Of course “fall” has been in full swing around these parts since sometime in August. Many places in Canada don’t have as long a summer than other points south. But anyone who knows me will smile because I’m in my glory.
It’s finally time again for all things pumpkin (pie, lattes, pudding, jack-o-lanterns), off-beat scarves, warm sweaters, cute boots, funky hats, brilliant colours exploding off the trees, smells of woodsmoke and the damp earth-going-sleep, and a few last brave bonfires before the snow flies.
I love autumn. I’m an autumn baby (okay, technically “summer” having been born 2 weeks prior to the start of fall, but you do recall Canadians begin fall early, right?). Autumn brings peace to me; it’s a time where the seasons are not-quite-stable, when visible and invisible connect in harvest, thanksgiving, and that whispering promise of winter. Those colours on the trees don’t last long, especially when the fall winds pick up, so I have to drink them all in each year when I can.
After posting yesterday —
— I had a few comments off of FB, on the blog, and to my private email. A secular humanist friend of mine asked me flat out: “So why do you stick with Christianity anyway? You know it’s just dead religion keeping people down, right?”
He wasn’t asking out of malice; he’s just an honest guy who’s trying to understand the world (like we all are). But it got me thinking: why DO I stick with Christianity?
- It’s certainly instigated more than it’s share of violence and oppression
- It bases its beliefs on Someone totally invisible
- It hasn’t been exactly loving towards LGBTQ+ people
So why am I sticking around?
Well, I’m fond of pointing out to people who blankly accuse all Christians (or any people of faith) of indoctrinating our children, that anyone can be accused of indoctrination. Even parents who claim to be raising their kids bias-free and as critical thinkers possess deep biases and profound beliefs behind all that open-mindedness. Sometimes open-mindedness is a duck blind for being wishy-washy; sometimes kids who learn to be indecisive by not engaging beliefs or perceptions they might potentially disagree with struggle with where they stand in the world. Beliefs and values aren’t limited to religion. We would all do well in our conversations to remember that.
Furthermore, extremism can be found anywhere — Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, anti-theism, atheism, secular humanism — ANYWHERE. As humans we have the propensity to take our beliefs and run with them. We run so far towards a single fixed point that we trample over the beliefs, dreams and perceptions of others. Sometimes this extremism becomes deadly and oppressive. Learning to recognize extremism — even being in extreme in pursuing balance in the universe — is also a skill we would do well do hone. Not to point fingers at others and stick our tongues out; but rather to come to better understandings of ourselves as people. Learning nuance while trying to understand religions, beliefs, values and traditions is more valuable than gold. It drastically improves the dialogue game, as we seek to know and love one another.
Lastly, while I did blog yesterday about the fear involved in talking about my own gender identity and sexual orientation and Christian backlash, I need to make mention: not all backlash has been religious. Even in the LGBTQ+ community, there is a stigma around bisexuality. Either you’re gay or you’re straight or you’re trans (and even the trans part comes under heavy scrutiny). Cruelty isn’t limited to religion by any means.
All disclaimers and rabbit trails aside: why am I sticking around?
I believe Jesus Christ has changed me from the inside out.
Simple as that.
There are profound, transformative truths in the Love that can be found in Christianity. I’ve experienced them, read about them, meditated upon them, prayed them, and ushered them into my life. I am connected with God; I am STILL connecting with God; I am loved and beloved by God; I see intention in the universe — in my beloved autumn; I understand the reality of this thing called “humility” and it’s strange effect it has on us and why we need to pursue it; I am constantly learning how to see and appreciate Love in other ways and journeys; and I have learned about the interconnectedness of all people, and our need to express Love in its endless faces, especially towards the poor and marginalized.
I believe I am a new person because of the grace that’s been washed over my life.
Do I believe I am a BETTER person?
I am a better person compared to myself 10 or 15 years go. And I hope to be an even better person than I am now in another 20 years.
I am a better than you? No. No I am not.
I am discovering thousands of years of mysticism, traditions, practices, wisdom, love for the poor, care for the underdog, and the welcoming of the stranger; I believe I’m a part of a rich spiritual heritage all stemming from this crazy carpenter from Nazareth who lived halfway around the world over 2000 years ago; I was born into a deeply religious and spiritual family that valued handing out sandwiches on street corners, singing old hymns and songs, inviting people over for coffee, and doing our fair share of praying when the pennies would run short.
I’ve experienced some of the worst parts of human behaviour from people calling themselves Christians.
But I’ve also experience some of the very best.
I’ve had my own spiritual awakenings — many, many awakenings — simply by abiding in silence with Jesus. Why would I exchange that simply because someone else felt the need to tell me I was mentally ill? Or unloved by God? Those people have no authority over me (or God for that matter).
So in answer to my friend’s question — why do I stick around? — my short answer is this:
Jesus loves me. (Ridiculous! Foolish! Lacks critical thinking and judgement!) Yet that’s the truth I know and believe.
I love Jesus.
I love the family I was born into.
I love the ancient spiritual traditions I carry in my DNA — warts and all.
I am full of doubts and uncertainties, just like you. I have questions that can’t be answered, just like you. And I encounter people who claim holiness while putting others to shame, just like you.
But I’ve looked into the face of Love.
There’s no turning back.
No one can take Love away from me and I choose to remain in the faith I was born into so that others can see and know how Love works in the life of an imperfect, odd child of God.