Wednesday, April 13, 2005

I bet my weekend was weirder than yours

So here it is Wednesday, but I am just now getting around to documenting the oddities that occured in my life over this past weekend. But I'm okay with that because it has taken me these few days to consider the events of which I shall speak shortly, to ponder their meanings, to discuss them with people whose thoughts I consider worthy on the subject, and finally come to some sort of tentative conclusion. "Tentative conclusion." It seems a ridiculous term, but not really since I am speaking in terms of the abstract. Let me just get right down to it: I had myself a good old fashioned religious experience.

I have a history with religion, particularly fundamental Christianity. I went to two seperate private Baptist schools from kindergarten through eighth grade, and then for six months in college, I somehow got myself hooked up with a group called the International Churches of Christ -- not to be confused with the "mainstream" Church of, the old-school CoC wasn't hardcore enough for these guys. if you're interested their site is here, while this site here

is just one of billions that explains why they're an evil cult. Yes, cult. But I can't say my time in the cult was entirely a bad experience. Sure, I let myself go and get brainwashed and was racked with guilt most of my waking hours due to the belief that nearly everything I did was somehow sinful, or perhaps a gateway to sin, or even a catalyst to thinking about leading someone else towards watching somebody else sin. But I managed to come out of it relatively unscarred with a few grains more wisdom. Plus I managed to get a pretty good play out of it.

Since that time, I've basically rejected the concepts of organized religion, religious fundamentalism, and the idea that reaching out to the divine requires some sort of, I don't know, intermediary or ritual, that somehow the plain old human being doesn't quite have the clout to get an appointment. Religious fundamentalism has got to be the most repulsive destructive hateful biproduct of humankind's need to figure out where it came from and why it exists. I know there are fundamentalists in every faith, but since I'm most familiar with Christianity, I'll stick to talking about that. The idea that the words of this ancient text, text which, by the way, has been translated numerous times throughout history before reaching the state that we see it in today, can be used to justify discrimination, hate, violence, and murder against those deemed to be "outside of the kingdom" should be enough to make any thinking semi-moral person want to puke. Fundamentalism seems to be all about missing the point.

So like I said, I rejected all these things...but what does that mean, to reject an idea? You can reject a person by telling them to get lost. You can reject an offer by saying no thanks. A body may reject a transplanted organ by having a full system freakout. And when you reject an idea, you do much the same thing. You tell that idea, no thanks. None for me, I'm not buying it. Depending on the circumstances, rejection of an idea may even involve a freakout of some kind, much like I had when I left my cult days behind.

"Hey, uh, Holmes, you said at the beginning of this thing that you had a religious experience and I've only got so much time here at work to surf the net, so uh, make with the road to Damascus story already." Well my story isn't quite as dramatic or supernatural, so promise not to get mad.

I went to my cousin's wedding in Victoria this weekend. This is a cousin on my recently discovered father's side, so it's all new family to me. And the service that was given at this wedding was done by none other than a Church of Christ minister. This is old school Church of Christ, mind you, not quite the cult that I was involved in, but still very much in the fundamentalist right-wing god-is-on-our-side-not-yours camp. The man actually felt it was his duty to bring politics into the wedding by stating quite clearly in the midst of the ceremony that "marriage is under attack." And if you don't think he meant that in the anti-gay sense, just go google "marriage under attack" and see what you get.

So the next morning, my grandmother wanted Ashley and I to go to church with her. I knew she attended a Church of Christ, but I knew it would mean a lot to her, so we went. Understand, this is the first time I've been to church in like 7 or 8 years...probably just as long for Ashley. And man, all the lingo was there. I swear it doesn't matter where you go, it seems like the language that Christian fundamentalists employ is the same all over the place. Ashley and I held hands through the whole thing, and at certain points, her nails dug into my skin. For me, it was like a quick review of a lot of the ideas that I walked away from years ago, a flashback to the days when constant guilt and self-loathing and fear of damnation were just a part of life. You don't spend all those years surrounded by those things and then just drop it. You may get disgusted with it all, and leave it behind, but that shit still manages to get its claws into you.

Okay, so that experience I was telling you about: it was communion time. Body and blood, bread and wine, except in this case, it was saltines and grape juice. The guys came around with the trays and passed them up and down the aisles. And when they got to us, I passed them on. Without eating or drinking. I did not take communion with these people. I didn't want to. I don't think I could have. And that was my religious experience. No bright lights or bloody writing on the wall, but it was huge for me, and I'll tell you why. It's not because I hate Christianity or think that communion is a big joke. Neither is the case. My grandmother is a sweet woman, and perhaps she finds comfort in that place, but I did not. I felt not one inkling of the divine in there. Thus, I felt no need to join in their little ceremonies, for they felt entirely empty of meaning for me. In passing that tray on without partaking of its contents, and in doing so publicly, I really truly rejected (there's that word again) the fear-based beliefs of my past and what the churches of this type have to offer, this theology of divisiveness, this intolerant faith, this Bible-clinging disgust with humanity. I passed that tray on without fear that there was some vengeful god looking down from heaven to see who does and does not believe in him, ready to mark me down for a seat on the train to hell.

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