Richard Rohr

Catholic priest tolerates gay men, and even trans people shock!

Rohr’s daily meditations reach millions, and recently he tackled LGBT folk, or SOGI, Sexual Orientation/Gender Identity issues. He started by assuming his audience was hostile.

With all the changing ways of understanding gender and sexuality, most of us truly need contemplative eyes and the guidance of the Holy Spirit to “rupture simplistic binaries” and be compassionate and respectful of difference and diversity. It clearly seems that God is quite comfortable with immense diversity.  We have a much harder time with it, preferring uniformity and conformity instead.

I found it almost impossible to read. He is challenging his queerphobic Christian followers, saying that while he has to make a continual effort to be “non-dual”, his instinct and theirs is to judge gay as unacceptable. Jesus, he says, ruptures and transgresses simplistic binaries between self and other, but most people dismiss and judge every thing that does not fit neatly in their simplistic categories.

He wants to teach the Mind of Christ by getting readers to think about SOGI, which he has no doubt they will instinctively reject. This week is a good test case for one’s ability to think in a nondual way.

So he decides to preach that the church should include and accept LGBT people not in hopes that they can force us into a normal, celibate, straight-acting box but accept us as part of God’s beautiful diverse creation, and he starts by othering all his LGBT readers.

He says some good stuff. God’s will is that people and things become their true selves, and then live in “supportive coexistence”. Conservative Christians, however, want to control God’s good creation which they fear, seeing it as chaos.

Institutional religion tends to think of people as very simple, and therefore the law must be very complex to protect them in every situation. Jesus does the opposite: He treats people as very complex—different in religion, lifestyle, virtue, temperament, and success—and keeps the law very simple in order to bring them to God… Love God, and your neighbour.

Jesus, and Rohr, allow people to be ourselves. Do not let the labels trip you up—woman, man, transgender, cisgender, straight, bisexual, gay, queer. I note he does not mention lesbian. There is a reason we bring L to the front. Formerly people wrote GLBT.

He goes on to use queer folks to teach about the Bible. Yes, Leviticus commands stoning gay men to death, but the Bible records a developing understanding of God from Abraham’s attempted human sacrifice to Jesus’ teaching. Jesus’ harsh words are reserved entirely for those whose certainty about their religious rectitude causes them to condemn others. Jesus is all about inclusion, forgiveness, and empowerment. In the light of his compassionate presence, people are set free to live their lives in strength and hope, regardless of whether they be considered outcasts by those in the “religious know.” Rather than complex rules teaching us what is OK so we feel safe with no need to think, or even to see clearly, the only law is Love.

Just as the Bible supports slavery and we don’t, so also we find deeper themes in the Bible support LGBT acceptance, and even oppose Patriarchy. Rohr writes, God sides with the powerless. God liberates the oppressed. God suffers with the suffering. I resent that. Many LGBT people flourish despite oppression. We are not his exemplar group of powerless and suffering people, and his attitude encourages others to look down on us and pity us- perhaps he does himself. We do not need his support, but justice.

He claims the secular culture “celebrates” us. Perhaps he has not read The Times’ articles on trans people. It is almost as if he shares the homophobic Christian’s shock when we are shown in a good light.

God, he says, creates each of us unique, with different gifts and challenges, and desires us to live into the fullness of our humanity and our identity.

Rohr’s example is Episcopal priest and lesbian Liz Edman, who aged five wanted boy’s shoes and was supprted by her mother. Everyone wants things forbidden by the complex rules humans create. From object of pity, we change in an instant to patterns and examples for others, who should all Know who you are. Be who you are. Be the person God created you to be. It is deeply uncomfortable for me. I am as enchained by convention as anyone. I have no wish to be forced to teach others any more than be pitied by them.

At the end, he quotes Liz Edman on Jesus turning water into wine. The water was used for ritual washing, the wine intoxicates and liberates us from rules. This is a queer interpretation, which might get her fired. To liberal straight Christians, she says, Let us be ourselves, and assure us that you will have our backs when our proclamation unsettles and afflicts those who are comfortable in a dualistic worldview.

Yes, Queers can be free as Christ intended, and our freedom help liberate others. But our experience belongs to no-one straight. We are not your teaching tool. And the idea of sheep and goats, the binary division between in group and out group, is everywhere reinforced in the church. For example:

Later, Rohr quotes an Asian man:

Now that new voices are being enunciated about him by those . . . outside the traditional framework of Christianity, Jesus must be experiencing an emancipation from the confinement of orthodoxy that has immobilized him. . .

Extinction Rebellion

At last, there is something I can do.

I hope to spend as much time as possible on Lambeth Bridge in the coming week. I will worship God. There is Quaker worship planned every day at 2pm for half an hour, and there will be other worship: I will sing hymns, join prayer, if I am allowed worship with Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and join their call to God. There is a spiritual reality binding humanity and the biosphere. I call it God. Others may have other understanding of spirituality, but it is the still small voice that calls to every person, the Truth and Good in every heart, the source of courage and inspiration in the darkest places.

Even if you do not call it God, you know what I mean. It is the thing all humanity has in common. When we come together in Love, humans are powerful.

There is an emergency. I could reel off any number of horrors, but the Bahamas hurricane will do. I will not give you statistics- you can find them if you want. Nor do I want to justify climate science- CO2 has been recognised as a greenhouse gas since the 19th century. I have seen the wilful lies of the climate deniers, and their duplicity for financial gain repels me.

Democracy is under threat from a Prime Minister who promises fantasies- Get Brexit Done- heedless of the risk to the population. Now is the time to act.

I can give up meat, and that is nothing compared to the Amazon fires, encouraged by the Bolsonaro government, or the emissions from private jets (I am tempted to link to George Monbiot’s article, but would be tempted to go on, and just be linking to horror after horror, promoting despair.)

Instead I will say what we, the people may do. We can say No. We can act in the strength of the Spirit of God (or of Humanity, if you will). We can come together.

I love Extinction Rebellion’s simple demands.

Tell the Truth.
Act Now.
Beyond politics.

Beyond politics- they want a citizen’s assembly, to decide what can be done to save our planet separately from the manoeuvring of party politics, and the influence of big donors and propagandists.

I love their principles, in particular no. 9:

We are a non-violent network

This is the heart of my Christianity. Jesus said,

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons and daughters of God. . . . You have learned how it was said, “You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy”; but I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you. In this way, you will be daughters and sons of your Creator in heaven.

As Richard Rohr says, we can live by this now.

These are my strengths. I worship. I connect to What Is, and to God within me. I am soft, gentle, peaceful, loving. In this way I can form connections with the others worshipping on the bridge, and with others who approach us. I want to meet people heart to heart, talk, listen and connect. The action may be a silent retreat amid the noise of London.

My great niece was born in 2017. If she lives as long as my father did, she will still be living in the 22nd century, when the current level of CO2 has wreaked its full effects on our climate, melting the ice, raising the sea level, killing off countless other species. I must mitigate the effects of CO2 as far as possible, for her, and even for myself as I may live past 2050. We will find a way.

Howard Thurman

If I never feel confused, is confusion that terrifying emotion which I must always suppress below conscious awareness? If the distance between how things are and how they ought to be is so great that I cannot see how things are, being just confused, how can I do what I need to do? If my anger is always directed at myself- do better, try harder, keep going- how can I survive a world unless it is designed to fit me and support me? When do I realise that it isn’t?

I am wary of using Black experience as a way into my own as their oppression is greater than mine, except that mine matters too. I am a trans woman, conveniently available for anyone to punch down at, relieve their feelings on, use as a scapegoat or ridicule. We get screamed at, assaulted, killed by casual acquaintances or strangers, and painted as perverts or predators when any need is felt to justify that though often it isn’t.

So I read extracts from Howard Thurman, Black mystic and spiritual adviser to Martin Luther King.

“The stirring of the will of man to action, the dream of humanity, developed and free… is God.”

God speaks through my survival instinct and the occasional, fleeting desire I have to be equal, not to be that whipping-girl. I will not wrong others, and I will survive.

God lives in each person, we are each the outworking of God’s love, power, creativity and beauty, each hair on our head is numbered and God wills our flourishing- yes, even trans women.

The Black man, used by whites for the most menial work, lynched- murdered- by whites to keep all Blacks in a state of terror and subjection and satisfy those whites of their own righteous superiority, finds that in religious experience “I hear His Voice in my own tongue and in accordance with the grain in my own wood. In that glorious and transcendent moment, it may easily seem to me that all there is, is God.”

God is a real me, more real than I can conceive. This is not a matter of dogma but immediate experience, to be captured in feeling not prose or theory, perhaps to be glimpsed in poetry. Then I am my full glory as my part in God’s outworking of creation.

Thurman’s God and mine is transcendent, eternal, all-encompassing, and personal and intimate, caring for me like God’s child in self-sacrificing, motherly love. So, I will show myself the love God shows I am worthy of.

Christianity is an ideology of empire, for security and respectability for the strong and powerful, giving grudging “charity”, sometimes, to deserving outsiders but teaching us our obligations to our betters. This makes those betters feel good about themselves. No, God requires that we are brothers and sisters, equals. I claim my equal worth. God in me seeks not to serve or dominate but to hear and communicate.

Why do I call myself Christian when Christianity oppressed me? To create it anew!

I am a human being among human beings, not for anyone to categorise or judge as “a trans woman”, for no-one’s stereotypes classifications or perceived understanding- even my own. That is love of self in my incomprehensible beauty, a love worthy of loving others with. I am my part of Life, as you are. Each Christian encountering another Christian as an equal, a beloved fellow child of the loving Mother would be an example to all other people. “See how they love each other!” We would win souls for Christ.

Gender is as oppressive as race and we who do not fit gender stereotypes or are not served by them must come together. So I take Richard Rohr’s questions and apply them to gender:

Where in your life do you feel numb, shut down, dismembered, disrespected, or disconnected? What is your earliest memory of feeling this way? What events or circumstances do you believe gave birth to these experiences? What do you believe such feelings keep you from knowing?

What gender identities or stereotypes have shaped how you have come to know yourself as a person?

What views did your ancestors, elders, parents, or caretakers have about gender? How did their views impact you? In what ways were/are your views similar or different?

This is what to do with my anger, whether directed inward or outward- transmute it into a sense of self-worth: which becomes understanding, then love.

God, Spirituality, Atheism

Much as I would love either to confirm or deny that God exists, I cannot. I want a winsome Quakerism reaching out to theists and non-theists, and solidarity with both, saying “Look, how beautiful what we have is!” I want to know, express and affirm The Truth. These split me between affirming and denying God.

It seemed to me that I talked of God purely because of my history. I was brought up Episcopalian, so had a child’s belief in God, and a communitarian habit: I went to church because that was what my family and friends did. I recited the creed and sang hymns in a crowd, all together. I was ashamed when I did not speak up against expressed atheism, and sometimes I did. When my partner strongly asserted that Quakers should be Christian, and a Friend in my Meeting said she was non-theist, I felt a long, slow withdrawal of belief over about six months: against my own interests and inclination, I no longer believe in God. Then, the day after the Hoffman Process, when one is open and off-balance, I went into a church and felt forced to my knees by the holiness of the place.

I thought, it is a separation between my rational and emotional selves. Rationally, I assent to Professor Brian Cox’s idea: if “spirit” affected baryonic matter, it would have been detected by CERN. (A wicked and corrupt generation has asked for a sign- we cannot demand proofs of God). Emotionally, I am a primate, an animal in a social species, incapable of independence and needing relationship. But my “rational self” is emotional, and my “emotional self” is rational. And, can I use the word “God” if I wish to be truthful, not deluding Theists into imagining I believed what they believed?

So I wondered, was it a maturing understanding of God? From a literal belief in a God like that of the Sistine Chapel, in his pink shirt, I had a young-adult assertion of an idea of God, outside the Universe and its creator. “Before the Big Bang God lit the blue touchpaper, and advanced”, I wrote. God with us. Utterly distressed by life, I prayed “What the Fuck are you playing at?” So God meant different things at different times, in theology of knowing, positive assertions about God and unknowing, negative ones; in the prayer for a parking space when I was late and the wordless being together in worship.

Opposites: God the Creator and Sustainer of the World, dying on a cross.

God is, and God is not.

I want to make sense, to have a coherent understanding of Reality, and I cannot. And I want to communicate in words. There is the silent being with another, where we might share our Humanity, and that is only Now. So I want control, and safety, and attain it through understanding with words. In words, we may agree, saying the Creed together as we do each week, or coming to a joint understanding which I know we both hold and will hold. So I know I will be safe.

Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings thou hast brought forth praise.
Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.

Or, should I simply assert atheism? If I believe Brian Cox, Richard Dawkins and Bertrand Russell, there is no more a God than a teapot orbiting Jupiter. When I use words in a rational orderly way- rather than in poetry or paradox- I am defenceless against them.

And I wonder if using the word God is cowardice (as I am always quick to judge my motives): I seek to blend in, not cause offence. I believe in God, I say, to groups where that will be winsome, and anyway I am not lying as the words have so many different meanings- even “belief” may mean trust or faith or relationship rather than an Enlightenment concept of a quasi-scientific theory. Perhaps it is just that I am hopelessly eirenic, wanting to smooth away conflict with everyone even when they are irreconcilable, like Bunyan’s Pliable.

Or I could take refuge in “Spirituality”: a series of activities, such as meditation, aware presence, Meeting for Worship including Meeting for Church Affairs, which more or less work. One may believe in the practice without believing in the theory, and we multiply words, the inner light, that of God, and for me as atheist the Unconscious.

Richard Rohr says complete wholeness is “the coincidence of opposites”. God is, and God is not. I decided I was opposites around the time of transition, male and female, but also Scots and English, loving countryside and conurbation, rational at home in statutory interpretation and relational with clients. Still I want certainty, and use words as a crutch, to weave a web of understanding around an uncertain world.

Sitting wordlessly in relationship with a God I cannot understand or manipulate, knowing I will die repeatedly as I have already died, can I cast away that crutch?

Being discombobulated

The doctor makes me feel ill.

Like the battle between trans and terf, the battle between biblical literalists and atheist rationalists continues on the blogs. I blog to get things clear in my mind, and having dismissed creationism to my satisfaction I have moved on. You can’t win against them: they seem happy to continue asserting their rubbish, backed by their tight communities of Evangelicals. They twist and distort. So the truth-teller comments, and they respond in an arrogant way, a beautiful example being the assertion that trilobite fossils offer at least as much proof for the creation/flood scenario as the old age earth cosmology.

I remain proud of this comment: The more I interact with you, Tim, the more I see how pitiable you are. How much more beautiful my world is! I hear words like biostratigraphy or palaeothermometry, and learn what they mean, and think- How wonderful! How beautiful! People are finding these things out! And you think, They must be wrong. It is all rubbish. Here is a dispute and there is an inconsistency, and all scientists are FOOLS!

How much more beautiful my Bible is! My Bible has story, and metaphor, and poetry, and poetic imagery, and allusion. Your Bible has a series of propositions, more or less ridiculous, which you have to Believe. My Bible leads me to God, and your Bible mires you in lies.

And my Christian argument against creationism: God created people in God’s image, loving, creative, powerful, beautiful, and scientists seek understanding, assessing the evidence. From presuppositions of a young Earth and a Flood, geologists in the 18th century established evidence of an old Earth, and how the Flood could not have created the strata visible all over the world. They seek the truth. That academic science, involving millions of people, should have produced such a detailed account of the Earth’s history, continually being refined, is one of the wonders of God’s creation. They do so based on evidence in the Earth’s rocks, as astronomers observe electromagnetic radiation falling on the Earth and its satellites, and geneticists, genomes. A God who created all this evidence to delude God’s people would be a monster, creating a stumbling block that uses our good qualities, curiosity and commitment to truth, against us. Alternatively, a God who allowed Satan to deceive us in that way would not deserve my worship. My God does not send ane to Heaven and ten to Hell.

This towering achievement of humanity is airily dismissed. Here that doctor uses the diversity in the oldest evidence of the Cambrian explosion to argue for creation. Schizochroal eyes are indeed complex. But earlier life has been found, in the Ediacaran biota, too soft to create fossils without exceptional conditions. As life began to move on legs and fins, and detect light and sound, an evolutionary arms race began between predators and prey creating the Cambrian explosion. Richard Dawkins explains the evolution of eyes. Isaiah quoted by Matthew describes the person who would dismiss that explanation.

And yet this Emergency Room physician dismisses all this evidence, all this analysis, as “Arrogant, prideful and foolish”. He turns his back on the truth. Challenge him, and he will answer you. Anyone wanting to find the truth, or deal with argument fairly, has an impossible disadvantage- for I want to show him the wonders of God’s creation. Do not answer fools according to their folly, or you will be a fool yourself. Answer fools according to their folly, or they will be wise in their own eyes. He is a blind guide.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them.

The cascade of wicked falsity makes me feel ill. He is a physician! He writes in grammatical sentences. I dare to hope that Christians can seek truth together, in love, and his torrent of gibberish, told with a straight face, belies that. I get stronger, though. Yes, people are trapped in delusion, and try to delude others, but also some seek truth, and we can approach it if we are committed to it. When starting this blog I wanted to analyse why I find an arrogant series of assertions, stated as if the speaker believed them but clearly untrue, was so disorientating to me. It is like motion sickness. And I can’t. Why do I find it so unpleasant? I just do.

One of my exercises is the Agreement Challenge: what can you value in something you disagree with? Violet introduced me to his blog, this post. So I was glad to be introduced to this article on how the value of scientific evidence is a philosophical question rather than a scientific one. Indeed. I like Violet’s prescriptions for education, and am sad I even considered anything that physician said.

There is a limit to the value of pointing out the foolishness of fools. If you want to reduce the number of abortions, the way is to promote birth control and education on human relationships and consent. US Republicans oppose this. We like to think rationality will prevail, but they’re not listening!

I am less discombobulated than I was by such vileness. Yesterday, at a conference I was discombobulated in a completely different way: I glimpsed that if I could better understand what these speakers were saying, perhaps reading the paper rather than hearing it, my understanding of the World would be enriched. Good advice: Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. I will spend less time worried about wicked rubbish!

What I probably don’t want to write to elders

The question is, can you trust me. The answer may be No.

If I had wanted to be on time for this meeting I would not have stopped at the parish church to spend some time with God. One likes to talk to ones equals occasionally. I was kneeling at the altar rail, looking at the symbols of death, a plain wooden cross, and power. About one in four of the floor tiles around the communion table have little heraldic lions.

I probably don’t want to talk of quantum superposition, but even if I don’t understand it my idea of it makes a good metaphor. Until you measure them, electrons have several different positions, momentums, and spins, at the same time. Only when they are measured do they have one particular position. The idea of an atom like a solar system with electrons orbiting a nucleus is inaccurate.

In the same way, we look at each other, and evaluate. I look a bit rueful. Can you trust me? It could go either way. If we use words too soon, Continue reading

Despising God

The counselling I got in that place with the waiting room was fairly useless, little better than listening ear. This being our last session I asked Sally if she had any suggestion how we might use the time. Last week I could not come, as I found my rear tyre was punctured just as I was about to set off, long after any bus I could get, and she had agreed to see me one more time, but I have no idea how to use it.

-Well, you were referred to get you back into work.
-That’s really not what I wanted.

Or it is, but this is what I have to do to make that possible, or to make it better than bare survival in Hell. I have to take off my mask and find my real self. I don’t know, I might be able to JFDI, but I would rather care for myself because I have value and that was what I wanted.

If I did that voluntary job, there would be no reason for me to be anxious. I could do no harm. The role, copy-typing hand-written notes, is well-defined. I have met the people, and they seem pleasant. And, so far, I have not started the online training.

-Would you have difficulty with it?
-I have a degree.

And my paranoid imaginings are that Something Will Go Wrong and I will be humiliated and- it’s all extremely vague, like a dream of childhood.

Well, I had bad experiences at work. I tell her a bit about being a solicitor, then volunteering at CAB. I was a volunteer tutor, and I organised meetings for volunteer tutors. We got speakers in. I was no good as a tutor, I just stated the information and did not relate to the new volunteers well.

These words come from the inner critic. “Paranoid imaginings”- No, once bitten. “I was no good as a tutor”- no, I was learning, and I learned from experience. It’s not that bad. “Paranoid”- actually, I am anxious, but cannot be conscious of my own anxiety, because it is a feeling which I am not allowed to have, cannot permit myself.

I anticipate very little joy from volunteering, but that other thing, I anticipate lots. I am motivated. It is what I want, and it feels as if all of me is pulling in the same direction, rather than conflicted.

How I am does not fit the world
Therefore I will change how I am

And this is the way I will change it: I will find and follow my volition. It’s the still small voice. I call it the Real Me, the Inner Light- even God-

and I despise it!

This upsets me.

-Have you access to counselling?
-Yes.

I ask her if she wants me to do more of the forms, saying how often I have felt despairing etc in the last two weeks. No. I will carry on seeking to unpick my fankle. She had not heard the word. It’s Scots- imagine a skein of wool which has fallen apart and twisted up and got all knotted. That’s a good word, she likes it. She hurries me out.

From the thank you cards on the noticeboard, I see how the service is valued. Women say they feel good about themselves for the first time. It has done little for me, I think, more than get me out of the house and give me someone to talk to. This has been the amazing February heat-wave: I sat in the sun in the morning, then cycled to Swanston in t-shirt, shorts and sandals.

It depends what you call these things. It is my useless idiocy, my “paranoid imaginings”- no, it is anxiety. It cannot be, as I cannot be anxious, and yet it is. I will continue to unfankle my Gordian knot.

Journeying towards God

God appeared to be a monster, and I fled. I found Christianity as a framework, an understanding of good behaviour which would train or mould me into a good person. Underneath the training, held down by powerful guards but never silenced, was something I could not name, which acted through me or influenced me in ways I did not know.

I attempt to use words, and even the word “I” breaks down here: “I” in that paragraph is the “I” “I” imagine, which the part of me which is conscious conceives to be how “I” am, how it imagines my personality and character to be. Underneath there is an unconscious I, the thing I could not name.

The journey towards God is bringing what is unconscious into consciousness, so that the conscious conception of the nature of the person as a human being comprises the totality, the whole nature of that human being. For each person it is different. My understanding of it includes some theology, some psychology, but mainly is my dogged attempt to find that unknown being, to see what I could not see, to dissolve the pretences and blind spots preventing me from seeing; and my experience is of it-I, breaking through from below.

It feels like a river- however firmly the river has been dammed, eventually the stream breaks through and the natural flow asserts itself.

I am made in the image of G-d, so I may be like Christ. In Him the divine and human nature are united without separation, without mixture, without confusion and without alteration. This is Miaphysitism, the belief of the Oriental Orthodox (Churches including the Coptic, Syriac and Ethiopian), a word I have just learned. I am not, yet, so united, but believe this non-dual state is possible for all people.

I want to be understood, heard, believed, accepted. That “I” is the unconscious “I”, where all my power, desire, love and creativity reside. First, in an act of self-surrender, by the conscious I. This may be aided by others, seeing and valuing the unconscious I, accepting in the moments when it bursts forth: in the counsellor’s “unconditional positive regard”, perhaps. For I, united I-I, know it.

The journey involves shedding my introjects, all the judgments of others I have taken into my conscious understanding of who I am of what is important and therefore what I should consider important and therefore what I value, which is not what

I

being the unconscious I

truly value. For the Buddha, who had fabulous wealth, and had been taught to value that wealth, it involved leaving that wealth behind, but that does not mean that anyone can learn from him that they should “give all they have to the poor”, or that ceasing to value wealth and instead valuing what elementary Buddhist textbooks teach will be liberating. The liberation, the non-duality, is in shedding whatever one is forced to value which one would not have valued without that external force.

I

state that rather it means setting aside all you imagine you think is important, and delving to what is truly important to you.

Ah. That unconscious I is speaking, more and more, which puts the conscious I in fear, excitement and delight. Sometimes- more and more- I and I unite and I am one.

Mystic language appeals to me, yet materialist language may be available. This is a healing process, a maturing process- the river will not be dammed in the end. Religion may aid devotees towards it, if it does not create more introjects to ensnare those devotees. Humans will our freedom.

Parts of the Human, which have not been loved and accepted, lie in strong chains. Vigilant guards are ready to push back when the prisoner shows signs of acting, crying “Wrong! Stupid! Meaningless! Wicked!” So my Shadow terrifies me (conscious-I). The guards are part of me too, which I created as a way of survival. I find the unconscious I, see the error of the guards, and quiet them, in contemplation and meditation.

Where is the Life? Where is the Drive? The unconscious i hurts so much, so my way to God is through all its pain. I believe the Quaker term “Inner Light” refers to this unconscious I.

I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame
The Righteous One shall make many righteous.

If any of these words speak to you, I pray they may bring you to full humanity, which may be Divinity. And let us share our words if we want to understand as well as to Be.

Why I am a Christian

Christianity is wonderful and beautiful. At its heart is Sacrament: regularly we meet with God and are loved and accepted. And Story: we are told myths which enrich us, such as: We are created in the image of God. Therefore we are

Loving
Creative
Powerful
Beautiful

The root of Christianity is the person of Jesus: a human being who is God. We are followers of Christ- the anointed one, his brothers and sisters, who tells us to be our full selves in our power, and act in Love. The Spirit is in us, and when we are our full selves, self-actualised and self-defined, we can shed the small person we learned we were, and follow the guidance of this indwelling Spirit.

Christianity is a Way, of becoming our best selves. Albert Einstein: Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison [of ego] by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. We are part of all that is.

Christianity also provides community. We are followers together. We can bring up immature persons, who want a clear framework of rules to regulate their own behaviour in order to feel safe. More mature Christians can give guidance, but we are all followers, all on the Way.

Christian spiritual practices can facilitate universal human spiritual experiences. In contemplative prayer or in the Quaker meeting we enter immediate communication, through our senses rather than through words. Art can give us this too: if I sit with an art work it communicates directly to my feeling self. We know we are a part of the Whole. We are not alone. I can experience this in nature, seeing a tree or a wild animal- this is why some people hug trees- and there are stories separate from Christianity expounding this, as in William Blake’s

see the world in a grain of sand
and Heaven in a wild flower

-there are other spiritual Ways to full humanity- but Christianity is my Way, the Way I have walked since childhood.

Through art, nature and my Quaker meeting I can be Opened to reality. The world is magical, more beautiful and real, and I am myself as God created me.

Christianity must Change or Die, wrote John Shelby Spong, Episcopal Bishop of Newark, and though I have not read that book I agree. Christianity is infected with exclusivity, the thought that only Christianity will do as the Way to God, even that those outside the Christian community are damned. Partly this can be dealt with through translation. Jesus said,

I Am is the way, the truth and the life. No-one can come to the Father except through I Am.

That is, it is through being ourselves as created by God, not attempting to conform to some set of rules drafted by men (non-inclusive language intentional, “the white fathers” is Audre Lorde’s phrase) that we are able to relate to God.

For too many people, Christianity is a belief system, so what we believe is more important than what we do or how we relate to each other. It is how we relate that matters, not believing impossible things. If a virgin giving birth is impossible, that should not be a barrier to being Christian. We can be gentle with each other- because relating is more important than believing- hearing others’ beliefs in a gentle spirit. For scientific enquiry, rigorous clear explanation may work; for religious truth, mystery and paradox fit better. Even for scientific enquiry, mystery and paradox may be inescapable: light is a wave, and a particle.

And Christianity is disfigured by too close a relationship with the apparatus of State power, as with the Emperor Constantine, President Putin wooing Patriarch Kirill, or the Queen as the head of the Church of England. Christianity has been a State ideology, enforcing obedience on the subjects. It must free itself from all such temptations. “My kingdom is not of this world.” That has made it emphasise personal morality, especially sexual morality which prevents us from connecting with our deepest selves, who are Free and powerful and feared as a threat to rulers and the powers of the world. Part of the reason I assert I am a Christian (rather than simply “on a spiritual path”) is to stand in the face of those who say you cannot be trans, or LGBT, and Christian.

My power is not a threat to the powers of the world, for it is a power of love and service; but overweening State power may feel it as a threat because it is independent. Over two thousand years, Christianity has held so much darkness, from arguments for enslaving Africans and supporting colonialism to oppressive power structures within individual parish churches; and yet at its best it is a Way for humans to reach our full potential in loving relationship.

“In my Father’s house are many rooms,” said Jesus, and Christianity at its best expands to fit what humans need. The Sea of Faith movement includes as Christians, even as priests, those who think God is metaphor rather than reality, and churches have always welcomed those who doubted the core beliefs yet wanted to remain in the community.

Worship is relationship

I was taken to church weekly as a child. Reciting the creed was part of life, and believing it was part of my identity. I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of Heaven and Earth, and of all things visible and invisible… So when in 2010 I no longer believed, that was painful as my identity was remade against my will. It felt that I still believed, sometimes. Yet when in February 2011 I was touristing around the south coast having admitted to myself that I did not believe in an Eternal God, creator, outside time but in some way a Person, I went into a church to admire the building and was forced to my knees by the holiness of it. My heart had been opened by the Hoffman Process and I was in a strange place, open to remaking my identity, new and greater understanding, accepting feelings which had not fitted my world view or self-image before.

The world is not as I thought it is. Perhaps you have had such experiences, or will have, or else have a smoother, less painful, way of learning and integrating learning.

The field where Greenbelt is held each year is eldritch at all times, and magical during the festival. I don’t know where the tree was, only that I was unaware of it until a broad leaf almost hit my face, and I jerked my head away, looking at it in shock- and then I was fully aware of it, the beauty of that leaf, and I was in relationship with the tree, I-thou with it, seeing, appreciating, loving. There are spirits, naiads and dryads, within feet of you at all thymes you are outside.

Slowly, the utterly magical spiritual experience, where I am aware of my surroundings or at one with them, merged with my quotidian experience, where I could move into awareness by touching a surface then appreciating it, entering fully into my sensation of it. Then my awareness expanded to my other sensations. — talked of repeatedly waking up: he would be walking along the street, then he would awaken into awareness and realise he had not been awake for a week. There was the dullness of going through the motions and ruminating on fantasy, then the quick sharp awareness of reality like fresh clear air among smog. And yesterday there was the millennium bridge, the fried nuts seller, the pigeon, those tourists, the River. The Cathedral. I was, there, in that space, at that moment.

(My judgment kicks in. Was it like that, really? That was how I saw the church at the time; and the tree was an intense experience, though only for an instant. And I am a story-teller, and these are my stories for you now.)

Freed from the idea of a God in some way separate from all things visible and invisible I have moved towards the idea of worship as relationship, which seems more valuable. I turn outwards. There is Me and everything else, or Not-me, and I contemplate it. Me and Not-me, or me in Not-me, something greater than myself, inexplicable, inexorable, with Love Wrath and Indifference mixed. “Before the Big Bang God lit the blue touch-paper, and advanced.” God is in everything. Rationally I am non-theist, emotionally I am theist: I cannot believe in a creator of this Universe which fits the Christian ideas I learned, yet being in relationship with Not-me fits how I am made.

God is that which is Not-me. God is in me. God is our relationship. This organism, being and growing, perceiving, relating, and also second-guessing, doubting, ruminating, has moments relating to the world and seeing itself. That is worship, a time devoted to truth.

(c) Manchester City Galleries; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation