I was just reading this account of a gal who considers herself an ex-christian from a site dedicated to those who identify themselves as such and really got to thinking why do i now identify again with these religious labels again. My epiphany in this question I asked myself was not for me at all. It would be more along the lines of when St.Paul states “I wish i could be cut off for the sake of my brethren realizing.” But I understand this gal Eva, I was there for many years, 2000-2015 to be precise. It was not only my shame in being associated with the organizations that went by the name but my own shame of how I really never lived up to any kind of example of what it should look like either. So what changed?
Well over the years as I began to peal back the layers of things.. as Eva puts it on her own blog site very eloquently, “I untangled the beautiful parts of my former religion from the abusive, enslaving parts. I moved into states of flow, and understandings and insights poured into me about the nature of reality, humanity, divinity, and what it takes to make life work.”
It seriously took that long to even come back to a place that I needed like Paul to identify with the tribes not for myself but more for them. I’ve since found this therapeutic in relating to others because of all the hurt that remains in the attachment to tribe there. So what did I do with the shame?
Well it’s not entirely gone, much like the disgust that I feel for the dishonesty and manipulative behaviour I see in churches and leadership.. but I still have compassion for even that because of my own shortcomings.
The main change is that I embrace my shortcomings as part of the mix and don’t see them as damnable anymore. One could see this as an appropriation of the message of Jesus’ Cross which wouldn’t be wrong, but I see it as something more demonstrative.. like when the epistle writer talks of the “sprinkling of the blood.” I’m not mincing words nor trying to merely make a fitting metaphor here either, it’s seriously about the action of faith that I feel has to be part of the inner workings and working out of what we believe.
To me “faith” as such can’t be an intellectual assent it has to be a
“lived” thing, like new clothes or wineskins. That’s why i believe St.Pauls visitation on the road to Damascus by the Spirit of Jesus is an integral part of every person’s experience of ultimate realization. What it is called in the individuals understanding can take different forms but it has a consistent character or nature. What Fr. Richard Rohr calls in his book by the same name, the Universal Christ. This is actually what we are referencing when we say “in Jesus Name,” it’s not just a nice epitaph or roger over and out.
For many this might come after many years of religious experience because it’s found that religion like it’s been said has become a panacea for the worlds ills and it’s a very weak and often eventually corrosive and not therapeutic as one intended when one went into it. Eva had to say “I accept you for who you are, and who you are not, without knowing.” Which is to say we must come to this place of not just god on our terms but God’s as well. Meaning as well as finding and retaining our own authenticity to our search for meaning and being there has to be a yielding, surrender and definitive vunerability to the Divine Other as well.
I do wonder if at the time Paul had his apparition and had to go into Arabia for a few years was because how already at that point the church may have been diminished from that place of Pentecost and become toxic. I am quite clear that not a few MUST leave the churches to stop their suffering and torture. There is genuinely corrosive forces and fields there that block the space to more critically work through ones’ faith and understanding to a better place where we can assist and impact on humanity in a more optimal fashion. Finding that trustworthy and sustaining character of the Divine that the hit 80s band Depeche Mode might call the “Personal Jesus” takes a truly transcendant detachment I’ve found.
It’s also my conclusion if one’s not to get swayed and taken advantage of by all the false christ’s out there that this detachment serves to sever us from the precarious and corrosive forces moving forward. Instead of getting caught up in the cult of celebrity teachers we find ourselves able to receive and be grateful for their contribution to the collective good. This is what Paul was talking about when he asked why church goers were saying they were of one teacher or another.. the pedestooling or name-saking game that often is played to not take responsibility for ones own path is called out.
We also can have a greater understanding of certain tribes understanding and why they do things.. like Eva with her Church of Christ.. they were “against any manifestations of God today, believing that miracles, healing, and God speaking to you were all saved for the time of Jesus and the early church” – because much as atheists do they felt it shameful to think they needed to make excuses for God in our current time. Better to not believe in that kind of god right?
Eva cites several verses from Pauls letters to Timothy where he says that woman is only saved through child birth and the infamous one that a woman should have her head covered. She needn’t have a strict metaphor nor literal view of these verses if she just saw that the Character of God can be retained in tact as it’s reveled to her soul in the process of living. This is more of a mystical enterprise than an intellectual or emotional endeavor as her and i’ve found out in our lives.
So here’s the question.. she believed she could “dip” into the spirit realm.. but without a primary other personality this was all fundamentally her own truth.. how did it connect to the rest of humanity still in an authentic way. This problem of distinction that I still feel she’s going through is the last part of the grate shame here. because it allows her and others like her.. as it did me, to get tossed to and fro in the spiritual melting pot and too oft .
It’s makes it to easy for our mind and body to get caught up in a relativism that is just as corrosive in the end. In both allowing the personality to be defined and seeking to unveil it more myself ALONG A CERTAIN LINE OF SPIRITUAL CHARACTER, what could be called the SHEM or NAME, this is the Form or portal of Christ as I now see it. Is this name “seen” in other religions and streams of thought of course it is. She was relieved when she disidentified with her tribe when she saw that others were no longer “going to hell.” I see this as getting divorced from the polarity sense because I also understand the eastern context in which the words of the sacred christian scriptures were written. Whenever the Spirit of the text goes awry like say those scrips in Timothy.. I simply believe that their humanity was left in tact and we can disregard it.. much like the Hebrew texts which i believe to be a projection of their primal tribal view of god at that time intermingled with their faith in the transcendent and transformative.
I just love when Eva relates of her first christian experience and can totally relate to mine at 13 at a christian camp. “Say you’re a Christian fundamentalist teen who really wants to meet God, and you go to a camp meeting. At the service, the worship team plays, and you “enter in” to the song. You let yourself go in the music, seeking to worship with your whole heart. Maybe in that moment there is a part of you that opens to the spiritual world, and you get a glimpse into it. You immediately interpret that as God, the one you read about in the bible.. I interpreted spiritual experiences I had based on what I believed about God as taught by my religious leaders and the bible.But there are other possible ways to interpret those experiences. “
There still is a little work to be done though because of her relativism in “There may or may not be a God as Christianity describes it, but there certainly is a force, an energy, there’s a spiritual world that when you enter it with your awareness, you feel truly alive. ” Why because vitality, aliveness, awakeness.. are tricky things. It’s more subtle or deeper of a consciousness thing.. and what she is relating it to could also be this addiction to the succession of ecstatic moments.. and more dopamine driven?
When she relates this experience with her new age friend it was much like my past life regression session I did with my friend a few years ago, “One day my new age friend told me about a problem she was having with a family member. Without even talking about it, I went into this realm, listening and hearing for her. I was still aware of her in the room, but I was also aware of the other world. And when I let my awareness slip fully back into the physical plane, I had encouragement for her. And it was normal for her and for me, because we knew what the other meant. It had nothing to do with religion.” Now for those who have studied or aware of different energies modalities like Reiki this makes sense, however like I found out about with psychics and tarot readers a few years back there is a certain recklessness in the spirit to this practice.
Something that is not really reconciled until we admit that our tribal identifications can be embraced and integrated with others on their journeys with the primary understanding of the key Christ Nature at the helm of it all. Where we agree on this great, where we disagree lets probe further. We must also trust that His Sheep follow His Voice they will not follow a stranger, and those who come to God must believe in the centrality of that Otherness and that it is Benevolent. This was and is the core tenant of Christ’s mission and adoption to His High Calling of Loving Spirituality that Ultimately releases us from the Great Shame.