Tuesday, June 22, 2004

The Inadequacy of Christianity

All of my life, even when I thought I was an atheist, I have carried within me what Bill W. called a “fundamental idea of God.” (From The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous). I know this because I could go to Rocky Mountain National Park at any time and look around and KNOW that there was a God of some sort because of what I saw around me.

I have found the Divine in sunsets, sunrises, rainstorms, lightning flashes, pillars of clouds, snow, sleet, gathering darkness of a storm, reemergence into the light after the storm, the sound of thunder or wind, the bare rock and small tundra above tree line, in a rushing stream or a quiet lake, in planting a seed and plucking a fruit . . .

Any or all of these simple things could, if the conditions were right, if I was receptive, fill me with a sense of awe and reverence. I didn’t know nothing from nothing about faith—I just knew when I was in the presence of the Creator.

I have never, ever been in a church and felt as though God were present. I have been in European cathedrals such as the Notre Dame, le Sacre Coeur, Westminster, the big one for Emperor Maximillian in Austria and I found them to be really cool, elaborately built tombs. I have no sense of awe for buildings. In fact, I usually find buildings ugly and find that they detract from the world around them.

Standing on the peak of Mount Evans, even with a hangover and surrounded by tourists I feel the presence of the Divine. I know, I was there.

The only places I have ever felt the presence of the Divine is in nature.

Christianity (and Judaism) has nothing to say about nature really. Which is funny because the only place the folks in the Bible got to commune one on one with God was . . . in the wilderness. Moses climbed mountains, as did Jesus, to speak with God. God did not speak to Abraham in a metropolitan center, He came from a bush. When I tried to talk about how I felt about God, I was pretty much dismissed by the priests and by ministers. In addition, it was made clear that I did not have the right to attempt to contact or feel the Divine on my own. All contact with the Divine was to take place through an intermediary, a priest or a minister. Such contact should take place within the context of a scenario defined by the Christian church.

I thought this was a bunch of bullshit when I was ten.

One of my earlier political memories is of James Watt, Ronald Reagan’s then Secretary of the Interior. If I recall correctly (and I may not) he was going to rescind many of the protections of our National Parks. His reasoning was that “Jesus is coming soon anyway, so there is no point in protecting those environments.” I remember my parents being upset and I being very angry—how dare he do that! That is not his to decide—those parks are God’s and ours!

It was clear that Christianity was allied with the forces I most hated and opposed, the ones who were going to pave every spot of green on the planet. Of course, now I recognize that this is patently unfair and is a gross oversimplification.

The final things which alienated me from Christianity were its intolerance and bigotry coupled with its inflexibility. I never could accept that simply to be born before Christ’s time and thus to never have had the chance to be saved meant you were doomed to go to hell. If you lived in a part of the world that had not heard of Jesus, you were damned. But I was told bluntly by some of the priests at Cistercian that those who did not accept Christ, no matter what the excuse was, would burn in Hell. They said this with a sickening righteous satisfaction.

I also remember that when other students went to Mass, those students who were not Catholic were left behind (I amongst them). Brian Hersh, our one Jewish student, was always left behind. One time we got to write a special essay on why we were not allowed to attend mass.

Wow, I really still have some deeply buried resentments I thought were gone. I am going to have to talk with my sponsor about this. I do not want to drink over Cistercian.