So while I am sharing this, also, as I have shared the rest of my testimony,
those of you who are
Christian may find it disturbing. If any of you would like to personally discuss any of the points
that follow, I am certainly open to doing so, but I feel it would be more to the benefit of the
‘brethren’ to do so privately, as opposed to through the ONELIST.
One of the things I have come to learn/accept, is that many people do
things (like smoking) or
believe in things that I think are dead wrong. I’m not willing to totally discard people because of
their bad habits (provided they are non-abusive of me or others) or crazy (to me) beliefs; nor am I
willing to waste the bulk of my time with such people harassing them about it. If they are ‘good’
people - honest, kind, trustworthy, loving - then I want them in my life, even if in *my* opinion
what they sincerely believe with all their hearts is a steamingly fragrant pile of horse manure. I
can love them and value them and hope that someday they will see and understand more fully.
Please keep in mind that the following spiritual journey did not take
place over the course of a
few weeks or even months, but over the twenty plus *years* it has been since I left the COBU.
Never again have I nor will I leap into a spiritual/emotional commitment without examining it
very closely and giving myself much time, meditation and prayer, and then more time, to make
sure it is right for me.
Spiritually - as I said, the first few years after I left the fellowship
I tried to be wicked, sort of
thumb my nose at God as I felt He had thumbed his nose at me. I grew bored with that, pretty
quickly, as He obviously wasn’t paying any attention. I had long periods of doubting His
existence - where was He, anyway, golfing? This alternated with periods of strong belief and an
internal view of myself as a ‘backslidden Christian.’ My beliefs were basically the same as I
had held while in the COBU, except that I slowly (very slowly!) came to believe the COBU itself
was fallen away as well from the ‘true path.’
This was very, very hard, because much of what
had happened to me in the fellowship - now that I was away from it - was so painful I couldn’t
bring myself to mentally/spiritually/emotionally touch it, for a very long time. Some of the
experiences of which I have written earlier were things I kept buried in a dark mental closet for
*years*, because of the shame, pain, and humiliation. I had blocked out names, faces,
experiences as much as possible - to remember the good times filled me with longing and
sorrow. To remember the bad made me want to crawl into a hole, pull it in after me, and never
think of those traumas again. I felt so betrayed - and guilty, that after all Jesus had suffered, I
couldn’t put up with a little ‘tempering.’ And angry, that He had allowed me - all of us! - to be
so abused, and did *nothing*. I hated Him. I missed Him. I resented Him. I loved Him. I was
terrified of Him.
Eventually (this took about 5-6 years), I decided it *wasn’t* so much
Jesus I despised, but the
fellowship, and began church-shopping. (As someone very funny said, “I have nothing against
Jesus - it’s His fan club I can’t stand.”) For several years, I went to this church and that church,
Lutheran, Catholic, Unitarian, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Unity, Baptist. Though the
congregations were usually very warm and welcoming, in each and every church there was
something very jarring, something that just didn’t sound or feel right. They were too extreme, or
too lukewarm, or they had one or two (or more) really kooky tenets.
One church had a part of the service in which everyone exchanged - I
think they called it the kiss
of brotherhood. Everyone walked around hugging and kissing each other on the cheek. I
understand the principle, and in theory it sounds okay, I guess. And I wouldn’t by any means
call myself an inhibited person, but I don’t *like* being hugged and kissed by people I’ve never
met before. Nor am I a spiritual whore - I couldn’t join a church because I mostly liked what
they taught, while mentally crossing my fingers behind my back on one or two (or more!) points.
So I kept looking.
The thing that kept nagging at me though, was while I couldn’t find
any church that exactly
matched the beliefs I still held from the COBU, I kept meeting and coming to know people who
were absolutely wonderful, but not at all in line with ‘true Christianity.’ At one job, the other
women in the office were Catholic, and over the three years I worked there, I came to know
several of them fairly well. Devout, church-going - and generous, giving, tolerant. One woman
was married to a Jewish man and they celebrated both religions in their household, holding big
Rosh Hashanah family gatherings as well as First Communions. Kathy also organized Christmas
baskets for needy families through her church, and took her children with her to buy items and
distribute the baskets. It was vitally important to her that her kids be brought up to learn to be
grateful for all the blessings they had, and to share with those less fortunate. I didn’t - and don’t
- believe in any of the tenets in Kathy’s faith; most of them are, to me, so much hogwash.
(Though I do believe that the Catholic church exhibits a certain beauty/mysticism in its traditions
and rituals that is very appealing.) Yet - do I really think Kathy is going to burn in hell because
she isn’t ‘saved’? How about my beautiful, shy, loving, Mexican-American niece-by-marriage, a
devout Catholic, for whom family and the mother church are woven tightly together as part of
her heritage? Is she also going to burn in hell if she doesn’t reject all that? How ridiculous.
What God worth serving would do that?
I came to know some devout Mormons (though they prefer to be called
LDS) through Little
League baseball, as well as through reconnecting with an old co-worker who quickly became a
close friend. Because she was a fairly recent convert, and because she knew about my church-
shopping, she asked if I would like to take lessons and find out about it. My initial reaction was -
are you crazy, why would I want to join some weird cult? (Luckily, I didn’t say this out loud!)
Then I had to laugh at myself, and figured, well, why not find out for myself about this religion,
instead of going on the hearsay I’d gotten from that *other* cult?
I took the whole set of lessons, from several sets of ‘elders’, (remember,
in the fellowship we
always called them ‘book-ends’, because they always wear white buttoned shirts and dark
trousers, and always go around in pairs.) There was something about them and their ‘missions’
and their insider jargon that made me homesick for the fellowship. They have to save birthday
money and graduation money and money for odd jobs, etc., all through high school, so they can
support themselves wherever they are sent on their two-year mission. They go to a training
center in Utah (or elsewhere, there may be more than one) for several weeks, then are sent on
their ‘mission’ - anywhere from the town next door to another country. Occasionally families
and the church help out, but they are expected to pay for almost everything themselves and
budget wisely, which is *why* they’re on bicycles. Very reminiscent, at least to me, of brothers
and sister working a day job to support the fellowship and witnessing at night. They only go on
a mission if they are ‘called by God’, (like the way we only went witnessing when we wanted
to), but it is rare that boys are *not* ‘called by God’ to go on a mission, or that girls are.
LDS in general tend to be honest, trustworthy, just plain nice people.
When my friend’s
husband was laid off and they were in deep financial trouble, the Mormons were there at the
house with food and job referrals and temporary work for him. They took turns doing child care
for her so she could work while her husband was out on temporary jobs or interviewing, since
my friend couldn’t afford to pay for child care, and that’s not at all unusual for them. Because I
was taking lessons (an Investigator, they call it), six-eight of them came by and did major yard
work for me one Saturday. They support and stand by their own people, always; it’s never some
vaguely distant “If you need anything, call me.” Their church is their big social center - they
have kids’ activities and sports teams for the adults - baseball, volleyball, basketball, for men and
women alike. They have Bible studies and choir practice, they put on plays and variety/talent
shows. I played volleyball with my friend all winter, and everyone was very friendly and
welcoming despite the fact that I wasn’t part of their church, and very open that I wasn’t going
to be. The general members don’t push their beliefs or proselytize - if you ask them or seem
interested, they connect you with the nearest pair of ‘elders’. Many people have an issue with
their practice of tithing, but considering the support and connection they have with their church, I
don’t think it’s at all excessive. However, while there are many, many things the LDS do right,
their teachings and the Book of Mormon have holes big enough to throw a dog through. And
I’m not talking about the Taco Bell Chihuahua, I’m talking about a Great Dane.
Some of *my* elders were taken aback by my knowledge of the Bible and
the questions I asked,
and had to write things down so they could query their trainers and get back to me. I tried not to
push too hard - I could see no good, and much harm, from blowing away their faith in their
church. These were nice kids, grown up in it from babyhood, whose entire lives were built on
their church and family. Much like the COBU, the Mormon church really cuts off those
‘apostate’ brethren who have left, even if they’re family members.
Two examples of their - interesting - doctrines: Since in heaven there
is no marrying or giving in
marriage, they have set up a special ceremony you can go through here on earth, so that husbands
and wives can be ‘sealed together’ and still be married (and have sex) when they get to heaven.
This is what made the annulment of Marie Osmond’s first marriage so sticky; she and hubby #1
had been ‘sealed together for eternity’ in their temple and apparently, once you’re sealed for
eternity to someone, it ain’t so easy to get ‘unsealed.’ They also believe they can ‘save’ their
ancestors - this is what is behind the big interest in genealogy. Since they, also, believe the only
way to heaven is their way, you can research your non-LDS ancestors and be baptised in proxy
for them, so they don’t go to hell (or get rescued from it, I don’t remember which). There are
lots of other things they believe which to one of us seem very, very strange.
So - are all LDS doomed because, to my way of thinking, their beliefs
are way, way off base?
Would a just God condemn someone who was raised in a religion, believed in it with all of
his/her heart, like those nice young ‘elders’, and lived as good - kind, decent, loving, moral - a
life as he/she possibly could, because technically he/she wasn’t ‘saved’ and followed some
strange teachings? Is God like some picky schoolmarm who will flunk a paper if there is an ‘i’
not dotted or a ‘t’ not crossed? I’m not saying all Catholics or Mormons or Episcopalians or
Muslims or anything else are *all* good people. But enough are - even if only one was, it’s
enough to raise the question - can/will God save genuinely good-hearted people who don’t
follow His Word? If He can’t/won’t, then do I really want to be a part of His people? If He
can/will, then what is the value of His Word?
What *is* His Word anyway? Stipulating for the moment that God
exists, there are two issues:
1) Whether the Bible (and which version!) is the actual true Word of God, and 2) Stipulating that
this is so, how do we know when we are correctly interpreting/understanding His Word, and
when we are way, way off track?
Skipping to the second issue briefly, I think we can all agree that
the Bible has been used to
‘prove’ wrong and immoral ideas. That the earth was flat. That slavery of the ‘children of
Hagar’ all blacks, (or to be PC, those ‘more richly pigmented’) was God’s Will. That burning
and torturing ‘heretics’ was God’s Will. This is not even getting into the many ways Stewart
used the Bible to confuse, hurt, and manipulate those of us ex-COBUers. Stewart Traill is
nothing, is very small potatoes when you look at the big picture, at the *thousands* who have
done likewise over the centuries. (Though in his delusions of grandeur he may have ‘wondered
out loud’ if perhaps he was *the* Anti-Christ. He *wishes* he were that important!)
Sometimes people have cynically used the Bible as a weapon to further
their own ends, but quite
often ‘good’ people, full of belief and fervor, have carried out these acts in the 100% sincere
belief they were furthering ‘God’s Will’ as put forth in ‘His Word.’ It’s one thing to be able to
pick out a phony preacher who *knows* he’s trying to sell you snake oil. Differentiating
between those truly ‘inspired by God’ and those who only *think* they are ‘inspired by God’ is a
hard, if not impossible task. Don’t all of us ex-COBUers, if we’re honest, have guilty memories
of hurtful/unkind things we did to others in the group (or standing by watching others be injured
and saying/doing nothing), and we *really* believed at the time our actions (or lack of action)
were ‘pleasing Jesus’?
I decided I would just have to put those concerns on a back shelf for
now. I went back and
reread the Bible - this time with a critical eye, as I had read the Book of Mormon and other
religious literature. I wanted to refresh myself as to God’s true Word, after all those confusing
church doctrines. I was *horrified*; I prayed and cried and read and reread. I think I spent one
long weekend, while my son was at his dad’s, where I managed to read the whole thing, cover to
cover (okay, I skimmed a little when I came to the ‘begats.’) I prayed some more, gave myself
time - a year or two - ‘off’ then I came back to it and tried again.
There were always parts of the Bible that had made me uncomfortable,
that I had always
skimmed past quickly, like averting your eyes from a gruesome car accident. I told myself, when
I was in the fellowship, that God would explain it to me later, or that things were figurative,
or some other whitewash, and quickly went on to verses I liked better. Buried even the memory
of them in that deep mental/spiritual closet where I kept other hurts. This time I *made* myself
look - and what I saw isn’t pretty.
The God of the Bible - the *full* God, when you read the *full* Bible,
not just taking the nice
parts and ignoring the rest, or sticking to the New Testament - GOD IS A JERK. He hates
women - women are there to be used - it’s okay to sell your daughter (Ex 20:05), or turn your
virgin daughter or girlfriend over to a raging mob, and tuck yourself comfortably into bed for a
good night’s sleep. Then when she drags her violated, dying body back to your door, throw her
onto a donkey and go home; when you get there, take a knife and hack her body into twelve
pieces (Judges 19:24-29). Read on into the next chapter - there’s a war because the man’s
*property* was violated, but not a hint of disapproval for his cowardice; or that he didn’t *try* to
care for her after her terrible experience, not even to offering her a drink of water, or broach the
idea that after saving her owner’s miserable neck, she could perhaps have been buried decently.
It doesn’t bother to mention if the poor woman was DEAD before he began chopping her into
bits. After all, that’s not important to God.
Women in the Old Testament were protected if and when their owners -
fathers, brothers, sons or
husbands - felt like it. There are pages and pages in the Bible about exactly what kind of burnt
offering were important to God (Numbers 28-29), and exactly how the tabernacle of the LORD
and its fabric and curtains and loops and other doo-dads must be constructed (Exodus 35-39), but
not a couple of lines *anywhere* about it being the duty of fathers to protect their daughters.
The Bible *does* says not to make your daughter into a harlot, primarily because that runs down
property values in the neighborhood (Leviticus 19:29). I guess offering her up for a gang-bang
doesn’t count, since she isn’t likely to survive and continue in her wickedness. Thus, the purity of
the neighborhod is preserved - phew! Those of you who are parents of daughters - wouldn’t
you fight to your last breath to prevent your daughter from being raped? If you had company,
angel, bigwig or not, and a raging mob came to your door, would YOU cheerfully hand your
daughter over to them and tell them to use her however they saw fit? At the very least,
wouldn’t you offer yourself in her place?
Not God. You can offer your virgin daughters up for a gang-bang
and you’re *still* one of his
bright-haired boys, saved and protected by his angels, because you’re so righteous (Genesis 19).
Later, you can rape them yourself, then make up a really lame story a three-year-old wouldn’t
believe, and blame *them* for seducing you (Genesis 19:30-38). In fact, if a Jewish girl/woman
was raped, she was forced to marry her rapist - unless she was unlucky enough to already be
married or betrothed, in which case she was stoned to death - contaminated goods, you know.
(Deuteronomy 22:22-29) Children don’t fare much better - torn in bits for making fun of a bald
man (2 Kings 2:23-24), babies put to death (Numbers 31:17, Isaiah 13:16).
‘God’s’ people were encouraged to wipe out whole other tribes/cities
of peaceful people, OVER
AND OVER AGAIN, right down to pregnant women, small children and nursing babies
(Deuteronomy 20:16-17, Joshua 10:17, Jeremiah 50:21). It wasn’t one or two or five isolated
incidents - it was God’s will throughout the entire Old Testament! It’s true that the foes of the
Jews weren’t always peaceful - sometimes they dared to defend themselves! But God’s will was
always the same. Compare that attitude to the ‘savage’ Native Americans, who when at war with
other tribes or the white man, usually captured the women and children. Sometimes they were
killed or enslaved, but more usually they were adopted into the tribe and raised to be full
To add to his other wonderful qualities, God carries a grudge - what
is fair about, if your father or
grandfather commit some act that pisses him off, which you have absolutely no control over,
God punishing *you* and your descendants into infinity? (Ex 20:05, Deut. 23:2, 2 Kings 23:25-
26) *This* is a ‘just’ God? He is jealous and avenging and wrathful (Nahum 1:02). He
hardened pharoah’s heart so that he wouldn’t listen to Moses - then punished pharaoh for having
a hard heart! (Ex 4:21) Talk about stacking the deck!
Any of you who read the Bible - the *full* Bible, not letting your eyes
glaze or skim over the
ugliness, must concede that the God it describes is, to put it mildly, not a nice guy. You can say,
well, the New Testament isn’t like that, and for the most part it isn’t, but... What about poor
Martha - a houseful of company to cook for, and she got scolded for asking for help from her
sister. Would she have been applauded if she had also sat down to choose the ‘better part’ as she
probably would have liked to do, and there wasn’t any dinner? That little story always reminds
me very much of the fellowship - *whichever* action you took, it was bound to be the wrong
one. Then there’s Paul, as misogynistic as they come. I always wondered if he had some mind-
warping experience with his mother or his fiancee, that made him hate/fear women for the rest of
his life. Or maybe... well, he was awfully fond of his *dear* young brother Timothy. Which is
besides the point; whichever side of the street he walked - or wanted to walk, Paul’s paranoid
ideas about women had a huge impact on the second-class status of women in the Christian
church. Considering that men were the cowards who ran away while the women stayed by Jesus
as he was crucified, one might think women deserved better.
At this point in my spiritual journey, I was at the place, of, okay,
maybe God exists, but I really
don’t LIKE Him if this is an accurate representation. How can I love or respect Someone who
created me, then turned around and despised me for being exactly what He created? And how
can I form my morals around someone like Him, who behaves worse than any ‘savage’?
Then I thought, well, maybe things got a little twisted, maybe the men
who wrote the Bible put
their own ‘spin’ on things. For instance, when I read the interactions between King Saul and
David, I couldn’t help but wonder how the whole story would have come out if Saul had been the
ultimate winner instead of David. More like the story of David and Absalom, I imagine, with
Saul weeping his heart out over poor dead misguided David. Or maybe things got copied down
wrong or mistranslated. (If you check the historical anthropologists and researchers, they state
that the oldest known copies of books of the Old Testament, found at Qumran, also known as the
Dead Sea Scrolls, show *unmistakable* signs of having been censored, altered and changed.
Most scholars also agree that the Adam & Eve story is very carefully contrived, building on
imagery and symbols that held deep religious significance in the region at that time, bent to a
specific purpose. Don’t take my word for it - do your own research!)
So I decided to look for God in and outside the Bible, something like
Mike searching Stewart’s
teachings, trying to find where it went wrong, to glean out the good. There *is* a lot of good in
the Bible - good stories, psalms, proverbs, and other things, among the death and destruction and
endless wars of conquest. I still loved Jesus, and thought, hoped, believed, that I could find the
‘real’ God, the Truth will a capital T. Surely He was out there somewhere!
The truth is that “God” is not in a book -
“holy”, golden, or otherwise. God is not
in a church, a synagogue, a mosque. God is not cemented inside any manmade
theological system or elitist cultural architecture. God is definitely not bursting
neck-veins of righteously profitable baloney at you from the TV screen.
I looked, and prayed and researched, and prayed and meditated and looked
some more. And
after about fifteen years of searching and struggling, I found Her! And She doesn’t despise any
of her creatures, male or female, animal, vegetable or mineral, for they are She. (Or He. It’s
more natural for me to think of Her as female, but She is equally male and female, as even the
Bible states in the beginning... “in the image of God he created him; MALE AND FEMALE he
created them.” Genesis 1:27.) She is wonderful and terrible and merciless and kind.
The god of the Bible, Yahweh, Jehovah, whatever, apparently was a fire/volcano
god invented by
Indo-European invaders. Hence all the emphasis on the burnt offerings, the going to the top of
the mountains where ‘God’ spoke in a loud terrible voice (that only the special elite, the Levite
priests, could understand/translate, that only they could approach ‘God’ and bring ‘His’ word to
his people), that he was always surrounded by thick clouds, the many threats that ‘God’ would
destroy with fire and thunder. They needed a god to justify plundering and taking from others, in
that rich agricultural area, which was already settled, and so they created a god in their own
image. They invented a god who was wholly separate from the earth, so that he/they could
utterly lay it waste whenever he/they wanted to, with no apparent consequences.
Research for yourselves the history of the area, of the people and their
beliefs and ways of living
before ‘God’s people’ took over. Haven’t you ever wondered about who the Hittites and the
Canaanites and others were? Read the Bible - reread it - read other versions - think about it -
pray about it. If you choose to believe in the God of the Bible, at least *know* who it is you
really believe in.
This *I* know:
This we know. The earth does not belong
to man, man belongs to the earth. This
we know. All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All
things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of earth. Man
did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the
web, he does to himself. Chief Seattle
I still love and honor Jesus, looking on him as a great teacher, as
well as a fulfillment of a
tradition of male sacrifice/resurrection that goes back long before Christianity and Judaism. I
find more peace and joy and *sense* in rediscovering the religion of the earth than I *ever* had
as a Christian. I also know that this concept is hard for many people to accept; for the most part
they have been conditioned (brainwashed?) all their lives to believe in a singular/trinical male
deity. They think of pagans as either dumb, ignorant, and unwashed, or indulging in all sorts of
weird, sick rituals. (Originally part of the reason Christians were thrown to the lions is the
Romans believed the rites of communion involved sacrificing and eating infants. This same
alleged diet was also the ‘reason’ the Jews in the ghettos were not as badly decimated by the
plagues which swept Europe in the Middle Ages. Wild rumors are generally NOT TRUE.) If
you want to know, ask me, or go on the ‘Net, or to the library, and find out for yourself.
I hope and wish that despite my having gone in a very different direction
than most of the ex-
BOO’s currently on-line, we can still find unity in our common experiences in that dreadful - and
wonderful! cult. I love all of you, and hope that you are able to heal and find peace - whether in
Christianity or Judaism or atheism or Zen Buddhism or whatever works for you, I am glad for it.