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“All great truths begin as blasphemies.” – George Bernard Shaw
Heretic (noun): a professed believer who maintains religious opinions contrary to those accepted by his or her church; anyone who does not conform to an established attitude, doctrine, or principle.
As I have been revealing in my blog, and with a great deal of studying and praying, I am understanding that many things that Christians put forth as “biblical” are not always so, and if truly studied, would be revealed as doctrine translated through the lens of current culture.
I know this next statement may offend some and disappoint other (hence the title of the blog) but it is important to understand that for any and all spiritual journeys to be authentic must first be real, starting from where we are, not where we think we ‘ought’ to be. Expectations — both those from others and from within — are the death of my spiritual life and the dearth of my soul. Make no mistake, I am confident and comfortable saying that I truly adore Jesus but I am having a hard time with much of modern Christendom these days.
I am at a place in my life where I am comfortable enough in my own skin to make this declarative statement of faith: I cannot believe in any way, shape or form in a God who is (or a religion that is) homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, culturally imprisoned, misogynistic, afraid of science, myopically tribal, captured or contained in ANY denominational or religious construct.
My doctrine and my dogma is simple: love God and love people (all of them, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized) because simply put God is LOVE.
God is not doctrine or dogma, denominational or diminutive.
God is fire, unleashed and untamed.
God is pure love; untainted by the egoism that we humans fall prey to.
Today, I am not so sure there is “room” for me anywhere religiously. But I know, even if faintly, that God does indeed have plenty of “room” for a ‘borderline heretic’ like me.
die for it—
or the world. People
have done so,
their small bodies be bound
to the stake,
fury of light. But
climbing the familiar hills
in the familiar
fabric of dawn, I thought
and Europe, and I thought
how the sun
for everyone just
as it rises
under the lashes
of my own eyes, and I thought
I am so many!
What is my name?
What is the name
of the deep breath I would take
over and over
for all of us? Call it
whatever you want, it is
happiness, it is another one
of the ways to enter
When I talk about God and faith, I do not come at it from an angel of certainty, ‘rightness’ or an attitude of “I’ve arrived so you should get with the Program.” I come at my faith and experience of God rather from points and places of doubt, uncertainty, openness and hope (and not so much on that last one).
It is important to me that I strive for awareness and transparency when speaking and writing and living out spiritual ideas and ideals; people that are honest and messy are much more of turn on to me than people with neat, pat answers. Regardless of where I am in my journey with God, people who are so certain about the rightness of their beliefs have always left a bitter taste in my mouth.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: my faith is messier than most. I’m grateful God is as well.
I know my last blog sounds like I’m giving up on God but truthfully what I was trying to communicate is that the “security” of some of the beliefs I have long held as ‘untouchable’ are crumbling away. And in their stead is nothing…for now. That is not to say that I will remain in that place, because like nature, I too abhor a vacuum – an empty vacuous space where nothing exists, not even God. Now I do not confuse the need for emptiness and emptying (what I am going through now a self emptying – kenosis) with vacuous space; one is a process the other is a perpetual state.
Sooner or later that which is dying in me will be resurrected into something new, something more real than anything I’ve ever experienced before. I know God is…and I know God is not done with me yet, this I do trust.
My faith is being peeled back, like an onion, reveling what is and is not real, what is dead and what lives.
Rob Bell, in his wonderfully clarifying work What We Talk About When We Talk About God, said that his experience of God is summed up in three little, yet transformative, words: with, for, ahead.
Bell sums up my messy faith by challenging my ‘tribal’ conceptions of God, namely that God is on our side, for us and us alone, out to smash all those who are not part of my tribe. I have grown weary of a God like this. This tribal God is no longer a God worth loving or following; this tribal God is more like a favorite football team than a eternal loving Being.
In letting go of my pedantic and tribal God, I am left with nothing and that nothingness I can begin to experience God anew, fresh with child-like eyes. This God of which Bell speaks that is with me always and in All Ways, in all things and through all things; this God who is for me, not as in on my side or to defend my POV, but for me as in an advocate, pure divine fidelity with me through thick and thin, in holiness and messiness. I like this God that is not tribal but ahead of me, ever expanding, opening new worlds of inner and outer discovery.
Having a God like this allows me not only to embrace my messy faith, but allows God to be messy (with me) as well. This God who is with us (Emmanuel), this God who gets down into the mud with me, being with me in my messiness, not judging or condemning – just loving.
I need a God as such. This God is one who is intimate yet unknowable; understandable yet unfathomable; tender yet transcendent.
That is the kind of God I can be into…one who is into (and in) me.
Sometimes I want to blow the lid off this blog; be so brutally and blatantly honest, that even my A.A. compadres would blush. And the blushing would not be due to raunchiness but because of the ‘rawness’ of it. I feel like such a fraud these days, writing of a faith I am struggling to hold onto, saying I believe things that these days are not always so.
I want to be authentic about my life and where I am spiritually, yet I fear judgment; from where I do not know. Indeed, I am but flesh and blood.
I want to say that the faith that has been an intimate part of my life for 30 years sometimes feels like it’s slipping away, that it is not something I hold either tightly or dearly. Or that the Catholic Church that I entered just five short years ago, along with most Christian doctrine, is leaving me wanting and empty. The faith I profess is 2,000 years old. The Creeds I quote are less than 1,700 years old. The rituals from the Mass, well some of them are less than 600 years old. All things have changed in those time era’s but not religion, not much at least. My faiths seems outdated and dead. In the last few years alone I personally have changed drastically. I change…my mind, my heart, my jobs, my friends, my addictions for recovery, and yes, some of my beliefs.
But God, well, God I know is timeless.
I am wanton to share that most Christians offend me, somewhere along the way the American version of Christianity became a marriage of conservative politics and social causes ensconced in fundamentalist tenets. That is not my faith. But I am also left empty by liberal politics that have all but abandoned their religious inspirations for protecting both the poor and the vulnerable. In truth, the poor and the abandoned, the imprisoned and the broken are the sole responsibility of Christians. But it seems Christians these days are known more for their hate than their love. I fear Jesus would not recognize the people that call him “Lord” if he were reading the papers and visiting the churches.
I am saddened and sickened by most religions these days, if I am to be honest. It seems my faith is fed more by what is outside of its bounds than what is within it.
I am not alone in my disillusionment. A recent NY Times’ bestsellers was a book by Frank Schaeffer (the son of one of the “fathers” of the rise of Conservative Christian political viewpoint) entitled Why I am an Atheist Who Believes in God. Then there is the rise of the religiously disillusioned, the “Nones” who according to the Pew Research Centers: “[are a group of] people who self-identify as atheists or agnostics” as well as those who have left the church of their youth while still holding to a deep faith in God, just not in organized religion.
Some days I feel like a “None” – I believe in God, and madly so, but I find most organized religious expression to be pedantic at best, ruled and run by angry zealots who are milquetoast concerned more with doctrine and dogma than compassion, justice and mercy (the weightier matters of the Law according to Jesus, see Matthew 23:23).
I am rambling.
But I am seeking clarity and honesty.
I love Jesus. I mean I am really into (and in) Jesus and the words we have for him on record. You would not know it by stepping into most churches these days but Jesus spoke more about helping the poor, money, loving your enemies and forgiveness than about heaven or hell. And not once did Jesus ever condemn my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. Jesus never said “love the sinner but hate the sin” – a diatribe I have a hard time with because I am not so skilled at separating the “sin” from the “so-called sinner.”
The long and the short of it is I am seeing the cracks in the mirror.
My faith is old, and dry. My prayers are empty and seem worthless. The God I professed years ago is no longer the God I turn to in times of trouble or joy; when I do in fact turn to God at all.
The man I see in the mirror, although I know to be a child of God and made in God’s image, is cracked, faltering, burdened with a sense of giving up the faith and on the verge of quitting the ‘good fight.’
Maybe what I am going through (and not around) is a deeper, more authentic way of living; a birthing into the death of childish faith into the reality of the Real. Or maybe just maybe I am spiritually lazy and perpetually defiant, needing to reject something in order to feel powerful about anything.
I don’t know, I just don’t know. I still believe…but I don’t. I have faith, when I don’t. I am one with a God I know longer believe in. I am in the light even more so when I am in this darkness.
I find comfort in the words of the German mystic Meister Eckhart who said it best when he said the following statements (that almost got him burned at the stake!):
“I pray God to make me free of God…”
“If I had a God I could understand, I would no longer consider him God.”