Category Archives: city bus

living for god

you may (or may not) remember when a couple of months back, a young woman boarded the bus i take daily to work, and proceeded to give her testimony about her relationship with jesus christ. at the time, i thought it was touching, especially because at the end of her spiel, she prayed for the bus passengers. even though i no longer believe as she does, i appreciated her sincerity, and as we got off at the same stop, i thanked her for her prayer.

fast forward to this morning’s bus ride. after the bus pulled up to the stop she was at, this same young woman handed out religious tracts to each person getting off. (the stop happened to be at a church ministry that provides free breakfasts every morning, and there are a number of regular riders who get off here daily for that reason). i thought, ‘uh oh, here we go again…,’ and yes, after she paid her fare, she passed out tracts to those of us remaining on the bus… except to me, but only because i politely refused. and then she proceeded to deliver a little sermonette about living for god.

i only caught bits and pieces of what she was saying, because i was trying to listen to a podcast on gnosticism (would this be called irony?). however, the gist of it was the usual ‘if you’re not living for god, you’re going to hell’. and, on one level, i can appreciate what she was saying, because i’ve been in that place. i’ve been where i earnestly believed that anyone who had not accepted jesus christ as their personal lord and savior was going to hell. therefore, i believed that people like gandhi and mother teresa were in hell because they were not born-again christians, but someone like jeffrey dahmer was in heaven, even after the horrible things he did, because reportedly he had accepted christ into his heart before being murdered in prison. forgive me, y’all, but this is rather fucked up theology. a person such as gandhi, whose life was dedicated to the betterment of humanity, is currently being tormented by demons for all eternity because he chose not to believe that the jewish version of a myth was a series of historical events? seriously? and you do realize that christianity really is little more than the jewish adaptation of myths revolving around various sun gods (and related goddesses, who are strangely missing in the christianized version) dating centuries before the time jesus was said to have walked the earth. the major difference between the christianized version and earlier versions is that, due to various power plays between political factions at that time, people were convinced (basically by the sword) that this jesus character was real. (and i mean no disrespect when i say ‘jesus character’.)

if there is anyone reading this who has known me for many years, but not had any real interaction with me, you are probably rather shocked at this point. a number of you know that i spent (or as i like to say, wasted) many years believing and living this. jesus was my life. i lived in what you might call a christian ghetto: i worked full-time in a christian bookstore, was deeply involved in a church (or two), all my social interaction was with other born-again christians, and i was afraid (i didn’t realize it at the time, but it all boiled down to fear) to scarcely listen to anything that wasn’t ccm (contemporary christian music) or even drink something as innocent as a watered down wine cooler.

what gradually but ultimately changed things for me first was developing close friendships with people who didn’t have such a narrow view of what it meant to love god, people who helped me to see that what i was really doing was ‘churchianity’. also, after moving away from columbia in 2000, i read a book that removed the foundation from under my feet, ‘why christianity must change or die’ by bishop john shelby spong. actually the first time i tried to read it, it made me so angry, i couldn’t finish it. i couldn’t believe this so-called bishop was saying all these ‘untrue’ things about what i had staked my life on. for some reason though, a few months later i tried it again, and got angry again, but for a different reason. this time i was pissed because i realized that i had been lied to for pretty much all my life. however, the unanswerable question was, whom should i be pissed at? i couldn’t be mad at the people who taught me this stuff, because they were only teaching me what they had been taught, and what their teachers had been taught. and it seemed pretty pointless to get mad at an institution. i remember right after finishing the book, i said to god, aloud, ‘all i want to know is the truth.’ and i swear, i heard a voice in my head say, ‘now we can begin.’ and my life has not been the same.

i’ve been through a lot spiritually, and religion-wise, between then and now. (spirituality and religion are not the same thing; trust me.) i’ve studied various world religions, some more deeply than others to be sure, but i’ve noticed they’re all basically pointing at the same thing. the problem with most religion is that people get hung up on the thing doing the pointing instead of paying attention to the ‘object’ (for lack of a better word) being pointed at. (not gonna use the finger pointing at the moon quote here, not gonna do it…) a couple of people who have met me in the last few years have accused me of being an atheist, just so i can ‘get away with’ doing whatever i want. nobody gets away with anything, but that’s a whole ‘nuther piece of writing. i’m not an atheist because i don’t believe the bible literally anymore. (actually i’m not an atheist, period.) my belief about the bible, and, by extension, about jesus, is that although the bible is true, it is far from being factual. it, along with other religious texts, is a collection of stories about the human condition, about how to (and how not to) treat others, and about ways to find deeper meaning in life. and that deeper meaning does not consist of literally believing that a man born of a virgin was sent from heaven to die for your sins so you don’t have to. that’s what my problem is with the young woman on the bus this morning. i know where her head is at, because i’ve been there. but she’s got to get outside her own head somehow, and see the bigger picture. she, and all of us, can embrace the experiences that brought her to this point in her life, but she needs to know that there’s more to this life than keeping people out of a literal hell.

maybe this life here on earth would be a little bit less hell-ish if we stopped to realize that there are as many ways to live for god as there are people on this planet.

(this post is an adaptation of a note i posted on facebook earlier today.)

Advertisements

mixed reaction

i hate to actually say this out loud (or type it, as it were), but is god trying to get my attention? first there was the cross dream from the other night. i didn’t feel bad about the conversation i had with ‘jesus’ in the dream (and still don’t). but i (foolishly) wonder if what happened this morning on the bus is somehow related to the dream, and if so, what message might god be trying to send me.

if he is trying to get my attention, i don’t believe the message is as obvious as the casual observer to the whole thing might think. here’s what happened: a cute young lady of color, probably in her early 20s, boarded the bus and paid her fare, while casually chatting with the driver. i didn’t think anything of that, but realize now that she was probably asking permission for what she was about to do. there were no seats on the bus, so she stood at the front, and asked how everybody was doing this morning. most everyone replied with some version of ‘fine’ or ‘good’ or ‘blessed’. then she asked if anybody on the bus needed prayer, to which no one responded, so she then said, ‘well, i’m gonna pray for y’all anyway, that god will provide whatever it is that you need.’ and then she started preaching, about how god had done so much for her, and for all of us, and how if we’re not living for god, we’re going to hell. then she prayed aloud, that basically everyone on the bus would repent and be saved, if they weren’t already. most of the people on the bus had their heads bowed and eyes closed (but not me). at the end of the prayer, ‘in jesus’ name’ of course, she thanked us for her time and was silent for the rest of her time on the bus.

so, my reaction to this? first i was pissed off that she was intruding into my thought space. plus, how dare she assume that everyone on the bus believes the same way she does. the majority of passengers on this particular route are black, which as a racial group tend to be pretty religious on the xtian side of things, so that was a safe bet for her, but still. i was pissed, especially when she started talking about living for god, and hell. i wanted to exclaim, like i did in my dream, ‘it’s all a fucking metaphor!’ then i calmed myself down by thinking about this being a blue/amber thing, and considered that maybe she is at a point in her life where she needs this belief structure to make sense of her world. maybe god, as she sees ‘him’, really has rescued her from some bad situations or a bad lifestyle, and feels that everyone else ought to know all the good god has done for her and could do for them. i get that. i was certainly as zealous as she, especially about not wanting folks to go to hell, when i first became a born-again christian back in 1985. so i could respect that and started being a little less pissed.

once she started praying, i felt tears well up in my eyes. actually, i suddenly had this huge urge to just start bawling my eyes out. what stopped me was the fact that i ride this bus daily, and while i see most of these people every day, we’re mostly essentially strangers. yes, i was worried about what they would think of me. then, even while she spoke, i was trying to figure out why her praying affected me so. one conclusion i came to was that it touched me that someone cared enough to pray for me, and the other people on the bus, all strangers to her. she put herself out there for us, and seemed quite sincere about it.

on another level, i think god, not big daddy god in the sky, but the ground of all being, used this incident to get my attention. over the last few months, i’ve not done much praying or meditation or even study of spiritual matters. it’s not that i need to go live in an ashram or a convent, but just that i do need to remember the divinity present in all people and things. today on facebook, one of my friends posted a link saying something about ‘if you want to see the fingerprint of god, look at a godly man or woman.’ i say (and almost commented to him), if you want to see the fingerprint of god, look at the person right in front of you, ‘godly’ in the world’s eyes or not. here’s a controversial thought: even hitler is a part of the fingerprint of god. (stay with me here: i’m just considering the idea that god encompasses all things, good and evil, and that evil, in its own way, is nothing more – and nothing less – than god’s shadow side.)

so, i am eating the fish i need and spitting out the bones from this encounter. when i got off the bus, i surprisingly (to me) thanked her for her prayer and her heart. (her response? ‘praise god!) i’m taking this as a reminder to pay attention to the divinity i see all around, even during mundane activities such as my morning commute. and i pray that god/the universe/the ground of all being will use this young woman to bring more light into the world, and that she will grow into an ever-expanding knowledge of who and what god really is (and isn’t).

dreams and waking nightmares

maybe i’m not as enligtened and open-minded as i thought. this morning on the city bus on the way to work, a young male passenger of middle-eastern descent boarded the bus. he had a couple of rather large bags with him, and was acting odd. after he sat down, making a commotion in the process, he was talking to himself, even laughing to himself, and he changed seats a couple of times. i was fully expecting to hear ‘allah akbar’ at any moment, a loud boom, and then a fade to white. i sat there thinking, well, i’m ready to die, if something should actually happen right now, yeah, there are things i regret not doing, but i feel good for the most part about the life i’ve lived. however, he got off a couple of stops before i did, and yes, i breathed a sigh of relief.

i feel bad for feeling this way, for assuming because of his appearance and actions that the united states was going to have its very first suicide bomber right here in little ol’ kcmo. i guess i’m letting the media get to me. however, this does help me to empathize with the people of israel, iraq, and other middle eastern countries, who have to go through the fear of someone blowing up their bus every single day, when they are simply trying to get to work and make a living (if they even have a job).

*****

yesterday i made my semi-annual trek to the prophecy room at the ihop (international house of prayer). it wasn’t as thought provoking for me as my last trip there, but it was still interesting. the main thing that sticks out is that one of the women who spoke over me told me that i was ‘of sound mind’ (which is always good to hear) and that god was ready to share more things with me ‘like deep calling unto deep’. i also got the impression that i’m supposed to talk more about these things, but i’m not sure in what capacity. i’m not the person to stand up in front of large (or even small) groups of people and talk. but i’m not closing anything off either, especially because of my current inner debate between library school vs. seminary. so we’ll see.

maybe or maybe not related, saturday night i had another freaky ass dream, not unlike this dream. i was visiting my family in columbia, and i was on a hill, overlooking the columbia skyline (which in reality consists of nothing but a water tower and a couple of smoke stacks). i was thinking of how i like living in kc because of all the tall buildings around and how i could never live in columbia again for that reason. then two of my nieces come running up to the house, panicked and yelling about ‘the warning’ and saying we all needed to go hide. i said something about there having been warnings out all day. i went into the house to get my bags which were already packed. a mouse ran out from under the bed, and i said to it, ‘i don’t have time to be scared of you.’ this is significant because i am deathly afraid of any type of rodent. it showed me that i was aware of the seriousness of this warning and/or situation. anyway, right after that, i heard this mass scream outside, like everyone in the city of columbia was screaming because something awful had just happened. then just as suddenly, it stopped, like everyone was gone, or had been killed.

i have a friend who is convinced that this series of dreams i’m having is prophetic, like something bad is about to come down on planet earth. i wouldn’t rule that out, especially when you look at stuff going on in the world today revolving around israel, iran, etc., and the times specified in my first dream (about something horrible happening in march or april of this year). but i also like living in denial apparently. i don’t know what to think. i’m really not freaked out about all this; it’s more like i’m just sitting back, watching, living my life, waiting on things to happen. and really, it’s all one can do. still i can’t help but wonder… and maybe this is all connected to what i was told yesterday in the prophecy room.