Love suffused

At four this morning, I had a religious experience. I felt suffused with Love. All of me was love and beauty.

I have been at the Yearly Meeting of Quakers in London. I stayed in the house of a couple I had never met before, Quakers who had volunteered to put up someone attending. It is Georgian terraced, within walking distance of the National Theatre, and its walls have beautiful things on them. On Friday night they met me at Friends House, and he escorted me home on the bus, telling me where was the best art gallery in London- the Courtauld Institute- and of international travel pursuing his career. She cycled. We sat in their tasteful, well-appointed kitchen drinking tea, and my inner critic said,

other people can make something of their lives.

It’s a bitch that way, but you know that. I felt sharp hot shame, not just that none of my anecdotes match. I did not like him. I don’t think he thought much of me, though I could be mistaken.

Last night I got back first, after we finished early, and could not open the door. I had to phone for instructions- pull it towards you, the yale lock will turn then. Oh right. When they returned, we drank tea. I can’t remember what I said, but she said,

-You’re very kind. (These words can be a brush-off or a put-down, but were a simple observation.)
-It gives me pleasure.

Later, we watched a drama about cancer, and when the character complained about the horrid wigs available on the NHS, I showed off mine. She saw that the hairline on the lace-front looks natural. I took it off which elicited a gasp, as I like to shock, and she felt the hair. Possibly I might show more self-respect.

In the night I woke.

After 48 hours, I could answer the inner critic. I have had certain difficulties. I would not minimise others’ difficulties, but mine have been hard for me. The anger I have carried is justified. (Round and round the circle I go; this is new, and not new; I see more clearly-)

Then- this animal, this creature, this thing, process, object-

this-

is beautiful, and wonderful.

This is new. This is not my old arrogance, but softer and heart-felt. I have known “I am a human being”- wonderful, and one of seven billion- but that was intellectual acceptance, this is emotional acquiescence.

I am completely happy. I feel intense love, undirected, or for myself, or for the world, or God’s for me. This- this- this-

This-
creature

is utterly beautiful, perfect in itself. Not what a man might call perfect. Not needing to be other to be perfect. Perfect.

Our discernment was on “Living out our faith in the World. What can Quakers do? Be our beautiful, wonderful selves. One of us might visit the Grand Turk. One might return to the Massachusetts colony, and worship there, though she be hanged for it. One might found a chocolate factory, or a shoe factory, or a bank. We are not alone. There is that of God in every one.

Over breakfast, I thought of telling my hostess, but did not need to.

Creationism

Michelangelo- The torment of St AnthonyCreationism is incompatible with far more important beliefs in Christianity. How do I argue that, and what is the point of arguing it?

Consider strata, which creationism says formed in the Flood, but geologists say formed over billions of years through different processes of accretion and transformation; or the genome, which shows that each species analysed uses the same genetic code, making a single ancestor likely; or the size of the Universe and the speed of light, indicating a Universe billions of years old rather than thousands. All this evidence refutes creationism, and anyone studying physics, biology or geology to degree level will see that evidence. The vast majority of them agree that young earth creationism cannot be true.

Countering that evidence is a reading of the first two chapters of Genesis which ignores the differences between them, most notably that in chapter 1 God created humans last, on the sixth day, male and female; but that in chapter 2 God created a man, then plants, then animals, and finally a woman.

If young earth creationism is true, then God has created the evidence which these people use to refute it; or allowed Satan to deceive them, so that they imagine evidence shows what it does not. This is a particularly horrid trick for God or Satan to play; for the scientists seek truth, which is a good thing to do, and through their good impulse to seek truth God deceives them, to drive them from Creationism and Christianity alike, so that they will go to Hell.

That God would play such a trick may be seen in the words of Jesus: The reason I speak to them in parables is that “seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.” However, Jesus also compares God to a father, and when we say the creed we affirm this: If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him! Ours is a God of love. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.

How can we go out and make disciples of all nations, if God deliberately creates evidence to drive people away? My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples: How, if Satan ensnares them? God is Love, 1 John 4:16; For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, John 3:16.

What is the point of this argument? Could not the Creationists see the evidence of geology, physics or astronomy and realise they are wrong? Well, they do not. Rather, they deny the evidence. This argument takes something they believe, and respect, and uses it to persuade them. If you do not respect the Bible, the argument will be unpersuasive, but then you will not be a Creationist, and the argument will be unnecessary. If you do not understand its value, ask yourself how people can debate the character of King Lear- he never existed!

When I communicate, I seek to speak in such a way that my hearers will hear. The problem comes when someone is so benighted that s/he thinks humanity is simply evil, and “Love” means saving a few million, and sending billions to Hell.

Personal questions

https://i0.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e3/Brooklyn_Museum_-_One_Hundred_Children.jpgIf you were to start your life all over again, what things if any would you do differently?

Wow. If I had my current knowledge, in a baby, I would be a strange creature. I would use that to gain fame, then proclaim that this miracle was a sign that I am the Messiah.

If I was simply back in my original situation, probably something completely random which would send my life in a different direction, but not necessarily better than now- because I would not know better.

If my parents were to give birth to me in 2013, they would not have grown up during World War II, they would be entirely different people, and so would I.

What are the things you enjoy?

I enjoy making people laugh. Today a friend painted my nails for me, and that was lovely. I love conversation and hugging.

What is your worst habit?

Ignoring personal questions. Watch.

What do you value the most in life?
What do you want to do with your life?
What are your dreams and goals?

Or, not ignoring, but- how old are you, exactly? These are young people’s questions. I don’t know, is the answer: I am middle-aged, but I am still doing teenage in many respects. It is like being forced to repeat a year at school, when you flunk it first time round. There are still useful lessons to learn.

https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/13/Michelangelo%2C_Creation_of_Adam_06.jpgWho is God to you?

The Creator who made me in God’s image, loving, creative and powerful. A series of stories. A curse-word. The inner promptings of my heart.

Which human being do you admire the most?

Oooh. Kingsley Belton or Ann Forsyth. Maybe you should have asked Why, or even, who is that?

What is your favorite quote?

How could I choose between, say,

Why should your face so please me
that if one little line should stray
bewilderment would seize me
and drag me down the tortuous way
out of the noon into the night?
Yet so, into this tranquil light
you raise me
(Edwin Muir)

and

We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender
(Winston Churchill)?

Quotes can amuse or inspire or teach or exasperate. I like quotes which elegantly express ridiculous ideas, and even are meaningless but mellifluous. Lots of quotes have delighted me.

What are your passions?

Ah. What grasps me, so it does not seem like me acting, but something acting through me? At the moment, my great sulk, my withdrawal from the World, which prevents me from doing anything much, but then gives me time to blog. Your first question was:

Why do you blog?

Because I enjoy it, and that is enough.

These questions were asked by A Gaytekeeper. All questions welcome. What would you like to know?

Defences

Cory is perfectly defended against truth.

https://i1.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5d/Dividing_Light_from_Darkness.jpgHe wants to save me from that Hell to which all unrepentant gay people will inevitably go after death. I want to save him from hell now, from the idea that humanity is naturally wicked. I tried argument. No, the Bible does not condemn gay people, or even support the ideas of new-Earth creationism. In minutes, he came back with three articles, showing that Genesis 1 does not contradict Genesis 2 and that the Centurion’s pais was not his lover, even though the word means precisely that. You know, proper Scholarship, delving into the meaning of the Greek and Hebrew and everything. He challenged me to show that David and Jonathan might have done anything more than hug in an entirely hetero-manly way, and I admit defeat. I am not going to show that to his satisfaction.

Those writers start from the desire to show the Bible uniformly condemns homosexuality, and does not really contradict itself, rather than looking into the Greek and Hebrew to find what they might mean. Clearly the stories are contradictory: In what order did God create? Adam, plants, animals, then Eve, as in Genesis 2, or plants, animals then Adam and Eve together as in Genesis 1? The compiler of Genesis, taking these pre-existing stories, did not mind the contradiction, because they were stories. The believer in Biblical inerrancy must show they do not contradict each other, because he is forced to deny that they are stories.

If you read the stories with an open mind, you will see they give different orders of events. File:Creationsun.jpgThen, go to that article and see how it seeks to obfuscate the fact. But, did the translators of the NRSV deliberately set out to make their translation lie? How many different words are there for “every”? I do not need Hebrew to see the contradictions.

We can debate the meaning of malakoi or arsenokoitai endlessly, and there are theologians who can create impressively detailed arguments for any view. I may choose which of these I like. I choose the arguments which say the Centurion’s pais was his lover, because my Christianity is liberal, not conservative. I start with liberal Christianity.

https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5f/Judith_und_Holofernes_%28Michelangelo%29.jpgThe first choice is between seeing people as wicked and in need of control, as conservative Evangelical Christianity does, or seeing us as basically good and in need of fulfilment, as liberal Christianity does. Just as our innate homosexuality is good and not foul, so are our other innate characteristics: we have a capacity and desire for love and connection and creativity.

Argument sometimes works. I can tell of the pais to someone who is open to the winsome possibility of their own goodness, and the horror of the Evangelical belief system, and they may respond. And there are people like Cory trapped in that horror, and any argument will merely elicit a counter argument.

Those who have ears to hear, let them hear. Hear Rumi:

Make everything in you an ear,
each atom of your being,
and you will hear at every moment
what the source is whispering to you . . .
You are, we all are, 
the beloved of the beloved.

And in every moment,
in every event of your life,
the beloved is whispering to you
exactly what you need to know.
Who can ever explain this miracle?
It simply is.

Protean

/Creation_of_the_Sun_and_Moon_face_detail.jpgI am endebted to Dr Derrick Whitehouse, possibly the most youthful octogenarian in the county, for my growing understanding of my new identity. I am Protean. I like the word and the concept.

Do Quakers believe in God? Some of us think this is extremely important. We are, they say, the Religious Society of Friends, if we are not Christian we have lost our way. We go to Meeting for Worship, and we purport to make decisions in a state of Worship, seeking God’s will, and if there is no God then that has no meaning.

I took that line in an exchange of emails with David Boulton earlier this century. He is the most uncompromising “Non-theist”, a leading light in the “Sea of Faith” movement, and had just been persuaded to become a member of the Society. He had been an attender for a long time- he thought full membership not appropriate for someone who is quite sure there is no God, but his Monthly Meeting overrode his objections. He is good with words, he coined the phrase “Republic of Heaven”: Heaven still has a meaning, though it has no King.

Quakers generally see the Kingdom of Heaven as an Earthly reality, not just a state after death, and there is a great deal of Biblical support for that view. We are part of the Kingdom if we do God’s will. We have little dogma: “Christianity is not a notion, but a Way”. We do not believe in the Damnation of outsiders- “We know where God is. We know not where God is not,” as I just read here; in fact we reject any walls keeping out the Outsiders, believing all are human with valuable human perspectives.

I found myself getting more and more atheist through 2009, and resisted this. H who is Christocentric objected, and that mattered to me. In February 2010 I admitted to myself that I was functionally atheist, went into an Anglican church, and was brought to my knees by the holiness of the place. Theist and non-theist have reached a dialectical synthesis in the Society in the UK, in what Derrick calls Protean, summed up in the paradox:

There is no God. God exists.

Like a non-theist, I believe there are real experiences which it is useful to call Spiritual, and that the word “God” names a useful concept, part of human reality, even if there is no external Being Who is God. I can have a relationship with a non-existent God, working through that does me good. And- my experiences fit with the reality of God.

I call myself Christian because I seek to follow the Way of Jesus- “Take up your cross and follow me”- known through the words of Jesus and my own experience. Constantine decided that Christianity would be a useful ruling ideology for his empire, and that is not my fault. I do not care if Catholics might call me a very immature and ignorant Christian, if one at all.

I read that “All Quakers are agnostic” and that is not quite it. Agnostic is not-knowing, and my experiences feel like Knowing, though the words do not encapsulate them: I try to make the words as accurate as I can, and then use them as a jumping-off point for greater understanding from immediate experience- perceiving rather than judging. The agnostic is neither atheist or theist, not knowing. The protean is both, whichever fits at the time.

Derrick thinks a majority of Quakers in Britain are this way. On the checklist he has drafted, “I enjoy having these personal protean characteristics” chimes with me. I want to be as flexible as possible in my understanding, to get as much value as I can from seemingly incompatible views- for remorseless, this therefore that deductive reasoning has always made a monster out of religion. There is one, consistent truth- and it is so complex as to be only knowable in the Mind of God.

Easy targets

File:Michelangelo Buonarroti 023.jpgIf I refute New-Earth Creationism, do I thereby refute Christianity?

New-Earth Creationism (NEC), the notion that God created the Earth, or even the Universe, less than ten thousand years ago in six days, is clearly untrue. It is even untrue from a Christian perspective: either all those academics, who claim to be seeking the truth, and say the planet is 4.5 billion years old, are part of a Satanic conspiracy or they are deluded by God or Satan: either Satan has more power than Christianity would claim, or God is deliberately deluding people with false evidence, a mean and destructive thing God would not do. NEC is unChristian, and deeply irrational, involving denying large amounts of evidence and the honest perceptions of millions.

How many people believe it? According to a British Council survey, 43% of people in the US believe that all life on Earth was created by a God and has always existed in its current form. 53% agreed it was possible to believe in Evolution and still believe in God. 41% of those who know something of the theory denied that there is sufficient evidence to support it.

Christian pastors, educated people for the most part, need to stop demanding that people believe toxic rubbish and thereby leaving an open goal for anti-theists.

Between 587 and 538 BC, the Jews were captive in exile in Babylon, and were there exposed to Mesopotamian creation myths. It is likely that the first ten chapters of Genesis arise from that experience. The Flood is a story from the epic of Gilgamesh. The stories are rewritten in Genesis chapters 1-10 to give the God of the Jews- called Yahweh or Elohim- a central and causative role.

Genesis 1 contradicts Genesis 2. In chapter 1, human beings are created last, on the sixth day, both male and female, and God is referred to as “God”, a translation of “Elohim”, literally “Gods”. In chapter 2, Yahweh, translated “The Lord”, created a man, then plants, then animals, and finally a woman. The use of the words Yahweh or Elohim indicate different authors, commonly referred to as J for Jahwist and E for Elohist. Those who compiled Genesis, and those who decided that it was Holy Scripture, were not concerned by the contradiction, and so were clearly not giving a report on what had happened before the first human beings. Belief in NEC and denial of Darwinism means false belief about what the Bible actually is, or was ever intended to be. Some of it was written down before the Babylonian exile, some in the second century AD, by different authors with different intentions and even different beliefs, and different experiences of God. Possibly, some of Isaiah is written by a school of prophets seen as false prophets in Jeremiah.

I see Christianity as a Way: Spiritual path, Tao, whatever. What I believe is less important than who I am and what I do. Even Original Sin is a doctrine created by Augustine of Hippo, from a particular interpretation of the Bible and what texts are most important in it. Paradoxically, New-Earth Creationism arises from Enlightenment patterns of thought: what is true, and what logical deductions may be made from it? What should I believe, rather than how should I act? I value the Bible primarily to show me how I should act- no, not break babies’ heads open with stones, as in Psalm 137:9, or even to sell all I have and give the money to the poor, a direct command from Jesus, Matthew 19:21. It is more complex than that. Also, the question is always, What should I do Now? Not, how may I find the comprehensive moral belief system, from which I may always know what to do, because that is impossible.

Some people claim to be “spiritual but not religious”- that is an inadequate view of religion, or of Christianity, seeing it as primarily a matter of belief not of the Path. Unfortunately, Christians give ample support to that view. But Quakers say “Christianity is not a notion, but a way” (Advices and Queries 2) and in the Bible, it is a Way, and God shall come to teach God’s people Godself (Isaiah 30:21):

your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’

Jesus (John 14:6):

‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’

Early Christians (Acts 19:9):

But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them.

Words of encouragement

I am grateful to Travis Berry for his idea of applying the words of Jesus recorded in the Gospels to transsexual people, though I do not endorse his suggestion of which verse to apply. He quoted Matthew 23:27-28:

Woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs that look beautiful on the outside but inside are full of the bones of the dead and of everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you look righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Um, no. I responded with John 3: 8 and Matthew 20:15:

The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.

Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?

You can use the Bible to argue for wildly differing perspectives. But I started looking for words of Jesus to apply to queers in general. On coming out or transition, surely the best is Luke 15:32:

But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.

Living a lie is a slow death. Telling the truth is new life. Jesus releases us. “Don’t be afraid,” he says. Luke 9:25:

What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?

If someone quotes at you John 8:11, “Go and sin no more”, remind her that that is addressed to all of us, and not just those she finds sinful. It is worth having a look at the whole verse:

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Jesus is not about condemning anyone but those who think their religion makes them good people, and outsiders bad people. It is to them, the Pharisees, that he says “Woe to you,” not to trans folk. Luke 4:18:

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.

That is why it is Gospel, Evangelion, Good news. Release the oppressed. This is the year of the Lord’s favour. Do not oppress us with demands that we suppress ourselves.

Evangelicals remember that Jesus said (Luke 6:37) “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” When they concern themselves with gay people, they judge. Other people’s sins are not their concern.

“I shall not be ashamed when I speak with my enemies in the gate”. Jesus’ words are on my side, to answer them.

The ancestors

Caitlin Matthews’ Shamanic practice is the repair of souls. Part of the soul can be lost. She journeys, seeking it out, with the help of her spirit guides. When she finds it, she can bring it home.

Separately, she explains that sometimes someone phones you just after you think of them, and this may be because there is a link between you at that moment- they reach out to you, you think of them, they then phone you.

How do I feel about this? I want to experience it. I want to work on my fears with Caitlin, and see what the result is. At the moment, I can accept the doctrine, construct an NLP type explanation, be content with Not Knowing, or cycle between the three. It does not stop me from wanting to experience it. During those two days I was very conscious of being present in my throat chakra much of the time, the place of my voice, the choice to express my creativity with honesty and integrity, and that would have been meaningless to me a year ago. Caitlin herself says, do not treat her Shamanic practices as psychological exercises.

She said, we are supported by our ancestors, now, in this world. In seven generations, one may have over a hundred ancestors. Any questions? The one in my mind was, what if I do not feel supported by my own family, why should great-grandparents support me? This, she says, is the usual question, so I agreed it was in my mind.

We arranged ourselves, representing my ancestors five generations back. I stood on a chair facing them. “Now do you feel supported? Can you pick on one with whom you feel a particular connection?” H– is trying to catch my eye, and smiling, so I pick him.

It was not a particularly strong feeling that I was supported, in that moment, more a choice. I choose to feel supported. This is part of seeing life positively rather than negatively. I also see that ancestors in eternity would see face to face, rather than through a glass darkly. H– represented my father’s mother’s father. A–, representing my father’s mother, said later that she was feeling particularly supportive. She had wanted to be picked. My father’s mother had a particularly difficult life, and perhaps was entitled to receive support in her turn. I had previously wanted some sign of being welcome here, in this group- that was it.

I also noticed C–, at the back, a spiritual healer, with her palms facing forward and her arms slightly out from her sides. I felt moved to make a similar gesture. At another point, Caitlin said, “Don’t give reiki or anything”, and I wondered, if it is there, how can one not? Perhaps this is a naive question. This is something more for me to investigate.

Walking in to lunch on the last day, when Appalachian Spring ran in my mind, it was entirely joyous for me.