosing and I was, fortunately, enterprising enough, or god damn lucky enough to extricate myself from them before I got hurt.

Today, I woke up resenting religion’s tight reign on society with its frozen death grip of rules and regulations. Existentialist philosophers have always written that human beings must learn to live authentically; that we should re-center our lives around our most authentic selves and not to be afraid of it. Education, they say, empowers us to look back on our lives and see the courses we’ve taken and the paths we’ve probably not chosen with full knowledge. They advise living “in the moment” not looking to much into the past and not expecting too much of the future. I recall living that way as a teenager. The future was not to be looked at and the past was an impetus for current action. Now, that I’m grown, I see that we can make wiser choices living in the moment. No matter what brought us here, we can always choose right?

On another subject, or maybe not completely another subject, I have a predilection for horror films. I also like a lot of action films and while romantic comedies will always suck me in, films that are traditionally “guy” flicks always get my blood going. I loved Fight Club when every other woman I knew hated it (except for my wonderfully mind-linked uber-friend, Alyce) I loved Sin City and horror films do not make me flinch too awfully much. You see, I find the precarious situations in these films far less horrifying than real life has been. I’d say that having a face-off with one’s 220 pound, 6 foot tall step-father with a ripped in half cupboard door in one hand and a murderous gleam in his eye will do far more to make one nervous than any mere celluloid situation. Lately, Quentin Tarantino has become my new directorial hero. Since I saw Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill I and II, I wait for what he will make next with much expectation. While some see exploitation (or sexploitaton), I see exploitation turned on its sexist head, and a keen insight into the female and male minds. Last week my hubby and I watched Tarantino’s Grindhouse movie, Death Proof, (click the link for Erich Kuersten’s transgressive review) starring Kurt Russell and a whole host of other famous/obscure actors. We had just watched Tarantino’s Grindhouse zombie flick Planet Terror with our 21 year old daughter and we wanted her to see the second one, which was much better. So she came over and we watched it again. Watching a movie multiple times is always a fruitful thing to do. It made so much more sense to me the second time. Besides, watching Kurt Russell in his creepiest, slimiest, love him/hate him role ever didn’t hurt either.

The movie focuses on two sets of girlfriends. Each group has a familial tightness about them that makes one envious. Guys will watch the film for the wonderful lap dance Vanessa Ferlito gives Russell,

but it’s the women that make the movie here. It’s all about female friendships and the way they look out for each other, that is, those who are within their circle of friends and who “get” the girl culture. This movie isn’t for the squeamish as there is a horrific and graphic car crash that bifurcates (no pun intended) the first half of the movie from the second half. Tarantino is brilliant in that he portrays the 70s in a dazzling anachronistic way so that we are always left a little unsettled about the line between past and present. He is making clear the comparisons between the sets of girlfriends and the messages they convey to each other and to us; the audience. The ending was one of the best in film history, in my humble opinion. Go Rosario Dawson! The message I got is that we women have come a LONG LONG way and learned much since the 70s. There is never a sense that these women need rescued by anyone even though Tarantino suggests that the audience will think this and then some. These women’s strength is in their awareness and in their personal friendships. Sure, bad things happen to all of us, but it doesn’t always have to. The second half of the movie shows us that tables can turn and we don’t always have to accept our roles society places on us. We make good choices and we make bad choices. But overall, we have the CHOICE. We don’t “allow” men to give it to us. We take and make the choices ourselves. For good or for ill, it still remains our choice.

Godde, movies are great, aren’t they?

Sundays are becoming very fruitful when I remember that I can have faith and still refuse to enable the male institutions that have traditionally oppressed me. Taking a stand against being lured into an all-male ritual space again and again is the choice I have to make over and over in order to further the strength I’ve earned in the past. No one “rescued me” either when I was 15 years old. I rescued myself. There’s always the point where we have to say “enough is enough.” Unfortunately, I don’t seem to learn my lessons as well as I get older. Existentialism is great for now, but eventually looking back helps us to quit making the same mistakes, but nostalgia blurs the sharpness of that time. I find that I’m constantly looking back; always making sure I don’t fall for the same lures and tricks that I always fell for before. Keeping balance in an increasingly unbalanced, male-privileged world is the lot of women. Fortunately, the teeter is beginning to totter our way and will continue to do so whenever we refuse to participate in those “ties that bind.” I’d rather live with my hands unbound, thank you very much.

A Sermon in Books on Sunday Morning

This weekend, I had every intention of going to church. After a lonnnnnng weekend of 4th of July activities, fried Walleye fish sandwiches and cheese fries (did I say I’ve been off my “heart healthy” diet?), and rearranging the bedroom, I was ready for a leisurely Sunday. Being both Catholic and Baptist (no it’s not redundant or an oxymoron) I intended to go to Mass on Saturday and Baptist worship on Sunday. Well, we got lazy and watched a movie on Saturday instead. Ooops. If I were more scrupulous, I’d write that down for confession next weekend, but I’ve outgrown the scrupulosity I had when I first became Catholic. Still, I felt a small twinge of guilt.

Yesterday my husband and I rearranged our bedroom. It’s a long room and rearranging is not easy. I can’t help very much either since I have a bad back. But I gave it a go and was aching all over by day’s end on Saturday. We also had gotten a new mattress last week (an ordinary Bemco) because I could no longer sleep on the $1500 mistake of a latex foam mattress we bought last year. I would arise every morning since we bought the thing with what felt like severe arthritis. I could barely move around. It was so odd. This mattress was always billed as great for your back. Uh-no!! But this morning, after a day of heavy lifting and an Aleve cocktail, I got up freshly feng shue-d and rested in our rearranged bedroom and new mattress and got ready for church. Sunday school is always first up for Baptists who only have one worship service on Sunday. In this church, Sunday school was at 9:00 a.m. so, off I went with my bible and lesson book. I got there just in time for pre-Sunday school announcements. I chit-chatted with the ladies for a while and then sat through a good 25 minutes of prayer requests, which is really nothing but the women sitting around trading stories about who was sick and who was sicker. I’m all for prayer concerns, but this was silly. It’s akin to gossip and playing catch-up for the week. After that we finally got to the lesson about hospitality or something. The “proof” text was Job 31. The American Baptist curriculum we use is ok, but it’s by no means in-depth bible study. Most of it is lecture in written form. Of recent years the curriculum is spouting “ermergent-ese.” You know what I mean; where every word discussing the “new church model” ends in “al:” missional, intentional, relational, etc. Ugh.

Well, after the bell was rung for church (literally a little bell like those kept on hotel concierge desks), I started to go into the sanctuary with everyone else, but I fell back. I just couldn’t sit through another bland, Baptist worship service where the same hymns were sung and the same sermons preached. I felt a longing for something deeper, something more true; something to connect with that great Undercurrent of Life. It was communion Sunday (the first Sunday of the month) and I couldn’t face that either. Little bits of bread and little cups of grape juice passed around the pews did not in any way signify to me the deepest mysteries of the Eucharist. I felt that to take it would be a betrayal somehow. So, I packed up my gear (purse, book bag, bag of lettuce from Helen’s garden) and left while everyone filed into the sanctuary. I drove home and found my husband cleaning out the garage. There was a light summer breeze blowing through the trees and after dropping my bags on the kitchen chair, I headed out to our patio with a book. I opened up Brother Odd by Dean Koontz. Odd Thomas, the character of this series of Koontz’s, sees dead people. These dead people usually want him to solve their murders. In this novel, Odd is taking a long-needed retreat in a monastery in the mountains of California after having prevented a larger massacre at a shopping mall. His purpose is to retreat from his ordinary duties to the dead and heal his own soul. As I read partway into the chapter, I found this:

The world beyond this mountain retreat was largely barbarian, a condition it had been striving toward for perhaps a century and a half. A once glorious civilization was now only a pretense; a mask allowing barbarians to commit ever greater cruelties in the name of virtues that a truly civilized world would have recognized as evils. Having fled that barbaric disorder I was reluctant to admit that no place was safe, no retreat beyond the reach of anarchy… (page 64-65)

That’s how I feel most of the time right now. I feel that barbarians have been allowed to take charge of the hen-house and our only hope is a “chicken-run.” Many people, I’m sure, feel this way nowadays. Each thinks they are right in feeling this way and want to blame others, but regardless of who is “right” or who should be blamed, I feel as if the world has hurtled toward some barbarism much faster than anticipated and that words no longer mean the same things any longer. We’ve come to a war of ideas and dogmas. It’s the era of Big Brother speak in which the signifiers no longer signify long held beliefs but are being used against the definers of traditions in ways that bring confusion and anarchy. I also feel today, that I had learned far more sitting in my breezeway reading fiction than I could have listening to one sermon in a long line of spiritless sermons.

My retreat lately feels just like Odd Thomas’ retreat. It’s a falling back; a regrouping. It is a choice to choose non-action in a world that does nothing but mindlessly act merely because it feels good to our self-esteem to act. At what point is our character development more important than activism for activism’s sake? I wonder if anyone really knows why they argue endlessly for the beliefs that they do? I wonder what is solid and real and what is mere show and bluster; bread and circuses? I am also beginning to think that I’m an unfortunate product of my time (70s), my education (university) and my lack or conscience formation. I can soak up vast amounts of knowledge and “education” but I cannot honestly come up with a consistent ethic of my own. I have simply bought into the empty rhetoric of poststructuralism where there are no norms and where consistency is lacking. I had given up trying. I fall back on the argument that there is no use trying because there is no foundation on which to base concrete beliefs.

Increasingly, in my self imposed exile from belief, I’ve found that despite what Emerson said about consistency, there is a deep, deep truth to foundational thinking. Emerson did not say that consistency was the problem; foolish consistency was. We are living in an age, I think, of foolish consistency. One of the books that set me permanently on the road to Roman Catholicism is John A. Hardon’s The Catholic Catechism. It is beautifully written and far easier to read than the modern Catechism the church put out in recent years. Hardon writes at the beginning of the book about the age in which we live,

The world in which one lives keeps asking for evidence, it wants to be shown that what the believer believes is not mere illusion but objectively true. This same world protests that all human knowledge is unstable, that what people know today others will know better and more accurately tomorrow. So the man of faith must defend himself against the charge of dogmatism, as though what he believes now has always been true and will remain essentially unchanged in a universe whose only apparent constant is change. It would be tempting to try to respond immediately to both levels of criticism in our day. More effective is to look at ourselves and ask what too many Christians have taken for granted: What do we believe, and why? This will lead us into pastures that few Catholics, who may be severely orthodox, have ever visited. We are discovering that orthodoxy is no guarantee of perseverance and still less of living up to what the faith demands. Self knowledge as believers will deepen our loyalty and help evoke generosity, and in the process the commonplace objections will also be satisfactorily answered. (pages 29-30)

I suppose Hardon is saying that in discovering the reasons for our own belief we will answer the questions of our age. Ours is a time of surface thinking and surface solutions. We want change for change’s sake as if we are going to come up with anything new. There is nothing new under the sun, yet no one born form the 60s onward wants to believe that. Our churches, especially Protestant ones, are not asking us to deeply examine our beliefs. They are only asking us to enforce a prideful dogmatism and certainty about doctrine. They are only asking us to accept change just as the world wants to accept change. There is no substance in it. We are not asked to examine, test, and practice. I’m tired of wasting time on ineffective methods or theories that are merely the pet projects of mega-pastors and gospel shills. I want to get to the kernel, the very heart of ethics, the tried and true, the deep foundations, not just learn to spout what others have said because it sounds pleasant. I feel like I’m close to discovering something…. I’m still striving for I’m not sure what, but I’ll let you know if I get there.

Blessings,

Faith in Faith Not Faith in God

I think I’ve figured out my recent change of heart about God and church. I am sure now that any faith I may “have” renewed or that I may have had previously stems not from an actual faith in a deity that I think is listening and “caring” for me, but a faith in those who have faith. In other words, a second hand kind of faith. The epiphany came to me while I was “Gone fishin.” Practicing what I call faith was never about a God that I personally believed in and trusted (the one christians posit that is), because even though I tried to believe, I never really trusted such an absent being. When I pray, it is now in a universal “Whoever is listening or acting” type of prayer and not to what Christians call “the One God.” When I worship, it’s a slowing down from the daily grind and communing with my own thoughts rather than “offering spiritual sacrifices” to a God who probably doesn’t give a whit about how I think of Divinity.

All along, what I’ve wanted is to get a sense of the larger universe, cosmos, whatever and feel that I was directly linked to it. I wanted to create my own religious core, not from what others believe, but from how others act. I find it difficult to explain why a church community can offer that despite my pagan leanings, but I’m going to try.

Frankly, my local church is a place, or niche, that I cannot find in political causes or in the workplace or even in various gatherings or clubs or secular organizations. The bond that glues a church community together is far tighter than any mere organization run around generic principles. Since there is nothing comparable to this bond where I live, church is the only alternative. I’ve not been good at being a solitary anything; be it mystic or pagan or non-dogmatic christian. I need to be in community. The nearest pagan tribe is miles away and I just don’t feel connected to others living in another community that far away. I find joy in solitude, but I need more than that; like feedback and common experiences. I’m ok with the choices I’ve made so far. I feel calmer than I’ve ever felt before. I no longer agonize over doctrine or dogma. I can tolerate others’ beliefs if I don’t hold them. I think I’ve reached a plateau where all my criticisms of systems stem not from whether the incarnation is true or whether the resurrection was literal or figurative, but from inequity or injustice or just downright ignorance of the facts. Really, the “finer points” of christian theology have nothing whatsoever to do with life as we live it here and now. We can create and expound upon elaborate dogmatical systems and hope and wish that life fits that scenario, but experience has taught me that it doesn’t. Life, as Dr. Malcolm says in Jurassic Park, always finds a way.

I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching lately and I realize that I’ve become stagnant at work and stagnant in my own life. I’ve lost that joi de vive that characterized my earlier years and I really, really want to cultivate it again. My best friend from high school called this week and urged me to go canoing with her. First, I said, “Are you insane? Have you seen the rivers lately?” She laughed and said she didn’t think of that, but we did make a date for July, hoping that the rivers would be more manageable. The point is that my best friend and I used to tear up the discos in our day. We used to party and party and then when others were pooped, party some more. We’d go water skiing (did I mention I can’t swim well?) on the lake, dirt biking in the country, and well, you name it. Of course, all good and senseless things must come to an end. Life intrudes and husbands and kids come along. Money is tight and that kind of youthful fun is nowhere to be had. Years of responsibilities and kids have a way of tamping down that youthful spontaneity. Then religion intrudes and you see things differently. Responsibility comes knocking at your door and you start thinking philosophically and politically. Health declines. Surgeries come and go and before you know it, you are older and worn down mentally and physically.

To hear me tell it you’d think I was 60, but I’m not! THIS is precisely why I need a change. Of work, of outlook, of a lot of things. Perhaps this is what spurs people to try new careers and to take risks. I’m at that stage, but I need support from my family and from community. I suppose I’ll take any community as long as they aren’t abusive. Which brings me back to faith. I’ve patched things up with the pastor of the church I attended and we have our friendship back, pretty much intact. In fact, I think now that we both realize that keeping church business out of it helps our friendship along. Now that I’m no longer an actual member it’s gone pretty well. I’ve attended church and reveled in that community’s faith. And you know what?? It doesn’t even matter that they believe differently than I do. It doesn’t even matter what their dogma is or what doctrine they espouse because I don’t care about it any longer. I have faith in their faith not faith in their god. Perhaps it’s the lazy way to approach it, but maybe this is what being caught up in a political cause is like. Everyone needs to be spurred along by something after all. Everyone needs their personal “messiah.” I don’t jump on the political bandwagon because I just can’t put much store in a political system that fails again and again. Religion probably isn’t much better in that regard, but it gives me a mythical language to define my world with that politics cannot. It gives me core images and ideas that resonate with me, and I don’t just mean christianity. All religions resonate in some sense or another. I know my “change of heart” about going to church has disappointed some people who read this blog, and I hope I didn’t trigger old emotions and fears because of it. I want to renew the focus of this blog once more: exposing iniquity wherever it may be found, in church and out. I hope that never changes.

So there you go. I’ve not gone around the bend and plunged neck deep in radical belief or faith again. All I want to do is find a community in which to explore my own thoughts and belief systems, yet stay connected with others. In a small town that hard to do. I’m simply settling into a support system that happens to be a church. It’s kind of like the internet and the world of blogs I’ve found here. If it weren’t for Kay, Zoe, Heather, and other faithful friends who’ve kept me sane and grounded in my meanderings, I would probably just give up the fight for sanity completely and go “to the dark side” whole hog (by that I mean the dark side of christianity). But I haven’t and I just wanted everyone to know that. (links removed due to asshole sploggers who stole this article).