why I love religion and how I love Jesus…

For the last couple of weeks I’ve heard about a young christian poet who’s made a video I’ve seen titled Jesus>Religion or “Why I hate Religion but love Jesus.” I won’t post the video. This isn’t really about the video, merely some thoughts on what it brought up for me. I won’t criticize the poet’s theology or his rhyme scheme or his delivery. As a poet I can tell you that taking “criticism” on my work is hard to hear in a medium as intimate as poetry. In fact, it’s hard for me to take criticism on my faith as well. It, too, is an intimate thing.

Which leads me to my thoughts about the video gone viral this week.

I am religious. I have a religion and in fact I like it a lot. I’m not sure whether or not it’s one of the “false” religions this poet speaks of in the brief description on the youtube video, but he didn’t title his poem, “why I hate false religions” and so I have to assume he says what he means here.

For the last year or so I’ve been becoming Eastern Orthodox. It’s quite a departure for a liberal lass such as myself. It has been difficult. This religion is precise, it is steeped in history and tradition. It is immersive and often unyielding. I call it my “big rubber room religion.” No matter how I bounce around the room holds me, keeps me safe and I want that, I need that. From the outside it appears to be a religion of rules, often hard to understand, hard to embrace. While I’m certain my priest would disagree with me I’d say it probably doesn’t suit everyone. For me, Orthodoxy is as close to running away to become a monk as I will ever be able to come.

If you want a service that’s convenient, comfortable and part coffee shop then you’d be disappointed at Divine Liturgy. If you are female and want to be a priest you won’t be joining the Eastern Orthodox church. If you are gay, your love life will not be sanctioned.

Why would anyone like me enter a tradition such as this? My equal rights leaning, high church loving self would be better suited as an Epicospalian. My mystical Holy Ghosty self would be better off in a pentecostal church. My structure bucking, inner punk rocker would be best served in a non-denominational setting.

Been there. Done that.

And then one day I listened in on a lunchtime conversation between a poet who happens to be Orthodox and a few other people and something shifted in my soul because I was so alone and because I was so tired of the ways of the world. I was desperate for a place, a big rubber room, for religion. I wanted to be religious again. As he spoke about his faith I weighed what I knew of him already, his own liberal leanings, his deep and moving poetry, his kindness in our communications in the previous year.

I thought to myself, just then, “I want this too. I want this faith, this tradition.” At that point I had to excuse myself and leave the table because when deep stuff hits me, things I have to pay attention to, I cry. So I went off and thought and prayed and cried and journaled. “I want this too. I want this faith, this tradition. This religion.”

The road has been bumpy since then, I won’t lie. I have a lot of questions. I will always have a lot of questions but this is my road and it is religious and I do love it.

4 comments:

  1. I love it too! And the prayers echo in my heart. It won’t be long Angela…..not nearly as long as it has been. God bless you.

  2. Hi, Angela. I’m working my way through your book, Nearly Orthodox, on Audible as I drive to work each morning. I really enjoy it. I have been an inquirer into Orthodoxy for a few years now, though I am not actively attending a parish. There is a small OCA mission about 70 miles away, and a Greek church about 30 miles away that I haven’t visited yet. My husband is not interested in converting from his lapsed Protestant faith. I stopped attending the mission when the priest retired and they went back to reader’s services.

    Anyway. I struggle with the Orthodox stances on social issues, though I am deeply drawn to the faith, traditions, and practices of the Church. I have many gay friends (in fact, I am bisexual, though I married a man), am pro-choice, and I have a close relative who died by suicide. All of these issues weigh heavily on my mind as I consider attending liturgy again. I know and appreciate the Orthodox teachings against judging others. I like that this faith is very personal. I just wonder what you would say to someone in my shoes.

    Thanks for your blog and your books, and best wishes to you.

    1. Hi Jennifer-
      I can understand your apprehension on the social issues. The Orthodox church as a whole tends to take a very traditional stance on social issues so I get it. I’m aligned in much the same ways you are, and it’s a struggle for me, I admit. I think what is comforting to me is to have a place to work out the struggle, with people I trust. I had to find smart and loving Orthodox people on all sides of social issues in order to enter into Orthodoxy with integrity, and I’m glad to say I did find them. I do not see eye to eye with all the people all the time but that’s to be expected in any setting. Community is really vital in this and a good relationship with a spiritual father is necessary.
      In all, I like to consider that the Orthodox faith is about practice and prayer (as you said, it’s very personal) and the church itself is about relationship and being in community. I pray that you’ll find people to walk alongside in this and I hope this little rambling answer gives some help at least in the meantime 🙂
      -adc

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