It's a beautiful Monday afternoon, I am off from work and I am supposed to be packing. I am, however, allotting myself some time to compose this post that has been several months in creation. Normally my writing here is... gosh let's say goofy at best, banal at worst.
This will hopefully raise the bar just a touch.
Two years ago I stopped going to church altogether (apart from Christmas to humour my mother). Now I'd been going less frequently as a general rule because of school and lack of interest for sometime, but I actually finally came to the conclusion two years ago that I was not even comfortable going to church anymore. I decided to get to the bottom of why.
In recent years the Anglican church (the one I was born and raised in) has made great strides: blessing same sex-marriages being a big one in my books, and I am inclined to go and support them for that reason alone. While I've never been a fundamentalist, I've never had any problem with the core teaching of the church: that there is a greater (for lack of a better word) spirit that resides in everything in this world and beyond linking us together as one, and that we should all treat each other as we would like to be treated. "On these two commandments hang all of the laws and the covenants."
I guess I'm not sure, but I don't really think that Jesus was actually a real guy, but I don't think that that's the point (as much as people make it out to be, anyways). The point is the story, and Christ represents someone who stood up against the oppression of the innocent, protected the sick and the poor and healed the wounded, and said not to judge people unless you'd like to get judged yourself.
I think that in the story when He says "I am the way" He doesn't mean, "Believe in me and you'll go to heaven", he means "Do what I'm doing, spread the message of peace and love and look after people who need it". By and large, I think that most Christians probably believe at least that much.
What has happened (takes a deep breath for the plunge) is that for thousands of years people have committed atrocities in the name of God and Christ. People have used the bible to oppress others, to hurt other human beings and to justify their own acts for their own ends.
In recent years we've had a man in the White House and a country full of evangelical Christians touting their political, war mongering agenda in the name of God and Christ. They claim moral superiority and use God as a means to justify their political positioning, bigotry and just about everything from oppression of the weak, to an absolute refusal to take care of the poor and sick. There is a divide in their country and many others between (sorry for the "liberal bias" here)"Right Wing Christian Fundamentalists" and everyone else. "You're either with us or against us", well sorry, but I guess I'm against you, because if God is the way you say "He" is, then I hope I go to hell.
It has gotten to the point that I am uncomfortable saying "praise God" because of all that that seems to imply. I shouldn't feel uncomfortable with the idea of God or Christ or the Holy Spirit, in essence there's nothing about them to make me feel uncomfortable. One of my all time favourite parts of the church service used to be "and he whom the spirit lights give light to the world". It's an absolutely beautiful thought if you think about it... the idea of this light that shines in each one of us with the potential for goodness and love that we can share with the rest of humanity. I am actually getting down right angry that anyone could ruin this for me. And then I had a realization (with a little help from Scott).
III: Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
Maybe we've mistook one of the commandments. "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain". What if saying "God damn it" isn't taking the Lord's name in vain? What if dropping bombs on a country, killing and mutilating its population and then saying that God told you to do it is taking the Lord's name in vain? What if saying "God hates gays" is taking the Lord's name in vain? What if telling people that "if you just pray to Jesus all of your problems will go away" is taking the Lord's name in vain?
I suddenly had a new appreciation for this commandment.
My idea of God, Christ, the Spirit and what that all means is always changing. Maybe some day I'll feel the need to go back to church to reconnect with the history and ritual, but for now I think its best left to books and an attempt to treat other people the way I'd like them to treat me and, if I can, it's time to stop letting the powers that be ruin a perfectly good bit of spirituality that could make me feel deeply connected, instead of divided.
Peace be with you :)