I was born and baptized a Lutheran, raised a Methodist, and later was confirmed in both the Episcopal and Roman Catholic traditions. I spent nine months in a Benedictine monastery and then, at age 28, I left institutionalized Christianity forever, or so it seems…but I never left Jesus, nor has Jesus left me.
When people ask me if I’m Christian, I don’t know what to say…because nowadays, that question seems to mean: do I believe (and affirm) X? are my politics (and votes) Y? and do my words (and Facebook posts) say Z? But this is not my Christianity…and this is not my Jesus.
My Jesus is not a genie, a leprechaun, a vendetta master, or a politician. My Jesus doesn’t doesn’t strike us with plagues and catastrophes or hear and respond to pleas for vengeance or favors to lose weight, get a callback, receive financial help, or prevent this or that from happening…or to live or die. I cannot know this as Jesus, nor can I pray that way. I only can pray that I be true to myself, and that I be the best me I can be, and that I love others, as Jesus loves me.
I have read every word of the Bible, both in the King James (Anglican) and New Jerusalem (Roman Catholic) versions, and I am familiar with the Revised Standard and New Revised (mainstream Protestant) versions. I have studied Christianity formally (college/university) and avocationally and at the monastery. And I have attended more masses, liturgies, and tent meetings and revivals than (almost) anyone I know.
And this is what I know: the Jesus I knew and know, promoted and promote, and practiced and practice was always enough for me…and, yet, at some point during my lifetime, Christianity was co-opted (or hi-jacked) in name and identity by others, particularly in the U.S. South and in U.S. politics, who claimed that you must believe only X, read only Y, and vote only Z. Being “saved” or “born again” somehow began sounding more like a 12-step program than spirituality. This talk is not my Christianity…and this is not my Jesus.
I am reclaiming my Jesus.
My Jesus says that you are known as Christians by your love. My Jesus says that whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, that you do unto me. My Jesus says blessed are the poor, the meek, the peacemakers. My Jesus says do unto each other as you would have done unto you. My Jesus says love each other and help each other. My Jesus says practice what you preach. My Jesus knows no political party, no skin color, no ethnicity, no language, no gender identity, and no sexual orientation. My Jesus is not an admission ticket (or denial) to anything that happens now or after I die.
My Jesus is my teacher, my role model, and my friend.
My Jesus knows only love…and that we all are trying to find our way toward love and meaning, sometimes succeeding and other times failing…and sometimes with other paths and other teachers.
If believing this makes me not or less a Christian, then so be it. I will be content in knowing that I follow the Gospel of the Jesus I know as best I can understand it, and live it, and love it.
And, I will be urgent and forthcoming in sharing this at a time when we, as a nation, seem to have lost our way, when we need it most.
America cannot be great unless America is good.
KURDS AND WORDS
I had a half-hour chat today
with a Kurd in Sultanahmet—
a ceaselessly smiling man,
who speaks and spoke fluent
English, Russian, and Turkish,
but cannot speak openly in public
with his own mother,
who speaks only Kurdish,
lest those within earshot
discover who and what he is.
Yet, this is not what spurred
his words to me today.
No, he said, in whispers,
there’s a much bigger threat now
for Turks and Kurds alike:
There, in just one word.
Then he looked me
straight in the eye and asked,
Do you think America will help us?
I looked him straight back
but couldn’t voice the one word
that screamed silently within:
I know that I have been unfriended and unfollowed recently, but this is what I believe, and this is the America that I want to believe in, love, defend, and represent. Without goodness, there can be no greatness.
1) If what we say and do is what we are, then yes; there is no mystery or argument here.
2) Speculation, and I may not agree, but I cannot think of another president in my lifetime, who has had the cards so stacked against him, and for that I give him much credit and respect.
3) Fact, not belief. (Are we not smart enough to know the difference, or, worse, do we not care?!)
4) Exception or norm? I don’t know. The people on assistance whom I’ve known personally were not lazy; most work(ed) full time but just were not paid enough per hour to live without other help. Most pitiful are my own students (now college alums) who are struggling with (and defaulting on) their own exorbitant college loans.
5) I’m not liberal or elitist, but I am educated, care about other people, and have taught thousands of kids who have far less than I…and I have visited and lived in lots of other countries. Bottomline: I just think we should help and protect others who have less…like Jesus taught us.
6) I grew up on a farm and have no problem with folks owning guns; assault weapons, on the other hand, are something different and have nothing to do with (the responsibility of) freedom or that amendment.
7) I physically cannot become pregnant nor give birth, hence I believe that I have no right to dictate my opinion on those who can. I also know plenty of women who have made difficult choices (both ways), and I respect them and their choices. If we cannot fend for or tend to folks after they’re born, this seems like a moot question.
8) I know folks who have gone bankrupt because they got sick. And, my parents are almost 90. How can we turn our backs on sick and old folks? And veterans?! How can the wealthiest nation in the history of the world not help and care for its own people?
9) Isn’t this the Golden Rule that I was taught my whole life?
10) Any system that values money more than people is not within my values, and it doesn’t deserve anything from me other than derision. Period.