Views on politics and current events

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Rambling About Religion

Never in my life have I thought as I do now. In the past I usually floated along with the flow, rather conservative in politics and my life in general. But the older I get, the more my opinions swing to the progressive view of issues. Is this contrary to what usually happens? Don't folks tend to get more conservative as they age?

In the realm of religion, in my younger years I never bought into it. I was raised in the Methodist Church, went to Sunday School and all that, and I was confirmed a Methodist. But I remember just a few days before the confirmation ceremonies, we had to have a one-on-one meeting with the pastor. After some chit-chat, the preacher got to the crux of the meeting, and started asking me questions:

Pastor: Do you believe that Jesus was born of a virgin?
Me: No
Pastor (after looking at me over his glasses): You don't believe in the virgin birth?
Me: No
Pastor: Why not?
Me: Things don't happen that way.
Pastor: Jesus was God on earth, He was God's son.
Me: Okay.
Pastor: He was God's gift to us.
Me: Okay
Pastor: He died for our sins.
Me: Whatever you say.

And the meeting went on in the same vein. By the time I walked home, the pastor had evidently called my Mother, for she was waiting for me.

Mother: What did you say to the pastor?
Me: He asked me questions, and I answered.
Mother: Well don't be saying that kind of stuff to a preacher, especially just before you get confirmed.
Me: But it's what I believe.
Mother: That's all well and good, but don't be saying that kind of stuff to a preacher!

Bless my Mother's memory, she didn't try to convince me otherwise. She just wasn't happy that I was so honest, with a pastor of all people! So I was soured on the whole idea. I went through the confirmation ceremony, but it didn't mean much to me. This was my attitude for a number of years. Why in the hell even bother with something where what I truly believe is not to be uttered?

This was the world I lived in. But then I met a man that happened to be a preacher. Met him by circumstance, still wasn't interested in church, religion, spirituality. He was the first person I met that was willing to listen and not condemn. Not only listen, but actually agreed with some of the things I said, blasphemous as they were. This set me aback. I was fairly certain I had all this religious mumbo-jumbo figured out. But I wasn't even close. I had many talks with this man, still do on occasion but not as frequent as before, for he now lives out of town. But he showed me that it is possible to have strong convictions and still be spiritual, if not essentially religious. He actually showed me the difference between the two.

And what a difference there can be! Ideally perhaps the two should go hand in hand. But it often seems that they don't. There are many reasons it seems for folks to attend church. For the social aspect, to show off some new clothes, to do their one-hour duty, and actually to worship. I don't berate anyone for any reasons they might have for going to church. All I'm concerned about is why I started to attend again. Not every Sunday for sure, but a damn sight more than I used to. All I know is that I, like most everyone that is willing to admit it, am a spiritual being. A wise person once said that "We are not human beings trying to live spiritual life, but spiritual beings trying to live a human life". I still don't buy into the dogma, but I also know that that makes absolutely no difference to my spiritual life.

A few times a year I work up a piece for the piano to play for the congregation. Not being a natural talent, I have to work very hard which means I do a lot of practicing on the sanctuary's piano. Pianos are like people, they have their own personality, and it takes awhile to get to know them. I know the piano at church very well. A Baldwin upright, not in the best of shape, it has it's own little quirks, but all things considered it doesn't sound too bad. When I am alone in the sanctuary practicing, the same sanctuary and church that my Mother was so involved with, I can feel the presence of her spirit there. That is but one part of my spiritual life. As my preacher friend has said, "Be concerned with your spirituality. The rest is only fluff and stuff."

Before my Mother passed, I talked to her about the incident with the preacher and my confirmation. She was quite a free thinker for her generation. She told me that I was right, and that if a preacher didn't want to hear what a person really thought, they shouldn't ask. She admitted at the time that she was too wrapped up in the social aspects of church, and that after a long life she had become a doubter of organized religious thought. But she also said that church was a vital part of her life in her declining years, and that the church was her family that she accepted, warts and all. My Mother taught me many things in my life, and probably the most important thing was how to leave this earth with grace and dignity. After eighty-six years, raising seven children, losing one to death at the age of eighteen, and 'raising' my Father too, and prevailing over many trials and heartbreak, she knew when it was her time. She faced it bravely and matter-of-factly, and passed a restful, peaceful, noble death.

The spiritual is what I'm concerned with. Not the supernatural, not some ancient miracle story that some insist is literal fact. A spiritual awakening, if you like. The rest is only fluff and stuff. Indeed!

1 comment:

Dean said...

The history of my faith and spirituality is not exactly like yours, but I too have become much more progressive, both in my social and my religious thinking as I age....and while I was never a conservative, the biggest changes have come just in the last two years. I am now 75, and as an erstwhile Christian, I would throw out nearly everything that the average Christian believes about the person of Jesus. I still do see him, however, as the person who best of all showed us what God might be like, and his vision of deity demands a certain consistency which I do not see in most organized church thinking. For me, Jesus is probably no more a "son of God" than we all are, and that is not exclusive, but inclusive. God is no longer a being, for me, but a force of cosmic consciousness based upon love, and that is the direction in which I wish to grow. I find that cosmic love, in my meditation, to be just as personal, if not more so, as the old "Father" relationship I once perceived. As I am in God, God is in me, and in you, and in all that is. It is not necessary for me even to call that "God"....but I know that it is "Love." That's all there is, for me, and all that there needs to be. No other definition is adequate. ANY other definition presumes too much...or too little. Beyond stupendous, this kind of deity for me is worth living for......and dieing for. I can grow in it. I can live with any kind of condemnation that humankind might throw at me. Without any modesty or presumption of superiority, I am God. There is no dualism for me. There is only incompleteness....lack of readiness to accept. I am God. So too, are you. I am happy with that. How could I not be?

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