Thursday, March 20, 2008

Time to Get Right With God

It's Maundy Thursday, which has me thinking more than usual about religion (and religion's close cousin, spirituality). Which, in turn, given the way I sometimes feel I cherry-pick the good out of the various religious traditions I have experienced (this is one reason why being Episcopalian is so good-- you want saints? Have some saints. Here, we've got a lot of 'em, almost as many as the Hindus have gods. They're mostly the same as the Catholic ones. Here, have a St. Christopher medal. You'd think people would stop wanting them after the Vatican de-saintified him (sorry, I don't know the real word for desaintification), but damned if they don't still move like Pepto the morning after St. Patty's day. Saints creep you out the door and make you feel like you're praying to a person, which you think you learned in Sunday school was Something To Avoid? You can be as saintless as a Methodist and still call yourself Episcopal. You can meditate, even do Buddhist meditation--or not; be totally head-over-heels in love with Mary (I am) or think about her once a year at Christmas. Etcetera) has got me wondering what exactly I do believe. In a literal, bodily resurrection? If so, as a one-shot deal for Jesus, or something that's going to happen to everybody eventually (yes, I know the Creed says "I believe...in the resurrection of the body." I always mumble that part during church services)? In death and resurrection as metaphor, or as a metaphor that also happens to be real? Well, in the spirit of one of the monologues in Neil Gaiman's American Gods, which I just finished and highly, highly recommend (While you're at your local independent bookstore, also pick up a copy of Gaiman's Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch and Our Lady of the Forest by David Guterson--yes, the guy who wrote Snow Falling on Cedars. I love you, Kansas City public library. Because you have so many books, and because you have good DVDs and CDs, and cool programs, and most of all because you are very, very free):
I believe that perfect faith is redundant, that "God is love" is tautology
and that "holy war" is an oxymoron. I believe in sin
but I believe more in redemption and so I believe
that everyone gets into heaven in the end.
I believe that God is too busy sustaining the cosmos
to notice when I get a flat tire or lose my keys;
I also believe that she watches over me
every minute of every mundane day
and worries about me when my period's late
or I can't stop crying and tells the cherubim over Earl Grey tea,
"I despair for that girl sometimes."
I believe that everything happens for a reason and that everything works out eventually
I believe that sometimes there is no explanation and things really don't work out
and that platitudes are empty bullshit anyway because Jesus never said
"Yea, verily, put that frown upside down,"
And I believe that God is beyond gender but partakes of all genders
and before you say "but Jesus called him Father" keep in mind that Jesus
was a man at the time, and isn't that what a man would say?
And I believe that Jesus was God, and man, and a very wise man,
which is exactly why I believe he and Mary Magdalene
were doin' it--because she was holy, and a very wise woman,
and sex is also holy, and an orgasm can be a mystical experience
on the level of St. John's Revelation or Ezekiel's dreams
and if Jesus had to learn Midrash just like any other man and wasn't
born knowing it,
surely he had to learn about sex too (though I'm sure he was a quick study).
I believe that my smallest action affects every particle in the universe
and that everything has consequences, planned and unforseen;
I believe that in an infinite universe, I am infintely small, reduced to a point,
and can affect virtually nothing at all.
I believe in the marriage of hope and despair, and that a life without passion
isn't worth living.
I believe that a life of passion, devoid of any set aim, is by definition pointless
but not without merit
and that it is much harder to live for something
than to die for it.
I believe that no one is an island and that a more apt description would be that we are all water molecules in the same contiguous ocean but
that it's still impossible for one person to completely know another.
I believe that creating, with words or paints or fingers shaping clay
is the best way of keeping the darkness inside
at bay, since the darkness is the destruction
the undoing, the gaping void. I believe that creation
is holy, and that God appreciates it
when we help out with the workload...
And I believe that someday
I won't have to believe all this anymore,
because I'll finally know instead.

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