Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The God Thing, part 2

Well, I did kinda suggest that I'd have more to say on this topic, didn't I, by putting that "part 1" next to my recent "God Thing" post?

And guess what? I have mixed feelings about continuing on. On the one hand, I said just about everything I want to say about the God Thing in the first post by saying that "I'm happier not using the word 'God'" and that "life just seems much simpler that way." Do I have to explain myself?

On the other hand, of course one short post doesn't begin to touch such a vast and convoluted topic--and by "topic" I don't mean God, but my feelings about God, my current "relationship with God" or understandings of God or beliefs about God, etc.

Maybe thinking about God is complicated for lots of people. For me, it's not just a semantic and theological matter; it's a personal, professional, and vocational matter.

Which reminds me of another piece to add to this exploration of the God Thing--for me the God Thing got inextricably bound up in the "Ordination Thing." And the Ordination Thing meant that for nearly twenty-five years the God Thing was more or less my professional specialty, responsibility, and area of "expertise," if one could ever be considered an expert in God! And over time this grew to feel much more like a burden than a joy or a privilege.

I know it might sound a bit harsh, especially to those who have known me as preacher, priest, and so forth, but here's the deal: The God Thing is just not really "my thing" any more. God was my thing (that is, God, and Jesus, and the Church, by which I mean the Episcopal Church) for more than two decades, although for many of those years I had a pretty strong desire to "try doing something else," though I had no idea just what I meant by when I said that.

That was then; now is now: You could say I'm just not that into God these days.

I'm into life and being alive, and I'm into curiosity, joy and wonder about this world we live in, especially the endlessly fascinating marvels and beauties of the natural world--the small things I see and hear and smell all around me, and the immense things (like solar systems, stars, and the universe) that I can partially see but not hear or smell and can barely understand!

I'm also into art (as you may have guessed--and may I remind you to visit my new website? and to do so often, and to tell your friends, too!), which I see quite frankly as one of the great options of the human species for responding to and celebrating life on this planet.

I credit the poet Gregory Orr for the suggestion that poetry, religion, and philosophy are three parallel strands of humanity's endeavor to make sense of life, survive its tragedies, and celebrate its joys. Of those three, Orr would argue, only lyric poetry puts the personal experience of the human being front and center, rather than bending human experience (or one's interpretation of it) to serve a particular religious or philosophical perspective.

Boy, did that make sense to me when I first read it a few years ago. In fact, that small nugget helped me to understand more fully one reason why I was chafing under the role and responsibilities of being ordained--that I wanted more freedom to use my creativity and self-expression simply to, well, express my self, rather than to be continually submitting myself and my experience and my creative, expressive endeavors to the lens and language and literature of Christianity and to the service of the Church.

A quick search of my bookshelves hasn't turned up my copy of Poetry as Survival in which Orr makes this observation about lyric poetry, religion, and philosophy. What he says there about the centrality of personal experience in lyric poetry seems to me equally true of all kinds of art forms, as long as the artist is not employed directly as a spokesperson or as an illustrator of a religious, philosophical, or political stance of some kind.

About a year and a half ago at an annual Christmas season gathering with old friends, I blurted out a strange and startling declaration: "I no longer wish to be responsible for the meaning of the words I say!" or something like that.

By which I think I was, without fully realizing it, signaling to myself and to others that I was coming to the end of my life as an ordained person. Less than a month later I found myself writing to the bishop to begin the process of renouncing my ordination.

(To be continued, I suppose...)


Anonymous said...

I love your willingness to be vulnerable on the blank page...for you fill it with wisdom. Your website is beautiful by the way.

Sukie Curtis said...

I'm belatedly responding to your comment, Jenny. Thanks!