Sunday, May 07, 2006

Confessions of a Hippie Christian

Well, this is my Blog for Radical Fun Day post. Yeah, I know it's more than a few days late but I have a good excuse, okay? When you're me, you don't exactly get to decide which days are going to be the most conducive to trying to stay awake long enough to write about anything. I've been trying to decide what I'd do for this event and if finally hit me yesterday. So, this is it: My confessional post.

I've had a few people ask about what faith I subscribe to and it was really surprising to me how many different guesses people have made. In a way, I'm glad that people have been able to come away with different impressions about me because I'd like to think that it's because they see something in my religious views that they can relate to.

Over the years, I've studied several different religions. I've discussed my religious background before, so I won't bother with that too much here. I think it suffices to say that I grew up in a family of ultra-conservative Christians. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't one of those groups where you are all required to live in a commune and get married at puberty. It was just the sort of denomination where all the guys wore suits and ties and the women wore wore dresses or skirts to every service unless you were a visitor, in which case aberrations were excused because you simply "didn't know any better". It was an environment where even a single act of sex outside of legally sanctioned marriage could result in one's excommunication. Was homosexuality accepted? Well, let's just say that I'm fairly sure that there's a better chance of President Bush converting to Islam before this group ever considers the notion that God doesn't find same sex unions inherently evil.

I remember back in the late eighties my brothers both wanted flat top hair cuts. Now, my mom never allowed them to have more than an inch or two of hair on their heads, so basically all they wanted was to have the hair at the top squared-off. Well, my uncle, who was a minister at the congregation we belonged to basically told my mother that my brothers wouldn't even be allowed the "privilege" of holding the microphones if they had that particular "worldly" haircut. Skip forward to 1996. I wanted braids in my hair because I've never been the sort of girl who liked to bother with curling irons and hair spray. I paid to get them done with my own money, no funny styles, no funny colors, just plain brown shoulder-length braids. You'd think that this place was being run by the Taliban judging from the reaction that I got. I swear, if I had walked through the doors with poop rubbed on my glasses I couldn't have gotten a more judgemental reaction.

Looking back on it, I can't understand why it had to be that way. Well, actually, I can understand it perfectly. The only way you can make free people give up their ability to think is by leading them to believe that independent reasoning is inherently bad, sinful even. I didn't even set out to be a rebel. The truth is, I really wanted to conform. However, I just never was able to get it together to the point where my life was acceptable to them and the pressure to measure up crushed my spirit so much that I couldn't even find a way to be the best person that I was actually capable of being. So really, I felt forced out although others would probably say that I left willingly and eventually I did, but it wasn't nearly as long ago as some might believe.

I don't know anyone who can say they behaved like stellar citizens as teenagers and I was no different. Still, I didn't go above and beyond the sort of activities that A LOT of teenagers will get into. I experimented with marijuana and alcohol abuse. I skipped classes and hung out with my friends who were mostly kids from my congregation but also felt very ignored by our religious leaders. I got a second hole pierced in each ear. I thought about what it would be like to get a bunch of tattoos or be allowed to take a date to the prom. I even fantasized about growing up and moving to a little trailer home near the Mexico/Texas border region and cultivating a little farm. Actually, I think I'd still enjoy doing that last one!

The point is, I didn't get into anything that a religious organization shouldn't have been able to deal with. I'm not saying that a church is supposed to condone drug abuse or juvenile delinquency; I just think that if religion isn't relevent to today, then it's pretty pointless. It just becomes another hobby or a place for singles to meet and marry and I wanted so much more than that. I wanted meaning not just repetitive worship of some deity that had the power to smite those who questioned His existence. Voltaire once stated, "God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh". That isn't a god I wanted to know nor is it one that I would praise. So what else is there?

Well, it turns out there's a whole lot but I'm still in the process of learning more about it. However, here's some things that I believe right now:

1. God wouldn't allow over a billion Chinese people to be born, live, and die without ever really learning that much about Christianity if being a Christian is the only way to get His approval.

2.Calling God "Him" sounds right to me because I've been conditioned to see God in this way. God is no more like a human male than He is like a human female. I use masculine pronouns simply because it's what's conventional where I'm from. I find female pronouns just as accurate a description because anything that compares God to humans is, I believe, simply inadequate.

3.I don't know exactly what will happen to me after this life and you don't know either. The truth is, any answer that someone might give you is purely speculation. However, I believe with all my heart that what awaits us after this is merely a transformation of some kind and I believe that those who have done tried to do what they believe is ethical and moral and loving have nothing but good things to look forward to experiencing and those who have been intentionally and unrepentently cruel and judgemental and unethical will indeed get their come-uppance in abundance.

4.The Bible's accounts about Jesus are a wonderful example for people to emulate even if you don't believe in any of the immaculate conception, resurrection after three days, walked on water claims.

5.The Buddha was also a wonderful example for people to emulate even if you think that Jesus or Isis or Mohammed or the Flying Spaghetti Monster should be put at the top of the prophet/miracle-worker hierarchy.

6.As a matter of fact, anyone who preaches non-violence, believes that widows and orphans should be cared for by society, and doesn't turn up her/his nose at the poor would make a wonderful example for people to imitate...Hey, it sure beats the sort of people that this world tends to praise despite their war-mongering, hateful, and bigoted pratices.

Some people--okay, lots of people--seem to think that belief in Christianity means that you must denounce everyone else and/or claim to have absolutely no doubts about the stuff in the Bible. If I didn't have any connection to Christianity, I'd probably be pretty disgusted with the whole religion just on the basis of encountering so many people who think like that. I can deal with people who are like that because I remember what it was like to be them.

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