Sunday, September 13, 2009

Ye of Little Faith...That's Me

Even though the temptation is killing me, I am NOT going to write about Healthcare Reform OR just how much money I should send to Rob Miller OR the failed Child Indoctrination Plan unsuccessfully executed by the President of the United States of America (at least it failed here in Texas where most schools refused to show the address - but truly - we're considering secession - so maybe we're not really a good example of mainstream Americana).

Anyway - YES you can breathe a big old sigh of RELIEF because I am not writing about politics today. I am going to talk about religion, instead. And just in case you're tensing up again, you should know that I LOVE religion.

I love Religion so much that it has been very hard for me to leave it behind in order to pursue my own spiritual path. But leave it behind I have. And it is working really well for me.

I was raised without religion and rebelled by becoming Catholic for a few years. It didn't stick.

However, I am still drawn to religious people. Really Religious People. I'm not talking about people who subscribe to a narrow set of ideals and values that they believe should be strictly applied to everyone. I'm not talking about the proclaimers, the witnesses, or the evangelizers. I am not drawn to them. In fact, I am somewhat appalled and repelled.

I'm talking about religious souls who derive such peace, pleasure, spark, rapture, tranquility and sincerity from their faith that they just leak it from every pore. They aren't concerned with judging me as I experience my own journey, or with influencing me except through the joy and devotion of their own lives. They know who they are. They assume I know who I am. They don't need to tell me who I am or who I should be. They don't attempt to share their versions of God or the Universe, except for their generous acts of charity. I love these people. The result is that I have rarely met a priest I didn't love (okay - there are a couple...the one that comes to mind is a guy who taught a course about Catholicism at a Catholic university I briefly attended...the course was required and he was pissed about it...he didn't want to talk to non-Catholics, he apparently hated young people in general, and he was sexually frustrated on top of it and I really only remember him yelling, with spittle and the whole bit, that our genitals were not our playthings).

I adore nuns and since I have never attended parochial schools I have never met a mean one. Most of the ones I have met are feminist hell-raisers trying to recognize the Feminine Divine...also probably just a tad pissed off that they can't be priests. A few I've met were merry and charming...some were peaceful and serene and motherly.

I'm not just hung up on Catholicism, although I SOOO dig the standing and the kneeling and the candles and the rote prayers and the crossing and the Latin singing and other neato stuff (I like rituals VERY much). I have friends who are ministers of one sort or another....Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, and Mennonite. I have two friends currently in seminary. I love and appreciate what their religions mean to them.

Gospel music makes me cry. Give me a Black Baptist minister and the beautiful sing-song of his tirade and I am in Heaven. Unitarians make me warm and fuzzy. I am all-inclusive.

My inclusiveness, of course, embraces non-Christian traditions. When I see a Rabbi I want to pinch his cheeks and hug him and break out into Hava Nagila while spinning around the room. I want a yarmulke.

Muslims? I want to sit on my knees and face Mecca and pray. I want to stop everything I'm doing several times a day to remember my connection with God. I want to be devoted and humbled. I want to fast for Ramadan. I once listened to an Imam "preach" (sorry, don't know what else to call it) and his speech bore the remnants of the Sunday Southern gospels he'd obviously experienced in his childhood...and I was so moved and so thrilled and so excited that I turned to my husband and said, "That's it! I'm a Muslim!" But of course, I'm not. I'm not anything. And the following moment I found myself equally enchanted by the glory and magic of a Hindu musical performance by lovely young girls with jewels on their foreheads (this was at a celebration in honor of Gandhi). And I was entranced.

And nothing but NOTHING makes me happier than a Buddhist monk. Seriously, folks. How could they not make you happy? I listened to a Rinpoche chant/sing in that really really really low thing they do. I was hooked. Monks, I have discovered, are not chatty. And since I feel the need to pick up the slack for non-chatty types I appear somewhat insane around monks.....on and on and on I go....only pausing to take a deep breath and swallow now and then, thereby demonstrating my lack of inner peace (and quiet - internally i am a very noisy person).

I don't discriminate against New-Ager's, either. I want to sit at the feet of Eckhart Tolle while he espouses the power of Now. But just for a moment because Now eludes me pretty much constantly. Well, not constantly. I have my moments of presence now and again.

I've never met one, but I'm sure I would be enamored by a Pagan Priestess. I would want to kiss the flowers in her hair and smell the earth on her skin.

I want to whirl with a Dervish, chant, sweat, and drum with a Shaman, and bathe in the moon beams of a Solstice night....radiating in the love of a Celtic goddess. Likewise, I want to clap with the choir in a full gospel church, cry throughout the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday, and wash the feet of my children on Holy Thursday. I want to feel the thickly incensed air of Midnight Mass.

I might do some of these could I resist? But I will forever wear the "My Name Is..." visitor's tag. I'm the perpetual religious visitor. I'm the guest of graciousness.

I want it all and I think that might be why I can't seem to have any of it. One faith doesn't have more merit than the others to me. While they share many Universal Truths...there are still the eternal meddlesome differences that hang me up. In truth - while I admire them - I don't believe in any of them. And if I were going to believe, I would have to pick just one....because that is really the way it works. And if I really admit the truth here - it is this: Much as I want to be devoted to God - I am not. I am not sure Who/What God is. I have, thus far, been unable to find Him/Her/It. I am currently not looking. That is usually when you find things, anyway. When you're not really looking.

Oh sure, I see "God" in my children and the sunset and the quiet rise and fall of the puppy's little chest while she sleeps.....that is all very sweet in a greeting card sort of way; but that is not the God I sought. I wanted The Proof. I wanted the Burning Bush. I wanted to know how a world with so many different religions, each believing that it alone has all the answers, is supposed to keep from blowing itself up. I wanted to know how a world inhabited by so many beings whose first priority is their own comfort and well-being, can ignore the fact that if there IS a God - surely He/She/It doesn't want us to destroy ourselves by destroying our one and only habitat. I wanted the answers to the age-old questions....why am I here....why is there suffering....where will I go when I leave.....Knowing that the religions of the World all claim the answers to these questions simply results in my believing none of them. About these answers, anyway. For these answers? I want to hear from God Him/Her/Itself. Which is unlikely. At least for now.

It was Andre Gide who said, "Believe those who seek the truth; doubt those who find it."

I am a seeker. But I doubt myself every bit as much as those who have found their truths. That is the nature of the seeking. And the seeking has worn me out; hence the "no longer seeking and hoping it just falls on top of me while I sit here typing" angle I'm currently working.

So for now, I'll sit on the sidelines and admire those who have found their answers. They inspire me. They make me happy with their costumes, customs, rituals, and holidays. I am happy FOR them. But I accept the fact that I just can't seem to pick a team. Maybe I'm not a team player. It seems that religion is more of a spectator sport where I'm concerned. And I enjoy watching it...with curiosity and respect and joy....knowing that it isn't mine and never will be.


  1. Being a spiritual being who is comfortable with uncertainty is the most challenging 'religion' of all.

    Thank Whomever/Whatever/Everything for Carol!

  2. I'm not talking about the proclaimers, the witnesses, or the evangelizers. I am not drawn to them. In fact, I am somewhat appalled and repelled.

    Oooh, ooh, me too.

    Back to reading...

  3. Don't think any of us (humans that we are) every find the truth.. I think you find a path for your journey...and know that "religion" as an institution is not the answer..but rather a tool. I choose to see the institutions as, among other things, a great powerhouse for outreach (like for basic needs, etc.) that is more effective than any other institution. Religion is also a dangerous institution. Some choose to journey from within, some without. The path, however, is individual with or without the institution.
    See you this afternoon!

  4. Religious beliefs are deeply personal. I am starting a Bible study and already squirming in discomfort as people air their views. I think most people's true beliefs do not fit neatly into any box of religious traditions. (Mine sure don't!)