Wednesday, January 30, 2013

TRAVELING TO NEW TERRITORY

We are what we believe. How we live shows what we really believe.

The Amish believe that modern constructs like electricity and television and zippers are paths to the devil. They really believe that, because they live without those things.

Terrorists believe that the only way to continue living successfully in this world is to impose their beliefs (whatever they are, as they are not overly forthcoming in sharing them in a hospitable way at first, as in, maybe with a TED talk), by killing everyone whom they assume does not believe as they do.

I find Jewish tradition to be delightfully down to earth and practical, though some of it dated. Like keeping kosher, which I  believe was to keep the tribe alive before the invention of refrigeration and hot water heaters. The ceremonies have lovely chanting prayers and shawls and candles. And the appreciation for family and community, I find to be very healthy. Though, heaven forbid I should marry in, being a shiksa and all.

Many Christian conservatives believe that the world is only 6,000 years old and that while it is perfectly all right to eat unconsecrated foods, such as shrimp and lobster, you will go straight to hell if you are homosexual. And factions of these believers want to impose their beliefs on everyone else in the world, in the name of "love", while they seek to destroy the lives and opportunities of everyone who does not believe as they do.

Most Wiccans I've met, or pagans as they sometimes like to be called, love us all, no matter what we believe, and wish for us love and light and peace. They believe that caring for the earth and each other in all ways is a happy way to live. Many folks in so-called mainstream society look at Wiccans and pagans as "nut-jobs" or "kooks" or somehow inherently wicked because they find healthy pleasures in their adult flesh. And they smile a lot. Which modern America often finds unnerving.

Now, Satanists, from what I've read and heard, want us all to die horrid bloody ritualistic deaths, unless we qualify to join their covens and they're short their required 13, and agree to help each other to attain riches and power and pornographic sexual experiences, which will involve blood sacrifices and only wear black all the time, with maybe some blood red accessories.

And so on.  And each group derides the others, except maybe the Wiccans, and makes fun of their ceremonial choreographies, while judging them harshly, if not outright causing them pain and suffering one way or another.  That's a party!

And they all involve some sort of ritual, and spell casting, or chanting, or ceremony, or tribal gathering with ceremonial programs to be followed in specific orders. Christianity has liturgies, and services and rituals just as Wiccans, Satanists and any other religion in the world. Catholics have an entire choreography one must learn, involving the correct use of beads and hand signals. When the alien species come to take us over, they will probably add airport ramp agents (the folks who guide the airplane to the gate with batons) to the list of priests and pastors. The only ones who seem to be able to sleep in on Halloween and Sunday are the atheists. Although even many atheists seem to want to change every one's mind to their way of non-belief by deriding belief in anything but nothing. They might find far more success if they had at least a secret handshake.  And agnostics hedge all bets by allowing for the great "perhaps."

And this is just in the realm of religion and the origins of the universe, without bringing science and scientific discoveries into the equation.  No time for that today. I do have errands to run. After turning counterclockwise three times under the noon day sun while making the anti hex sign.

Plus there are still every day issues of our physical, emotional and economic health and well being based on our beliefs; our societal function or dysfunction and how we see ourselves in the world based on our beliefs. It's a huge concept when you don't have it. And extremely simple when you do, or have one you cling to stubbornly as exclusively right over all others. There's a whole book's worth of explorations!

But only one way can be correct. Which one is correct? Just like Highlander, there can be only one, right? There's just one road to Olympus, after all, yes? In this huge, grand universe where so many miraculous things like the sponge can be made into an entertaining children's cartoon, we have to have reasonable limitations, after all. The idea of dinosaurs alone is enough to turn one purple! And if there were dinosaurs, they must have been Christian dinosaurs, who might have eaten shrimp, but certainly never lusted after their own gender. And wore a canopy of trees as a Friday services hat.

Personally, these days, I like to stick to what I find in as scholarly and close to original translation (and I don't necessarily subscribe to Aramaic Prominence Theory), of the gospels. Because I am a latter day Anglo Saxon American of multiple European bloodline descent. And my family does not have one solid tradition. (Though I have relatives who might argue we have a Seventh Day Adventist tradition. But that only came from my mother's mother who was a matriarch to end all matriarchs).  I don't like church. These days I find it mean-spirited and silly. And churches haven't been all that fond of me. I think Jesus had good ideas on how to have a happy life. That's my choice. I shall not inflict it upon you by hitting you on the head with a book.

If I succeed in my happy life, and you want to know how I did it, I'll tell you. I have to go look up the scripture that supposedly said "there is only one way to the Father, and that's through me." Personally I don't believe Jesus said that. Not when everything else he taught was so inclusive. And maybe I'll end up rehearsing hell's various choreography for writing that. But I don't believe there's an exclusive development deal for God.

Then, I have to go out and live in the world each day. A world which is made up of a potpourri of all these different traditions, religions, beliefs, etc. And the cacophony of unspoken, judgmental dialogue constantly at odds with each other is enough to send me back under the covers with a mindless romance novel and a bottle of scotch.

For some bizarre reason we just cannot wrap our minds around "All of the Above" as a box to check on the multiple choice exam of day to day life.  Perhaps this stems from a belief founded in massive insecurity, "If your way is right, then my way must be wrong," and we never ever ever can be "wrong." Even entertaining such a thought will require punishment of some sort, after all.

What if there is no such thing as "wrong." Which, I admit, is hard to fold Satanism into. But inclusive is inclusive, kids. What if there is a way that works better for you, than for me, and at the base of it is crazy, happy love? Just plain old love.

I'm naive. It'll never happen in my lifetime. But maybe somewhere, out there, there is an elephant sitting in the middle of a living room, being experienced all over its body by blind people, thinking, "this feels nice." It would be a pink elephant, of course.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

FIRST CHURCH OF NOT

I do not believe in church any more. My adult experience with church has run into mostly greed, narcissism, snobbery and bigotry. And peculiar obsessions with legacy building.

I've read about the dying denominational church. I'm not surprised. New discoveries in biblical studies as well as science have really opened a wider appreciation, if you have an open mind, for what this universe is really about. We, humans, still have just a tiny pinprick opening view of it, but it's a wondrous thing.

Our own little corner of the universe here is filled with so many people who are not Christians. Even a lot of so-called Christians are not technically Christians any more. What's a deity to do with this? Well, it was never about what any deity does with anything, of course. It's what do we do. Sitting around and crying over an empty pew is about as useful as taking a corpse to dinner and expecting them to pay.

Get over it already.

Organized religion is dying in the Christian world. Buh-bye. And it's a necessary transition. But there's nothing new to fill that void. The stuff passing as filler are things like prosperity gospel (believe and you will receive gold and frankincense and a new BMW!!), and general "spiritualism" (believe it and it's true PRESTO! You're now a blond with big boobies if that's what you want!...well at least in your mind anyway, perhaps aided by a helpful medication).

Don't get me wrong, I believe in belief. It's a powerful part of creating your life. I'm just suspect of attaching all attention on that. I find important aspects of creation missing from these new avenues attempting to keep the old church floating. Things like ethics, a moral compass and the actual perspiration of effort required to manifest an idea into reality. Every birth needs labor pains. Or a surgeon who knows Caesarian procedures.

If I were to be given a boatload of money for the specific purpose of making a church (because things cost money. This is true. But they don't have to be gold inlaid), I wondered what it would look like. First of all, it would not be non-profit. Non-profit is fiction when it comes to current churches. Many of them. All of them make money. Many of them more than enough to cover expenses. Then they have to distribute it in certain ways to keep their non-profit status. I can't tell you how many pastors I came across while touring with Covenant Players, who skimmed from the offering for our show, after the minimum was paid, saying "tell anyone and you'll never be invited back."

It's a cash business. There's profit. I'd lose that. Pay a fair share of taxes on the profit. Pay the expenses. Then create community mission programs to help the local town we're in. Start local. There's plenty of need. It's not a regular church building.

There's a coffee and wine bar there. Yeah, we'll need a liquor license for the wine and beer. Communion will be really fun. There's a stage for dinner theater and services. With a dance floor for dances. Really like a big community center. There's a restaurant that serves sandwiches, breakfast and sometimes dinner. And all this stuff has menus with charges. If someone really can't afford it, we'll spot them if we're flush that week.

There's a big bulletin board in the building and on the website, where anyone can post - a need for a job, or prayer concern, or a thought for the day. Yeah of course it's edited for content. We have to be grown ups. But the boundaries are clear and printed on the board. "SUBJECT TO EDITING BY PASTOR IMINCHARGE." There are employees. People who are paid a salary. To do jobs that take time. Like a music/arts director. A CPA who does the books and taxes. In this economy, you cannot expect people to work for free. If a job is needed, pay for it.

There are book clubs during the week day. Not necessarily religious books only. There are clubs of any sort that someone wants to start. No spouse swapping clubs or satanists, I mean of course there are standards and practices.

There needs to be a basic theology, of course. It's New Testament, gospels. Period. Very simple. With a leaning toward learning and discussing and arguing everything else being discovered out there. There's a Sunday sermon given by a Muslim speaker who shares the Koran and their beliefs. There's a Sunday meditation by a Buddhist speaker. There's a wonderful service where a theoretical physicist talks about the Hadron Collider and the Higgs Boson! And so on. Learning everything.

 There are pancake breakfasts and potlucks like days of old. There's pizza and movie night. It's a community center for the entire community, with a gospel basis.

You do not have to join. Just come on in and visit. There's a referral board for help. There's a network of professionals. This can be done without fear of liability. That's what waivers are for. The big whoopdee doo church I went to would not list anybody's business for fear of liability exposure. "We love you, but keep your business to yourself, we don't want to know. Tithe please." It's not Angie's list. We have no idea if Fred is any good at appliance repair. You'll figure that out.

It's a place where anyone can come and hang out for a rest. Hear some interesting ideas. Share a meal. See a dinner show. Listen to some tunes. Find a job. Find a plumber. Find some hope that their life has some real visceral and spiritual support from people who are real and interested and actually give a shit.

You can become a member. That's a different level. With some of the traditional bells and whistles of a steeple church. But there's no secret handshake. No special underwear. No secret room where the good scotch is kept. There are more commitments to service to the organization required. And helping to run the Sunday services. And the perks are not what you get. They're what you share. Time and talent. Money if you've a mind. But, honey, the coffee bar sandwiches and weekend entertainments are covering the expenses.

It might not work. But wouldn't it be fun to try? There are movements like this happening now, where folks will go to coffee bars for services and such. But this would be one big place that is all about doing that one little thing - being in the world, but not of it.

That's my church for today. I'm going to get some more coffee and do my Sudoku puzzle.

 Peace out.