Have you ever had questions that just bugged you, after reading something, and wanted to ask someone about it? Have you ever known asking those questions was just asking for trouble?- If so, than welcome to The Heresy Zone.
I’ve been mulling this over for a long time. I no longer identify as a Christian, or even a theist, but I find religion and its threads in the social fabric. I am still involved in my church and enjoy singing in a choir. I am on a board for an interfaith group that meets a unique niche in my local community. I have some dear friends who’s religious beliefs, some Christian, some not, have been quite helpful to me, as they have demonstrated wisdom, compassion and understanding in ways I couldn’t help but notice and try to emulate I also have had questions all my life, most of which I’ve had to wait until my 50’s to pull off the shelf and re-examine, or just read something and find myself going, “hmmm.” My questions on faith are of the type that would likely get me kicked out of Sunday schools, or Bible studies, mainly because I tend to look under the script and notice things people miss…like:
What did King Saul do with all those foreskin David paid him as a bride price for Michal?…and why foreskins?
How did the children of Israel and all their flock not quickly succumb to Dysentery once reaching their first oasis?
Those of course are the sillier questions. It’s the more serious ones that I’ve wondered over that, once addressed, actually guided me away from religious belief rather than closer. I just couldn’t be satisfied with scripted answers or those that seemed to avoid the question all together. The answer, “God works in mysterious ways.” has long seemed to me to be a cop-out. As questions led me to research history, sociology and the tenets of other faiths, I discovered that I am not the only one who’s wondered, questioned, and been left dissatisfied. That has led me to really want to know how others perceive deity, faith and how we live, especially those of us who have exited theirs.
Unlike many of my atheist friends, I’m not anti-religion seeing how faith can be an apt tool for people to deal with life, and for people to work together to help each other or those in need. Like many of my atheist and theist friends, I also see how faith has too often been used as a tool of terrible pain, destruction and horror. It is in that realm where so many of my questions lie.
I’ve always felt like a religious outsider, even when I was deeply embedded as a member of the religious community. I felt like I didn’t belong, and wondered, for so long why it was so hard to truly fit in. My writings on faith here at It’s a Misfit have helped chronicle my shift in beliefs, as well as my experiences in the Christian faith. Now I’m deciding to push on, and open a new chapter. You will notice a new category of topics from the list, called Isle of Disbelief. It is there where I will share my questions, silly, philosophical or even angry. I’ve come to believe that questioning things, being skeptical, even dubious is healthy, at least for me. Maybe you’ll join me. If not, I’ve discovered something else. Being a religious outsider isn’t all that bad, after all.
I did it. I sat through the presentation of colors, the invocation and the national anthem at a local high school game. I sat, because I love the country I live in. As much as I love it, I am bothered by so much of what I see. I am also bothered by what I see as a near compulsory demand for an adherence to ritual while failing to truly understand, that for many Americans, such rituals ring hollow. It is for them, after much contemplation that I sat.
I sat for the people of Flint, for whom profit mattered more than safe drinking water, for the residents Standing Rock for similar reasons. I sat for those serving long term sentences for minor drug charges while those who commit violent crimes go free. The injustice, often along color lines is an ongoing injustice. Even worse, profit comes into play, when we as a people care more about the bottom line more than our neighbors, I find silent and complacent is something I cannot be. So for those who suffer at the hands of corporate interests, I sat.
I sat for the victims of war…the men and women sent to fight for ideology and control of resources than ignored and abandoned when they got home, damaged, broken, hurting. For all the rhetoric about support for our troops, I find there is less substance than we are led to believe. We spend so much for the tools of war, yet the most important ones, the people we send into harms way, our nation invests so little. We’ve been in some kind of conflict for so long, that a time of true peace, is an unknown.
We send our sons and daughters, expecting them to set everything aside, celebrating what we believe is their patriotic duty to be cogs in the mechanics of war, and we rarely question why.. I am reminded of Walt Whitman’s Drum Taps. The poem talks about the festive celebratory air that often occurs when we prepare for war. There is a line that says:
|The tearful parting—the mother kisses her son—the son kisses his mother;|
|(Loth is the mother to part—yet not a word does she speak to detain him;)|
Whitman proved to be quite prophetic in the lines of his poem as we prepared to invade Iraq and Afghanistan. How many mothers and sons never got to tell each other hello again since? It is for this poignant reasons, that I hate the dark arts of war. We celebrate war through our patriotic rituals, yet rarely stop to count the cost. It is because I feel that the price is too high, that I sat.
I sat for every homeless child, every person working three jobs to make enough to feed their families, for everyone who is a victim of violence, for every person who has been subjected to the hatred of bigotry and racism, and every person who must decide which to pay, rent or medical bills. I sat for every person who came here for a chance for their future and for that of their children, fearful that they will be denied it for lack of a piece of paper. I sat for those denied that chance to even try to come here because they are from the “wrong country” or of the the “right religious persuasion.
I, a white, middle aged grandmother, made a simple patriotic choice and went against the crowd. I am of the mind that we can truly be a country that understands what freedom means, that it is a responsibility, an honor, a purpose, and that we are only free when all of us can be equally so. Until then I will sit.
“Hear our words.” Cry those we’ve given power.
“Hear our message divinely evoked.
We’re the ones you picked to lead forward.
Listen closely, heed the wisdom we speak.”
“Heed not.” The empowered sternly warn us.
“Those who dare question the gospel we preach.
Dismiss with all malice, any message that differs
or actions that would cause you to think.”
“Stand against” Warn the despots who lead us.
“Quell against all we’re against.
We’re the ones who’s words always matter
Especially when they are speaking the truth.”
“Enemy!” Is the clarion call.
When compassionate dissension
suggests peaceful solutions
and threatens to shatter control, tightly held.
“Attack and destroy.” The leaders command.
“Any who would stand in our way.
We’re in control, don’t ever forget that
Now go, and do what we say.”
“It’s your fault.” Wail the once august leaders.
“Look at the destruction you wrought.
You failed us, and left us bereft.
Take the blame, as you justly deserve.
Silence from those we gave power
Gone, those we foolishly ignored
We are left to pick up the pieces
Of a world we nearly destroyed.
Acts of violence and atrocity that I read about can make me want to weep. It makes one like me feel frustrated helplessness. Every time I hear how people fear, hate, every time I hear, or read about people who have such little disregard for humanity of others I want to somehow wade in and fix it, But I can’t.
If I could, I’d take every refugee, every victim, every sick, lost and abandoned soul home with me. But I can’t.
If I could, I’d turn every fist, every gun, every bomb into bread, butterflies and flower gardens.
If I could, I’d take every hate filled, greed and power hungry cleric, pundit and politician and make them hold hands until they learned to be nice to each other and to us. But I can’t.
So what can I do? I’m just one ordinary woman, a single person in a vast ocean of humanity. I can’t stop terrorism, or convince politicians and pundits to listen to the people and really work to make our world better. I can’t tell people and businesses to stop turning our planet into something that even planet destroying aliens would pass by as a project not worth bothering with. I cant reach out across an ocean and dry the tears of a person who’s life has been torn apart by war, or help bury their children, or even ensure they have safe place to lay their head tonight. I can’t even fix the many heartbreaking problems that are all over my own community.
What frustrates me even further is those who see our helplessness, and our tiny attempts to let others know we care, and scoff at our attempts as inept and ineffective. While technically they are correct, they are also quite incorrect. While changing a profile photo to the flag of a nation who’s just suffered a tragedy or a symbol to commemorate support for a disease, or other symbolic imagery, is small, it has a way of letting others know that we do care and are at least trying to understand. Our scoffers are just as frustrated as we are, but they prefer mocking our tiny attempts, demanding instead that we do the impossible, fix the big ones.
I want to be a pebble. My tiny drop in the ocean of humanity rippling out, meeting other the ripples of other pebbles, who meet other’s ripples. I want us to all be pebbles. I want our tiny ripples to be the mundane, but still monumental actions of making someone smile or laugh, or helping a beleaguered mom with two kids and her elderly father, load groceries into the car at Walmart, or by buying a coworker lunch even though they brought their own, by giving blood, giving clothes I don’t wear away, buying a package of socks and giving it to the local soup kitchen.
Yes they are tiny acts, those little waves of caring, but when one act prompts another, and then another, and then even another, the potential…oh, the potential is limitless.
It truly bothers me when people complain about something like changing a profile photo as a sign of solidarity with those who are suffering. It saddens me when they want to deny those who are in need. By saying no, by being willing to turn people away, or blame them for their plight, and then turning around and trying to ridicule us for caring.
They don’t want to be pebbles, thinking such a thing beneath them. They are denying the impact of the pebble, seeing it as insignificant ripples while standing on the shore. They fail to see how far one ripple can carry, or that it always returns to us, acting as a gentle kiss of reminder of why we threw ourselves in.
For those of you who don’t want to do the insignificant. I understand. It may be just that, insignificant. But I also know one ripple, or one attempt to reach out to help another can carry further than any of us could ever imagine. So I’ll continue to toss myself in that ocean, while hoping someone’s ripples, maybe even mine, will soon reach your toes.