Monday, July 23, 2012


Religion, I told myself, is like a long complicated poem, an intricate set of metaphors that can be contemplated, performed, and interpreted. Of course it's not simply that. It's rule book, history, lens and mirror; it's system, sort-of-science, a manner of seeing and speaking, a code, a language, a jargon, a creole. It's got passwords, privilege, initiations, hierarchies, schemas of power. And sanctions and rewards, things to emulate and things to revile. And magic, plenty of magic. Water into wine, wine into blood, chose your level of credulity, from full-faith to metaphor to simply playing-along. There have been, or so I am told, chalices that bleed bona fide type O. It is a long fall from admiring high-church aesthetics and claiming transubstatiation to wondering why it takes an ordained priest to preside over a symbolic meal, and why it takes an elaborate, expensive physical and bureacratic edifice to host it.

Never mind the Vatican.

But I also told myself that religion that is not rooted in reality is worthless. Now, I realize that "reality" may be as fraught a term as "God." But where "God" is a conversation stopper, a heavily-guarded linguistic border crossing, "reality" is an invitation. That's not entirely the case, of course. Karl Rahner, I have read, calls God the infinitely distant and receding horizon of everything.

Now, the idea of horizon --that beyond which we cannot see -- is interesting. Beyond it reside the eye that cannot see itself, the infinitely regressing watcher, the that there is something rather than nothing, our face before our parents' birth, and other sundry rogues and trolls.

But I like my horizons genderless, armless and legless, and, moreover, I prefer that they don't give a rat's ass about me and my queer and paltry and utterly improbable existence.

God loves you more than you shall ever know. God is crazy about you. God adores you.

Please stop saying that. No, really. Stop.

Considering Jesus a few months back -- specifically the notion of Jesus being a revelation of God, an icon of God -- I wondered whether Jesus should rather be construed as a revelation of an exemplary manner of relating to God. But then we'd still have the Abba thing, sometimes translated as the "Daddy" thing. I might be the only person who has ever cringed at the thought of Jesus calling God "Daddy." It's creepy.

I've just finished reading James Carroll's magisterial Constantine's Sword, a history of anti-semitism in Christianity. It was even more depressing than Diarmaid MacCulloch's The Reformation in its meticulous depiction of the utter historical and political contingency of the Church and its doctrines, and of rivers of blood that have flowed and still flow in its name. Why did I ever want to be part of something that has grown from such poisoned ground, a ground still tainted by superstition, misogyny, and heterosexism, and something that is still routinely dragged into the public square as explanation of or justification for whatever political expediency that can't fly on its own ? Hitch it to God, then.

Let us pray.

Please stop saying that. No, really. You might as well say:

Let us lob some Teddy bears at the sky.

With respect to my apostasy, several people have asked me, "What now ?" as if they expect me, on the rebound, to take up something else -- Wicca, Confucianism, hare krishna, gardening. I understand the question and have no answer.

But I did relish the comments that, after all, the world itself is my community, and that the idea(l) of a monastic asylum -- of sanctuary and retreat -- can likely be retrofitted to an unchurched version of me. I am unlikely to be found collaring clerics on airplanes claiming to be an SBNR who gets enough revelation from sunsets (or, in my case, weeds), but perhaps only because I've been forewarned by the snippy UCC Rev Daniels that it's her way (church, community) or the highway -- that road out of town dedicated to the intrinsically disordered asocial ones eternally consigned to outer darkness +/- gnashing of teeth.

There will be no surprise that my return to the muddy dark and endless Boulevard Noir feels like a homecoming.

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