Sunday, May 22, 2011

Churching & Biking, Part II

As I wrote earlier, I am sharing a bit of my “spiritual autobiography” for some new Facebook friends – several of whom are deeply skeptical of “Christians,” since the “Christian” brand has now been hijacked by right-wing Christianist extremists. I am trying here to explain why I love the Episcopal Church and how and why I characterize myself as a Christian.

I'm sorry I've been out of the blogosphere for a while.For this to make sense, you need to read my previous blog-post.

A Bit of Background

Here’s a bit of “spiritual autobiography” for those who are just checking my blog.

I grew up in the Southern Baptist Church in a little town of 5,000 in the “buckle of the Bible Belt.” I was a good little Southern Baptist girl. I memorized all the Bible verses. I swallowed all the lines. It was a very fine church for someone who wanted all the answers neatly set out. And at that point, I wanted them neatly set out.

But then I went to college in 1973. It was a Roman Catholic college with rigorous intellectual standards. I began to question the little pat answers that the Southern Baptists had fed me.

By the time I got to Vanderbilt for graduate school in 1978, I was teetering. The Southern Baptists had pat answers for everything. The Roman Catholics opened my soul to mystery, but there were things I could not accept.

Around 1980, when I truly came to terms with my lesbianism, I left the Southern Baptist Church. It happened slowly, for I really loved the people in the church I was attending. I talked with my pastor, of whom I was very fond. He referred me to a “Christian counselor” to “deal with my disorder.” But the most wonderful thing happened! That “Christian counselor” didn’t think gay/lesbian people were “sick” or “disordered.” She was marvelously supportive and encouraging.

While I came to terms with being a lesbian, I could not figure out how to square that with the church I had called home for three decades.

So I left the church I had known. I became one of those “spiritual-but-not-religious” people who left the church … left any and all churches. I am struck by what many public opinion polls reveal: That people view the Christian churches as mostly mean-spirited. I undestand that feeling.I felt that way and quit it all in the early ‘80s.

Eventually, I made a very good friend in the mid-‘80s. She and her partner were Episcopalians. I loved to visit them (though they lived several states away). And we would have Great Debates. By that time, I had come to hate the Christian churches. I remember challenging them: “How can two smart women worship that Big Ol’ Hoary God?” But, inch by inch, I came to see that they weren’t worshipping any Big Ol’ White-Haired God (nor his blonde, European Son :) that my Southern Baptist teachers had proclaimed.

They were worshipping a God who was much more mysterious and ephemeral … a Divine Presence that was above and beyond any of my categories … a God I could not pin down! And they celebrated the mystery and the “un-pinnability” of that God.

Finally! This was something in which I could believe! The Episcopal Church became my refuge and my lens when I entered a discernment process in 1996. At the end, I was confirmed into the church in the spring of 1997.

Since then, I probably haven’t missed a Sunday unless I was seriously ill. For all the reasons noted here.


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