The morning sun is starting to burn through the clouds. Good thing, too, as it is our church's tradition on this day to process into church waving palm branches and singing "Hosanna".
Holy Week begins and we are now officially entering DaVinci Code
territory. This is the week of great mysteries (if you believe) or major scamitude (if you don't). And with all the hooha earlier this week about the gospel of Judas and the accompanying pontification by scholars on NPR, reading some of the comments on various blogs this week, not to mention the huge and thorny tensions between Christians and Muslims the world over or the "religious" right in this country that seems so hellbent on teetering us over into the apocolypse whether Jesus likes it or not, I feel compelled to answer a question once posed by The Spouse (before he was same), "You seem like an intelligent person. I mean, what about the Borgias?"
In other words, why am I a Christian?
Partly, it's because that's how I was raised. I was in church from teeny tiny and not being there was never an option. And that was before my dad got into the ministry. I was also raised a Democrat. (Funny thing, while I never stopped being a Christian, most of my family did stop being Democrats. I blame Ronald Reagan). Obviously, the values you're given as a child have the potential for major staying power. But not always. So that's not the whole reason.
At some point, I'll spare you the details, the "church" thing became a personal relationship to and with Jesus. In short, I believe what he said, that he's the Son of God and that he loves me. It would have been just as easy to believe otherwise. In fact, it is probably easier to go in the historical character/another prophet/good guy and/or radical firebrand route. I just didn't happen to.
I could tell you stories about how I've felt the presence of God in my life and you'd either say, "Oh yes, me, too." or else "We can talk ourselves into anything". And I grant you, faith can seem quite ridiculous. Here's the good news: with my nonbelieving friends I've never felt compelled to apologize for the fact that I believe AND I have never felt compelled to "save" them. All I feel called to is to love others as I love myself.
I don't have to tell you this but while I do believe, I am anything but perfect. I try to have my life choices (even my politics) guided by Christian principles. But it's not as easy as it sounds. It involves constant engagement, discernment, prayer and contemplation. It would be easier to not bother. But the few times in my life when I tried that it didn't really work. So I keep at it. I will let you know when I get it down. Don't hold your breath.
It isn't that much fun to identify oneself as a Christian these days. Not just because some people think religion is complete bollocks. I don't mind that as I very often think it's complete bollocks, too. I worry rather a lot about Theocracy and not just by Islamic fundamentalists but by Christian fundamentalists as well. We have our own one-eyed mullahs in this country and it scares me. It scares me that there are a lot of "God fearing" Americans who who really believe that somehow everything will be blissful if we stop teaching evolution, banish gays and put prayer back in the classroom. (And after we do that we can stop educating our womenfolk and criminalize abortion AND contraception. Burning Catholics at the stake might be fun, too. Man, those were the good old days). Those who would make America a "Christian" nation seem to have no concept of Christianity...at least not when it comes to those elements of the gospels which I find so challenging and compelling: love of neighbor, care for the poor, humility before God, the power of prayer, the care of a community of believers. It saddens me, it sickens me, sometimes it angers me and I certainly don't blame anyone who looks at all that and says, "No thanks". (Which, by the way, has Satan laughing his ass off. His job has never been easier).
As for the horrors perpetrated in the name of Christianity, including but not limited to the Crusades, most of the Borgias, Jim and Tammy Faye, funny underwear and pastoral abuse, there is no apology. The thorniest bit about a belief system is the lightening fast way in which it can be used for political gain and self-interest (of course, Christianity hardly has a lock on that particular franchise). That people have, throughout the centuries, fallen short of the Ideal, should hardly be a surprise. All I can do is try not to fall into that trap. I'm not better than anyone because I believe in Jesus. I can't find any justification for that sentiment in the Gospels. In the end, faith is personal and frankly, we'd probably be better off if everyone who believed worked harder at just living it and otherwise kept their mouths shut.
And yes, I believe God created the world, although I'm not particularly concerned about his methods. I also don't believe God is a man, it's just easier to use pronouns. Although when I recite the Creed I never use the masculine. Or the feminine. I just say "God". I believe that there is a heaven but if it turns out that I'm wrong I won't feel cheated. Engagement in each day, as it is given, is occupation enough.
So I look forward to this week. It is a sacred time to journey through Christ's last week: from triumph to betrayal (planned or no), from crucifixtion to resurrection. I celebrate mysteries which comfort and challenge me. I will hang palm crosses over the doors, bake hot cross buns, fast, pray and dye Easter eggs with The Child. It works for me.
And now you know why I'm a housewife and not a formal apologist for the Church.