Today marks the most solemn observance in Christianity, Christ's suffering and death on the cross. Tonight, we attended church, again all donned in black as it was on Ash Wednesday (the night of my infamous ash smudge) where we heard Luke's account of the Passion (Luke the Apostle, not my son, would have his own, more colorful account of the Passion.) and I must say, one hell of a sermon about Jonah once again acting like a selfish fucktard when God sent him a bush under which to shade himself, but had worms destroy it overnight, then Jonah bitched about how uncomfortable the weather was and how he just wanted to die, a very selfish and egotistical view of the gift of his life given to him by God, even though he was a prophet. Pastor talked about how Jonah was only concerned with himself, not with the Ninehvites, and I was reminded of the dozens of times I nearly died in the last couple of years, and how I had been asking God to just call me Home already, ignoring God's plans for me and my future. It hit home. God gave me a gift, the gift of life, and continues to give me that gift, despite my many (recent) brushes with Heaven. I still have a purpose to serve, and I know what it is, it's just a matter of getting the education completed to do it. I couldn't help but loop this song through my head during that part of the sermon, which is all about the soul's fight with the ego (no, Pastor didn't get into Freud):
There was no Communion. That was last night, in honor of The Last Supper. Instead, we each walked to the front of the church and hammered a nail in a giant wooden cross, and I did so without smashing my hands, which was a very good thing. It was to remind us of our own personal responsibility as sinners in the death of Christ. The church lights were dimmed to darkness, the sanctuary lit only by the candles in front, as we said The Lord's Prayer. We left in silence and darkness, reflective. Repentant. Sorrowful. We heard the Epistles and Gospel about Christ's final day, and sang hymns appropriate for the evening. Personally, at home, we didn't eat meat today (which is fine by me, even encouraged, and honestly, I sort of fasted all day, eating very little, but hell, that's most days with me). Even with all of my religious irreverence, I am reverent (as much as possible) today.
(I think I promised not to say "fuck" on Facebook today, though I did say "bullshit," with regard to an article from a hugely right-wing conservative "Christian" web site, Focus on the Family, that was gay-bashing and I got into fistacuffs with another mom at the school/church, who's happy that her kindergartener is going to be taught that homosexuality is a SIN and a CHOICE THAT SHOULD BE AVOIDED AT ALL COSTS! at the Lutheran school Luke attends. The same school/church I, my brother, and my mother attended. Focus on the Family was founded by Dr. James Dobson, who was sort of like Jim Jones, without the killer Kool-Aid.)
All I wanted to do was comment on bullying, the point of the title of the article, but when I read the article, it was about how there's supposedly a rogue group of pro-homosexuality activists who infiltrate public schools and teach, gasp, tolerance towards gays, bi-sexuals and transgenders, in addition to anti-bullying "propaganda". Before reading the article and seeing it was from Focus on the Family, I simply commented back to the mom's heading of something like "Great reason for homeschooling or parochial schools," that even in the parochial school, my son endured bullying for upwards of 4 years, without any punishment/suspension of the perpetrators, which I was, frankly, angered by, as the school purports to have a zero-tolerance policy towards bullying. The mom said something to the effect of "Surely there must be other redeeming qualities about the parochial school for you to keep your child there," and there are. That's his 2nd home, just like it's mine, and Luke's been uprooted and transitioned enough due to divorce and circumstance that we didn't feel that moving him to another school would be good for him. I did say, however, that my child happens to be gifted (as per his teacher and therapist, and us) and that honestly, he'd probably receive a better education in the local public school, but that we were leaving him at St. Paul until he graduates 8th grade. He's knee deep in his Confirmation class at this point anyway, and the school is good for him. I *do* want him to receive a Christian education, but I just can't stand idly by while he's taught that homosexuality is a choice or a sin. His father and I don't think that way at all.
In fact, regarding his Confirmation, Luke said that he's choosing to be confirmed and to become a member of our church, full-fledged. He told one of his friends at school, who doesn't want to become confirmed, that while they had no choice but to be baptized as babies, Confirmation is a choice and re-affirms their faith in God. I thought that was a mature, thoughtful answer Luke gave his friend, who's a complete imbecile anyway. I didn't tell him that "membership" in our church really just sort of means, in addition to the rights and privileges of being Lutheran, that you get offering envelopes and are expected to contribute weekly, and can vote in voter's meetings. Apart from that, I don't see much difference. He can already take Communion and worship freely.
But I digress.
Regarding the anti-homosexual crapola this woman started spouting, I said, "PS--We, his parents, teach him that homosexuality isn't a choice, it's how you were born and to be accepting of others just as Christ was, not condemning of others, which isn't a very Christian way of raising a child." The article that incensed me so can be found at: http://www.citizenlink.com/2010/06/11/parents-beware-%E2%80%9Canti-bullying%E2%80%9D-initiatives-are-gay-activists%E2%80%99/. What can I say about this particular school/church mom? We don't exchange pleasantries at school. I don't even really know her, though I remember her husband attending St. Paul since he was a child, like I did. Her mother-in-law, why she was Facebook friends with me to begin with, I don't know, unfriended me when she found out I was an anarchist. She probably confused the word with "antichrist" because she asked me if the anarchists were praying for me during my chronic illness. Yes, as a matter a fact, many of them were/are.)
Her next comment indicated that homosexuality and, surprise! alcoholism are both "diseases OF CHOICE." Homosexuality is not a disease recognized by the Centers for Disease Control nor the psychological DSM-IV. Alcoholism, on the other hand, is, by both. I pointed her in the direction of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, the chapter on "Why We Were Chosen." I doubt highly that she's sharp enough to read it, but at least I gave it a shot. The mom said in her last comment," I disagree. I believe homosexuality is like alcoholism, a "disease" to which some are more prone than others. However, like alcoholism, it's still a choice. A wrong choice, as I believe the Bible teaches. I can hate the sin while loving the sinner, just as Christ did. He still told people when they were sinning, that what they were doing was wrong."
My sponsor couldn't wait to see what I retorted with to cast off this ignoramus who clearly has no concept of Christianity, homosexuality or the disease of addiction. I'm still awaiting a reply. I didn't set out to be an alcoholic--it wasn't a choice--or to become a drug addict. Yes, you make poor choices WHEN you're intoxicated or high, but you don't wake up one day and say to yourself, "You know, one of my goals in life is to have an incurable disease. I think I'm going to drink liquor until I pickle my liver and hope I don't die!" To call homosexuality a "disease" is just ludicrous. Some people prefer cats to dogs. Some people prefer men to women, and vice versa. They're born that way, as created by God, and God loves them just the same as the straight folks. End of story.
Then later today, this mutual friend of my sponsor, an African-American guy who grew up Lutheran and went to high school with her, who's converted to Judaism, ruffled both my sponsor's and my feathers today. He posted today that he doesn't support Good Friday or Easter because they were, in his opinion, "pagan holidays." Gave him a royal bitch slap today, quoting from Paul's letter to the Romans. If he's a Jew, he does a shitty job of tolerance and love for others. For the time being, I shut him up too, though he thinks I only hear my own voice in my head and not that of God's, to which I disagreed. My sponsor stayed out of the end of the argument (she probably went to bed) but this dude sent me a long, supposedly Jewish diatribe about how Christians should celebrate Passover and how Easter is heathen and how we shouldn't rely on all that crazy New Testament stuff. He really needs to read the New Testament, this fellow. Did Jesus celebrate Passover? Of course he did, he was Jewish. The closest thing the Jews have to the "pagan" celebration of Easter is their spring holiday of Purim, when they themselves decorate elaborate baskets full of goodies. To me, that's just as, if not more, extreme paganism than the idea of Easter baskets and colored eggs. (By the way, I'm putting a fresh bottle of Krazy Glue and a mini tape gun, as well as camouflage duct tape in Luke's Easter basket, and not a lot of candy, for I was feeling practical this year. Oh! And a "Save Ferris" t-shirt since he's finally seen "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," and is now enlightened in 80's pop culture.)
There is an Easter vigil on Saturday night, which I don't attend. I'm not sure what happens at it, as I've never been. The altar-stripping is a whole separate event, usually done as a service, apparently, though my mom is going to church tomorrow morning to help out with changing the altar linens and decorate the church for Easter.
I wait until Easter morning, when we return to an all-white adorned church full of lilies and tulips and white paraments and a crown of white flowers on the cross instead of a crown of thorns, and it's magnificent. The veil is taken off of the crucifix in the front of the church. It's the highest holy day in Christianity, and "He is Risen!" is exclaimed like 20 times, and we eat breakfast and can say "Hallelujah" again after abstaining from the word for the Lenten season (except when I'm listening to "My Sweet Lord," of course). It's so joyful it's tear-jerking, but in a good way. (Though at church, admittedly, I started getting choked up during the Lord's Prayer when the lights went out.)
I sort of missed the traditional Tenebrae service that was tradition at St. Paul, where the seven last words of Christ are recited, and each of the 7 candles lit in the front of the sanctuary are extinguished one-by-one. Our new pastor didn't do it that way, though his service was really moving and wonderful and we finished our series on Jonah.
I was thinking about Christ's crucifixion and suffering, while pondering the concept of karma, which is *not* one of the beliefs in the Christian church. But by golly, I wish it was. Because it makes a helluva lot of sense.
I thought about George Harrison's song "The Art of Dying," which is about preparing yourself spiritually for your death on Earth, life-death-reincarnation-and the soul's aspiration to become a perfect entity, which in Heaven, the soul is. No, I don't really believe in reincarnation. I do believe, however, that our souls existed long before we took on human form, and that God chose our souls to become bodies to be born to our parents in His time and through His will, not ours, and not by happenstance. Whether or not our souls took on other forms before we became people, I'm not sure and no one can answer that question for me. It's a mystical conundrum. If I had a previous life, it must have been a bitch for me to be reincarnated as Andrea Miklasz, which is why I'm growing ever-more God-conscious, so I don't, if reincarnation DOES exist, have to come back AGAIN and go through all this bullshit. The souls of the saved go directly to paradise. The rest, according to Christianity, go to Hell. What was it Milton said in "Paradise Lost?"
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heav'n of hell, a hell of heav'n.
But look at it this way: Which came first? The seed that grows into the tree, which bears more seeds, which grows more trees, on and on, in the laws of action-reaction, or the tree itself? The only escapism from the chain of karma in that instance is to roast the seed so it can't germinate again or to burn the tree down.
Harrison points out that it's only possible to attain becoming that perfect entity after we die if we reach a certain spiritual level with God, and that the spiritual masters (i.e. Jesus) take on the suffering of their disciples and followers, as Christ did on the cross, so that we might be saved from the concentric circle of karma. Your whole life is trying to untie knots and every time you untie one, 20 more appear that need to be undone. Through Christ, however, we don't have to spend our entire physical lives trying to untie those knots--He untied them for us through his suffering and Resurrection.
The "Art of Dying" is really about preparing for your death throughout your whole life, spiritually. The need to stay connected to God, not just at your final hour when you're scrambling for your salvation, but on a daily basis. Not just as you observe Good Friday and remember the death of our Savior, but every day. You don't want to be on your death bed wishing you'd spent more time in church, or reading your Bible, or praying. That's why it's important to be God-conscious every day in this life. Hence, there's an "art" of dying. Do you believe me?
Christ's resurrection is the highest celebration in the Christian church. I just found my bracelet that says "He is Risen!" and quotes Luke 24:34, when Christ appeared to Simon Peter and, while it's rubber and too big for me, I'll leave on for some undetermined amount of time.