Friday, October 04, 2019

Hear me out. Last Sunday I attended a Christian church service. They are graciously hosting my Buddhist sit and a Buddhist recovery meeting, all without cost (or very little cost). The church is beautiful, large windows, raised beds of flowers and veggies outside, a new mom pastor who led the service with a baby on her hip.

It's a small congregation, mostly older folks, a few younger people. They are politically active and their message is love your neighbor. I went because they were cleaning up the grounds around the church and on the street, including the parking circle. All were looking rather neglected. And I wanted to help out, to give back.

So I went to the service. I had a visceral reaction sitting there among the God talk and the Bible verses and the singing. It wasn't aversion exactly. It was more like a feeling of wrongness, like I shouldn't be there as an unbeliever. I definitely didn't take communion.

What's so different about my Buddhist practice from theirs. They have formed a family of sorts as I have with my Buddhist friends. They have stories that they read which are fantastical, I know they are metaphors but some folks believe them, especially kids. And there are Buddhist stories that are just as unrealistic.

So it comes down to the idea that we're sinners and we call on something outside ourselves to be cleansed which I just can't buy. Our original self is the world, we just have forgotten that we're part of everything and everyone. And we ARE that already. We don't need an intermediary to fix us or remove our sins or whatever.

I mean. They're good Christians. They pray for one another. They try to do good works in the world. They're not filled with hate. They're accepting of difference. They're the faith of my ancestors.

Cultural appropriation? Am I guilty of this? I don't know.   


Ms. Moon said...

Yes- I think you've nailed it. The Christian idea that we are born in sin and that only Jesus can save us seems to me to inherently faulty. If you don't buy in on the original sin idea, there is no need for a savior. Frankly, if Jesus was a real person, his teachings have become horribly twisted and misinterpreted and his own sad life used for the keeping of the flocks in line.
Well, that's how I see it.
All religions seem to have fantastical stories meant to represent the divine and I never understand their need. The divine is the sea, the divine is a seed placed in the dirt, the divine is an egg laying in the palm, warm from the hen, the divine is a woman full of life, the divine is that life, born and breathing.
But community is good. We need that too. And there are many ways to find it.

My life so far said...

I think you hit the nail on the head for me. Christianity seems to believe that we are inherently bad and need to be forgiven, that we are born bad. I don't believe that anymore.

37paddington said...

So interesting. It sounds a bit like the church my husband goes to, which although I don't often attend, I call "our" church. They are good people, they try to relieve the suffering of others, they are light on dogma and don't ever proselytize, they welcome all faiths, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, atheists, everyone, and from all walks of life, fortunate and less so, the homeless and the artists and the ex-cons with the professors and the lawyers and the corporate workers, they are all in the pews, politically aware and active, they march for their principles and do good works. Our acolyte is a trans woman who was thrown off a balcony in Honduras and managed to find our church. She says she feels safe for the first time. We run a shelter for undocumented, mostly LGBTQ who cant find sanctuary in the usual places that help the undocumented. So I go there with my husband sometimes and I sing the songs (the hymns I grew up with) and let the rest be. It's the people rather than the dogma anyway, and the people are generous souls. Come to think of it, they have a very Buddhist understanding of our connection to responsibility for one another. I admire them, really. But having grown up in church, that every Sunday attendance is not my thing. But I'm so glad they are there. I think they are my husband's soul cluster, and I'm glad he found them.

beth coyote said...

Thanks for your comments here. I also wonder about the megachurches and their influence on younger people as well as their bald and bold use of the pulpit to espouse political views. Meanwhile churches like the one I mentioned struggle to survive with their message of love and acceptance.

As for Jesus, I think of him as a bodhisattva, a being who came to aspire to help all beings find joy and freedom. And somehow that message got co-opted in the worst way. I'm a big fan of his mom, btw. She gave birth to god. Pretty badass.

Ms. Moon said...

Beth-you've reminded me of the saying I heard once about Italians which is that they don't really believe in God but they love his mother.
Also? I've always said that I love my name. And I do. It's the name of God's mother and what could be better than that?
And now I sort of want to go work for Rosemarie's husband's church.

Sabine said...

You hit my nails also. My problem with Christian churches is the concept of sharing vs donating. It sets people apart, the haves and the not haves, when we offer pity and compassion and hand over our leftovers and our second hand clothes and whatever money we find after we have made sure that we ourselves are comfortable. The churches provide basic shelter, so what? Who feels good about that? The churches for having a bunch of people feeling grateful or the real estate owners who sit on empty buildings for investment purposes only.
All this jars with my inner socialist. Massively.

And then there is the wealth of these churches. We don't have US style megachurches with TV channels, there are some but minute. But the two dominant churches here, Lutheran and catholic, own land, real estate, invest in fossile fuel industries, weapons manufactoring, health scams, you name it. They rent property at market rates, ie too high, and evict tenants like the next best landlord. They invest at the stock market like any trump character and so on. Mind you, they don't get their hands dirty, they have agencies and associates to do that for them and you have to dig a bit to find their involvement.
Whatever "good" they may do, in my mind, this discredits them for ever.

My brother is married (with 3 now adult children) to a pastor of the Lutheran church - the biggest church in Germany. Like myself, my brother was raised in an atheist household and has never joined the church. He agreed to all the rituals regarding the kids, got married in a church and even worked for the church for a couple of years (ringing the bells at xmas that kind of thing) while he was on paternity leave.
My sister in law is a lovely person but we do not talk church or religion with her and she is fine with it. We sort of look at her work (after many years as a parish pastor she is now teaching ethics/religion in secondary school) as her job and that's it. Not always easy.

beth coyote said...

Thank you, Sabine, for the reminder...of course the Catholics are sitting on some prime real estate and as for the sexual abuse

I think the original 'church' or the teaching of Jesus were radical. He kicked over the money-changers' tables and hung out with 'low life'. The modern church DOES NOT hold with this kind of advocacy, caring for those in need. Not really. I left the church when I was 14 because of the hypocrisy I saw.

I'm now involved in the formation of a Buddhist recovery community and the inquiry we're having points to the dangers of hierarchy and charismatic leaders (Ha!). How to come together as peers, to help one another heal and become more whole, within the precepts of Buddhism. After the last few years of scandal and corruption within several Buddhist communities, it feels imperative to answer this question. AA is brilliant in this regard. No leaders, no authority except our own hearts. Within a framework of radical kindness and selflessness.

Anyway, all within the current catastrophe which is our reality right now.