“Most religions put more emphasis on orthopraxy (right practice) than on orthodoxy (right belief). Judaism and Islam have each created sophisticated systems of law to guide behaviour, but have allowed an astonishing freedom of conviction and intellectual expression. Both have been able to get along with comparatively short statements of belief. Buddhism and Hinduism concentrate on the practices of ritual and transformation rather than on uniformity of belief, and tribal religions express their view of reality through a variety of myths, not a ‘rule of faith’ for their members.” –Luke Timothy Johnson
I think this quote sums up how I feel about religion. Although even the orthodoxy is sometimes a little overdone. Luke Timothy Johnson didn’t mention Christianity, probably because that’s the religion he practises, but Christianity is just as guilty as the rest.
When I was at school, I was forced, by strict school rules, to go to church every Sunday morning. I was told how to pray, when to stand, when to sit, when to kneel. I was lectured on forgiveness, and then beaten for being 2 minutes late on my 1 and a half kilometer walk from dormitory to pew. I was lectured on loving my neighbours and then told how the savage Kaffirs (sic) were threatening our way of life. For a kid who lives in a boarding school, this is a confusing way to be introduced to the world of spirituality. Most children learn about God (in whichever form he takes for you) from their parents, but when you’re in a hostel filled with a hundred other little boys and a scant smattering of house masters no one has the time to sit down with you and explain matters of the spirit with you. All I had to go on was the ritual Sunday morning trek in the blazing sun to sit in a crowded church with no air conditioning and listen to a man in robes drone on about something that would inevitably be disregarded by every adult that had an example setting role in my school life. That combined with how I thought that denominations were interchangeable was the foundation of my spirituality.
I started my religious learnings in the Anglican church. Anglican because that’s what was written down on my school application form. In King William’s Town, the Anglican church is very pretty, it has a war memorial pond (in which I once began playing with the frogs and toads that called it home, and forgot to attend the actual church service. I was promptly given 4 stripes by my house master for bunking church on my return to hostel) and a giant (I was about 4 feet tall at the time) bell which the minister (I’m not sure what the head of an Anglican church is called any more. It could be pastor, no, that Methodist, not Dominee, that’s NG. Anyway.) would allow the boys to ring. It was great, because on the bell’s strong up swing it would launch us high into the bell tower. But it was far. It was a mission having to wolf down the best breakfast of the week (bacon and eggs) to make it to church on time. Then only just making it back in time for the best lunch of the week (roast and 2 veg), which the little Anglican boys had to eat still sweaty and wearing our school uniform, while all the other boys had enough time to have a little rinse off and change into shorts. My cunning plan was to call home and find out if there’s any possibility that we changed religions since I started boarding school. I spent a little time planning my wording, psyching myself up to ask. I really didn’t want to upset my family by being a bad Christian, just because I was having a tough time with my two favourite meals of the week. Eventually I asked, “Mom, is it ok if a rather go to the Methodist church , instead of the Anglican?” Her response was, “oh yes, that’s fine, I meant to write that one down, but I forgot.” That was when I learnt that denominations of Christianity are really interchangeable, and it really doesn’t matter which one you go to. It’s ok to just choose the one that fits best with your plans at the time. I should point out that before the end of matric I had switch to Baptist (after short visits to every other church in town, except Catholic, their rules are tough). They had the best Friday night YP (youth preparedness) sessions where we got to meet and socialise with all the girls (boys only boarding school is tough).
After school I was never forced to attend any church at all. It was great. But was it really? Everyone should have a spiritual side. I read that in a few different books on life, love and success. I didn’t. There was zero spirituality in my life at the time. That is what started me on a quest, well, more of a sub quest really. It wasn’t my life’s goal to find spirituality, but I did look. My school days pretty much turned me off Jesus and the Christians, so I looked elsewhere. I briefly read up on Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism and a few others. One of the two religions that stood out for me was Bahai. Basically the Bahai believe that all the other religions are really just alternate routes to the same God. In effect; Jews had the most direct route, Muslims went via Mohammed, Christians through Jesus, et cetra. I liked that idea. Granted, that’s the super simplified version, the faith has many more aspects to it. The second, and the one I actually followed for a short while, was Wicca. “ooh…You were a witch?” Basically yes. I cast spells and everything. The spells I cast were not the Harry Potter kind, with feather floating around or broom sticks crashing into windows.The kind of spells that I believed at the time would protect my house from evil. Wicca, being a paganistic religion, believe in multiple deities. Effectively there would be God as most religions believe, but he doesn’t work alone. God is paired with a goddess, like Brigid for example. Who basically equates to what westerners would call “Mother Nature”. So here you have God and Mother Nature who though the year go though various stages in their relationship, while the Wiccans aim to please them. The most obvious would be spring, when they copulate. If the Wiccans were supportive enough they would have a fertile season, because the God and Goddess had a happy copulation. It’s a nature religion, with focus on harvesting crops and planting seeds. The part I liked most was the Wiccan Rede. “an it harm none, do as ye will” It’s so simple. As long as you’re not negatively impacting someone else, you do what ever you like. That tiny little rede covers all the basics. You can’t steal, because someone loses stuff. You can’t murder anyone, because…well…if I have to explain that one you need to step away from the keyboard before you hurt yourself. The problem with Wicca is that it is very ritualistic. The spells you cast are done in ritual form. You have to chant to Goddess and burn certain coloured candles at certain times for the spell to work. Although you do cast spells naked, which is always fun. 😉 Still I felt that it was too dependant on learning what to say to cast a spell, and learning what order you light the candles, and when to throw the salt. That couldn’t be the way. So it drifted away and I was again left spiritually barren.
For a long time I stayed that way. I resigned myself to the fact that there was a God out there, but he was unattainable. I think that made me agnostic.
It was Nadine who introduced me to Allen Wilson.
Allen has a message from God. He has shown me that I CAN have a relationship with God. A one on one relationship, without having to deal with mountains of doctrine and ritual. I now know that what God intended for us is to have a life where everything goes right all the time. There is no evil in God’s plan for us. The plan isn’t for us to go anywhere. Heaven is right here. The end result of the work of God in Jesus is no more death, no more curse, no more sorrow and no more crying…on Earth! We don’t get to God by not sinning and being perfect little well practised lemmings. Walking with God makes us not want to sin. All we need to do is open our hearts to God and confess our hope. When Jesus died on the cross, it was for ALL of us. Everyone.
I am not a Christian. I have a relationship with God.
For my views on where politics will lead us…see above. 😉