Has “God” been Co-opted?

“Patience means trusting God’s timing!”  These words are currently emblazoned on the sign in front of the Calvary Baptist Church in Twisp.  It really struck me today driving past how closely aligned they are to my own tag phrase “Trust in Being.”  In fact, I find myself quite frequently nodding my assent to the signs they have posted there, resonating with their deep truth.

Not surprisingly, there is a vast ideological landscape between me and the Baptists.  Or me and any organized religion.  I’m what retired Episcopalian Bishop John Shelby Spong calls “church alumni.”  And yet, as time goes by and I undergo my own deep internal healing around the nature of the divine, the ideology moves further and further from the map, at the same time closing the driving distances between me and other “believers.”

I grew up in a beautiful Episcopal church in Glassboro New Jersey, St. Thomas’.  The church dates back to the end of the 18th century.  It’s a charming stone building with stained glass windows and old style wooden pews with remnants of graffiti dating to its early days. The church sits in a grove of old growth trees and has a small cemetery, and I can easily conjure up the feeling of the place in each season: midnight mass at Christmas with its candle light and incense, Easter’s altar piled with lilies, its cool interior in summertime and the clusters of fallen leaves in autumn.  A lot of important things happened on my inner journey in that church, things for which I had no language in childhood, nor really any support.

It wasn’t until my awakening that I rediscovered my devotional nature.  At a workshop with Waking Down teacher, Krishna Gauci, after a gazing exercise, I felt a profound and familiar awareness in my chest as if my heart had enlarged and with it the volume of blood it pumped so powerfully; it wracked my chest, and my shirt visibly rose and fell with each beat. It was the same feeling I used to get at communion. Feeling into this, the tears poured forth bringing with them a slew of embodied memories of my childhood devotion. When I was in high school, my family took a vacation to Bavaria where my mother had grown up, and her uncle took us to every church in driving distance.  There, I met many forms of the crucified Christ including one in chains that was said to bleed once a year on a holy day.  I hung postcards of nearly every one in my basement bedroom.  There was an eros to it, a feeling of what I now see as mystical communion, a desire to be one with His suffering.

By the time I graduated high school, church became optional, and my attendance fell away.  As I moved through college and into graduate school, I found myself at odds with the doctrine of organized religion particularly around sexuality, which severed the ties that had been so conscientiously nurtured.  They lacked the depth of feeling and discernment to continue to seek within the bounds of Christianity for succour.  Instead, like many of my generation, my gaze turned to the east, to yoga, and west, to “sex and drugs and rock and roll,” so that by the time I landed in middle age, I was suddenly aware of a spiritual hunger so deep and unexplored that it could no longer be ignored.

In spring, Waking Down founding teacher, Saniel Bonder offered a telecourse called Christing 2.0 that drew heavily from the book The Meaning of Mary Magdalen by Cynthia Bourgeault. And one night’s discussion addressed a variation onthe question I raised in my title: has Christ been co-opted?  Many of us were feeling a renewed ownership of Christ and as a result of Christianity.  It’s given me a new vigor for this old love, a new language and relationship with the Christ as a central figure of western spirituality.

The nature of God is unfathomable.  It doesn’t care what we call it: He, She, It, God, Being, the Absolute.  It contains everything and is contained by everything.  In this moment and these days, I feel a continual deepening of trust in that which is.  Call it God. Call it Being.  But call It.

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