I don’t know. I simply don’t know. Too many things I have been certain of have become illogical and childish now. Now I can only question and wonder and seek a way to be my own true self and live with responsibility. The snake and the dragon, one real, one imagined… beautiful, dangerous creatures for sure. The things that we use for scapegoating are the things we come to misunderstand and fear. Like the snake… ‘the devil made me do it.’ Really? Our own darkness, our own choices make us do it and it is only by staring ourselves down in the mirror that we can ever change… make different choices, understand, forgive, love, embrace.
I wrote this little piece at the end of 2014. It was a time of disillusionment. By that time I have been part of various independent, evangelical Christian groups for 17 years. The last group was a new group that gathered around the property that belonged to The Bible College of Wales. It was a new gathering together of people, many of them very vulnerable, myself included. For the first time I saw the construction of control and manipulation and literally everything by which I had found meaning and searched for understanding during the past 17 years was turned on it’s head. This was not merely a mental exercise for me, it was a journey lived out in painful but liberating experiences.
There is a snake
that quenches our life
there is a snake
that drives us to strife
works like contraception
through frictions, addictions, distractions
seemingly important actions
Shake off the snake
then kill it with a stake
Christianity is not supposed
to be a show
bring every high thing low
Father invites us home
Christ is the door
when you come in
it will be warm
with acceptance, with truth and with love
warm with humility
gentle as a dove.
The snake was released
friendly visits to my home suddenly ceased
Now it’s the marching of the men in black
with a job to do and a whip to crack
The snake must be killed
it cannot be charmed
to let it live
is a big mistake
it can only take and take and take
It twists the truth
entwines around the tender vines
then suddenly you will find
instead of freedom
there is a harem
instead of equality
there is a hierarchy
and instead of love in this neighbourhood
their is simply no good
Today, I will edit this heavily… the meaning has changed so dramatically for me. Considering the last four years and where I am today, Christ has become the doorway out of the bondage of religion. I am not in church and have no desire to tell anyone what they should believe. My mind is free to question and create and so are the minds of those around me to me. This is a spacious place of acceptance and curiousity and possibility for authentic connection and friendship.
What is left is the story and that cannot be changed. The story does not establish ‘truth’, it simply tells what happened. In the telling of stories we can discover patterns and make connections. Many stories told in parallel can reveal to us marvellous things. Connecting stories across generations and cultures and continents can make our own stories more relevant and meaningful.
To this end I will reveal some of the story that informed my little poem. Since I was first ‘born again’ back in 1997, I have been told by ‘the men of God’ to give 10% of my income to the church. If I did not do this, then I would invite a curse onto my life – appeals to fear. If I did this diligently, then God would bless me and give me up to hundred times more back – appeals to greed, possibly? So I did this, blindly without thinking for myself properly, without considering my responsibilities. It was an act of faith, of trust. By doing this, I was sort of abdicating my responsibility to God… he will take care of me. It even went as far as challenges to give so much that one had to rely on God for miracles.
Then I somehow became part of a circle of female friends, mothers alone or in the process of escaping relationships of opposition and lovelessness. These friends were real and their problems and worries often also financial. I was lucky to have stable and secure employment but also struggled in my what was supposed to be loving relationship at home. So I started giving to my friends instead of to ‘the church.’ I engaged my own thoughts and emotions and started to make my own decisions, rather than just blindly follow what I started to see as twisted instructions from people who are removed from reality. It was after a few months of not giving my ‘tithe’, that I received a visit from the men in black. A few months earlier, before ‘the church’ became official, the one man in black used to visit my home with his family. I thought we were friends…. Maybe we were, but now there was a ministry to run, a job to do, what exactly the point of it, I really don’t know. The only thing ‘the ministy’ did from my perspective and in my story, was to wipe out every hint of authenticity. It even removed other friends from my life as we were now assigned to ‘home groups’ who were supposed to be ‘our new family.’ The group I was assigned to did not contain any of my friends! How strange. This was the pattern for many if not most. Anyway, those ‘men of god’ visited under the cloak of pastoral care to check if I was ok and also, or really if I was still behind their vision. Well, they probably noticed my money was now missing which accurately showed to me and to them that I was ‘not buying’ into ‘their vision’ anymore. It was the last time they visited my home and it was after the last time I visited their meetings.
So if you have a story, why not tell it? You never know where your story told might take you or what connections may come of it. And if nothing else, the telling of your story to yourself will help you own it and possibly understand you own life a bit better.