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

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