Sunday, July 29, 2007

Spiritual Justice

It all started out in a room full of 8 or so Black women. Most of us were in our mid twenties, while others like me barely hit the 2-0 mark when she asked the group,

Who do you pray to?

Oh shit, not this question again. It had been an ongoing "dialogue" if you will, with a lover. One who’s so Christian she just couldn't fathom the idea of living without God, or any other alternative.

But after many uphill battles, it's time to answer the question right?

Who do I pray to?

Well it ain't easy, let me give you a somewhat brief background on who I am and how I grew up. My parents are as different as any two beings are. My father, a Russian Jew, only characteristically Jewish because of his frizzy hair, last name and his love of matzo ball soup and Kugel. His parents are Communists who believe, more or less, that God, and in particular the Christian God and Jesus (and whatever else seems to be running our country) is the root of evil. It promotes hatred, segregation, injustice, war, racism, sexism, homophobia, insert label here... that it suppresses our voices/thoughts/concerns/ideas rather than expresses them, you get my drift?

And then there's my mother, a Black American raised in New York City while her parents are from one of the most country states of them all. South Carolina. Church is their life, not my mother's but my entire family. I remember as a kid always having to go on Christmas and being mad that the service was four hours long. I loved the songs, and the cute boys who sat in the back with their ties and shiny shoes, but Jesus never left his mark on me.

I tried to read the Bible my senior year of High School, but became frustrated with its contradictions, and bored with its fiction. Besides I had too many confusing feelings about religion, to put myself in yet another box.

So I kind of became numb to it, pretended it didn’t exist so that ‘sins’ and ‘judgments’ wouldn’t bother me, or at least became so fictionalized in my mind that it became ludicrous if anyone decided to step to me about the way I chose to live my life.

And then I go to Brazil. And my “social justice” program (yes, notice the quotes) through SIT goes to this Quilombo community where slaves and freedmen set up their own communities away from the White “norms” of the Colonizers. Honestly I can’t tell you what I expected before reaching the Quilombos, I just knew that when we attended Mass and they praised a White God and Jesus and Mary and countless of other Saints, a silent rage boiled throughout my body.

I mean think about it for a moment, Freed Black communities who rebel against the very society that has enslaved and dehumanized them for four centuries and they are worshiping Gods that favor their oppressor! I couldn’t stand it, and yet I felt extremely alone in these thoughts. Doesn’t something seem terribly wrong with this picture? But wait, doesn’t this mirror exactly what you see in Black churches throughout America, or in Latino churches throughout Central and South America? Disenfranchized folks praising the Disenfranchizer?

But I realize I STILL haven’t answered the question. I don’t understand why I get so flustered with this question. I admit I’m a very spiritual person, I pray a lot. And to no one in particular, I get antsy with words like ‘Lord’ ‘Father’ ‘Master’ and ‘God’. They all seem so “superior” making us individuals seem far less great. They don’t seem to unify, but rather separate, like “I’m up here and you’re down there.” There’s no way I could believe in something that oppressive. And then the whole pleasing God thing never made too much sense to me, I’m living my life for you God, not for myself. Umm no I don’t think so. I honestly don’t have any respect for a God or religion that cuts me out for who I love or turns those away from me because of it. How can I when the one thing I truly love is people?

So where does this bring me to, any closer to the question at hand?

I pray to myself. There I said it, and no I’m not narcissistic nor am I a 5 Percenter. I am not God, but I believe my body possesses a natural spirit. Anything the Christian belief has said about God in a positive light can be attributed to yourself as well. We all have intuition, consciousness, morals, self respect. We know what we want, what makes us happy, what feels right, and though we are all a little misguided at times (I am definitely one to talk!) it’s because we’re not in touch with ourselves, we’re too busy trying to please others we go away from our true spirit. Us.

I believe energy rules this earth, which explains karma, the after life, fate, luck, chemistry. We are born with an energy, with a spirit in which guides us down particular paths. I’m not one seeking all the answers here, I’m merely trying to figure out who I am and how to make myself happy with that person I am becoming. I believe love nourishes that spirit.

And I believe that there is so much beauty in this world. Everything is so intricate and detailed and luscious with its own sets of energies and spirits, with its own sets of possibilities and beings. For example I went to the beach with a friend of mine awhile back. And we sat next to the water, the roar of the waves singing in our ears, growing louder and louder, the water rushing up to us and floating away, creeping closer and closer. That’s not the work of God. That is the waters own energy responding to ours.

It was beautiful.

Okay, I’m not trying to get too preachy here. Though it was probably inevitable given the nature of this topic! In creating this post, which trust me, was a lot harder than it looks, I wanted to create a dialogue here, about different religions across the board. Mapping out different beliefs, theories, stories that can be shared for the progress of our development. So, lets share.

1 comment:

jackbauer said...

i believe that there are two basic spiritual camps - those who believe that man is inherently evil, and struggles to do good, and those that believe man is inherently good, and that evil is the result of chemical imbalances, over/under-attentive parents or anything other than himself.

i will try to say this as gently as possible - you've run into the complex world of spirituality and religion (note that these two worlds are separate, yet overlap quite a bit) and in response to the huge cognitive dissonance those two worlds provide, you've made up something warm and fuzzy so you won't have to think about it anymore.

what you and millions of other people who, not surprisingly, have come to similar humanist conclusions don't ever seem to understand is that you are not rejecting the idea of God, you are rejecting religion and the unfathomable. your response to what you don't understand is to deify yourself. and again, this is a typical response to hypocrites and the old testament given the centuries of greek (western) culture that we come from, which oddly enough, seems to produce spirituality of a decidedly eastern flavor, although i submit (once again, with as much gentleness as i can muster) a pretty superficial one.

like a coffee house where everyone accepts everyone else's bad poetry because they need to validate their own, modern spirituality has dumbed down in order for us to avoid any contentious moral dilemmas, to erase the cognitive dissonances that plague the modern scientific mind. it's much easier to reject the idea of God (and there are a million reasons stemming from a few basic fallacies) than to face the moral inadequacy of our own nature. every person has a sense of spirituality, of a greater truth, but the idea that it might go against their own inclinations is typically the first in a series of steps toward self-worship.

when you decide that you can determine good and evil by yourself, you turn yourself into a god. you seem like a pretty nice person, so overall i don't see this as a particularly bad thing for you (although as you can probably tell, i don't agree with the idea at all). however there are people who have come to the same conclusion you have and sometimes the results are not as good: they become serial killers, rapists, terrorists, cult leaders, popes and bigots. they oppress, steal, murder and brainwash. some of them do it in the name of religion, some in the name of poverty, and some in their own name.

i believe that man is inherently evil. if you don't believe me, never discipline your child and see what he turns into. studies of serial killers show that they either come from violent and abusive homes, or from homes where they were given whatever they asked for. once you believe that man is inherently evil, you either believe in a higher moral power (whether it be God or a set of moral codes), or choose a life of spiritual emptiness.

if you believe man is inherently good, then religion ceases to matter and you can make up whatever feels good to replace it. this has prompted many "scientific" studies on the various parts of the brain that cause us to misbehave, which share the same common fallacy - that our brain affects us but we don't affect our brain. every week a new study comes out which magically turns another human deficiency into a chemical imbalance or environmental flaw, and another roadblock to self-worship is knocked over.

really, it's the ultimate straw-man argument - we make up an idea of God in our heads, and then reject him because we don't like it, self-assured in our circular epiphany. after all, who would know better than us? if we can't understand God, well there must not be one.