Why I keep returning to a book that makes me so angry I am not sure.
Well, yeah, anger is a go to emotion for me – it developed long ago as a way to function I imagine and was perhaps present in the very fabric of my brain at the beginning of my time. Don’t know.
But I digress.
I am always and always and always on the look out for community – I have had community at various points in my life, thank god. Most memorable for me was way back in a year I did at SFU – I joined up with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) and that was really fun. Cool people. Not religious in the way you might think. I am still friends with one or two of those people from way long ago. One is now an atheist. Wow, I was 23 years old and felt like I belonged with this great group of people.
I attended a Vineyard church for awhile (not a cult and becoming less cult-ish as time goes by) back in the 1990’s/early 2000’s and that too was often a great sense of community. When I pop back now and again to visit, I see a few of the folks I knew then. We still know each other’s name, that kind of thing.
I spent a few years attending a United Church near my home and for a time that had a small sense of community – the ministers (one retired after 12 years at the congregation and another came on for a very short amount of time) were very helpful during that time as my mom had been diagnosed with cancer, etc. Later, when I was unemployed and bedridden with pneumonia, a minister came by my abode and handed me the $90 – receipt unseen – that I’d had to pay for some rather absurdly expensive antibiotics. That kind of thing.
I now kind of attend a small Anglican gathering that meets at 5:30 on Sunday evenings. It fancies itself a bit radical but I like the small-ness of it and the weekly eucharist.
A couple of my friends attend which is what got me going there. It is fairly liberal in its way.
The wee church does ‘pop up’ Bible studies on a Sunday afternoon – five weeks or so. The most recent is one on Acts and I attend because I intellectually like the study of text and because it gets me out of my own head.
Boredom fuels depression. And depression fuels depression. And it all is great food for anxiety and so I go. It helps to get me out of my war zone of a head it does.
And yet – I don’t find in the Bible much that doesn’t make me angry. There are glorious pieces of the book of course – places where it is clear that it is the ‘worst’ of society that are the goddamn best, to paraphrase. Phew. Those parts can hit me in a place as deep as grief – past defenses, past self-doubt/hatred, past any of that. There be God.
And yet. and yet.
So many passages in both old and new testaments are filled with god’s disappointment and rage and smiting of people who just can’t get with god’s program. So much of it seems so parochial and so of its time and place that has nothing whatsoever to do with what is happening now in life to anyone anywhere. God, it seems, is constantly disappointed at best and enraged and smiting at worst. In Acts – two folks who didn’t sell everything they owned to share with the group (an idea I like) were boom, dead. And etc.
Seems God created humanity in order to be constantly disappointed with them.
Some swear this is not the message. Things are metaphorical (which also makes sense) and really this smiting and disappointment, these rules and laws and etc. all actually make sense on a different level and what a relief.
And yet – the parochial nature of the entire bible is something I can’t get my head around. This book, why? The first portion is all rules and laws and men obsessed with virgins. A couple of women do actually get named and are other than madonnas or whores but not many. Not many make that particular cut. David rapes Bathsheba and she gets blamed. Hagar gets sex trafficked and she gets blamed. So much sex all of the time the Old Testament.
Then there’s Jesus of course popping up in the New Testament. Phew. These laws don’t count anymore and we can stop wrestling with the Old Testament! Phew. Yet there is still smiting and anger and disappointment on the part of God towards the people. And we again have to ferret out what the heck everything means and try to make it mean something today.
We twist and we turn and we pretzel, I think, in order to get that book to mean something that won’t make us absolutely crazy. The place I attend has a pleasing interpretation of God coming to drastically turn the tables on a social order that placed so many people into an untouchable caste. It is a political reading of the book and one that makes sense. There is still belief in the Trinity and the working of the Holy Spirit and etc. The eucharist is the centre piece which I also like – something always transcendent about the blood and body of Christ. In that, there is peace I think.
And yet. And yet.
If one takes the book literally, then one has given away all of their belongings and lives in community sharing everything. There are no RRSP’s or retiring in Arizona. Might be a mikvah or two. Women’s heads are covered. Jews are the chosen people (thanks, says half of me). Celestial beings are all about and the unrepentant are, as we speak, perishing in eternity. I am not being snarky here. This is literal.
And if we are not literal (phew) then we are pretzeling it seems.
The book makes me angry and not in a good way. Not in a way that transcends. The book was written in a time and place for a time and place. Messiahs were everywhere at the time of Jesus (really, it was kind of a thing).
Well then, why stick with it? Why seek it out? Why continue to read something that makes me so mad and really I have enough mad all ready.
I come back to the concept of community. I am desperate for it. And finding community in the city I live in a this time in history (dramatic a bit there) is just not easy. And a Karen alone (I am working for the next four days for someone on holiday. The school that removed me has unremoved me temporarily. Yikes! I will be tired, oh goodness. But other than that it is not a great future scene) is an unhappy Karen. I do try and join non-religious events – but that is not as easy as it sounds. When I do work (thank you for the temporary unremoving, downtown school) I greatly enjoy the socializing amongst the staff although most folks are quite busy and the lunch hour quite short and the lunch room bizarrely tiny so much so that people are tripping over each other. Nonetheless, I soak it all up. Soak. Soak. Soak.
Soak! Soak!! Soak!!
For a time I attended a Buddhist meditation sitting near my abode. The meditating was 40 minutes!!!!!! I found it relaxing to sit in silence with others around but I don’t think I ever actually got to the meditating part. If I focused on my breath I found that I actually ended up convinced that I wasn’t actually breathing. After the meditating, there would be discussion of Buddha and the like. Gack, I thought, I don’t want to exchange one book for another.
Anyway, these thoughts are all much deeper in my head (or somewhere, perhaps my bowels? Maybe my thoughts are deep in my bowels?) than they may appear here. I think that deep spiritual peace is not a black and white kind of a thing.
Now it is becoming clearer to me (thanks to the 50 minute hour) that I am black and white to the extreme – so I think I am being oddly literal about this and about metaphor.So perhaps for that reason too I don’t give it up completely.
All righty then, so ends my tangent. My friend, G., crazy woman she, is going to swim in the might waters of Kitsilano Pool this morning (it is cloudy and about 14C). I have been overcycling and I am not a fan of swimming in the cold (plus, I must try not to get sick as I have the aforementioned four days! of work). We are going to meet for a wee chat before she dons her wet suit and heads forth into the wild waters of the pool.
To my loyal fan base of three – comments are always welcome on my posts. Be not scared away by my tone. I am mostly all bark.