Friday, April 3, 2009Last night we had rehearsal in the rec hall of the Monticello Episcopal Church because the Opera House was hosting another event for the bicyclers. Because we've been under various flood warnings and tornado watches for the past week or so and because the rains and lightening and thunder we've been getting have been truly amazing, I thought it would be funny to announce, as I walked into the room, "Well, I hope god doesn't strike this building down because I'm in it."
Now let me set the scene here:
In the play I'm currently in, two of the actors are ministers, one is a minister's wife, one a devout Christian of some sort and our director is about the sweetest, nicest Episcopalian in the world who claims that Episcopalian's welcome all sinners and will offer to buy you a drink.
The only reason I don't claim to be an atheist is because I don't know everything and I do try to keep an open mind but really, I do not have the god gene. I was raised in a Community Church and I don't know quite what they believe but we did sing the Old Rugged Cross and the Doxology and we said the Lord's Prayer and there was preaching involved although hell was not emphasized.
I tried to go through a religious phase as girl of about nine or ten when I was being sexually abused and that did not work out well. I read the entire Bible by the age of twelve. Every word. Every begat and smiting. And let me tell you- there is some twisted stuff in the Bible and we could talk about that for days, but let's not.
Anyway, the abuse continued and I never heard god's voice or saw any evidence he'd been listening and I figured out for myself that hell can be right here on earth and then I got into music and realized that heaven can be too. I did LSD (so sue me- it was about a million years ago) and that particular drug wrapped itself around my brain stem and shook it and showed me a few things about the connection of every atom in this universe and well, that was it for me.
I lost my religion, whatever it was I might have had but I became what I can only describe as spiritual.
So anyway, last night when I said that thing about the church being struck down, I felt comfortable saying it because my cast mates are loving people who know me and know I am, for the most part, a good person with an open heart and that I try. They also know I'm not a believer in what they believe and that seems to be okay but one of the ministers, who is more of a traditionally southern Christian than the others said, "Well, Mary. Why do you think you said that?"
And I was taken aback.
"Well, because it was a joke," I said.
I really don't think that god is going to strike down a church rec room because I'm in it. I did Weight Watchers meetings in a church in Thomasville, Georgia for years and that church is still standing, every one of its red bricks firmly in place.
"Maybe you said it because you know you should go to church," said my very Christian cast mate.
"Uh. No." I said. And was reminded once again that although it is quite accepted for a person of religious belief to go off on a non-believer, even in a sweet, Christian way, it is totally NOT all right for a heathen to go off on a believer. It would not be appropriate at all for me to say what I was thinking which was that I have heard the message his church no doubt proclaims my entire life and I am in no way open to the idea that I have to believe in a Magical Being to make my way through life in a meaningful, moral way, nor do I believe that believing in that Magical Being is going to send me up to heaven when I die.
Now see, I have a deep affection for this man. He's a firm believer in Jesus Christ, his savior, and he lives that way. I respect that. And I think he respects me, even though I'm sure he prays for me and would love to get me to give my life over to his Jesus.
So what he said didn't so much offend me or make me angry as just a little bit indignant and he knew it and said, "I love you, Mary. In Christ."
"I love you, too, B.," I answered. "I'm just cutting out the middle man."
And isn't that it?
I mean I get up and I look around me some days and I see beauty that makes me swoon. Sometimes just the sight of the way the light cuts through the trees and casts gold upon them makes me cry. And I've been this way since I was a child. I think we are all born with this great capacity to respond to nature and music and the love of those we love and goodness and mercy and great literature and art with such appreciation and awe that it opens us up inside and we recognize holiness when we see it. I mean, if you can see a baby get born and not see holiness, there is something dead inside of you. If you can hold someone's hand when they are dying and not recognize holiness then I feel sorry for you. If you can can walk through spring and not have to stop over and over again to be grateful for the holiness of the renewal of life then truly, I don't understand.
But why and how does Jesus get involved? Why do we need to believe that he was born and died and was resurrected to get the fact that all of this is a fucking miracle?
The creationists, those folks who don't believe in evolution and who prefer to think that their god sat up there in heaven and painted the stripes on the zebra and the petals on the camellia and the colors on the sky for sunrise always ask how we could have gotten to this place in this perfect world without the intervention of a perfect god?
And the response of course is that this perfection is here because it's the only way it all could have evolved in this particular set of circumstances, this briny soup of dust and water, comet breath and sunlight. Oh man. When you think about it, when you really think about the vast amount of life here before us and its sweetness and its, well, glory, it's too much for the puny mind of us all to grasp, and yet, not really.
We can grasp it. We can even worship it.
But why do we have to humble ourselves before a creator? Why do we have to bring Jesus into it?
Oh. There's so much I could say here. The discrepancies in the Bible. The huge number of religions which have come and gone and stayed and gone again. The unloving and prejudiced things people say and claim that their god proclaimed them to be true, meanwhile shutting themselves off from the true miracles of differences and the beauty those differences bring to our lives. The condemnation of those differences, the hatred of "the sin" while the "sinner" is embraced.
The way children suffer and die even if prayers are offered endlessly. The way we haven't, even after eons of religions coming and going, figured out that killing people in the name of god or country doesn't solve a damn thing.
Not to mention diseases, natural disasters and plain old stupidity.
But that's not what I want to say today.
What I want to say is that I don't want my soul to be limited to a belief. I want my soul and my heart to be open to every leaf, every drop of sweet water or salt, to every baby born, to every bird's song, to the frenzy of spring's mating frogs, their passionate desire to froth the puddles and ponds left by the rains with their need to join together and make more frogs.
I don't want to have to go back and check and make sure this is all okayed by Jesus and his big daddy. I don't want to have to filter my love, my passions, my angers and my fears through a set of religious rules and beliefs.
I just want to be who I am, here on this earth in this universe with its good and its bad, its evil and its miracles, its holiness and its horror. I don't want to have to figure out why a loving god would allow this but not that. I want my actions to come from my heart and from love and what I observe around me, based on trying to be the best me I can possibly manage.
Is that so wrong?
Of course not.
So why is it so hard to say these things to a believer?
I don't know.
But I'm going to start trying. Not to defend myself against religion, but to offer what I feel, in my very own heart, instead of meekly bowing my head and letting someone try to make me feel like I'm a sinner because I don't buy their brand.
Because I DO believe. I believe in a lot of things. And just because I don't want to go to a church where they speak of the father, the son and the holy ghost (and what the HELL is the holy ghost?) as the holy trinity, doesn't mean I don't believe in holy trinities.
I believe in the mother, the father, and the child.
I believe in the light, the love and the yearning for them both.
I believe in fire and water and air.
I believe in the seed, the dirt and the rain.
I believe in the guitar, the bass, the drums.
I believe in the hips, the breasts, the feet.
I believe in the bone, the blood, the breath.
I believe in the pen, the ink, the paper.
I believe in the chicken, the egg and the question.
I believe that breast milk is sacred although I do not think the communion wine is.
I believe that home made bread can feed your soul but I do not believe the host is the body of Christ.
I believe the vagina can should be worshiped because it delivers life but I do not believe the cross should be because it represents the cruelty of man.
I believe in this day, this heart, this mind, these hands and these words.
I believe in love. And not just the love between a man and a woman or the love a parent has for a child or a person has for his or her god. I believe in love in all its forms and that it is sacred wherever it is found and is true.
That's what I need to tell people who want me to go to church. With love. In love. My own. Not Christ's. I'm cutting out the middle man. I'm going it alone. With all these miracles and loves and leaves and light and music and words by my side.
And that's what I have to say today.
This gorgeous rain-washed day that fills me up with its light and its song and its green lizards and its soft air and its life, bursting forth renewed and ancient, all at the same time.
This day which has given me another opportunity to be who I am, the miracle of evolution, the daughter of all the mothers, the mother of all the daughters and sons, and as I go about this day with joy (because I am filled with joy today) I am going to think about all of these things and how dinosaurs had feathers and I will wonder what it would have been like to look at one of those mighty creatures, three-fingered and shimmering in the light of early days on earth in colors I can't imagine.
Because I don't know everything.
But I do know I don't need to go to church to hear about Jesus.
The wind carries me all the message I need, through the branches of the trees, from the blue waters of the Gulf, from the breath of the universe as it inhales and exhales its life to my sacred body, my profane and joyful heart.