Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Out with the old: original sin

My brain is mush today. Sometimes contemplating anything more complicated than a grocery list is a struggle. I've started a book for Lent: Christ of the Celts by J. Philip Newell. I had read Listening to the Heartbeat of God by the same author and loved it. So I thought I would try another one of his books. Unfortunately there is only the Heartbeat book in the library so I bought this one. I can't do that very often. In fact, probably not more than once a year.

So I need to start on it and soon. It's supposed to be part of my Lenten discipline. So far I'm not showing much discipline at all. Sigh.

I found a blog on Christian mysticism that I really like although I have to admit that I'm not sure I understand everything I'm reading. Maybe that will come with time as I begin to learn this new way of experiencing Christ. The blog, The Website of Unknowing, has quickly become one of my favorite blogs.

For sometime now, I have found myself questioning everything about Christianity. It has become evident to me that because of my fundamentalist background, where I was encouraged not to think for myself and to just accept that these are the doctrines without questioning or understanding them, that I have to go back to the beginning. I'm working on the question of Original Sin now.

I do understand that if you believe the Garden of Eden to be a literal and true representation of creation that you must accept the concept of Original Sin. But I don't understand how people who believe it is an allegory or metaphor can say the same thing. After talking to some Jewish acquaintances I've come to a realization that Original Sin was never a Jewish concept, but one that came about much later, even in Christianity.

I acknowledge that in human beings there are two natures that sometimes war with each other. What I cannot accept is that the side that would do bad things is so overpowering that there is no side to do good without the help of supernatural forces. Experience teaches me that people out there who do not know the God of Christianity do a lot of good. In a multitude of those people, their good side is the dominant party. They are not depraved individuals who cannot do good for the sake of good.

In an online chat on the topic of Original Sin I heard from the proponents that those non-Christians who do good, do it for selfish or self-serving reasons. They "train" themselves to do good.

What burns me the most about this attitude is that it extends to tiny children who are doing nothing more then their evolutionary instincts tell them to do. The Pearls, Ezzos, and Gothardites who try to beat infants into submission for crying or for reaching out for a cookie take the concept of Original Sin and turn the victims into monsters who, in their eyes, must be tamed before they grow up to become drug addicts or serial killers. The real monsters are those who attribute such erroneous behaviors to the most innocent of our civilization. And the most precious and vulnerable.

I also see how the concept of Original Sin has tainted and tarnished our beautiful world because that concept extends to Nature. It's no coincidence that the most fundamentalist are the ones who mock and vilify those who are trying to salvage the home we all share.

And I can speak from experience that Original Sin takes away the dignity of people, turning them into weak, helpless creatures subject to their own passions and unable to escape. It makes them feel defeated that they can't seem to overcome that nature that keeps them wanting only to do bad things.

That's why I love Newell's books. He takes the side of Pelagius (who was unjustly vilified and discredited by Augustine of Hippo) who believes that there is something inherently beautiful and good in all that God created. That Nature is a healthy expression of God's love.

I love that I can feel good about myself after all these years of feeling lower than a worm. Where the focus has always been on how bad I am and how good God was to love me anyway. Which is a very condescending attitude for a god to take. And to be honest, I never felt that love. Until now. Now I do feel good enough. I do feel that I'm not a bad puppy that needs to be shamed all the time. I get to sleep on the comfy chair and get hugs and kisses from the Master.

How awful that there are babies out there right this minute who are learning that they are selfish monsters who have to have Satan beaten out of them. Sometimes I wished I still believed in hell so I could hope there would be some justice after all.

Monday, March 1, 2010

From the desert to the spring

Wow. So much time has passed and so many miles traveled on my spiritual journey that I have not had the heart to blog about.

I have felt between worlds for so long, still yearning for the comforts and familiarity of Christianity, still intrigued and drawn to things Pagan. Yesterday in church I had a moment of clarity: this is what I love regardless of what has been done to it by people who were intent on creating a monstrosity of intolerance and rigid rule. I really do love what I do in church. I love the ritual, the history and the people. I love being an Episcopalian, even moreso than being a Christian. Most likely because of the past associations...i.e. fundamentalism. And I must admit, even evangelicalism.

I am ready to embrace Christianity now on its own terms. Not the terms set out by the early church fathers but by that religion which calls to everyone and embraces everyone, unconditionally. I'm not even sure if that's who Jesus really was. It no longer matters to me.

I find that Celtic Christianity really does define it all for me and so that's the path I intend to take. It combines those aspects in me that love both worlds and gives me a peace I haven't known in several years.

I did try to find what I was looking for in Paganism, but it felt artificial for me. I'm not saying that Paganism is artificial, but that it was the wrong choice for me and thus was an artificial choice. As in...not the true one for me. I still do find much truth and spirituality in Paganism, but the street address isn't the one I need to live at. I can still visit my neighbors who live there though.

Although I am sure that most Christians would still not consider me one. On a message board recently I was told by three different Christians that I was not one because I didn't believe in various doctrines they held sacred to Christianity. As if there is a questionnaire one must fill out in order to be a member of the club and if you don't sign off on all the doctrinal questions, you don't get to join the club.

I'm beyond caring. I know that where I am, I am welcome no matter what my beliefs are. I am loved and accepted unconditionally. I have not found that in Christianity anywhere else. It may exist elsewhere but I just haven't found it.

I feel younger, lighter and freer. I'm no longer anxious about my spiritual life. No longer weary of the journey.

Hopefully this blog will be a better beacon of my journey: less whining, more growing. One can only hope.