Remember that one time a million weeks ago when I decided that I was going to hippy church? Well I finally went. I thought it was lovely. J thought it wasn’t “churchy” enough. Ev cried a lot, she only likes her church in Kansas the one with crosses and stuff.
Well that stuff is the bleeding body of Christ, pomp, circumstance, lies (whoops did that offend you?), indoctrinated patriarchy and a blatant disregard for science and logic. Okay I’m on my high (or low) horse. There are things that I like, am envious even, about your churching ways. Namely, the sense of community, spirituality, having adult friends that do adult things, not being the only person in a room who has a child, all of the casseroles and because I’ve seen it first hand the amazing lengths that your fellow Church goers will go through to help you out. I could use some… all… of that.
Turns out there are places that you can go to where you get to enjoy all of the good things, hold the interpretations literal and otherwise of the New Testament and all of the hell and damnation. I’m not discounting that many many Christians or other devoutly religious people aren’t tolerant of other ideas, it’s just that I don’t want to spend any of my hours sitting in a pew being told what to believe and to not question the Dogma. An aside, I also don’t want my daughter learning that one religion or way of being spiritual is better than an other. An issue that we already have, “Obama is bad” and the story of Moses has already spewed out of her baby lips.Wonder where she got that from? Not her Mama.
This seems like a fun time for a story. Many moons ago when I was a teenager. A rather resolved, free thinking, fuck the establishment teenager my mother and I were sitting at the stop light at Iowa and 23rd (for my Lawrence friends). I don’t know what we were or weren’t talking about. Knowing us it was either really superficial or short rapid fire retorts. I mostly remember a long pause and then my mother yelling out. “YOU’RE AN ATHEIST!” That was the most insulting name that she could hurl at me and also the most devastating of realities for her to accept.
Which is funny if you know my mother… hi Mom! I don’t really know about her relationship with God. I know that she tucks a Bible into her bedside table. That for no more than 1 year did we actually attend church littered with disgruntled older women and a guy with out a nose. It was intense on all accounts. When I was little I went to Church with two beautiful older ladies from my neighborhood, not her, not my (blood) family. My grandma was raised Catholic. The rest of my family was protestant-ish. We pray at funerals. Watch little House on the Prairie Christmas special about Jesus’ birthday but for the most part we just live(d) religion free. Default Christians. That’s the American way. Yeah, Jesus, God, the 12 disciples, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, Amen. Let’s eat!
I don’t like to make judgements about people’s personal beliefs. I know plenty of people who have a seriously intense set of religious beliefs and practices. Good for you. Seriously. I think that you should practice what you believe. More so, I think that you shouldn’t act like you sometimes practice what you sort of believe because that’s what the cultural norm is with out really exploring the why.
Back to the stop light, “You’re an athiest!” I cowered back. “I’m not an atheist!”.
I’m not. I didn’t have all of the words for it then. I still don’t. Technically Atheism is rejecting that there are deities. Okay. But it also is this mash up of a bunch of terrible connotations for a lot of people. It’s like being a Communist, or gasp a Socialist (put my face on a bill board in Texas, you caught me). It’s just plain wrong. Or at least that’s the majority’s vote in the Bible Belt. Born and raised.
I’ve grown to not really give a S about the labels that people put on me. That was a lie that I wanted really badly to be true. Restatement: I’ve learned to understand myself and my own ideologies in a way that I am completely comfortable with. This includes the potential for them to expand, shrink and change at any given time. Being sure of yourself in any realm but especially this one has given me the footing to weather and largely brush off other’s opinions of me even when those people are my Mom.
That was a semi-rant, a solid 13 years in the making.
All of that was to say that lately there’s been something a miss in my soul. Maybe it’s that I’m growing older and wiser. Maybe that it’s the place that I’m in physically and mentally. Maybe it’s that I’m doing what we’re all doing, looking for answers to questions and predicaments that are bigger than what I can wrap my head around. Trust, I’ve tried.
I’ve been going to yoga. I’ve been crying at yoga.
I’ve been reading poetry, advice columns and science journals.
I’ve been mesmerized by my baby trying to evoke her perspective, a sponge to this world .
I’ve been attempting to emulate the older people I see, slow down be methodical.
I’ve been stoic and loud.
I’ve been empty.
And God damn I can’t put my finger on it.
So I drag my people to this “center for spiritual living”. The address the fruit of my goggling labors… “Church alternatives, Santa Fe, NM “. There are more than a few. I live in a free thinking oasis.
It felt vaguely like church. People making small talk. Introducing themselves. With the addition of a library of books on meditation, chakras, science of mind and the absence of any Bibles. The “sermon” if you can call it that was focused on self-help not church doctrine. As all good services do, it was exactly something that everyone could relate to. The biggest of my cords that was struck was, if you aren’t doing something that you are passionate about there is going to be a gaping hole inside of you.
That’s my hole. We’ve sniffed out the problem in record time. Well shit.
Figuring out how to remedy that hole is a whole other set of Sunday mornings I suppose.
It was good.
Things that I love about this place:
The mission to build a sense of community.
There’s a “Wild and Untethered Women’s Group”, sign me up.
There’s a smorgasbord board of activities that you can elect to be part of like yoga, meditation and improve acting classes plus more traditional classes that study the founding principles that I may or may not actually delve into.
I really like that this is a place where you get to choose what you want it to be. In fact they’re so accommodating of it that the reverend said about lighting candles at the end of service to for people to set their own intentions with that, “Something to the effect of there’s a big candle that represents God or the Universe for you to light your little candle from. Just take away that you are getting light from something bigger. If the word God freaks you out, then it’s a candle with three wicks”. I’m paraphrasing. How rad is that?
If I was in charge, or actually had enough ambition to create a religious following then Church would be like a junior high sleep over. Unfiltered. Raw. A group of people falling in love with each other, revealing their dreams and secrets. Being so intensely connected. Or like a hike in the mountains all by yourself where nature patiently reminds you that you are but a speck in this universe, so be still. Or like your first time on drugs when every little mundane thing is sensationalized and beautiful. Or like any one of the many heated debates that my Western Civ class would get in over modern ethics. Or like the amazement in my daughter’s voice when she recites animal facts to us one after another… did you know about Orcas!?!
Maybe we only get to live some of those things once, I just have to accept that. But someone else has built a place that is a palatable alternative open 7 days a week and free to the public. We’ll see how it goes.