“Art is the pure realization of religious feeling, capacity for faith, longing for God. […] The ability to believe is our outstanding quality, and only art adequately translates it into reality. But when we assuage our need for faith with an ideology we court disaster.” Gerhard Richter.
Today I am going to take a little side trip, away from Art, to write about religion and spirituality. After 166 postings in this blog I have not once deviated from the subject of Art, so I think I can be forgiven in this one instance.
As explained in my previous post, I consider myself more spiritual than religious. I don't get much out of one size fits all organized religious institutions. The answers to my questions can not be found before a pulpit one hour on a Sunday morning. Too much blood has been shed in the name of organized religion. I can accept a certain amount of hypocrisy within myself and my life, but too often organized religion has too much hypocrisy even for me. Instead I have long been in the process of developing my own spiritual path. My self-created religion draws from a variety of sources: nature, art, literature, poetry, music, philosophy, and a variety of religious and mystical traditions. Those traditions include Buddhism, Hinduism, Sufism, Shamanism, Alchemy, Gnosticism, and yes . . . Christianity.
Christianity is where I started, my religious mother's milk. It is the skeletal structure with which I base all my moral and spiritual beliefs. I believe Christian is not something you are, rather it is something one should aspire to become. You may ask yourself, how can a lefty weirdo pervert such as myself, reconcile their proclivities with Christian doctrine? It is easy for me, actually. Jesus welcomed outsiders into his party; he rolled with a band of misfits back in the day. Jesus was not exactly, how should I say it, bourgeois? Jesus was also a man of flesh, a human being with feelings and emotions. Many would have Jesus be an unapproachable holy marble man, or a neutered Ken doll. But Jesus was human. He had his doubts and fears, he experienced pain, and he was even susceptible to anger. Wouldn't it be reasonable to assume that he also had a libido? Even Jesus had a penis. And what about his politics? Jesus stayed out of politics. Perhaps he would be the first to champion the separation of Church and State. Jesus did not want to overthrow Rome; his message of compassion and forgiveness transcended the politics of his time. Nevertheless, politics can learn from Jesus' example. Reading The Bible, you might be surprised to learn that Jesus was the first Communist. This is irrefutable. Jesus, his disciples, and the first Christians all pooled their wealth together (Judas was the treasurer) and redistributed it equally and as needed. No one went hungry in the first Christian Church.
When I read The Bible from beginning to end a few years ago, I was a little shocked by all that was left out in Sunday School. It is full of fucked up angry God injustices (particularly in the Old Testament, where genocide, rape, slavery, human sacrifice, and the murder of children is both commanded and condoned), but if you have a dark sense of humor, you can get through the sanctioned violence and bloodshed without being completely turned off. In the end it seemed to me that the good stuff in The Bible outweighed the bad, maybe not in quantity, but certainly in weight and worth. The Bible is a fountain of inspiration and solace for those who may have a spiritual bent to them, and even for non-believers as well. The story of Moses and Jonah, finding the strength to stand up to power, are particularly enlightening, and the books of Job and Ecclesiastes pose difficult questions on the nature of suffering. The life of Jesus in the four Gospels of the New Testament are also of great value if you are looking for life lessons on how to live. Jesus' parables are often like Zen koans and are a pleasure to read. If you read nothing else of The Bible, read that at least.
Sometimes my friends are absent minded around me or just assume that because I have leftist leanings that I am anti-Christian. I brush off their insults usually without correcting them, being too much of a gentleman to point out their small mistake. Politicians who do hateful things in the name of Christianity are not much of a help, of course. But at least Pope Francis is beginning to change many people's perceptions of what it means to be a Christian, and I am thankful for that.