I don't believe in an interventionist god, or some benevolent benefactor. Nor do I believe in some mystical magical heaven. I DO believe in hell though. I live it every day.
I am feeling ok today, overall. And of course, there is a part of me that feels shitty about that, which I think there always will be. It goes beyond grief and gets down to the nitty gritty, the guilt. That is so much harder to unpack. Grief is noble. Guilt can go either way. You've either earned it or not. But trust me on this; I've earned every fucking ounce of mine.
Years ago, when I was in college, I used to walk past Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church on my way to school, and I was for a time, obsessed with the thought of sneaking in to give confession. Wait, is it give? Or get? No, penance is what you get. And I wanted it desperately. I suppose what I really wanted was absolution but I fully expected and therefore wanted some serious penance.
I never did go in, was too timid to do so, as if someone would catch me, call me out as a non-Catholic and chase me out the door. No matter how foolish it seems, my fear of being publicly shamed for wanting to be privately absolved of guilt by some stranger whose religion I didn't even particularly subscribe to, kept me from even approaching the confessional.
But oh, how I wanted to.
And I still do some days.
On Sunday, an old friend e-mailed me a link to a Facebook group I couldn’t resist delving into. Not joining, you understand, but logging into my barest-of-bones Facebook account so I could peruse the details of the group and ensuing discussion. The group is peopled with, well people, most of whom I haven’t heard from or thought of in 15-20 years, but all of whom I share the experience of being raised up in a certain fundamentalist evangelical church. I couldn’t help but be curious, enough so that I read through every post on every thread in a single sitting.
The threads included serious theological debates, wandering and wistful ”remember when?” recollections and some intense discussion of improprieties and abuse. I was struck, quite honestly, with the civility of the discussion, despite the range of opinions and views. Maybe it IS some small credit to that upbringing. We DID sing Kumbaua every now and then.
Anyway, this is my basic explanation for How I Got Suckered Into Facebook, though there is, as of yet, no explanation for the childish delight I have taken in it. I shall attempt to return to my senses as soon as humanly possible.
I have spent the last week reading Jim Wallis’ “God’s Politics; Why the Right gets it wrong and the Left doesn’t get it“. As an agnostic with Buddhist leanings, raised in an evangelical household, the intersection of religion and politics is of particular interest to me and Wallis’ book is easily the most profound thing I’ve yet to read on the subject. As I wrap up the last chapters, I find myself thumbing back to certain pages, marked with a creased page or a penciled arrow in the margin. The following paragraph is from one of those pages.
“The real theological problem in America today is no longer the religious Right, but the nationalist religion of the Bush administration, one that confuses the identity of the nation with the church, and God’s purposes with the mission of American empire. America’s foreign policy is more than preemptive, it is theologically presumptuous; not only unilateral, but dangerously messianic; not just arrogant; but rather bordering on the idolatrous and blasphemous. George Bush’s personal faith has prompted a profound self-confidence in his “mission” to fight the “axis of evil”, his “call” to be commander and chief in the war against terrorism, and his definition of America’s “responsibility” to “defend the hopes of all mankind”. This is a dangerous mix of bad foreign policy and bad theology.” (Jim Wallis can be found at Sojourners and Beliefnet. I highly recommend his writings for the faith-into-action peacemakers among us or those you know.)