Last night, I was listening to Jesus Christ Superstar on repeat for a few hours, singing along, and I started thinking about the character of Jesus, and my own sort of relationship with Christianity. I remember when I was maybe thirteen or fourteen, around the time I decided that Jesus really did die for our sins (wait, wait, don’t go away, there’s more!) I started feeling very guilty about things like saying “God damnit,” or negative/joking portrayals of Jesus in pop culture. I still do have a teeny bit of good old fashioned Christian guilt, and whenever I sing along with certain characters in the musical, there’s a bit of a “hmm” moment. You have to wonder where on earth that comes from, as I don’t actually believe God cares if we mock him, portray him negatively, etc. I think that our creative spirit should be used in whatever way we find for it, whatever’s right for us, and if we’re not hurting anyone, then why not? There’s something spiritual, I think, in very enthusiastic mockery of religion – you’re asking questions about faith and truth, and I’d like to think God would encourage that in any form.
My own religious identity tends to raise eyebrows. I’m not a fan of organised religion, but my beliefs do share elements with a few established religions, so I incorporate those terms when someone asks what I am. I used to say that I was a Judeo-Christian Daoist Buddhist, and that’s more or less the best term I can come up with. I identify strongly with elements of Eastern philosophy and spirituality, especially in terms of harmony in nature and the value of detachment and doing good deeds. I don’t think Eastern religions are in any way mutually exclusive from Christianity in that regard. My mother, who considers herself “spiritual,” used to read to me from the Book of Dao under the Christmas tree, and I think her sort of “do good, don’t harm others” syncretic religion is a great way to be. As for the Judeo-Christian part, I really don’t mesh all that well with any existing form of Christianity, but I retain it because it’s the easiest way to incorporate that whole believing in Jesus bit. My mother’s father was the rector of a very old, very large Episcopalian church, and so I still feel most comfortable in Episcopalian services. However, I was never confirmed, because I don’t really believe in Anglican doctrine. I’m deeply saddened by the schism in the church, and still feel connected to that tradition in some way, but my form of Christianity doesn’t really involve any sort of practice, so I rarely attend services. My brand of Christianity is highly faith-based, and I don’t believe in any sort of Hell (I do believe in heaven). My spin on it is that Jesus died for all of our sins, and no matter what we do in this life, we’ll be forgiven. I think we should continue to do good in order to benefit humanity, not because of benefit in the afterlife. I also don’t believe that any one religion is “right.” I believe that God is so big, so awesome, so complicated, that he can be one and more than one God at the same time, or be no God, or be nature, or be anything. I think trying to understand God is a bit futile. I don’t really think we’re supposed to understand him, but any religious or non-religious practice that brings us closer to good, to inner comfort and peace, and to spreading good things to other people is just fine by me. When it comes to practice, that’s where my Jewish-ness comes in. In college I called myself the “pseudo-Jew,” because I have no family connection to the religion, and I don’t attend services, but I do practice in terms of fasting at Yom Kippur, celebrating Rosh Hashanah, and keeping kosher for Passover (and attending a Seder when I can). I find that these practices bring me closer to God in that they raise awareness and make me think about my spiritual life at least three times a year. I hardly pray at all anymore, nor do I have time to meditate, so I like this opportunity to remind myself of my own faith.
So despite my little society-induced cringes of guilt from time to time, I think I’m not doing a bad job of living my life the way I believe God wants me to live it. One thing is certain – I’ve never felt guilty about loving women, about how I have sex, or about any of my other so-called “moral shortcomings.” When we look at the big picture, these things aren’t that big a deal, anyway. If I feel happy, fulfilled, and at peace with myself, I believe that I’m doing the right thing. When I do pray, I pray that God help me find the right path for me, because I may not know it or be able to find it. And despite what some Christians may think, I believe that he has.
That’s all for now, folks. Remember: Coexist.