I wrote this back in 2005, when my blog was specifically about my religious beliefs. In some ways, nothing has changed, although I think I used to be more sincere. I might not word things quite the same now. Also, I've become a bit more conventional over time, a bit less afraid of letting myself follow a particular tradition. (AuntBeaN was my blog name in my old blog.)
In Which Aunt BeaN Attempts to Make Sense of Various Things Which Are Too Big for a BeaN of Little Brain.
So the purported subject of this particular post is supposed to be what I believe now. And why I still go to church, and believe me, I'm not sure I have the answer to that one sometimes myself. I've been putting this off for ages because it's hard to figure out how to say some things, and also because it sounds so pompous and self-important to announce What I Believe, as if you are sure everyone wants to know. So I just want to say in advance that if this sounds pretentious, at least I know I sound pretentious and I feel bad about it. OK?
So what I'm after now is some type of testing my ideas about God and the universe and life against the truth of my experience and the experiences of those around me. When I was an evangelical, if someone said, "Women can't hold positions of authority because this verse right here says so," I would just nod my head, even though I'd had plenty of experience with smart, capable women who were great leaders. Why didn't I protest? Why didn't I say, "That's not true, because look at example a, b, c...." (the answer, of course, is because I had been trained to agree, but let's not get off on that topic right now).
I want a belief system that is big enough and complex enough to hold everything, all of my experience, not one that jumps and runs for the cover of simplistic platitudes at the first sign of discomfort. Not one that tells me things that are obviously not true and expects me to toe the line.
Here is Pema Chodron: "we can endure a lot of pain and pleasure for the sake of finding out who we are and what this world is, how we tick and how our world ticks, how the whole thing just is." and to paraphrase an earlier paragraph of hers, the point isn't to avoid pain or to find ease and comfort, the point is to seek out what is true.
I just started figuring some of this out in the last couple of months. Partly as a result of keeping this blog. I've typed a lot about what I don't believe, the things that turned me off about other belief systems, but it occurred to me that I haven't really figured out what I do believe, and that I've even been avoiding that topic.
Sure, it's partly because I don't really know, it's a work in progress. But that's the easy way out. Then I started reading good books again, all this great classic literature. And it occurred to me that part of the reason why I loved being an English major is because really great literature helps you get at that mystery-- what is the truth of human experience?
It's not possible to express it in a series of theological statements (abortion is wrong, homosexuality is wrong, George W. is right, whatever-- or even the reverse of those statements), but in a big huge sprawling novel like Bleak House or Lonesome Dove or a smaller more intimate one like Pride and Prejudice or The Great Gatsby, you can come close to catching a glimpse of what is real. What resonates for everyone on the planet: the pulse in your throat, the cacophany of traffic, two toddlers fighting over a toy, rain on the window, the sound of the wind in the trees, the silence between one breath and the next.
Those things are real. Pie in the sky, shining-eyed fanaticism is all about believing what someone else tells us is true, or maybe what we're afraid not to believe. Touching down to the center, opening your arms wide and taking it all in, is about finding holiness in reality, about being blind to nothing.
The thing I haven't figured out yet (among a zillion other things) and that I may never figure out is how God figures into all this, because what I just said doesn't require God. Does She exist? (OK, that has become a cliché, but it's still worth saying, imo.) Does it matter? That one I'm still thinking about and will be, I'm sure for a long time yet.
if you've been around my hopelessly wordy self for awhile, it won't surprise you to know that was only the first half of it. the second half, about why I still go to church, I'll post another time.