Resurrection


I don’t know why, but I became paranoid this morning (no, I wasn’t on drugs, but I sure wished I were). I was walking from the library to my car when, all of a sudden, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was about to be attacked, so I watched everyone closely, hoping they wouldn’t look at me. My next stop was Costco, which is a large box-store (as such places are called in America). I hate most big stores, but I love Costco—just not today though. God, but I wanted out of that place. Then, I got to observing the dance that we all perform in crowded situations just to avoid bumping into one another. I focused upon this dance, and it enabled me to reflect upon how cooperative people are, and that made my fear tolerable.

Like what I wrote about my mind and my heart sometimes being in conflict, today it was my mind and my fears. I often feel claustrophobic when I can’t leave a crowded place, and that’s how my morning was, only worse. I’m home now, and peacefully alone in this quiet room. Other than being paranoid at times on marijuana, I’ve never experienced anything like today, and I think it might be a small taste of how it feels to live in a place where people really do want to harm you.

Tonight. At 6:00 p.m., I went to a mass/rosary recitation at Resurrection Episcopal, and I felt as happy and peaceful there as I felt freaked-out this morning. It’s not just church I need, it’s the Episcopal Church, and not just any Episcopal Church, but a high church with incense, candles, holy water, altar bells, formality, and solemnity. I can put my heart into every word I say in such a setting without believing them literally. They possess me. Their beauty, their antiquity, the closeness I feel to those who are saying the same words and making the same gestures, is no less strange and beautiful to me than anything that’s strange and beautiful, whether I’m among people or in nature, whether I’m straight or on drugs. I don’t know how anyone could love high church more than I, or approach it more joyfully. On days when I know I will be going to mass, I count the hours. No one would ever suspect that I grew up in a church that considered ritual and ornamentation to be Satanic, but even back then, I missed what I had never had, and now I’m tired of depriving myself of it.

The day after George’s funeral a few weeks ago, I wrote to the priest at Resurrection: “I’m an atheist pure and simple and through and through, yet I keep being drawn-in by religion.” He wrote, “I am not a Christian who believes that believing correctly, that thinking correctly, has much to do with our relationship to God.” Years ago, another priest had written: “I accept atheism as a valid spiritual path.” Based upon what these priests, various lay people, and some prominent Episcopal theologians have said or written, I think it likely that I could find limited acceptance in this, the only denomination that I’m drawn to, so is the problem with it or with me? I just know that I leave an Episcopal “high mass” a different person, a more peaceful and happy person, and I fully believe that my life would go better if I could consistently allow myself that.

Iain, who is one of the staff at Resurrection, is a female-to-male transgender person who said as much during a Sunday School theology class he teaches. Last night, I told him about my father, about how he thought he was the only transgender person in the world until he was in his sixties and read a Life Magazine article about Jan Morris. I asked Iain whether he felt accepted by his denomination*, and he said, no, not entirely, and certainly not in every congregation. Then it hit me that he isn’t only like my father, he’s also like me in that I know I’ll never be accepted by many people in the church. They might not demand that I explain by what right I take communion in their church, but they’ll always resent my presence, and I’ll always know that nothing I might say could change that. I believe that this congregation will be more tolerant than most (“a place for misfits,” I’ve heard it called), and I’m also encouraged by the non-traditional pronouncement that the priest makes as he extends the wine and the bread toward the people before communion, “This is God’s table. All are welcome here.” Then he proceeds to serve all, including small children, and including me. My heart opens when I reflect upon his acceptance of me because I know what it means. It means that he cares more about love than dogma, and I’ve found that to be rare

*The following link contains the church's position on homosexuality and transgender:
http://www.episcopalchurch.org/page/lgbt-church

26 comments:

Stephen Hayes said...

Our son is looking for a spiritual community and I keep suggesting The Episcopalian Church. I like what I hear about them.

Elephant's Child said...

I don't do crowds or crowded places well. I don't (usually) feel threatened but often I feel overwhelmed. The numbers, the movement and the noise are too much for me and I scurry back to my solitary sanctuary as soon as I can.
Acceptance is indeed rare - and more precious than rubies.
I am so glad that you have found comfort at Resurrection - and hope it continues.

Paula Kaye said...

I am sorry for what you went through. I am glad that you are finding peace somewhere. That is what is important. The feelings that you have found, no matter where you are, are what you have to hang on to! We only need to be accepted by ourselves.

Charles Gramlich said...

You are a study in contradictions, my friend. An athiest who enjoys high mass.

Linda said...

When I was a child of about eight, I went to the Methodist church because a neighbor took us children. I never enjoyed the responsive readings. I never enjoyed the High-Church churches of my own flavor of church. All the trappings of high church leave me cold, very cold.

However, the only church I have ever considering attending is the Episcopal church, although the sight of men in their robes or even women leaves me cold. It's a dilemma for me. But, I am not seeking spiritual power, exemption from sin, an intercessor, just people.

Crowds do not bother me in the least, but I often wonder what the fear or repulsion feels like. Well, I don't want to feel it except for a few minutes.

One man who told his friend he had to leave her daughter's band recital told her the crowd was making him anxious confided to me later that the crowds never bother him. He just used fear of crowds as an excuse so he could leave any place her hated. That is sad because I will never, ever believe anyone who uses that as an excuse.

kylie said...

i'm so pleased you have a place where you can find some joy!

and bravo to a church with a more open door policy. i get that you dont feel you belong completely but i think that is par for the course for many deep thinkers and so long as the experience is positive it should still be a plus for you
xox

Strayer said...

It is strange to me that you, of all people, seek solace at church. I don't understand it, since your blog is devoted, mostly, to debunking religion, but I hope you find what you seek.

I like ancient rituals also. I like to observe them and participate.

Crowds can be comforting in granting anonymity or frightening by their confinement. It is hard to escape when inside a crowd. The fear going on in Iraq with pure evil on the loose in the form of ISIS--must consume a person there. I try to think what if something like that was going on here, how would it be.

rhymeswithplague said...

The pastor at the little Methodist church where I play the piano always says before serving communion, "This is not the table of this church, this is not the table of the United Methodist Church or of any other church, this is the Lord's table. You do not have to be a member of this congregation to participate, or of the Methodist church, or of any church. All are welcome at the table of the Lord." And small children, even toddlers in their parents' arms, always participate. At first this was kind of a shock to my formerly Baptist self, but it has come to feel exactly right. After all, Jesus once said to his disciples, "Let the little children come to me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven."

I used to refer to myself as "a closet Episcopalian" because I often found myself drawn to the beauty and solemnity of a high church service with excellently performed music beneath stained glass windows.

Note. The Methodist Church used to be called The Methodist Episcopal Church. John Wesley was an ordained minister in the Church of England and didn't think he was starting a new denomination. So I guess I come by it honestly.

Snowbrush said...

"You are a study in contradictions, my friend. An athiest who enjoys high mass."
"It is strange to me that you, of all people, seek solace at church. I don't understand it, since your blog is devoted, mostly, to debunking religion..."

I don't have a good explanation, although I could give a lot of reasons for being drawn to church. Still, as you both pointed out, I'm an atheist, so does going to church mean that I'm mentally disturbed, or a lying hypocrite, or both of these things, or some other thing? Maybe most people are free of major contradictions, or maybe I just talk about mine more. I know I stand in marked contrast to Peggy who doesn't care enough about religion to either embrace it or to criticize it. She was raised a strict Southern Baptist, and while she left religion the day she left her parents' home, she still holds to the fundamentalist belief that religion is to be embraced literally or not at all. To her, this means that when I recite the Nicence Creed, I'm acting in bad faith because I don't believe that Christ was born of a virgin, and so on, but then I doubt that most liberal Christians believe most of the creed. For starters, how about the part that speaks of God as having a right hand and an ass? I think that most atheists are like Peggy in that they view religion as a long list of required beliefs that you either accept, or you don't go to church. In this regard, I think it likely that I can expect more tolerance--if not acceptance--from liberal Christians because many liberal Christians struggle with some of the same issues that I do. Some even label themselves "non-theistic."

"The pastor at the little Methodist church where I play the piano always says before serving communion, "This is not the table of this church, this is not the table of the United Methodist Church or of any other church, this is the Lord's table.... All are welcome at the table of the Lord."

You were very supportive of my last foray into Episcopalianism, and I'll never forget that (I sometimes wonder if your Jewish background might have given you a keener understanding of what it's like to feel rejected). I also wonder if your pastor is breaking church law in saying that. I know the priest at Resurrection is going against church law in not requiring that only "baptized Christians" partake. In fact, he preached today on his reason for defying the church (he considers their stand rejecting and irrational). Back in the '60s, some of the people at my Mississippi church got to worrying that black people might try to attend, so each Sunday, several of the men would station themselves at the door to keep black people out. They asked my father to stand guard with them, and he said that, the way he saw things, it was Jesus' church, so if Jesus didn't want somebody to attend, then Jesus should be the one to block the door. I think he had the right idea. That Catholic funeral I went to where only Catholics were welcomed to mass made it very clear, I thought, that this isn't a loving denomination but an exclusionary club, and I hold that against it. For one thing, in Jesus day, eating with someone implied acceptance of that person into you life, and Jesus ate with religion's rejects.

Snowbrush said...

"i get that you dont feel you belong completely"

Well, as I wrote up above, I anticipate more acceptance among liberal Christians than among atheists because the former struggles somewhat as I do, and the latter does not. Frankly, though, I feel no need at this point to even talk about atheism. To this end, I want to have a discussion with my transexual acquaintance because he's in the same position in that no one would know he was a transexual if he didn't tell them. Why, therefore, tell them? Surely, there are times to do so, but I can't see the point in making a policy of doing so. In my case, I see even less point because atheism is a word that can interpreted in diverse ways. In other words, not everyone would consider a person like myself who believes in the possibility of universal awareness to even be an atheist, so to tell such a person that I'm an atheist would mislead them. My best guess is that the problem I'm going to have--if I have a problem--won't come from the church's rejection of me, but my inability to allow myself to participate given my extreme ambivalence and cognitive dissonance.

"He just used fear of crowds as an excuse so he could leave any place her hated. That is sad because I will never, ever believe anyone who uses that as an excuse."

You can deny the reality of any phobia that displeases you, but as my distress builds, I'm sure I would eventually reach the point of a phobic reaction. To this end, I would seriously worry about getting on an airplane for a ten or fifteen hour flight.

"All the trappings of high church leave me cold, very cold."

I'm that way about churches in which the main event is a sermon. With ritual, I'm not a passive member of an audience, but an active participant. Also, the "success" of the service doesn't hinge on the effectiveness of the homily.

lotta joy said...

Unlike you, the sight of a church or a cross causes me to feel revulsion. I don't know why, but it feels like I'm a witness at a demonic hoedown. I recently spent some glorious hours with my beloved sister. We are as alike as one person can be if split in half. At no point did we discuss religion and I was so relieved. If there is a god, he must adore my sister. If there's not, I'm so glad she'll never know.

We are both kind, morally responsible, charitable and willing to do what others won't - if it will ease someone's suffering. She is what she is - and she credits the lord. I am what I am, with no one and nothing to give credit to or blame. It just goes to show that we are what we are, and we can't help it, no matter what.

For the life of me, I'm not registering any understanding for your present situation and I'm usually "all in" where your inner striving is concerned.

You are a conundrum wrapped in an enigma. I just don't want you to become too introspective and analytic where this is concerned and lose your enthusiasm. Enjoy whatever is enjoyable and don't over-indulge in having self-doubts or wondering "why".

Snowbrush said...

"Unlike you, the sight of a church or a cross causes me to feel revulsion."

I receive the Freedom from Religion Foundation magazine each month, so I stay informed of all the mean, lying, dishonest, manipulative, taxpayer cheating acts done by thousands of Christians and hundreds upon hundreds of clergy each month IN THE NAME OF THEIR GOD; plus I read the two to three large page/small font crime reports pertaining to the private crimes of clergy that include everything from fraud, to rape, to torture, to murder. So, I'm familiar with revulsion in regard to religion. However, I have readers who aren't that way, and your sister isn't that way, and, I'm sure, thousands of other Christians aren't that way, so d I try to stay with this awareness rather than go full-tile into my fear and loathing, which would lead me to conclude that all Christians are either out doing evil, or else they're tacitly supporting evil b by their silence. I also try to bear in mind that the problem of organizations committing evil isn't just limited to religious groups, but extends to other groups that are supposedly committed to making the world a better place. But, I do understand your feelings, and I even share your feelings to some extent, sometimes to a very large extent, particularly when the latest FFRF news arrives. I'll send you--and probably anyone else--a copy if you would like.

Strayer said...

I don't even like to call myself an atheist, because it sounds like a group, a camp, a system of beliefs and I would describe me perhaps, as far as in the realm of belief or non belief--an apathetic. I rarely think about it. Sexual orientation shouldn't matter much either unless one is seeking a mate. Now, transgender, I'm not even sure what that means. I'm very prudish and shy away from such investigations. Haha.

possum said...

I, too, felt most comfortable in the Episcopal church, but after many years of mindlessly reciting what I had to say and doing the wafer/wine thing, it started to bother me that I was really being a hypocrite, or I was lying because I did not believe any of that stuff, and so I stopping saying the Creed, then I stopped going up to communion, then I stopped going altogether.

A Buddhist kind of thought, perhaps your comfort comes from a past lifetime when the Church was a more comfortable home for you.

Have never seen a copy of the FFRF. Certainly not here in the Bible Belt!

A question... have you ever read about the Cathars?

Snowbrush said...

"transgender, I'm not even sure what that means."

It's simply the new word for transexual, but that might not help. Anyway, it's an extremely painful way to be. It means you believe yourself to have been born into the body of the wrong gender, a belief that goes back to your earliest memories. If there's anyone who might be less accepted in church than an atheist, it's child molesters and people who are transgender, not that I mean to equate the two in any way other than to point out that they--like atheists--are scorned in our society.

"it started to bother me that I was really being a hypocrite, or I was lying because I did not believe any of that stuff, and so I stopping saying the Creed, then I stopped going up to communion, then I stopped going altogether."

Been there, done that, but I can't let it go once and forever. I'm unfit for either side of the coin (and therefore can't expect to be taken seriously by either side) because while I can criticize religion more effectively than most of its detractors, I'm still drawn to it, yet I can never bring myself to believe it in any literal way for even a moment. That said, the people who criticize religion best aren't atheists, but those scholars of religion who have devoted their lives to its study, yet many of them still go to church. Clearly, religion need not be of a literalist bent to be embraced in the 21st century. I'll tell you why I think that is. It's simply a case of science undercutting religion to the point that educated people can no longer defend it, and so they retreat into stances that are difficult to criticize because they're so nonspecific. I mean, really, when you get down to describing God as that about which nothing can be said, what's left to criticize--or to die for?

"A Buddhist kind of thought, perhaps your comfort comes from a past lifetime when the Church was a more comfortable home for you."

Do you believe in reincarnation? I'm ever surprised when people reject Christianity as fanciful and then embrace other systems that have no more hard evidence to support them. As for your thought about the church being comfortable for me, I did love it as a child--in this life--even though some of its teachings terrified me. Something that I need in a religion that maybe you don't, is that it reflect my heritage, which is western European and American Indian. This means that I could go either into Christianity or into Native American animism, but not into some Eastern religion. I moved from the South 28 years ago, and I still feel like I've been torn out by my roots, so to speak, and I'm a bit that way about religion. It has to come from my heritage. I know the Dali Lama is discouraging of people dumping Christianity in favor of Buddhism, and maybe what I've written has something to do with that. A common thought is that truth might be best found by going as deeply as possible into one's own religion heritage, the idea being that this will lead to mysticism, and mysticism is the same across all boundaries.

Snowbrush said...

"We only need to be accepted by ourselves."

I agree completely, yet the standards of consistency to which I hold other people (if I'm to take them seriously), I hold for myself, but I simply can't be consistent. I have what I would consider serious "issues" around religion that prevent me from resolving my feelings, and that adds a great deal of unhappiness to my life.

"Our son is looking for a spiritual community and I keep suggesting The Episcopalian Church."

Well, it leaves a lot of room for diversity, because it's so liberal (though this varies greatly from area to area) that the next stop after it would be Unitarianism, which no longer even makes a pretense of being Christian.

"i'm so pleased you have a place where you can find some joy!"

Thank you, Kylie.

Helen said...

... a high church with incense, candles, holy water, altar bells, formality, and solemnity. I can put my heart into every word I say in such a setting without believing them literally. ~~ You and me!

Furry Bottoms said...

I am bewildered by Lotta Joy's comment. That is the most I've heard out of her in this area and I am gobsmacked! (I love that word, gobsmacked)

Anyway, I studied religion in college as a part of an anthropology course. I learned all there was to learn about religion-- how it started, why it divided, cultural stigmas along with dogmas. I got an A+ in that class, which was probably my only A in the whole history of my college education... but I cannot for the life of me remember anything about the Episcopalian church. I am going to need to go back and look at my notes, although they've been buried for 20 years now.

I believe in a higher power. I believe there is an "other side." and that makes me happy. I just cannot stand institutions myself. I am glad, however, that you find happiness and peace there. If it works for you, it's all good.

What would it be like, if you and I met up in the middle of a crowd of pushing, shoving, rude people. I cannot abide crowds myself. Not only does it make me feel claustrophobic, but it makes me feel ANGRY. As if I am siphoning off all these angry energy from other people onto myself. It is draining. 15 minutes in a crowd that makes me uncomfortable is akin to a whole day and night of working intensely. It wears me out. My energy is just so sensitive.

Snowbrush said...

"I can put my heart into every word I say in such a setting without believing them literally. ~~ You and me!"

I don't know if I can maintain it, though.

"I am bewildered by Lotta Joy's comment. That is the most I've heard out of her in this area"

She is one of those horrid atheists who hates religion. I don't know how I put up with her. She's worse than Madalyn Murray O'Hair.

"I learned all there was to learn about religion"

That was quite a course. I've known people who got doctorates in the subject who, if they had taken that course, could have saved themselves years of study. In fact, one of those doctorate fellows is coming here today. He's the priest where I've been going, and he wants to talk with me for some reason. I really don't know what he has in mind, but I'm happy to have him visit because he surely knows a lot more than I do, so maybe he will have something helpful to say.

"I believe in a higher power. I believe there is an "other side." and that makes me happy. I just cannot stand institutions myself."

Those institutions can be looked upon as containing the accumulated wisdom--if wisdom it is (I'm in doubt)--of people like yourself, so by going it alone, you miss out on that.

Snowbrush said...

"I cannot abide crowds myself. Not only does it make me feel claustrophobic, but it makes me feel ANGRY."

I'll be going through the roof, and Peggy will be telling me to calm down. This works about as well for me as it would work for her if I told her to calm down when she was jumping about and screaming because she saw a wee tiny spider. In other words, she has no clue about the depth of my problem.

"What would it be like, if you and I met up in the middle of a crowd of pushing, shoving, rude people"

We would collapse into one another's arms and cry, perhaps? Then again, we might slug one another by mistake.

" I cannot for the life of me remember anything about the Episcopalian church."

The proper word is Episcopal. A member is an Episcopalian, but the church itself is Episcopal. It's the American branch of Anglicanism, and started during the American Revolution. At one time, the Church of England/Episcopal was the dominant church in the Southern colonies/states, and people were taxed to support it. It's now small in terms of numbers, but big in terms of liberal leadership. I would guess that it and the United Church of Christ are the most liberal churches in America not counting the Unitarian, which can no longer be called Christian, and is therefore no longer really a church, at least in that sense. The other two do maintain their Christian allegiance, but they are content to let their members define what that means, and they literally have "non-theistic" theologians among their members. Others are theists, but don't take much of traditional doctrine literally, don't believe that God answers prayers, etc.

CreekHiker / HollysFolly said...

I feel a sense of panic in large crowds. I don't like to watch sporting events with the sound on as it feel all those people are in my house! Glad you found a spot of peace in your hectic day!

PhilipH said...

WTF is going on here Snowy.

I have no comment other than I am a tad concerned about your mentality but if you are struggling to find peace of mind then I hope you succeed.

Snowbrush said...

"I don't like to watch sporting events with the sound on"

That reminds me of the first and last time I attended a basketball game. Golly, but was it noisy, and was I ever glad to get out of there.

"I am a tad concerned about your mentality..."

Then maybe I shouldn't tell you about sacrificing chickens...Seriously, this stuff ebbs and wanes with me. It's a bit like being an alcoholic who can go for years without drinking, only to go on a month-long binge. The only question is whether to talk about it or not.

Snowbrush said...

I think I meant waxes and wanes.

kj said...

snow, i think you will like this interview with frank sinatra :^)

http://theimmoralminority.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/a-1963-interview-with-frank-sinatra.html?m=1

love
kj

kj said...

snow, a family member of mine is transgender and she is happier than you describe. it really does depend.

love
kj