It seems to be perfectly permissible in Eugene and other places I’ve been to bash Christians, especially fundamentalist ones. As someone with a fundie Promise Keeper sister and brother-in-law and a devoutly Christian pseudokid (my kids’ friend and friend’s kid who grew up with us), I have to say something about this.
Yes, George Bush has given Christianity a bad name. Yes, people do mean and harmful things in the name of Christianity. I agree completely. But I do not agree that all Christians are bad and deserve to be the butt of our judgment any more than Muslims or other groups.
I edited a book a few years back by a woman who was co founder of a Christian order. I loved how she expressed her spirituality and feminism in the book and the idea of staying with the religion we were born with rather than seeking cooler hipper exotic alternatives. I moved to Seattle to escape an abuser and join the order, which ordained women as priests. As a Catholic girl who begged daddy to go to the incense-filled Latin mass rather than folk mass, I wanted to be a priest when I was young. Either that or a magician, and only later did I realize that they both wore black costumes and did magic rituals for people.
When I told a friend about the move, he said, “Just don’t become a born again.” I was stunned to hear this from the co-founder of a local Middle East peace group. But it’s acceptable to bash Christians in our “politically correct” Eugene.
The order confirmed my sadness that even if a group is not meant to be a cult, the people in it can give up their voices and turn it into one. So I am back to being a solitary practitioner of a nameless spirituality that does not anthromorphize God as a big white man in the sky who sees you when you’re sleeping and knows when you’re awake.
That’s the job of Google Earth and Santa Claus.
So during a recent mental physical and spiritual health crisis I turned to my friends and family who have strong spiritual practices for prayer. This included Rabbit Kaya, who gets to drop the t when she’s done with rabbinical school, and my sister Jaine and her minister husband Clint. It felt great to have Clint pray over me on the phone. I felt safe and nurtured. He was careful to say that he was not trying to convert me and I replied that God transcends religion.
I do not see God as an angry person to be scared of. I do not see God as a person. I know that the Bible was written a long time ago in another language, as were other holy books. So I do not pretend to know how to interpret or which God or book is the right one.
But I felt sad when Kiran was in my booth at Saturday Market and someone slammed Christians in front of her. I am probably culturally more Christian than Jewish or Muslim, but I don’t call myself a Christian because I am not sure what Christ really meant it to be. I don’t want someone to interpret for me or tell me that my beliefs are wrong and theirs are right. This does not seem to be the point of a spiritual practice to me.
The point of spiritual practice to me is just that: practice. Make mistakes–to sin is to miss the mark. The Golden Rule seems to be the basis of most religions. Embrace my flawed humanity and that of others. Strive to see that in myself that makes me dislike and mistreat others. I fail all the time. But I do believe that the striving is the point.
Most of us have our religious beliefs as well as other beliefs like homophobia, racism, sexism and classism inculcated in us by our families. We all have negative messages about the Other from home and culture. If we are lucky we get a positive loving spin and the room to ask questions.
So when I meet someone who believes that their way is the only way, I know that is what they have been taught. I know that many people are afraid to question. I do not try to change people’s minds or argue. I ask questions, get them to tell me stories about how they learned what they learned.
To me what makes a difference is not what someone preaches, it’s what they practice. Even if someone who loves me really believes I will go to hell for being queer and thinks that I have to be like them to be saved, I can love that person and know they are just living their belief. I tried to explain this to a student I was tutoring in writing once; he had written that Jesus was the only way. I said that belief is belief and fact is fact. Many people try to back up their belief with facts. To me this is beside the point.
Belief is a choice. You may not believe this. That’s okay. It’s my belief, not yours. Never argue with someone’s reality is what I learned working at a crisis center. How do I know that I’m not a butterfly dreaming I’m a woman or that this person or that is right?
Being right is beside the point. It’s hard for me to imagine a great spiritual power being so petty as to care in what form prayers come.
So I accept prayers from everyone. And all of them seem to work. Our differences are fascinating and bring richness to our lives. This is what I choose to believe.