Friday, January 14, 2011

What I love and hate about Christianity

I'm reading The Naked Buddha: a demythologised account of the man and his teaching by Eric Harrison. The author has been a committed Buddhist for 25 years and a meditation teacher for more than 40 years.

He explains why Buddhism grows very very slowly, and why Westerners turn away. He's refreshingly honest: approach is to highlight the good as I see it (which can be very, very good) and point out the bad (which can be quite awful).

This honesty—so rare it's almost unthinkable—stimulated me to think about what I love and hate about Christianity. And why I walked out of church in the 70s and virtually never went back. I'm not highlighting the good and the bad objectively: this is strictly personal.

What I love about Christianity

  • My Dad, a vicar and a battler
  • God is love (the message we got from our Dad)
  • Worship, being consciously grateful
  • Values of kindness, service to others, and generosity
  • Peaceful meditation and food for thought
  • Inspiring ministers: good, brave, wise people
  • Jesus: a human being
  • "Life is real, now: make your own heaven"
  • Aesthetics: music, stained glass, flowers
  • Poetry: the King James Bible and Book of Common Prayer
  • Mary
  • Ritual and chanting
  • Myth and metaphor
  • Adventurous theology
  • The City Mission.

What I loathe about Christianity or at least some factions

Some of what repels me, like the first item, is not intrinsically bad: it simply doesn't suit me at all. Some is all in my own mind. And some is genuinely bad, bad, bad.

I know people who help to create wonderful church communities and they belong there and improve the world. But I walked out one Sunday when it struck me that only 5 of the 400-odd people in the church would have the slightest understanding of my own position. (The 5 included the minister, bless him!) In every service I had been mentally translating the words into a more compatible theology.

Then I caught feminism and the translation job became impossible. Frankly, I didn't belong in a church.

Gradually feminism began to soften church misogyny. But it was far too late for me. I can't stand:

  • Being part of an artificially constructed community
  • Boring, false, or foolish ministers
  • Persistent masculinity and paternalism
  • Too much guilt
  • Arrogance
  • Persistent anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-other attitudes
  • Exclusivity: this is the right way and the only way
  • Wealth and control and greed
  • A sense of pointlessness.

Well, let it go. Growing older, I can see the big picture. I think...

Photo: The Jesus Place at Gobind Sadan, Delhi

Sunday, January 9, 2011

My first new year resolution in 70 years

A New Year's resolution? I don't remember ever making one before. At least, not one that lasted more than ten minutes, not one that felt fun and difficult and right. Here it is:

I will buy no clothes in 2011.

Last year was the year of the clothes. Almost my entire wardrobe got refurbished. I had plenty of excuses, or justifications. I lost 7 or 8 kilos (that's a lot on Short People like me) and only my favourite clothes were worth altering. Then there were new clothes for weddings and conferences and India. And some garments were bought because I got a sudden urge to look like a grown-up—at least sometimes.

I normally give away or throw away something equivalent when I purchase something, so I probably don't have a larger number of clothes than before—but they are all fun or useful and I like them.

In other words I am spoiled rotten and have far too much Stuff.

Denying yourself a purchase can be a very satisfying experience. I get an unholy kick out of shopping but I also love psyching myself up to buy something... then changing my mind. Recently I did that on a large scale, saving myself at least 10,000 fantasy dollars. I decided to turn a little archive room into a bathroom, planned it, chose fittings. Then I changed my mind. Do I really need a second bathroom? Of course not.

Now, about the money I'll be saving. Who shall I give it to? My top favourite good cause is Books in Homes. I sponsor a couple of schools and could maybe add another one. We'll see how we go.

Books in homes