Religion


"Time might tell whether my relationship with religion proves wise or clueless."

Like most of the people inhabiting this world, I don't consider myself religious. I was raised in white middle class America which some report as not possessing a culture. I attended a white bread, right of center Christian church in my youth but never noticed Jesus attending. I identified as more a Just Visiting distant relation than a full member of the congregation, though I'd always volunteer to help set up or tear down the multi-purpose room. The doctrine eschewed smoking, but my dad smoked. My mom could wax irreverent about the dichotomies between what was preached and what was practiced and I guess I considered church as somehow distinct from religion, certainly from spirituality.

I thought bible lessons allegorical, unconvincing as literal truth, useful perspectives but certainly not holy writ. I thought that if The Bible was the literal word of God, God needed a decent copy editor.
I became more adept at locating Bible verses than meaningfully interpreting them. I experienced the normal unholy adolescent thoughts and for a time feared myself likely damned, though I've mostly ended up blessed instead or in spite. Who knows? I was not exposed to other faiths except in passing. On Easter, all the protestant congregations would mingle for a Sunrise service where I first witnessed people holding up their hands and mumbling in tongues, both practices altogether too overt to much interest me. I knew the Catholics by their salt and pepper cords more than by their rituals, though some of my dad's family were Catholic and we occasionally attended baffling Latin services with them.

My indifference encouraged an acceptance of different faiths. I'd patiently listen to better understand, though understanding never followed. Perhaps I should chalk up that outcome to The Great Mystery. Roger Williams preached tolerance, which he explained as something other than support or acceptance, but more of an ability to just let go of the otherwise annoyingly intolerable. I certainly never felt moved to evangelize, not considering my faith or spirituality superior to any others'. I eventually came to explain myself as Taoist, whatever that meant. My mom had a Rosicrucian uncle and a Mason second cousin. I figure I'm more of a Diest now, whatever that means.

I do not lie awake night fussing over the fate of my eternal soul, which I figure I've been carrying along with me since before I was born and am unlikely to somehow ditch anywhere along the way. I figure that this place we currently inhabit passes for a passable heaven, even acknowledging its many faults, and looking at the constituents of the observable universe, I easily accept the concept of eternal life as more than plausible but inevitable and inescapable, though probably in presently unrecognizable forms. I doubt that anyone will be wearing robes there. I think of morals as personal and I cannot recite the Ten Commandments from memory any more than I can recall my Seven Ethical Responsibilities without a crib sheet. I am uncertain but not adrift, mystified but rarely troubled. I consider myself to be a decent human but hardly perfect. I'm still learning.

My first wife would take the kids to church on Sunday morning while I, following my mother's Sunday ritual, would putter through yard work instead. I've never felt the urge to join any congregation and consider my religion like I consider my spirituality, my own damned business. I deeply question the motives of any jihadist. I remember a guy who used to drag a wheeled ten foot cross around Portland, stopping on the odd street corner to, I thought, rather over-proudly publicly proclaim his faith. He attracted jeerers like a discarded milkshake cup attracts flies. In the quad at Portland State, he served as noontime entertainment for equally haughty youth. I suppose everyone involved received what they engaged for. I watched from a safe distance, thinking the preacher more masochistic than inspiring. I thought the jeering crowd juvenile, intolerant.

Our village sports a mega-church with three thousand members. It produces hard rock Sunday morning services and massive traffic jams. It sits empty most of the time, surrounded by meadows turning buff beige as the summer wanes. They maintain their empty parking lots, which moves me more than any spirit as I slip past. The five of pentangles tarot card shows two indigents in a snowstorm moving through the light emanating from a church's warmly backlit stained glass window. The Muse says that I often stand apart rather than entering in, and I suppose that fairly characterizes my relationship with religion. I accept that some must certainly find security and solace there, but it's clearly not my home. Time might tell whether my relationship with religion proves wise or clueless.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved










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