Talkin' trash to the garbage around me.

24 December, 2005

Crisis of Faith

A bit of blogger jealousy: I wish I could write half as well as kid oakland. After first reading him at dkos (and being thoroughly stunned by the thoughtfulness and beauty of his work), I've been a fan. And then he goes and writes this piece, a must read, which pretty much sums up my own contradictory relationship with Christianity since leaving home.
Let me tell you something about the Jesus that I know.

He was a real man. Born in a poor region to working poor parents. He loved learning, he loved his mother and his father.

But he left them and spent his life with the poor, the outcast, the rejected, the defiled, the sick, the sinners, the bedraggled, the bereft, the self-hating, the lonely, the banished, the foul, the miserable, the desperate and finally, those sick with their own power.

He did this, not because of his ideology or his creed. He did this not because of his doctrine. He did this, quite simply, because he loved them. He preferred them.

He preferred their company, their stories, their lives, their environs, their plight and their faith.

And they loved him. Because he touched them. He looked them in the eye and believed in them. Because, at the end of the day, when they looked to him they saw that his commitment to them was a commitment unsullied by qualifier or clause. It was a commitment to love them, even upon pain of death. They saw in him a love that promised to love them as they were and who they were...fully, without judgment or flinching glance, or hypocritical accomodation.

This man, Jesus, was surrounded by friends and disciples whom he mentored....not by carping or enforcing rules...but by example and teaching. By the force of his actions. By his resolute commitment to the least, the smallest, the most in need.

Go ahead and read the rest of it. I'll wait...

The man that I remember learning about from the Bible was a radical. He's the man who is recorded as saying, "And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:24)." He's the man who threw the money-changers out of the temple. The Jesus of "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (Matthew 6:24)." I cannot believe, for one minute, knowing what I've learned about this man, Jesus, that he would approve of what is being done in his name by very powerful men (and I specifically use that gender) in our governmental, economic, and cultural institutions.

This hateful, destructive self-righteousness is what drove me away from church. It's not that I stopped believing in a higher power, it's that it seemed to me that a number of people were using the sacred for some very, very profane purposes. To get rich. To grab power. To keep women as second-class citizens. To murder those who disagree with them.

I spent time examining other faiths and philosophies - Taoism, Buddhism, Wicca, Islam, Jewish mysticism, Deadhead... you get the idea. And what I discovered is that they all, including Christianity, share the core fundamental belief of honoring your faith by treating your fellow human beings and other members of Divine Creation with respect. On top of that basic rule are all sorts of idiosyncracies specific to certain cultural and historical epochs, many of which no longer make sense in the 21st Century. I strongly believe in these core values, and see the cultural baggage for what it is - an important historical narrative of a different time. I was raised a Christian, a Lutheran, to be specific, and my cultural home is there. I've never rejected other faiths and philosophies. I just feel that Christianity is my cultural upbringing. Go with what you've been given.

And that's what makes it so hard. I want to belong to a spiritual community, but then I look at people like George Bush, Tom DeLay, James Dobson, and Bill Frist, and I want nothing to do with them. I don't even want to acknowledge that even in name we're of the same faith. I cannot stand their pious air of righteousness as the spread hate, corruption, and death. It makes me ill.

I, of course, know that not all Christian communities are as hypocritical and downright mean as Bush and his cohort. I've been making the first tentative steps (I feel somewhat awkward about it) towards attending a Society of Friends (Quaker) meeting since making the acquaintances of and conversing with some Friends activists at peace events over the last almost three (has it been that long?) years. These fleeting conversations, along with reviewing some of the texts written by George Fox and other literature produced by and about the Friends have almost convinced me that this may be the spiritual community that I've yearned to be a part of for the past ten years of my life. A Christian community inspired by the pacifism and commitment to social justice of Jesus. A community that believes in creating a better world here on earth, rather than seeing worldly wealth as a sign of being a member of the Elect (ah, shades of Max Weber for those of you who are sociologically inclined).

Damn. See, know that's what a good k/o post will do to you - turn your potty-mouth blog into a confessional. And I'm thankful for it.



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