Sunday, September 9, 2012

2012.09.09 Back To Church

“It is a mistake to believe that God is primarily concerned with religion.” 

I read this quote recently in May Sarton’s book A House by the Sea. She attributed it to an archbishop of Canterbury but omitted his name. Even Google didn’t know. Hence, the wisdom stands on its own: “It is a mistake to believe that God is primarily concerned with religion.”

“It is also a mistake to believe that God is negligently concerned with religion.”  (This author I know because it’s moi, more properly, I.)

Defending religion? What hubris!  What I really want to do is jump in the currently popular spirituality pool with the cultural gang.  But I need religion and the church, for better or worse.  

I got religion in church, an extracurricular activity I’d flirted with for years and found boring so I fell in love with cute priests and flirted with the trappings. Still, I couldn’t stop wondering—and wondering what really is the point? 

When the time came for my authentic midlife crisis I’d sunk into moral turpitude— Ok I exaggerate here. Still, only something divine was persuasive enough to drop-kick me back into life-in-God. Call me lost, depressed, stuck in a role, “called” a term the church overuses, whatever,  it really doesn’t matter. I just had to find my first “lover” God, the one I’d met as a young child.

There was no FaceBook then and it didn’t make sense to go God-hunting in a library, City Hall, a bar, or on a bed, though I tried all these options: reading the Bible compulsively from cover to cover, changing my political party, alcohol, sex. At last I rediscovered the Episcopal church, the one that had the most sensory appeal, the one that had colors, smells, bells and human bodies that weren’t screwed to the pews—and, I noticed,  hope for women to be ordained.

Religion in a church community gave me something to DO, a VOCABULARY, and a way to THINK. These structures enhanced what I already FELT about God. I didn’t agree with everything but at least I had something to argue with. I met Jesus on directed religious retreats. As I prayed in silence and into the depth only solitude can allow, Jesus coached me into the radical idea that God’s Love lived inside me, so close I ate, slept and breathed it.

The Episcopal religion gave me a lot of grief and patriarchal baloney about women’s roles. It also gave me guidance without guilt, gravitas with flexibility, sin and  grace, elegant prayers to say in a community, a Big Book Bible, rich in stories that read better than any racy spellbinding novel and were, mercifully, lame on self-help, sacraments, and backbone theology—the bend but not break kind. 

Finally, my church gave me ordination to the priesthood.

God IS concerned with religion. Maybe not primarily, and maybe out of frustration over human meanderings. But it mistaken to believe God is not concerned with religion. In fact, Godde may just be leading the charge for change in the churches of all religions.