"This I believe"

 reflections and a rant by L. Lisa Lawrence

(author holds copyright on all material.  Permission granted to link to original pages, please use contact link on webpage for any requests for reprinting or publishing)

I’ve been thinking about this for a while. It was spurred first, by my friend Don’s “This I believe” post (s) on his LiveJournal and then by a letter to the editor in our local paper regarding Washington state passing a law making it illegal to discriminate against gays. This particular letter to the editor was (very well) written by a Christian who stated that not all Christians are bigots. It was the comments that set me off. Since when did Jesus (who I at the very least believe was an historical figure and one of the many manifestations of god/dess in this world) teach hate and intolerance? One of the ignorant bigots who feels that Christianity should shape our laws questioned what I believe. (Because obviously, if I don’t believe what he does, I don’t count as having beliefs)

And this is my response to the bigot,

“My beliefs don't matter here anymore than yours do.

Belief is not science, fact or law and has no place in government.

But with that said, just to placate you. I attend a church (which has roots in several world traditions including liberal Christianity), give to charity (time and money) volunteer in youth mentoring programs and programs that support the arts and breast cancer research.

I do not believe in irresponsible, unprotected sex or irresponsible reproduction. I do not believe that an adult can get informed consent from a minor, especially if that adult is in a position of trust.

I do not believe in lying, cheating, stealing or bombing the crap out of another country to get control of their oil.

I believe that who someone loves and chooses to build a life with in a committed relationship is no one else’s business.

I believe that education and healthcare should be available to everyone, and that the world would be a better place if people gave a crap about something else other than themselves and material possessions.

I believe in personal responsibility and hard work.

I believe that people should walk their talk. (i.e.; live your faith/morality/values by example, not be a proselytizing, hypocritical bigot trying impose your "stuff" on others, while completely ignoring the base message of love, peace and tolerance)

I don't need your interpretation of your book/religion/faith to tell me how to be "moral" or "good".


/internet news rant…

So this lead nicely into the “This I believe” theme that Don started a few weeks ago.

I believe that there is an “energy” or “spirit” in this world that is universal.

I believe that humankind interprets this energy or spirit in a manner that they can understand and relate to. That would explain to me why each “god/dess” is depicted in the image of the culture who is telling the story. (really, what thinking person can honestly say than an innocent child born to a Hindi family is “going to hell”?)

Yes, I believe that god/dess is created in the image of humankind, not the other way around.

I utterly and completely believe in energy/spirit/deity/insert term of your choice here.

I’ve felt it, had it coursing through my body, and have shared it with others.

I have connected with spirit in a Yanduchi Youkut sweat lodge, and seen the protective spirit during the bear dance. I have had spirit course through my body during an earth centered ritual. I have seen the hope of new life at a midnight mass in a Catholic church. I have felt the awesome power of nature and been swept away by the awesome spiritual expression of gospel music.

To feel a “divine spirit/energy” is one of the most powerful things that we can ever experience in our lives. I’ve felt it more strongly in nature than anywhere else. No matter what your religious belief/tradition is (or lack thereof) how could one not feel power and energy in the canyons of the Colorado River, the Black Hills of South Dakota, the Giant Sequoia forests or the power of the ocean pounding the Northwest coast?

I have shared the energy of others in ritual where we raised and directed energy towards a specific purpose such as healing. I have felt/sensed manifestations of that energy in various cultural forms. This, I believe, is how we experience “the divine” in a way that we can understand and relate to it.

I do not believe that any one tradition or religion holds “the truth”. I believe that as humans, we can only do our best to interpret the divinity and energy in the world and learn from/work with it in whatever form we can relate to and understand, and ideally do good works with it.

I believe that fundamentalist religion of any sort does nothing but dilute and ultimately pervert the original message and ideals. I saw a bumper sticker the other day that said, “Who would Jesus bomb?” Good question. I would ask fundamentalist Christians who believe in hate, bigotry and holy wars to examine the tenants of their faith and why they would desecrate the teachings of the savior they claim to be in service of.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing Christians (only the hateful fundamentalists, which are a sadly vocal minority). Some of my best friends (heck, even my Mom) are Christians. (I was raised in the Methodist church myself, and later became a Unitarian Universalist “with strong Buddhist and pagan tendencies”) I believe that radical Muslims who kill innocent people in suicide bombings are heinous. I think that Wiccans who berate and put down those who do not follow their specific tradition as “fluffy”, “willfully ignorant” and “not real” are no better than the bigoted fundamentalists of other faiths that they want to “defend themselves against”.

You see, for the most part, I believe that true experience of spirit is individual. I do not believe that by being baptized, being circumcised (male or female), being able to trace your initiatory linage to a man who created and brought a religion (created from several “legitimate sources”) to this country in the “ancient time” of 1956, or any other religious rite makes you more “legitimate” than anyone else. Everyone has a right to believe in these things, but when they use those beliefs to control and degrade others, they’ve lost my respect. As far as I’m concerned, they are as far away from true spirit/energy/deity as anyone could possible be.

I don’t deny anyone the right to believe and worship (or not) as they choose.

I object to their trying to push their beliefs on others or use their beliefs and “religion” as an excuse to attack, berate and control others.

I am privileged to know wonderful people from a diverse range of cultures and traditions, who take their faith very seriously. I respect that. I respect them, because they do not feel the need to push their truth on others. Rather, they live by example and bring a unique thread to the tapestry that is our spiritual (and mundane) life.

 

(author holds copyright on all material.  Permission granted to link to original pages, please use contact link on webpage for any requests for reprinting or publishing)

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