Losing my religion

24 04 2015

It’s no real secret that religion and I have parted ways.  It’s been long enough that I’ve written about it here, talked to all my family members, and even changed all my profile descriptions on the various social media platforms.  There was a time I apologized for it.  I tried to hang on to my lifelong label of “Christian,” with the clumsy modifier of “…but not one of THOSE Christians.”

My distrust of organized religion has only grown in the years since I left the church.  I follow a few progressive writers, and I appreciate what they say.  Some of them have found a way to return to church; for a time it gave me a pang that I couldn’t find a way to do the same thing, but now it gets not much more than a shrug of acknowledgement.

Other writers are in the same place I am, and speak eloquently of why they left and didn’t look back.  Their postings are almost inevitably followed by comments that tell them why they are wrong and weak and willful and not really Christians.  Okay, then.  I give.  The Real Christians can have the label.  They say I don’t deserve the label they wear.  They’re probably right, and I don’t really want it anyway.

It is discouraging.  It would be so easy to snark about how they are demonstrating precisely the problem that is killing their Real Christian Churches – and there is surely a lot of that type of response in the comments section.  I just can’t.  Jesus would not have ever responded by telling me that my pain just meant I was wrong and weak and willful and not really someone he wanted to know.  If I really do want to hold to Jesus’ revolutionary and transformative example, I can’t come back at the Real Christians with sarcasm guns blazing.

There’s a lost-in-the-wilderness feeling about this.  The mainstream atheist community can get every bit as condescending and pretentious as conservative religion.  Progressive Christianity can get caught up in No True Scotsman arguments, which get nobody anywhere.  Those of us who genuinely long for that mystic experience of communion – both with creation and with each other – are left without the community we hope for.  We instead end up in solo practice.  We see each other when our paths draw near, but the paths rarely seem to join.  It is a blessed relief to meet a kindred spirit out here.  But it comes with the certainty of transience, that you will be moving on from this place of meeting and communion.

This is, perhaps, another manifestation of the new normal.  That the faith community I once relied on as being so solid and unchangeable, simply evaporated from around me; what I thought was solid ground was really just fog.  Now the journey is more like lace – open, airy, strands twisted together and then separating, with a design that makes no sense up close.  I want to believe that my life journey, along with the journeys of so many others, is making something beautiful.



25 04 2014

I ran into this on Facebook this morning:

Ok prayer warriors. I need some help. I’ve been on meds for 4 days, and am truly feeling a good deal better. However, the cough is just not getting better. I intend to call the doctor in the morning, but on the meantime, would you seek The Lord with me that he will heal. I am a very impatient sick person, but just really want back to the task of ministering ASAP.

On the one hand: it’s awesome to know you need help, and to be able to ask for it.  A lot of my own suffering is of the self-inflicted I-can-handle-this type.  Heaven knows how much easier my life would be if I would sometimes sit back and say, you know what, this IS too much for me to handle.

But here’s what I don’t get: the concept of the Prayer Warrior.  Let’s not even get into the weirdly violent imagery for something so deeply personal and internalized.   It seems predicated on the notion that God isn’t going to notice that you’re sick or in need unless you pray about it.  And that same God is going to notice more if lots of petitions come in for the same issue.  Does God have an administrative assistant keeping track of inbox messages?  Some sort of automated tally counter that decides what should be intervened with that day?

What kind of God is that?  What kind of creator doesn’t take care of a beloved creation unless asked to do so?  What parent would see that their child has a need, and then wait for that child to ask for that need to be met?  “I would have given you breakfast, but you didn’t ask for it…” Really?  Is that the kind of God people actually believe in?

It’s not that I dismiss the power of prayer.  I think it is quite powerful.  But I think it has absolutely zero impact on the Creator Mind.  The intelligence and awesome power of that mind is already abundantly aware of what’s happening in the universe.  Prayer, if it enters that consciousness at all, is merely a reminder of what the Creator already knows.

So what is the point of prayer?  There are different kinds – there are petitions like what the poster above is asking for, divine intervention in a situation that seemingly cannot be fixed by human means.  There are prayers for guidance.  Prayer of gratitude, of thanksgiving.  But what unifies all of them is not the Creator’s response to them.  What those prayers have in common, what they actually do, is to bring us into closer communion with the Creator.  Ideally, prayer brings our own frequency into harmony with the resonance of the universe itself.

Less than ideally, though… there is such a thing as bad prayer.  There are people out there sincerely praying for death, destruction, mayhem… think Westboro Baptist, but they are far from the only ones.  It is tempting to dismiss them as crackpots who don’t matter, to live happily with the illusion that if you ignore them, they’ll go away.  But their prayers and petitions are clashing disharmony.  They foul the universal music for everyone.  Returning their anger and evil with our own wrath does nothing to rebalance the harmony. It serves only to make the noise louder.  Only the steady and rising power of relentless love and true justice can finally resolve that dissonance.

They say prayer has the power to change the world.  They’re right.  But the power of prayer isn’t in the response from the Creator.  The power is in the response from us.