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.