Tag Archives: religion

symmetry

In religion today, we talked about intuitively spiritual events — the clash of the mundane with the divine which creates religion. My professor tells me that religious experience doesn’t necessarily have to be reasonable. Actually, in the reading we’re doing right now, Rudolph Otto says human nature is inherently unreasonable (if I’m interpreting this correctly…). It’s strange to hear an academic speaking of religion in a way that isn’t concrete in the slightest; it’s frightening and comforting at once, if that’s possible.

On the one hand, it scares me because I am forced to accept that there may be facets of the human experience that cannot be explained by reason. It scares me to know that my professor, who has been in school longer than I have been alive, is telling me that I can’t reason my way into religious thought. I suddenly feel like everything is unstable and the floor was ripped out from beneath me. How am I supposed to wrap my head around this?

But my professor said once, “faith without doubt is madness. A mature faith can ask these questions.” Again, I don’t know what I am growing faith in, but I wonder if I am beginning to feel those inklings of intuition again that will eventually tip the first domino. It shows up when I take a moment to look at the symmetry in my life.

Really, it’s scary, although maybe it’s completely inconsequential. But how can I explain the prevalence of the number ’27’ on significant occasions in my life?
Or the ending of two sub-par relationships in the exact same place.
Or the fact that I now spend significant amounts of time each week at one of the first places I ever visited in Athens — a place I never thought I would return to.
Or my sharing a name (first or last) with people who eventually replace me.
Or the way my life seems to run parallel to another’s without either of our meaning for it to.

I’m running the risk of being cliche by posting this song, but…oh well. I can’t help loving Conor. And anyway, with this small bit of introspection I think I’ve earned some shallow interpretation of the title of a Bright Eyes song.

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Grandma’s Golden Jesus

I was raised as a Catholic. I went to Catholic elementary school and attended youth group at church every Wednesday night until I was in eighth grade. Sometime during my sophomore year of high school though, I began to fall away from what I had always believed. By my senior year, I had lost my religion. I can’t be sure of exactly what happened to my faith, whether it was scared away by some skeptical thought of reason or by my own individual, mortal pride. I began to quietly laugh at my faithful peers, mostly wondering what they actually thought of a God who would allow such bad things to happen to people the way they do.

So when my mom told the family over dinner about my grandmother’s trip to a house in Missouri that was hosting Mary and Jesus every Thursday, I couldn’t help laughing at the image of my 63-year-young grandmother puffing away on a cigarette and asking with the most sincerity and a huge smile, “well, where’s Mother Mary?” only to be told that Mother Mary had indeed arrived but my grandmother had just missed her.

I decided to give Grandma Cindy a call just to see what this was all about, and after thirty minutes of her assuring me that I’m too good for any boyfriend, and her heartfelt warnings against “those fraternity boys,” I got her to begin her story. Apparently Mary and Jesus have been appearing all over the world, warning people that God is angry with humanity, and that is the real cause of global warming. She swore that the silver crucifix on her rosary has turned gold after visiting Mary, and she assures me that she will send it to me as proof as soon as I know the address of my dorm at UGA.

Now with all the babble about the end of the world and how angry God is with mankind these days, I hardly need to say how quickly I disregard these warnings (immediately). But the messages this incarnation of Mary has for the world are simple: love God and love each other.

I hung up with my grandma feeling less sure of any position on religion I might have had. Unlike my mom’s hysterical portrayal of my grandma’s reactions, the conversation wasn’t at all funny. She really did believe this.

I envy my grandmother’s faith, not in that she has a close relationship with God, but just that she believes in the possibility of a relationship with God. And I can see clearly now the comfort that religion can bring. It’s a kind of other-worldly comfort that is fleeting in everyday life, and while I can’t yet grasp the security of it myself, I can be assured of its existence in the shiny reflection of light cast by the gold Jesus on the end of a silver rosary.

Christmahanakwanzika to the Tunes of Sufjan Stevens OR Girl in Transition

Just press play and start reading. It’s only background music. I wish I could figure out how to post music on here.

No es mina; es de Flickr.

In Humanities today, we were talking about Early Christian, Jewish, and Byzantine art. My humanities teacher is Jewish, so naturally when we got into the specifics of Judaism, the class bombarded him with questions about his personal faith. My teacher is notoriously blunt and sarcastic. I’m just throwing that out there. But he was very patient with all of these questions and even had a sense of humor with his answers: “The Jews are still waiting for the coming of the Messiah. The Christians are waiting for the second coming.”

I know the basics of Judaism, sure. It’s a monotheistic religion. It’s the religion of Jesus. They have bar-mitzvahs and break glasses at weddings and wear yamakas and…don’t eat pigs, or something. I don’t really know that much. Something about what my teacher said about Jews waiting for the Messiah was very intriguing to me for a couple different reasons:

  1. The concept of Jesus has baffled me even from the beginning. I was never a huge fan of Jesus. I liked God better. I felt like Jesus was just a middle man who slowed my prayers’ deliveries to God and I didn’t know why my religion teachers at school always told me to talk to Jesus.
  2. The Jews believe that the Messiah is still on [his?] way. That means he can show up at any moment and turn the world on its head.

I used to be a very devout Catholic. I went to Catholic school for four years, which is probably why I was so devout. But the issue I’ve had with Catholicism from the beginning is the sense of grandeur that is placed on these rituals without much reasoning or explanation behind them. I would ask questions in my catechism classes on Sunday mornings but my teachers would just say “That’s the way it is. You just have to believe.” And, okay. I know the whole walk by faith, not by sight thing is a virtue and all, but that kind of concept didn’t really work for me. I’ll admit that there are moments in time and experiences and locations that are just so surreal and ethereal that I can’t help wondering if something beyond this world had a hand in creating it. I won’t deny that. So where did my awe of God go? It’s still there, I suppose, just in less words. I have an awe of the cyclical, self-sufficient, and ongoing nature of life in general. I trust the universe. I believe in something: maybe it’s God, but it doesn’t have a name right now. It’s just a force that cradles everyone and everything and connects us all to each other and delegates justice to everyone.

I was so intrigued by the conversation about Judaism today because of the two reasons above. For a minute, it seemed to me like Judaism really had something there. They’re not huge fans of Jesus either! It’s almost like getting all the perks of being a Christian, minus the obnoxious Bible-thumping and Jesus..stuff. And factor in the benefits of being part of God’s “chosen” people and I was like “Yeah, Mr. Broda. I like this.No, I don’t plan on converting to Judaism, at least not any time soon. But I was interested. Am interested. The only thing is that you are still committing to the basic outline of Christianity, especially the specific God part and all that, which I may become more comfortable with as I get older. I really think that this weird pagan-agnostic-ish phase that I’m going through is just that: a rebellious teenage phase. But, onward.

The other very intriguing part about the class today (what my teacher said about Jews waiting for the Messiah) got me thinking. If some guy just walked into the classroom and said “Hey everyone, I’m the Messiah. I’m here to save your souls and stuff,” I would probably think that he is crazy. Wouldn’t you? We’ve all heard about crazy men who claim that they are the Messiah. So if the Messiah really did come, there would have to be something about him that would make others around him realize that he was for real. Like some kind of magnetic forcefield around him that infected all electronics and made them go crazy. Whatever it was, it would definitely have to be this infectious thing that everyone could feel and know instantly that he was the one. How else would he take over the world? (religiously, of course)

It would have to be a love-at-first-sight kind of thing. Not literally. But you know. You see someone and you just know that that person is going to change your life. How many times in a lifetime does that happen? Our experiences shape us every day into the people we will be; into the people we are. And the people we are close to do the same. Imagine a person who has changed the course of your life and think back to the moment that you met. I have the moment fresh in my mind. I remember how cold and tired and fed up with everything I was. I thought nothing of such a meaningless encounter with a seemingly arrogant person. I had no idea, though, how the course of my life had just irrevocably shifted direction.

So what about the coming of the first (or second) Messiah? Will we know that it’s him? Will we feel something instantly as a homogeneous human population, as one being? Or will we pass him off as another crazy [wo]man? It’s been my experience, at least, that that very first moment will feel insignificant and fleeting but as time passes the value of that moment will ripen into precious nostalgic value.

It’s weird to think about the coming of a person who will change your world forever. Because after you meet this person, you can’t imagine how you ever managed to live your life alone.