My family and I went to Cornerstone for much of the beginning of my life. I always liked going because it was opulent, huge and beautiful. I was too young to understand the service, but I remember especially liking the Christmas midnight mass.
The ritual made it special and I learned about Christ. I genuinely love(d) him. I spent most of my life feeling an immense connection to my religion and my spiritual energy in this way. I applied my feelings at church with every day life in good and bad ways. I enjoyed going there until after 9/11 when the weird fire & brimstone-esque Zionism began. The fun and poignant parables became dark productions of instilling fear and supporting war. It made me deeply question many things because it made me so uncomfortable and angry. I can’t recall being back since.
At a younger, more ignorant, age/time, I used my beliefs as something that made me “better” than others and judged them instead of being secure within myself.
It took going to an extremely conservative Christian college to recognize that most of the culture of Christianity there wasn’t how I aligned. (If you’ve seen “Saved!” then you might, kind of understand, except sprinkle in serious racism, homophobia, and sexism.) However, I did learn a lot of historical and social context of the Gospel, and it transformed my faith into something else. It gave me a perspective that dispelled pretty much nearly everything I was taught to believe. Most importantly, I made friends with some of the kindest, most selfless and intelligent people I’ve ever met. They taught me more about being a loving person and being critical of oppression than anything I’d experienced. I later abandoned my faith completely in hurt and defiance.
Church was never a place to feel safe for me. I always felt uncomfortable and on guard. Since being in social justice spaces, I have found my spiritual root again. It began by working with people of all backgrounds, and calling violent things what they *were* and what they *are* instead of letting violence define our every day lives. It sprouted from my understanding of Christ as a leader within known historical context. I’m still learning and it’s truly awesome.
The more I learn of Jesus as a man, the more I understand and feel compelled to learn about his context, the more I find leaders throughout time who worked from various embodiments of radical love and actually changed many things for the better. I know many, many people in my community who are these selfish and strong leaders because they genuinely don’t want anyone to suffer or feel without. I also found a deeper connection in the part of my spirituality I could never explain in words, but felt deeply, always, through more indigenous, non-Christian, spiritual beliefs.
We are now, “officially,” in the Christmas season. Within this season we’ve already seen children terrorized with gas while seeking asylum. Similar gas that’s been used in Palestine and various uprisings here in the US, like Standing Rock and Ferguson. It is similar gas activists had to create “first aid” info documents online for, which included items like milk of magnesia because it washes out the searing pain from eyes easier and allows for inflammation to subside to breathe.) Did anyone forget the Christmas story is precisely about two refugees seeking safety elsewhere from their homes to ensure a life for their unborn child?
Meanwhile, just a few days ago, 27 members of a North Carolina Methodist church were arrested for blocking an ICE van after a member of their congregation was apprehended.
In the Netherlands, there is a congregation that has been holding service for 27 days so an Armenian family can’t be deported. Many Muslim organizations have been fundraising and gathering supplies of medical aid and food for refugees. These are folks living in accordance to their faiths. The best thing about most major religions is the common belief in treating others how you treat yourself.
We have a lot of reflecting to do as citizens of earth, and not just our respective little corners of it. If you consider yourself “religious” or not, I implore you question the things you believe and why you believe them. Why do you look up to the people you do? What can you do to be kinder and more just? How can you inspire others to be this way also?
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