Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Am I A Christian?

I share this in open, raw honesty and vulnerability. I share it not to be the recipient of a lecture or to endure another round of the evangelical inquisition, but to ask a difficult question about what it means to be "heterodox" and yet completely head over heels in love with Jesus Christ. To want equality for women and the LGBTQIA community, to think the Bible is an imperfect document, to vote for the Green Party, to want rights for animals as well as fetuses, and yet also truly believe in the deity of Christ, and his life, death, and resurrection. I share this so that you, conservative evangelical, can know that I exist, that there are other people like me who exist, and to beg of you to please stop using the "no true Scotsman" fallacy when it comes to doctrinal purity ("No true Christian would believe/do X!" is not helpful dialogue). George MacDonald once wrote,  "No opinion, I repeat, is Christianity," and maybe, just maybe, as important as ideas and beliefs are, and God knows I've been hurt by abusive ones, that there's nothing wrong with holding them with an open palm and wanting to explore them, nothing wrong with putting down our figurative torches and whips. And perhaps the abusive potential of theological concepts wanes when we don't hold to them more strongly than we hold to the two highest commandments.

Is it worth sifting through shit to find a diamond?

What about a pearl?

Last night I dreamt I walked down the long aisle of a beautiful cathedral. I walked through a cloud of smoke created by fragrant incense, up into an altar lit with candles and adorned with red and gold tapestries, and there stood the Divine Son and the Divine Mother. They held out a plate of fresh bread, and said in unison, "Take and eat."

I reached out my hand to grab the warm dough, but pulled back at the last second. "I don't belong."

They knelt down and looked me in the eye, and spoke again, in unison,"You do if I say you do."

The idea of whether or not to refer to myself as a Christian has plagued me for a few years, but especially in recent months.

I'm one of those people who loses their faith a lot. It happens when you come out of fundamentalism. You lose, find, lose, and re-find your faith a million times, as you come through the fog of abusive theology and learn to let go of certainty.

My, there's so little I'm certain about any more.

So I wonder, can I, should I use that nine letter word that is loaded with so much history, beauty, tragedy, hope, abuse, wonder, ugliness, and baggage?


There are many people who, if they were to review a list of the beliefs I now hold, would conclude, "No, you are not."

"I don't need to tell you what I do or don't believe," sings The Choir. But I want to mention a few, because it's important to voice them, especially when the self-appointed gatekeepers of the throne of God are constantly shouting, "This close you may come and no closer."

I believe that my gay friends are telling the truth when they say they were born that way, and that caused me to reevaluate my views on the bible.

I believe that the Bible is imperfect, and just as I can believe what Plato wrote about Socrates without believing Plato was divinely inspired to pen each word, so I believe Jesus is God.

I believe that the church has never had a serious conversation about women in leadership roles, and until one is had, it cannot say with confidence that the tradition has been worked out and we know where we stand. The canon was a conversation. The trinity was a conversation. The issue of women leading the church has not been given the conversation it truly deserves. Listening to my arguments and then saying, "The Bible clearly says..." is not a conversation, by the way. Some Eastern Orthodox theologians have acknowledged this, and have said that perhaps a true council should be convened to properly discuss it.

I believe that God is 100% my mother as well as my father, and it doesn't matter to me what Bible verse you quote, because none of them will say God is NOT my mother. And I don't want that feminine imagery to be in the background, because it puts my femininity in the background, and after centuries of women being oppressed and shunted to the background, can't we admit that the way we talk about God as only or mostly being masculine-Father, King, Master, Lord, Son-alienates and shunts women off to the side, and this has led to some fairly horrible justifications for abusing women? Am I really created fully in God's image, or are men more in God's image than women?

I believe that we are all worthy of love, in our essence. I believe that what we truly are is righteous, and the great unveiling of God's grace is shoveling off the shit to find the diamonds in our souls that have always been there, and we are truly being cleansed and renewed to become exactly like Jesus. Our image has been marred. But we don't deserve Hell. We don't deserve eternal torment. As odd as this might sound, we deserve grace, because what loving Mother, what loving Father, would create broken people without any eye towards total restoration?

I believe that we're all destined for Heaven and Union with God, it's just going to take some of us a lot longer to get there.

I believe that God comes to us, and we to God, through a million different paths. And it could be Buddhism and it could be Hinduism and it could be Christianity.

I believe that tradition can be useful, that there is a democracy of a dead, but I'm worried that friends of mine enamored with tradition are turning it into the tyranny of the dead.

I believe that people should come to Christianity because of it's beauty and the way it illumines their soul and lightens their burdens and fills them with hope, not because of fear and guilt and shame.

Some would say all of this means I'm not a Christian. Some reading this now want to debate me on one or more of those points, and although I've mentioned my beliefs here, I'm not debating them, because this isn't the blog post to discuss the minutiae of those ideas: it's the space to discuss what it means to use a certain moniker to describe my spiritual and religious life. I know the arguments against them quite well. I've wrestled with them for years. I can quote chapter and verse of the conservative arguments against me. I share these so-called heterodox ideas because I know that they are what set me apart as someone who should firmly stand in the non-Christian camp.

Because I'm a universalist who rejects the existence of Hell
and believes the Bible is imperfect
and I think my gay friends are just swell
and I want women to wear vestments and preach the word if they're called
and I call God Mom probably more than I say Dad because I spent 26 years not calling him Mom so it's time to correct that imbalance...and I just phrased it that way on purpose.

Christian literally means I am the follower of the anointed one, and some days

some days when the tears are drying
and the fog of pain and guilt and shame
and abusive theology clears
and I'm not listening to people
who have the definition of Christian
sussed out in a five thousand page document
complete with a rubric for perfect doctrine
and the final exam you take
before you can enter the pearly gates

I think I might be.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Bad News

You think what you have to offer me is love, but I'm not so certain. 

"Here," you say,
"Here is freedom from the horrible illness
That is all your imperfections and foibles
Because that's what your true nature is:
It's your faults and guilt
your shame and dark lusts.
And here is a list we compiled
of traits and acts you didn't know were sins
and all these things will sentence you to an eternity of torment.
Aren't you glad we told you?
Because someone has come to save you from yourself,
from the destiny you deserve.
He has had mercy on your fallen nature
and if you believe in His Son
and abide by the words of this book
as we interpret them
you will be saved."

"But you're not listening!" I protest.

"But I love you," you say.

"You don't believe my story!"

"But I love you."

"You're not trying to understand!"

"But I love you."

In that moment
I realized your definition of love
is that an offer of salvation is always on the table
when I choose to see things god's(your) way.
Until then
I'm not only wrong
I'm depraved and damned
And you're under no obligation to pay attention
to what anyone who contradicts the story you believe
has to say.
You've plugged your ears
with your holy words
and your eyes can't see past
the small print.

Your Small Religion

You are forbidden from using the word "love"
to describe how you feel about me.

Because, in that moment,
I don't think you realized what it was you were rejecting,
You with the impoverished soul,
Who see the children
and gay people paid to serve them
as an abstraction, a two-dimensional talking point
that you can dispose of and hide away,
like props in your war game,
forgot that

It was me you were rejecting. 

I'm the human casualty on the other side of your culture war. 

Is the impact of it all more real to you when
you see me on the other side?

Or will you dismiss my feelings as an over-reaction
and grating sentimentality
for caring that people like my friends
-people like me-
aren't marginalized?

If caring about people
you refuse to care for
makes me too delicate
too hurt
too tragic
too pathetic
too liberal
too heretical
too much
for the religion you serve
to listen-
not for a conversion or to score points or to please God, but
because I'm human and it's right and proper to listen-
then your religion is too infinitesimal
to spark life into the vast, raw,
gaping, bleeding,
cracking, hoping,
breathing, pulsating,
thriving, dying
human condition.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

My Divine Mother


If God does not equally encompass and represent
 and yet transcend
 the feminine as well as the masculine, 
then that god is too small
to be worthy of worship. 

As it is
I find myself cradled in soft blankets 
on the lap
of my Mother
of my Father
my Friend
the Divine Spark
and the Loving Heart
of Whoever it is
that conceived of
and birthed me
-screaming and blinded by the harsh light-
into the waters of this life. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Home Is Where I Am

And I will always be
the mystic girl
who looks for God in the curves of her hips
and the wind on the dappled leaves
and the smile of a dog

Who worships the Loving Heart
that I must, I can't help,
but believe
is at the center of this
beautifulfuckedupmysteriouscomplicatedinsane life.

But I have cast off
the language I formerly used
to describe my attachment
to the Divine Flame.

That there is truth, beauty, and wisdom
in that story of creation, incarnation, death and resurrection
I do not deny
but for me
there is nothing healthy left
to pluck from those branches.
That fruit is bitter in my mouth
and acid in my gut.

There are waves over me
I don't know
if I'm drowning
if I'm being baptized
if I'm swimming
if I'm shuttling towards the bottom trench
or rising to the light.

Perhaps all of the above.

Wherever it is that I am, I know that I am home
in myself.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

"I drew a bitter breath and blew." 
-The Sea Wolf Mutiny