Last night, I attended my RCIA class (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults). If you have a quarrel with religion or spirituality (my preferred word) or Christianity, don’t be deterred. I have been what might be called apostate (religious, not political) most of my life:
1.abandoning a religious or political belief or principle.
It’s very hard to grow up in a cultural milieu that is Christian fundamentalist identifying as a lesbian and then later transitioning from female to male. Being gay seems to be the one sin that is obsessed upon, unforgivable, and it’s hard to hear from the pulpit that you are damned for eternal hellfire.
I did not embrace spirituality until I was in my 40’s, and it was Buddhism that spoke to me. One night, I was looking out a window, and noticed the moon and the stars as if for the first time, and realized that there had to be “more” than my work-a-day existence.
By sheer coincidence, I was browsing the bookshelves at the now-closed Borders bookstore on “L” and 18th streets in northwest Washington, DC.
I was not perusing the aisles on religion — I was looking at books on history, current events, politics, and science. But someone had misplaced a book by Pema Chödrön in the wrong spot and I picked it up in curiosity.
I thumbed through the book, but left it where I found it. It stuck in my mind, and later I returned to the bookstore and came home with a stack of books on Buddhism. Thus began my love affair with the dharma, the teachings of the Buddha.
Most strains of Buddhism do not postulate or deny the existence of God. There is the famous Parable of the Poisoned Arrow, this one offered by Thich Nhat Hahn from Zen 101:
The Buddha always told his disciples not to waste their time and energy in metaphysical speculation. Whenever he was asked a metaphysical question, he remained silent. Instead, he directed his disciples toward practical efforts. Questioned one day about the problem of the infinity of the world, the Buddha said, “Whether the world is finite or infinite, limited or unlimited, the problem of your liberation remains the same.” Another time he said, “Suppose a man is struck by a poisoned arrow and the doctor wishes to take out the arrow immediately. Suppose the man does not want the arrow removed until he knows who shot it, his age, his parents, and why he shot it. What would happen? If he were to wait until all these questions have been answered, the man might die first.” Life is so short. It must not be spent in endless metaphysical speculation that does not bring us any closer to the truth.
Buddhism, from my perspective, is less a religion than a guide for how to live a compassionate life. But we are not offered a God or a Higher Power to love and protect us — though we are not precluded from adopting our own notions (or those of any other religions).
Then after my close and personal encounter with a psychopath (see The Early Days — How I Was Ensnared by My Psychopath), I had to acknowledge that evil in this world does exist, at least in the form of people who do harm by choice, by deception, and by exploitation.
Through a series of events I would describe as synchronicity, but actually may have been the Spirit working on me, I began to reconsider the idea of one God, a personal God, and Christianity.
1. the simultaneous occurrence of events that appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection.
“such synchronicity is quite staggering”
So I have begun attending an intentional Eucharist community of Catholics that welcomes and embraces GLBT people, and through that, I have begun taking RCIA classes. This has been a blessing for me — and also very painful. I am triggered by my memories of how I was treated as a teenager who self-identified as a lesbian but would later transition from female to male. I was triggered by metaphysical quagmires that defy logic. I question everything, and there is a lot to question in Christian theology.
Last night’s lesson was on the Blessed Virgin, Mother Mary. We were told by Father Mark that Catholic dogma demands these beliefs about Mary, the mother of Jesus:
- immaculate conception
- perpetual virginity
- assumption into heaven
(Don’t quote me; I’m hardly an expert.) All of these notions raged against my logic and reasoning. It was like going back to my adolescent struggles with Christianity. Well, you know what? I have seen just enough and had just enough weird and inexplicable experiences (synchronicity?) that no one would believe if I poured them out, and so I thought I ought to at least reserve judgement.
On the way home from class, I had a discussion with T, the woman from my church who is providing me with transportation to the RCIA classes. She reminded me that Jesus is not about dogma, he’s about Love. I had a similar conversation once back at home with my Catholic friend, L, who explained a little more of the ideas behind the dogma.
Jesus replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” From the Bible Gateway.
My mom wasn’t the greatest, but I have forgiven her her bad choices. We all need a caring and nurturing mother figure, and so I will dispense with the dogma as I contemplate its meaning for me, and until then, I will view the Blessed Virgin Mary as the mother who has watched over me thus far.
The Hail Mary:
Full of Grace,
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit
of thy womb, Jesus.
Mother of God,
pray for us sinners now,
and at the hour of death. Amen.
If the Beatles can sing this song, so can you:
The world is full of doubts, opposites, paradoxes and metaphysical speculation. The spiritual journey is to blend them into a Whole:
You may say I’m a dreamer, like John Lennon, but I hope I’m not the only one. The lyrics might be “apostate” at first glance, but as with opposites and metaphysical quandaries, I believe this song is also an expression of the Greatest Commandment of Jesus:
May these random ponderings give you fearlessness in difficult times….
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