In which I feel both uplifted and awkward.
Once in awhile, I fall accidentally into a religious conversation with a devout Christian about the experience of the practice of religion. And she says stuff, and I say stuff, and she’s pleased with my insight and depth of understanding, and we’re really grooving and having a meaningful chat about life and love and suffering and learning and keeping covenant and watching the mind and all that grooviness, and then suddenly I realize I’m fucking trapped.
Because by understanding her subtlest spiritual work, I’ve more or less “led” her to believe I’m also a Christian, which I’m really, really not, and it’d be awkward if I revealed that I’m a so-called heathen, and I end up feeling kinda bad about it, and then I start fearing I’ll be asked when I was saved or born again or baptized or whatever, because I won’t know what to say without ruining the fine fellow-feeling that I feel and know is well and truly earned.
I enjoy talking to devotees of any stripe, but Christians can get upset to learn that their little two-thousand year old, truncated, gutted religion’s precepts are not exactly philosophically hard to get one’s brain around, or that the work they’re doing — everything from forbearance to surrender to love in action to devotion to all the rest of it — is known to earnest followers of every religion ever, even the religions they hate or believe to be false, and that the only things unique to Christianity are irrelevant not only to all non-Christians but to the actual practices of religion itself (because most stuff unique to Christianity is actually politics, not spirituality, and everybody knows it. Same for the other Abrahamic branches, and a variety of other traditions, as well).
What’s most interesting, really, is how a philosophy as broken as modern western Christianity still has such passionate, fervent followers with so much bhakti (loving devotion toward God) and intimacy with their guru, whom they call Lamb of God, without irony, realizing not at all that God takes birth repeatedly because He’s fucking INFINITE and unbounded and can do literally everything, and does. (That in and of itself essentially proves the fundamentals of Vedanta, really, but you can’t say that because it would be more unkind than useful.)
I mean, really. The very idea that God mandated only one opportunity is contrary to the concept of a loving God entirely. You can’t have it both ways: either your God is loving and absolute, or He’s a jerk who wants to damn entire swathes of His own creation.
I got into a big ol’ conversation with a customer at work tonight after I fixed her system and alleviated her worries about how it was functioning. I learned about some big parts of her life, of what she’s going through now, from marriage problems to serious health issues, and we had some really deep conversation about right action, ego, spiritual work, fear, and love. I felt really grateful for the connection with a total stranger, and she averred she did, too, but at the end of conversation I knew she was just this close to asking me when I found Jesus, which, in the sense she means, as far as I understand “finding Jesus,” I haven’t.
Well, actually, I have, but not in a way that I could articulate without using language not typical to Christianity. Have I had an experience of Christ? Sure, yes, but I consider Jesus to be but one flower on an entire tree of enlightened avatars of God, born of Self-effort to reach us all, where and when and as we are, for the purpose of revealing, through their lives’ example, our own indwelling nature as That. Persons who have never been exposed to knowledge of Christ — for instance, every human life that occurred before His own, and millions since — are not doomed to “hell,” a metaphorical, and not literal, place. To think they are is to limit the limitless, to project upon God the flaws of our own self-made minds, and to reduce the infinite into our finite.
I’ve spoken intimately with several Christian women over the years, and their astonishment at my grasp of subtle concepts is very near universal. It blows their minds that a religion with thousands of icons knows things they thought were Christian Mysterees, because their religion teaches them that all other religions are fundamentally wrong.
I’m pretty sure that any religion that calls itself the only path is deeply suspect, because it’s obviously ridiculous to posit an infinite, all-knowing God The Creator And Source Of All, and then say there’s only one way to get to Him because he wasn’t clever enough to allow for the foibles of all the souls in his His beloved creation.
Some day I need to figure out how to indicate, without sounding like a pompous jerk, that I’m not Christian but do know (though I’m not a proper scholar by any stretch), a bit about the fundamentals of religious philosophies. Hmm.