What Used to Be

Budapest Opera HouseI used to be a woman of faith. After a spiritual experience in 1983, I began going to church and the rest  I’ve written about extensively on this blog. Since then I’ve given up my religiosity and my beliefs in certain dogma.  I no longer go to church per se, although I’ve been going to the Quaker meeting house with my husband for a few years now.

I still cling to some notions about Christianity, but the one thing I don’t believe in any longer is prayer.  By prayer I mean an action the believer takes to attempt to move the Maker into changing the Laws of Nature or the minds of other people to affect an outcome.  Now, I believe in meditation and silence and prayer in the sense that it helps the person praying, but I don’t believe that some Divine Being is listening to our prayers and deciding to rearrange the universe to answer them.

What made me realize this is that in times past, my first inclination when faced with bad news is to pray for the a positive outcome that happened to suit me at all times. Now, faced with my husband’s cancer diagnosis, I realize that no amount of praying will change the news of how large or small this tumor is. It just is. It’s been there unknowingly and will continue to be there no matter what I believe in my mind about it. No amount of prayer will affect that. No one will hear this prayer but me.  I don’t mean to say that prayer is not good, but I believe it’s only good for the one doing the praying. It acts as a meditative tool to calm one’s nerve, bolster one’s resolve, and to give someone the much-needed cool-down time before doing or saying something rash.

The reasons I came to this conclusion is by observing the world around me.  Despite a prayer force of billions of people in the world, we still have death, famine, abuse, rape, murder, cancer, wars, and all the evils that man can devise. Despite faith in a Divine Being we still have those idiots who believe that God wants the deaths of everyone who doesn’t believe the way they do. Despite billions of the faithful praying daily we see no discernible difference in the outcomes of cancer deaths or salvation from it by miraculous means. No, I have faith in medicine and science to find the cures for most ills before I have faith in prayer.

Now I know all the arguments for and against such things, but this has come from years of experience and it hasn’t come lightly. I’ve struggled mightily to keep an innocent faith in God, Jesus, and prayer, but at some point I had to face the cruel facts of reality. So, as I face the cruel facts of an uncertain future with a cancer diagnosis, I will face it with prayer like I always do, but I have no expectation that the cancer will disappear. I don’t believe it’s some kind of test or sent by God to make me more faithful. How awful to believe such things! I am of the idea that we will do everything available to us to stop it or at least slow it down. I have every expectation that prayer will make me calmer and able to face it. I suppose that makes me the double-minded man in the book of James, doesn’t it? Ah well, better that than be in denial about the cruelties of nature.


The Sin of Be-ing

I’ve often argued that religion and faith in something mystical are not synonymous. Jeff Lily has written a nice series on the subject of religion, and written it very well. Start here and wend your way through all six arguments. While I was reading elsewhere on the internet this morning I came across an interview with Dallas Willard. I would like to contrast Lilly’s assessment of religion with Dallas Willard’s excellent explanation regarding atonement theories and Jesus Christ. Coming at it from the theological angle, Willard tries to explain the meaning of justification, atonement, and other Christian terms. While Lilly’s argument takes on Christianity in general, Christians still argue amongst themselves about what role Jesus played.

Surprisingly, after reading both of these, less is Jesus becoming the “sticking point” for me in my spirituality. I’ve long been suspicious of religions and their leaders, but Jesus seemed always to loom large in my world view. However, the whole idea of a necessary atonement implies that humanity is just basically “wrong” from the beginning. This is indeed how many religionists view life and the world, especially the Catholic and Protestant churches. I viewed it once thus myself. All of Christian doctrine hinges on what Jesus actually accomplished on the cross, if anything. However, let’s back up and say that no atonement theory explains to my satisfaction the thorny issue of such a God creating a world and then holding it accountable for the flaws this God created. Atonement then is extremely tautological. This doctrine would be like your parents berating you your entire life for having been born, when you are merely the product of their own lusts. They didn’t ask you to be born. You just were. Imagine if they then told you that you can be brought fully into the family if your sister died to make up for it! We are all shocked at such a suggestion. But yet, we are not shocked when the Christian God demands that only by the death of a “son” can said God forgive the world! And THEN we aren’t done! We must then still work and work for a “kingdom” that never arrives and be satisfied that our whole life was spent working for an ethereal idea, all because of the possibility of reward “after death” when there is no proof of life after death either, except Jesus, who was resurrected they say. The church as an institution was created specifically to be the “family” gatekeeper; ones who could say “You are in.” or “You are out.” And not as nicely as Heidi Klum either!

Jeff Lilly makes a good argument for questioning religious leaders and our assumptions about religion, but I think everyone should back up from atonement theories and even  religion in general and ask the bigger question behind all of it: Who said there is such a thing as “sin” to begin with and why the automatic assumption that people are “wrong” or guilty from birth? Mary Daly, a radical feminist philosopher with two doctorates in sacred theology and philosophy from the University of Fribourg, Switzerland and a doctorate of religion from St. Mary’s College, writes that sin is “derived from the Indo-European root es- … meaning to be.” (Pure Lust, The Women’s Press, Ltd., London, page 151) She writes further, “clearly our ontological courage, our courage to be implies the courage to be wrong.” (152) In other words, according to men’s religions, we are simply “wrong” from the beginning, women especially so. Therefore to be fully alive, we must find the courage to sin, not avoid sin. We must fully come into be-ing, not try to avoid it, something I believe Eve was faulted for in the Garden of Eden myth and something for which women have been paying ever since.

It’s a lot to take on but Daly’s thinking has so radically jarred my own for the past 10 years, that I have never been able to ignore it and it’s all well worth exploring. Since my college days I’ve asked, “Who said so?” and “Why?” The answers to those questions are why I’m here.

New Perspective on “Old” Temptations

Explorefaith.org has always been one of my favorite Christian web sites. Produced by the Episcopal Church and those in ecumenical communion with them, Explore faith has been one of the few places that has ever challenged my faith in new ways. Their gentle spirit is evident and best of all, on their About Us page, they do not list the bible as their chief idol (unlike some christian churches, web sites, domains, etc.) I like that, mainly because the one turnoff of the fundamentalism I left behind was the insistence that God only works in the world through this one set of writings. This extremely limiting belief keeps millions from fully understanding the love of God, whatever that is or wherever that may be manifested in the world.

Michelangelo Eve detail

Michelangelo Eve detail

This view of scriptures has kept me from acknowledging a merciful and loving Deity precisely because belief in this prohibitive doctrine is so insidious to an individual’s thought processes. Again, mine were damaged I think by the incessant drilling into it of dogma and doctrine  insupportable from the evidence offered outside of a few lines of ancient text. Sure, there are great things in the Hebrew and Christian texts that, together, comprise the “bible.” However, there are great things in all the world’s spiritual texts, each of which display a facet of human understanding about this thing most call “God.” However, when we elevate what others have said about God and ascribe qualities to this written body of experiential knowledge; qualities that should only be ascribed to Deity, we tread on dangerous territory I think. When is it good to part company with established dogma when it runs counter to what we know to be true from experience? Our growth is stunted and eventually spirituality dies out if we constantly deny and repress true experience. One’s spiritual, mental, and physical life cannot be circumscribed to such a degree and remain any kind of life at all.

With that in mind, I have had to restructure my faith in such a Deity and simultaneously re-examine my relationship to that particular book, which, for many, many years, became almost a talisman for me. I’ve been half afraid to pick it up again and read it because of the ingrained processes that fundamentalism implants into the unsuspecting brains of those of us who were too open and eager and hungry for spiritual food to be very discerning. Yet I didn’t want to dispense with the wisdom in it altogether. I knew that Progressive Christians such as the Quakers and others gain much insight and wisdom when they put scriptures in their proper context. I needed to recognize that the trigger for me was trying to absorb everything within the bible’s pages as absolute and unequivocal truth, unprocessed through human thinking; in other words, seeing the bible as straight unfiltered God-talk. When in fact, it’s not God-talk but Human-talk with a God-tinge.  There is truth contained it it, but it’s spiritual truth and not necessarily factual truth; something the individual soul must discern for herself.

With that caveat, I’ve been wanting, during this Lenten season, to re-examine my beliefs because frankly, I miss them (and truth be told, I miss examining them, which is what this blog started out to do). Explorefaith has wonderfully pragmatic resources for processing Lent, one of which is to journal your way through it. This isn’t a new practice, but they do ask good questions. This Sunday was the 4th Sunday in Lent and the journaling prompt was this:

All that we desire in life is not beneficial to us. We often are pulled away from what is helpful and healthy because we feel a lack of excitement, energy and enthusiasm in our life as it is. The seed of temptation begins to grow subtly within us, and we begin to find ourselves moving in a direction we had not planned, a direction we know is risky, a direction that promises more than it will ever deliver. Dealing with temptation is as much about rediscovering the wonder of our current life as it is about avoiding that which is alluring and seductive. Lent invites us to turn from temptation by turning toward what is helpful and healthy for us and finding there again what is life-giving. Take time this week to return to what feeds your life and captures the best part of your passion and soul.

journaling questions:
What in my life has become so familiar that I am tempted to find something new, and how can that familiarity be revived so that its previous exhilaration is restored?
* In my family?
* In my work?
* In my community?
* In my soul?

I have some problems with some of the assumptions in this meditation. First, how do we know that moving in a new direction “promises more than it will ever deliver?” Second, why is temptation always described as harmful? Now it’s clear that when people think of temptation they think of two words: sex and food. Nobody ever says that they are tempted by too much reading or excessive writing practices. The visceral reality of sex and food make those the chief targets of what I think can be called temptation politics in the church. We are considered lustful or gluttonous most times and our inclinations are always toward satisfying these two things we are told. Or are they?

I am a pessimist by temperament, which is why fundamentalism appeals to me.  I can easily believe that humans will do the worst thing in all circumstances. However, if I’m honest with myself, I have to concede that there is equal evidence to the contrary; that humans more often than not do the generous thing and it’s been proven to me over and over (thank you Pelagius). Yet, temptation from the pessimists view stems directly from the Augustinian approach to Genesis and to that doctrinal bugaboo called “Original Sin.”  It’s always fascinating to me that in the Adam and Eve myth in Genesis 1 and 2, God put into a mythical Garden a man and then what does he (sic) put in next? No, not the animals, even though they did go in next. No, God puts in Eve and a tree to eat from (e.g.  sex and food). (foot note 1) And yet…. and yet, God puts in another tree and says, Don’t Eat This. Now really, was that necessary? I ask you.

I would argue that God knew exactly what he was doing by introducing all the things necessary for a good and reasonable and happy life in that Garden. You know what Adam was probably thinking, “SWEET! Two things that any man could want; sex and food” objectifying both of course.  Both sex and food seem to me to be necessary processes to life in general and necessary to help us learn and grow. God knew full well that life in the Garden would have its limits and that his “children” would be unhappy. Like an obedient child Adam took the instructions God gave him literally, but Eve, bless her, decided she was going to trust that this God knew what was good for both of them and gave her the tools necessary to bring it about; in other words, the implications were more important than the outright commands. She was probably thinking, “Food and sex are great, but really, what’s it all for?” Besides that, God didn’t tell her not to touch the tree, he only told Adam, who always had to have things spelled out for him and probably was a little scrupulous to boot. So Eve took it upon herself to find out what that other tree was all about and voila! The model for modern sexual relationships was born, well at least the heterosexual ones anyway, and knowledge of good and evil fell into the world in one stroke. Pandora’s box in Hebrew form. Hmmm, yes. This story does sound suspiciously like one of those etiological myths that attempt to explain how things came about after the fact. A biblical “Just-so” story if you will. Interesting. The Hebrews were probably working up to something here and had to cover all the bases when they were recreating their religion from scratch. (see footnote 2)

So, back to temptation. Rather than look at temptation as something that makes us stray from the tried and true and even worse as a command to never question our situations, why not look at temptation as a way to further personal growth? Temptation could merely be opportunities to see things in a new way and perhaps change course because of them. Now I’m not saying giving into drug abuse as a temptation is an opportunity to growth. Discernment in this area is needed. But isn’t that the key to everything? Discernment? Why must biblical myths always be interpreted as dire warnings about impulses God knew very well we would have and even built them into the “Garden” to prove it? We are all born with drives common to the majority of us. The trick is to separate the trivial temptations from the ones that inspire growth. Can we possibly distinguish between the two? And this is where individual conscience and discernment come in. Much like how I’ve had to teach myself to read the bible with a critical eye, I’ve also had to learn which things are “temptations” and which things are true nudges to move in a new direction.

In that case, I would ask my own questions for journaling:

  • Where is the balance between being satisfied with the familiar and stretching our horizons?
  • Where’s the balance between self-justification and rationalization of “sin” and knowing what’s good for our lives and acting on it?
  • How can we move beyond mere proscription and into a mature decision-making mindset?
  • When is it good to part company with established dogma when it runs counter to what we know to be true from experience?
  • How does the fundamentalist wash cycle of “sin, repent, rinse, and repeat” defeat the purpose of living life in a loving, purposeful, and fulfilling manner?
  • And finally, where in all this does the role of individual conscience begin and where does adherence to ancient “principles” end if the ancient principle no longer fit into modern society?

Discuss…. or better yet…. Journal!


Footnote 1:

We won’t get into the feminist issues of the bible’s claim that Eve was created “for” Adam and not as an active agent in her own right. It’s obvious the biblical myth makes Eve simply a biological tool for Adam’s libido to act upon and a “foil” for what comes next. This interpretation is a necessary dogma of fundamentalism and every fundamentalist religion reinforces this idea; women are made for men’s USE. Period. That’s what it boils down to when you toss aside all the “yes, buts” they offer in rejoinder. Women are to produce men’s offspring and take care of all men’s needs.  That’s it.

Footnote 2:

Here’s one very good reason the bible cannot be taken literally as written and especially Genesis, nor can we see it as any way chronologically set down by God. Notice the injunction inserted into Genesis 2:24 which says that a “man shall leave father and mother, etc.” Uh, forgive the obvious, but there were no parents at this point, only Adam and Eve, right? Who’s speaking here? Who’s father and mother? And if Adam’s is not meant, who’s? There aren’t even any children to lecture at this point.

The Art of Making People Nervous

I’ve not blogged for a long time about my spiritual beliefs. I used to write quite a bit about them but I haven’t done so specifically for almost a year now, because, frankly, my beliefs have been all over the place lately. I did have a Quaker post, I’ll admit and very enjoyable it was too. However, even though being hard to pin down to a religious viewpoint makes some people nervous, I find that it doesn’t bother me all that much. Not being able to write down a journey that seems to coincide with some kind of road map of faith that others have drawn up bothers me not at all. It tells me that I’m on the right track, because more than anything, I hate following paths that are so well worn nobody steps off them any longer. I was on a path like that once, and I felt like a lemming heading toward the proverbial cliff!

The reason I started blogging was to explore my beliefs and process my university experience, along with just jotting down life’s quirks and foibles. It certainly has been a circuitous journey and I didn’t even realize I’d been writing it for so long until I looked back in the archive. Wow. I sure can bloviate! I’ve been sad, gotten mad, lost and found faith, moved in and moved out of places, and just meandered on and off the blog for a little over two years. But my main goal has always been to just lay all my thoughts out there in the hopes that others could relate to what I was saying, to kind of demystify that which others claim is so mysterious and unknowable to the average person, because that’s all I am, an average person who makes mistakes, who does good deeds occasionally for no other reason but because it’s needed, who occasionally treats other people like shit when angry, and who lives each day as best she can despite being such a moron most of the time. That’s it. Sometimes you get slammed to the ground and sometimes life seems incredibly beautiful. It’s all a spiraling journey that repeats and repeats until we can get it right. Or is it? Either way, it’s a mixed bag and the one thing keeping me on an even keel is connecting to something larger than myself, or as some call it, spirituality.

Notice I didn’t say “religion.” I’ve gone through religions believe me. I’ve been a fundamentalist non-denominational Christian, a scrupulous Roman Catholic (some would say I still am), Greek Orthodox, a Wisconsin Synod Lutheran, American Baptist, and have been an eclectic spiritual dilettante in the Goddess religions and all of it suits me just fine. I’ve dispensed with the hateful God of fundamentalism which fuels so much hatred and replaced him with a more loving version; one (or many) who most resembles my idea of a loving merciful parent, if that’s the metaphor that fits at the moment. She/He/It contains all aspects of Supreme Love and Mercy to me and without my meanderings into those fertile religious areas, I would have given up on religion/spirituality completely. But I am convinced that some people need religion and/or spirituality. We are just wired that way, just as some people aren’t wired that way. I also feel that our upbringing, our “nurture” along with our “nature” contribute to this wiring and that some things are too ingrained to give up completely. I’ve made no bones about the fact that since I was a small child others have tried to pin me down and have made my life infinitely harder than a child’s should be. They’ve exerted psychological and physical force in order to make me conform to their ways, but something, something always kept me from giving in. Call it a scrappy spirit or downright stubbornness. If physically coerced, I would merely bide my time until such time as I could free myself again to follow my own way. That was pretty much my life during that period.

As I got older, I collected experiences that would form me and mold me into the person I am now. Some were good, some were not so good. But we all go through them and we learn. Hopefully, we learn. At a crucial point in my life I had a spiritual experience that I can’t deny. I don’t know whether I caused it myself or it came from outside me. It doesn’t matter. I know only that I needed it and it was there. It changed my life forever, and if I erase everything in my life that formed me for good or for ill, this experience I cannot forget. I’ve been processing it ever paulconversionsince. I’ve kept this experience with me pretty much inviolate, but looking back, going to church to sort it out was probably a bad move. I should have processed it on my own and in my own time before listening to what others told me it should mean. But, that’s all water under the bridge now. I went to church anyway and absorbed a lot of nonsense about my experience. But I also learned much more. I read the bible quite thoroughly, learned the art of setting aside time for meditation and reading, and garnered some good habits about thinking before speaking (yes, believe it or not, I did learn this in church!) I also wouldn’t trade my times at church simply because it’s made me better at being who I want to be .  I’ve met some wonderful people there, probably more wonderful than screwy. However, it has also shown me what I do not want to tolerate in my life.

So, to end where I began, I can’t honestly say what my beliefs are because I fully embrace all of them and fully embrace none of them. I find good things in all spiritualities. And, I find bad things in them. No one religion defines me. God worship doesn’t totally define me. Goddess worship doesn’t either. However, I find much good in both spiritual streams. Faith in one’s ability to lack faith certainly doesn’t define me and has it’s own peculiar fundamentalist traits. I’m one of those who is hardwired for faith I think and I’m really tired of resisting it. I think, over the years, I’ve found that my only wish is that Grace defines me. Divine Love defines me. The whole world is a Sacrament when you see it this way.  Love itself is a sacrament. Nothing is inherently this or abjectly that. We can all have good moments and bad moments and we can all help as well as hurt. Not a one of us is exempt. I have faith in that. I have faith in my Jesus experience as true for me, as a channel of grace for me. I have faith that others’ experiences are true for them as well. I have faith that those who hate, maim, kill, or do anything, even if it’s in the name of some God, will eventually be “rewarded” fully for it. It may not be the reward they are looking for or even the reward I’m looking for, but I have faith that things will even out in the end. Whatever the metaphor, I am open to the possibilities. It may make other people nervous, but it suits me just fine.

Around the Blogosphere and In My Head

You don’t want to be in my head, really, you just don’t. I’ve been feeling rather odd lately. I can’t sleep or eat and feel all jittery. Maybe it’s too much coffee, but I can’t seem to focus on anything. Pre-menopause perhaps? SOMETHING has clouded my brain and it’s pretty persistent. So much so that I cannot even concentrate while reading FICTION, so in the meantime, and before I get my brain going again, here’s what I’ve been reading out there in Blog-o-land. Oh and in case you were wondering what the God-o-meter has been registering…. Well exactly where it’s pointing in the picture below. Zippity do da! Nada. Nowhere to be found. Just when I was supposed to contribute to our new blog too. (I’ll post Kay, I swear!) 🙂

In the meantime here are some good reads and some good listens:

I don’t get enough literature in my life since getting out of university. Here’s a good site to keep track of poetry and what’s out there. Poetry every day, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Today is the day that I officially come out as a fat person, which is defined as anybody over 120 pounds in this day and age. Hence, why I have many of the Fatosphere’s links on my blogroll and in RSS. Here is the premier site to get started researching those who are the last bastion against the onslaught of the health police, the obesity myth crowd, plain bad information, stereotyping and all manner of hatred against those of us larger than what’s considered “normal.” “As God is my witness, I will never go hungry again.”

And shouldn’t this be a tired, old story by now? This is soooooooo yesterday’s news. I’m really, really getting sick to death of hearing how the churches have all been “feminized” and men can’t be men in some of today’s churches. I’ve said before that if that’s their problem, then men should have their own church and women should have their’s. That solves the problem nicely. That way men can teach themselves and we can do the same. Problem solved.

I’ve been obsessing about this YouTube song by Beverley Knight:

Last but not least, here is a little tidbit on Feminist Philosophers blog on Aging and Sexiness. There’s a lot to be said for older women, don’t you think?


Knowing What You Want

I ran across an interesting post by modern mystic Carl McColman. In it, he describes going to a writing retreat and forming the discipline of writing. But not just writing. He describes his reflection on discipline itself: “Discipline is knowing what you want.” I believe that’s it in a nutshell. Think about it. If we know what we want we will go to any lengths necessary to get there. So now, all I have to figure out is what I want. Hmmm.

I want a peaceful and loving family life with my husband and children (now grown)

I want good health

I want peace of mind about spiritual matters

I want enough money to live on and perhaps a bit more to enjoy taking vacations, etc.

I want (I need) to write

I think that’s about it. I don’t necessarily want any esoteric political ideal or anything like that because I know it will never happen. Most of my wants are here and now. So what is the discipline necessary to carry out these things? The discipline of loving compassion in family life. Well, I think that my husband and I have worked fairly hard to achieve that end and it shows. I do not ever worry about home life so that it intrudes on other areas of my life. Of all the areas, home is the most stable.

The discipline of work and doing good work to keep that money coming in is probably the largest of our wants in this life next to family life. This is also simple. I don’t believe in the adage that all anyone has to do is do the work that they love and the money will follow. Most of us work to live not the other way around. There is the RARE individual that loves what they do and can’t believe they get paid for it usually because they are born with some innate and obvious talent or they are born into fortuitous families or circumstances, but most of us are not in those situations. So when we do find work that isn’t a hardship, I think it’s almost a duty to do our best there. Since thinking about changing jobs has occupied much of my time lately. This is an important discipline area for me. What am I willing to work for? What is it that I want out of work? Since I have been thinking about it so much, I think I know what I want. I have no “career goal” wherein I know the role I am to play and I go out and fulfill it. Nope. My only goal in working is to bring home cash to enable me to do other things. In other words, I guess I no longer care whether my job is a reflection of who I am or not. The only thing I did in that arena is to go to college and get a couple degrees. But I did it for my own interests and not with a job in mind. Some see that as a waste, but I don’t see it that way. The learning is the fun part. The outcome was irrelevant. I just happened to find a job that allows me all the free time I need to pursue other things. I think that’s all I was seeking to begin with.

My wants of spirituality and writing seem to go hand in hand, because the former is a definite spur toward the latter. To keep writing with vigor and with pleasure, I need to discipline my spiritual life as others do. So what do I want in that category? I want peace of mind, meaning, I want to be settled in my faith and beliefs about spirituality. For that, I have to practice it. Learn and practice, learn and practice. Which means, I have to find a discipline (or practice) that gets me what I want spiritually. I have to feed my soul. I have to feed it with whatever it needs to grow and be nurtured, right? For some reason, my soul desires a “oneness” with the divine. I don’t know why it is so, but it is. All I can say is that this desire came upon me, I did not grab hold of it. That’s what’s so bloody bizarre about faith. It’s not something that I work at. In fact, is always something I try to work against, but to no avail. So what feeds this faith? Why writing and studying of course. I cannot do one without the other. I am not creative. I cannot paint or draw or compose music. All I can do is read what others say, write about it, and apply it in a practical manner. That’s it.

Why I Keep Coming Back to Faith and Religion

Because there’s nothing else more interesting to talk about, that’s why. Politics you say?

Politics is boring and means nothing in the long run. Obama will win the presidency and things will go on as they always have; the rich get richer, the middle class will still exist from paycheck to paycheck, while the poor in this country will starve as millions of dollars go overseas to enhance the coffers of corrupt regimes.But HEY, we can “dialogue” with those corrupt regimes and all will be swell. What’s so new about that? We have no part in this process and to paraphrase Obama, the reason I turn to religion is because there ‘ain’t nothing else to take my ‘flustrations’ out on, ‘ya know?’ Well, I agree. Without my religious studies, I’ve become downright BORING!! Without scriptures to study, I have no interest in studying ANYTHING! At what point do you stop fighting and go with the flow?

But seriously, I don’t think losing one’s religion is all that exciting. In fact, my struggles to define my faith have provided some of the juiciest moments in my life. My struggles with people in church has been the most rewarding. It occurred to me that, while I have been making a show of looking for another job, I have long forgotten why I took my present job to begin with. I was sick of academia, sick of politics inside the university, sick of the state system that sucks you dry and leaves you with nothing. I took the job I am in now because it’s freedom personified. This church taught me that there is freedom to believe, freedom of movement, freedom of thought and leisure time outside of work. Yes, and freedom to believe the way I want to. I don’t have to pretend that I believe the party line. I also realized that I am far from a humble person. My chief sin in life is pride. I take so much pride in myself sometimes that I can’t see what a shitty job I’m actually doing at my workplace. I feed off the office gossip. I revel in talking about people needlessly. Let’s face it, there are always some people that we work with or that we know that make us worse persons not better ones. I am also touchy about being acknowledged for my accomplishments, whatever those may be. I have an inflated sense of self-importance and for some reason, and I’m always thinking that moving elsewhere will take care of all that. Says who? I will just take my shitty attitude with me somewhere else. How long before I start moaning over there?

On another point, I’m not sure who commented here on the blog about the fact that my dreaming about my former pastor is perhaps a step toward nudging me to reconciliation. What keeps us (read: me) from taking those steps? Pride of course. Insistence that I was completely right and she was completely wrong. Insistence that I knew better than she did about church matters. Pride in my importance and in my perceived role in the church. It’s the mistaken notion that I was a valued member when really, I was probably the patsy to bring the axe down. I actually wrote the pastor an email this morning acknowledging my complicity in the church ganging up on her at the Pastoral Relations meeting fiasco that started it all. I could lay the blame at the church’s feet because they did spur me on, but afterwards I felt about 1/2 inch tall. Who was I to be spokesperson and “correct” others? Yet, I spent hours on the phone listening to complaints so that I could exercise that spirit of correction on their behalf. So, why do I feel so shitty about it? I also actually miss her company, even though she had some things to repent of as well. But you know what? I’m not good at reconciliation. I’m only good for breaking off what doesn’t work for me.

So, I think I will refocus, with a new and improved lens, my study of religion and my nurturing of my own spirituality in whatever form that comes in. If it’s in the bible, great. If it’s in the Upanishads, who cares? I’m done fighting the unwinnable fight about dogma and doctrine and truth claims that can never be proven. Dogma’s neither here nor there anyway. It’s all about how we allow grace to flow through our relationships isn’t it? I need to learn to keep the tap of grace flowing through me and not allow it to stop with me. I’m spiritually clogged. If I want to keep the bible as my spiritual Drane-O then who does it hurt? 🙂 Blessings!