Oh lawdy…I’m so tired of politics this Friday night. Let us discuss a less controversial subject. Like, say, religion.
October 4th was The Feast of St. Francis in the Catholic and Anglican/Episcopal Calendar, which (I’ve decided without his input.) is a very important day in my trusty dog’s life. More on that in a minute.
I happen to be Episcopal by default. I come from a long line of devout Episcopalians.Most 3rd or 4th or 8th generation devout Episcopalians know the label is an oxymoron. I can confirm this via observation in the field. Church going is usually an intermittent habit for most. My natural bent in youth was toward a Buddhism that invited desire. Which is to say I wanted things but needed an avenue to eliminate the alleged pain of wanting things. I discovered early this misses the point of Buddhism. So, still wanting things, I quit that. Plus I got bored. So much sitting still. Yikes!
Later, I began to miss the big show on Sunday morning. I wandered back to the denomination of my youth. Now I attend at a fine old church in a my neighborhood with a high mass, a choir that routinely leaves me awestruck, and a broad, messy congregation of Korean and West African immigrants, an elderly white contingent, and a smattering of gay men. I usually join them on Sunday morning for catholic calisthenics. Sit, stand, sing kneel, sit, kneel, stand, sing, walk to alter, kneel, stand, sing, sit…leave.
The more liberal episcopal church is not a perfect fit but I like it. No religion is ever a perfect for a questioner. For example I realize now that social justice Jesus misses the point every bit as much as superhero Jesus. So I just ignore social justice Jesus sermons. Ignoring is a hard won skill….and I’ve won it. I suppose when the Episcopal church is down to its last few thousand adherents social justice Jesus will be reimagined again. Hopefully the rebooted Jesus will have a little more muscularity and a lot less gooey, hippie nonsense. I’m pretty sure Jesus didn’t vote for Eugene McCarthy or participate in Hands Across America. The reporting we have on the man indicates his community organizing consisted mostly of inviting 12 dudes to ditch the well established communities they were already in. Wandering into town and telling 12 men to abandon everyone and everything to hike around the desert with a stranger is not in the community organizers’ handbook. (Sorry kids, Obama has nothing in common with Jesus.)
No offense to Siddhartha but it turns out Jesus is a much more interesting and demanding character too. As with Mr. Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Cleopatra it’s impossible to get anywhere near the totality of Jesus’ personality. I don’t mean to fictionalize Jesus (But you’re certainly welcome to.) but to point out that we know about these “characters” exists exclusively via words on a page and yet they always surprise. They are never boxed in by the fads of the moment. There will never be a perfect Hamlet. Hamlet explains the actor playing him, not the other way round. No actress will ever fully capture the volatile intelligence of Cleopatra. It is simply too large. And the Jesus of the synoptic gospels is always bigger and more surprising than those who preach about him. I like this. It’s demanding. Mostly it demands awe, a very underrated state of being.
I almost never write about my church going because it’s nearly always off topic. It’s personal to an unseemly degree and a bit dull frankly. Every few months I feel compelled to- and now I have. In January or so I’ll probably do it again. The truth is that the excessive expulsion above is entirely a set up for me to state that Sunday is the blessing of the animals at many churches, mine included. It pleases me no end to bring Bob Barker to church. He seems to love it each year as well. It’s funny what one finds joy in as one gets older. Seeing my dog sitting in a pew in a grand old church is one of my favorite events of the year. So hats off to St. Francis, who was kind enough, or cranky enough, or wise enough to spend most of his time with animals.