I’m not sure at what age it was that I stopped believing in the literal salvation by grace story of the Christian orthodoxy[i], fifteen, sixteen…maybe? I’m a natural heretic. The genesis of my beliefs began much earlier, starting with the imaginary friends that whispered in my ear as a child. The big backyard of my early childhood home was a veritable magic kingdom of other worldly playmates. These little beings gave me the gift of natural philosophy, mushrooms and magic, teaching me to weave tapestries of sacred words into incantations that have since become my spiritual lifeblood
I learned to keep my mouth shut at ten years of age, only after I informed the nun teaching my fourth-grade catechism class that the Old testament God and the Christian God seemed to be two different gods and not simply the same one. I thought the old bitch’s head was going to explode. Her demonic fit of apoplexy was terrifying. I knew that I was in trouble, but I scarcely understood why. That evening I pitched a big blue fit of apoplexy of my own that forced my parents to have me transferred to another CCD class. The remainder of the year I was taught by a kindly layperson, who truly loved children. No child wants to spend an afternoon they could be outside playing with a shriveled old woman that enjoyed terrifying children with the woes and sufferings of hell. Hell may stink of sulfur, but so did she.
My innocent observation of dualism was one of the oldest of Christian heresies going back long before there was officially anything remotely akin to the Roman Catholic church that I was being raised in. I seemingly arrived at heresy through my naïve powers of observation. I would be in my early thirties before I heard of Marcion[ii], the second century merchant ship owner, whose name is often given to this heresy. Who knows where children get their ideas? Probably those spiritual playmates of mine.
I allow my teenage self a little too much unwarranted sophistication by claiming to recognize the Greek concept of Logos was not in keeping with the Jewish understanding of Messiah. Protest all they wanted, I was not letting the adults in charge of my spiritual formation off the hook by simply stating that “Christ” is the Greek translation of “Messiah.” True as that is, the Christ of Christianity is not the Messiah of Judaism. There were a couple of teachers in high school that deliberately encouraged my imagination. So, on I went with this heterodox line of thinking.
By then I had lost the ability to hear the voices of my imaginary friends. My proclivity towards animism and pagan forms of religion became sublimated by an interest in the classic philosophy of the Greeks. I also discovered Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. Yet, I’ve always been afflicted by a deeply religious imagination that couldn’t be erased permanently by the French Existentialist philosophers. I found a true kindred spirit in Nikos Kazantzakis, the Greek literary giant. His novels, The Last Temptation of Christ and Saint Francis, gave me the permission I needed to start reimagining my religion.
Kazantzakis gave me the nurturing and carnal Mary Magdalene as an alternate to Mary the Ever-Virgin, eternally weeping for the passion of her son and admonishing Christians everywhere to cleave unto him lest they experience the ultimate separation from God by being cast into hell. I ended up with a confusing shared devotion to both archetypal women. I didn’t realize it then, but experience of divinity was shifting from masculine to feminine. I’m not one of those men that desperately seek the honorary political title of feminist, but the Divine Feminine is a guiding principal of my life. She is my mistress and I am her priest. Bear in mind she chose me and not the other way around. That’s how it works with these things.
My mythology cum theology is an inchoate brand of Christian Animism and Gnostic dualism. I’m a modern pagan in the pews. I speak perfect Christian when I need to. I have a decidedly religious imagination that I have not been able to completely jettison in pursuit of reason. I’ve stopped trying. I’ve decided to use it as I see fit for my own purposes. I’m not just pissing off Christians here. Humanists and atheist types get angry with me too. I’m a card-carrying Humanist as well as a card- carrying Libertarian. If you think this is all pretty much weird bullshit, hold on to your underpants. There’s more. God fucked up. His arrogant creation was the original sin.
My mythology posits that the Serpent in the Garden is a hero for trying to liberate humanity, Noah’s wife burned down that ark – not once, but thrice and Jesus conspires with Judas to fool his followers. My Jesus is an agent of the trickster that floats in spirit above the crucifixion laughing at the useless spectacle of it all. None of this is original[iii]. I’ve stopped trying to be original and started enjoying myself.
The liberator of humanity got mauled by a bear while leaving a trail of breadcrumbs for us to follow him out of the forest. The trick is to find the breadcrumbs in the bear scat. The god of the Church is a lunatic and not the true god that we carry within us. The question isn’t how do we activate divinity within ourselves. No. The question is why did god choose to become us?
I suspect that this personal madness of mine is an attempt to regain connection to the voices of my childhood. The various stories being weaved together – incompatible as many of them are with each other – is my attempt to understand why I’m here in the first place beyond a random act of copulation between my parents[iv]. I’m creating meaning in one of the ways I know how – ritual storytelling.
I’m a liar. I have no intention of telling you the truth here. My purpose is to “unchrist” Jesus before the eyes of your imagination. I want to offer you a different story – a story you can rewrite to suit your own purposes. This is my story. Share it, steal it or write another one for all I care. I’ve already told you that none of this is original. I’ve stolen it all anyway. How long I can escape the notice of our legal system is beyond what I can predict. I’m not that clever. Until then let us begin and enter the dark forest.
I feel no shame in any of this. A healthy lack of shame is liberating. To my way of thinking there is no reason to fear hell. We’re already living there. The Kingdom of freedom lies through the dark woods. I no longer believe in politics nor religion. I do believe in people. If we stop seeing all this name calling in politics and religion as a virtue we might be able to band together long enough to save ourselves. God has forgotten who he or she is -hereafter referred simply as the Ineffable Pronoun of our Choosing or simply, The Pronoun. It is our job to heal The Pronoun and not the other way around. Time to start looking for the bear scat.
If you’ll forgive me for burying the lead, I think we might be ready.
In the beginning, east of Eden, a bored young woman walks naked through a humid garden…
[i] I refer here to the so-called “right thinking” of the mainstream Catholic and Protestant forms of Christianity that includes, but doesn’t single out the Orthodox branch of the Christian Church, i.e. Russian, Greek etc. etc.
[ii] Marcion of Sinope is sometimes grouped together with the so-called “Gnostic” heretics of early Christianity. While his dualist concept of God is similar as well as his view that Jesus was a divine spirit appearing as human vs. the flesh and blood second person of the Holy Trinity, his concepts reached different conclusions. He was eventually excommunicated. Marcion was one of the first to collect the Greek and Hebrew texts to create a canon. It didn’t go too well for him.
[iii] Mine is a veritable mixing and mashing of several heterodox theological mythmaking. I claim none of this as original or anything less than nonsensical horse poo.
[iv] Shortly after we began dating, my girlfriend sent a thank you card to my parents thanking them for having sex, so I could be born. She reminded me of that this morning after I read an early draft of this piece to her.