Nature of my Religion
I didn’t start attending church until around age ten when my mother remarried and her second husband adopted us. My biological father is still alive but I think he felt that it was better to give our upbringing over to a man that had better financial means. It is true that my second father Bob gave us access to a more rounded life. I haven’t been close to my real dad since he left us mostly due to the literal distance between us. And though I loved Bob as well, I never quite completely bonded with him and wholeheartedly accepted him as my real father. I started attending Bob’s church as soon as my mother and he married. My siblings were older and went to public school. But our church, St. Paul’s, also had an elementary school in it, where I, more than my sister or brother, learned about the Bible. I loved hearing about holy mythologies: whales swallowing men, Noah gathering all animal species in their entirety, burning bushes, parting seas.
I don’t feel like I have had any complex daddy issues in my life, though I have always dated older men. I don’t harbor anger to either of the fathers who helped raise me. But if I were to be honest, I think I kind of always wanted Jesus to be my daddy. As soon as I started learning about Jesus, I developed a kind of crush on him. He was the coolest person I had ever heard about, a real rebel:questioning his teachers at a young age, revolting against the government who collected taxes in church, befriending prostitutes. I wanted to be as cool as Jesus. Maybe I do have daddy issues? My friends have found me at the bar talking to the oldest man present…on more than a few occasions. I think I just have always wanted an elder man that I respect and love and who I share a kindred spirit with to love me back without any weird sexual anything. I truly thank God that I have lived all of these 41 years without being victim to sexual abuse. I’m sad sad sad for the statistics revolving around how commonplace abuse is in both America and world wide. Maybe that was why it was safe to have a crush on Jesus. I could trust HIM.
It was never the scriptures or the wonderful stories that pushed me away from Christianity. It was the people. After being baptized into the Episcopal church, which I recognized was liberal when I saw my pastor buying beer at a 7/11, I didn’t think too much about it and claimed Christianity as my faith through high school. One year of a baptist college, however, was enough to steer me away. I never saw the words and the actions lining up. Even my underage preacher’s son was having sex in our RV with his girlfriend during the Baylor football games. It all seemed inane to me, either drunk partying Baptist who managed to make it to church on Sunday, or those who spoke in tongues and carried life size crosses around. No doubt there were very normal, and good people who tried to follow Jesus’ teachings living in Waco in 1991, but they somehow escaped my reach. And luckily, so did those crazy Branch Dividians!
Even though Jesus was my first love, because I could never quite relate to the people calling themselves Christian, I turned to nature as my church. I was a normal teenager struggling with all the normal teenage struggles like self-acceptance. I did my fair share of stupid things and am thankful the internet and cell phones were not a huge part of growing up. But what I still carry to this day, is this feeling of being at home in Nature. I loved going on walks near my parents house outside the hill country of Austin, or hiding away under a tree to read or write or simply observe.
I was delighted to stumble upon the Essene Gospel of Peace traveling in South America at around age 22. There are different beliefs behind the Dead Sea Scrolls. On one hand some people think they are a fallacy, and on the other some believe they have been hidden from the general public intentionally because they are more of the true teachings of Jesus. All I know is that it made sense to me, and it made me feel better about attending the universal church of nature , rather than learning about God in a building. An excerpt:
And Jesus answered: “Seek not the law in your scriptures, for the law is life, whereas the scripture is dead. I tell you truly, Moses received not his laws from God in writing, but through the living word. The law is living word of living God to living prophets for living men. In everything that is life is the law written. You find it in the grass, in the tree, in the river, in the mountain, in the birds of heaven, in the fishes of the sea; but seek it chiefly in yourselves. For I tell you truly, all living things are nearer to God than the scripture which is without life. God so made life and all living things that they might by the everlasting word teach the laws of the true God to man. God wrote not the laws in the pages of books, but in your heart and in your spirit. They are in your breath, your blood, your bone; in your flesh, your bowels, your eyes, your ears, and in every little part of your body. They are present in the air, in the water, in the earth, in the plants, in the sunbeams, in the depths and in the heights. They all speak to you that you may understand the tongue and the will of the living God. But you shut your eyes that you may not see, and you shut your ears that you may not hear. I tell you truly, that the scripture is the work of man, but life and all its hosts are the work of our God. Wherefore do you not listen to the words of God which are written in His works? And wherefore do you study the dead scriptures which are the work of the hands of men?”
So what did nature teach me?
So many colors: subtlety. forgiveness. blood red anger. passion. cycles. beauty. grace. humility. braggadocio. love. patience. strength. and maybe most importantly like the sunset to be grand when I feel like being grand whether anyone is watching or not. to be myself.
While the online belief-0-meter test calls me a Neo-Pagan-Buddhist…truly in my heart I believe that God is one, paths are many. Buddhism started appealing to me in college. It is quite philosophical and can be as deep or as simple as one allows for it. I guess my favorite thing about it is that I can explore my self, or rather allow for my self to unfold from within under its teachings (much like a lotus flower). Buddha and Jesus were kind of interchangeable in my mind but it seemed I got along better with the Buddhists. My sister and I would attend lectures and I read a lot literature of Buddhism. I am at a place that I am comfortable with desire. Not to say that I translate the noble truths in a way that makes desire the bad guy completely. I do feel like my own personal journey through meditation and Buddhist principles sometimes got me to a place where there was a complete acceptance of what is. Desire kind of fell to the way side, and simply being was enough. That is a wonderful space to be in. But then, I want to focus on manifesting the life that I want, rather than stilling my mind so often. I am intrigued by the places my mind can take me. From desire, dreams are born.
Or maybe it is just that I am the worst at sitting still to meditate and I guess there is kind of a lot of that in Buddhism. Moving meditation is better for me. Also letting go of some idea of enlightenment being an end goal, but rather enjoying the steady, but sometimes far between, glimpses of it through love has served me well. I still carry Jesus and Buddha in my heart, but I feel like my path has again evolved.
I have found that every single prayer I have offered sitting either in Native American Church or sweat lodge has been answered. And so rather than separate myself from my desires. I feel like now is the time to unleash them, and to focus all my best energies on them. I care about the water. I care about the earth and my children’s future. Something about these ceremonies: sitting on earth, having the element of fire, the bit of sacrifice of being hot in the sweat, or staying up all night in the tipi, there is something so authentic for me. I can feel my energy uplift itself and it gives me an opportunity to ask for help for my concerns and also to give thanks.
As important as my spirituality is to me, I am not dogmatic. Nor do I try and push my spirituality onto others, including my own children. I think my husband and I have met so many people messed up by religion that we kind of decided to leave it out of the conversation with our children. But after realizing this year that my ten year old daughter doesn’t really discern between Santa Clause and Jesus Christ, and would likely choose to invite Santa over J.C., I want to start introducing the wonderful things about religion which mainly are the questions that arise. Who am I? Why am I alive? What is my purpose?
How my children worship life is up to them. And by worship, I mean feel the subtle beauties, peace, gratitude, emotion. I remember fondly sitting at the Shabbat dinner table with my Jewish friends and thinking how beautiful that bond was for them. I want to find a way to introduce options for my children. So perhaps dragging them to different churches to see what sticks won’t screw them up but give them insight?! I’m still figuring that one out.
Here an email to my atheist friend:
“For me, the question of whether there is or is not a GOD, is not so important. If this reality from birth to death is all I have, I will celebrate. And if I am meant to come back here ten thousands times for a learning experience, then I will celebrate. Whether a supreme cosmic energy called God, or Buddha, or Jesus or Allah exists or does not, we all need something to strive for. If nothing else, God DOES exist in our hearts and minds. The human being who is not nurtured as an infant, simply dies. But if we strive for ideals, if we strive to be good and fill our empty selves with a belief that there is something good that exist in the world, than I say whatever helps.
Religion has been the greatest cause of grief and death in our human history. Because we have gotten it wrong. It should never be about good and evil, right and wrong, but rather who am I as a god? How can I be god like? By creating beauty, by sharing myself, by realizing that we are one human race full of diversity. The message of most religion is ultimately LOVE. In the Essene Gospels, Jesus says don’t go to the scriptures, that is man’s words. Rather go into nature and Be with yourself to know God. I think we just need to remind ourselves that these are all myths and stories and it is not who tells the story the best, but the message of the story. Mankind has gotten tangled up in religion to it’s detriment. But it is our very nature to wrangle with these questions. Even that is a part of our story- the fact that by worshiping different ideas, we have separated ourselves from one another, rather than realizing that the ideas or more or less the same. And yet , that too is the beauty of being a human. I can believe anything I want. If that feeling of being loved by the universe, cradled in the ocean or in a cool breeze is emanating from myself, or something larger than myself, I say good for me, let me give thanks and be grateful. “
So go hunting my friends: All of us need to feel a connection to Life. She is there presently extending her hand, her palms are always open. It is up to us individually to choose how we will embrace her. And don’t forget that Life, Source, Divine light, God, whatever you choose to name it, has a wonderful sense of humor. It is okay to laugh and make fun** Believe me, the universe “gets it”. The mystery and the laughter all unfold from our questions. As much as I love the current Pope, I may just end up converting to Catholicism.