Friday, April 10, 2009

Schizophrenic Christian

I don’t understand the crucifixion. Most of the time, I don’t think about it, but Lent and Holy Week and Good Friday, especially, are just so in your face about it that I feel I must have some sort of response.

Over the years, I’ve had different responses. During my evangelical years, it was so great that Christ died for our sins and gives us hope for salvation. That’s easy enough, you tow the party line and everyone is happy.

Later, it was, well, I’m not sure that really makes sense to me, but how about I chalk it up to ‘mystery of faith.’ That satisfied for a few years.

And then the darkness fell and I really struggled with the idea of the crucifixion being the ultimate passive-aggressive act. “You are bad and I have to suffer this horrible death for you. But it’s okay because, though you don’t deserve it and can never earn salvation, I’m doing this for you because I love you.” Looked at in that light, it’s really twisted. So I had to dispense with that view – not sure how I did it, but I know I wrote a blog post on it.

Then there is the metaphorical/psychological view. Christ shows us the importance of dying to our ego/our self, so that we can reach transcendence. Nice, sort of an East meets West view. That could work but for a long time I was hung up on why such a nasty story was written if it didn’t actually/literally happen. Maybe reading Joseph Campbell on the Power of Myth would help with that, but then why do I choose this particular myth? Maybe because it’s the one I’m most familiar with and it takes a lifetime of meditation on it. That is my closest understanding right now but I don’t seem to have the time or energy or interest to read Campbell or Marcus Borg. Lamb, actually, was pretty satisfying with Jesus cast as a bodhisattva to his people and the crucifixion being his reaction to the practice of sacrifice. Yes, I think truth can be found anywhere and much of my religious understanding springs from fiction (I love Susan Howatch’s Starbridge series).

I’ve said that pondering the crucifixion makes me sad and angry and confused. Sad, because it’s so much suffering – the violence is almost pornographic. Angry because, well, maybe that’s the natural response to violence and sorrow. Angry also because I don’t know why I’m so bad that some poor man/God hundreds of years ago had to endure what he did. Confused because why must there be substitutionary atonement or why there must such a useless atonement as killing? Confused because maybe I’m not a Christian and then what? Where would I go? My religion is only partly about my beliefs, a large part is my heritage and my family and, at bottom, I feel that Truth runs through everything – all religions, all ethics, everything. Which is probably something else that makes me not Christian.

But I’m active in church and that embarrasses me because I’m not sure I believe what I’m supposed to and I feel like a faker. I also am embarrassed because I know to some, church involvement is interpreted as an assertion that I think I’m holy or want to be holy or have any clue what holiness might entail. So I make jokes.

Why do I go to church? Is it because I was raised in the church or have a longing for a religious community or I thirst for God? Well, I might have all of those, but that’s not why I go. I go because I had a Baptist boyfriend in college who mentioned once that when you move to a new town, you join a church, it’s the best way to get connected and involved in the community. Strange, huh?

I don’t feel the need to church shop or religion shop because I do have faith that anywhere I go I will find myself lacking, sad, angry and confused. And maybe that is the point of faith, to lead you there so you can let go and relax a little. I really don’t know.

Ultimately, much of my belief rests on what an on-line friend, a Quaker, said to me. He said that he thinks God tells us all something and that maybe what God wants is for us to talk to our neighbors and find out what God told them. I really like that and maybe that explains why I’m posting this note.

Well, I feel better now, thanks.