My mother hassles me in her dotage to go to church, to confess my sins, take holy communion and to kiss the priest’s hand. I can’t tell her that I see the priesthood as a costume prop of divinity wrapped around men. It’s not just the presumption of priesthood that grates but also the arrogance radiating off the white dog collar.
“Matthew 7:1-2 Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”
How far do I stray from this advice when I’m confronted by the Church? The whole edifice from its theology to its soteriology and its masonry is riddled with presumption and arrogance. Why must the source of Divine Power and Love be subject to franchise agreements? I cannot believe the ineffable manoeuvres like a lawyer. Is the priest a broker dealing in soul futures? With Wall St brokers, if you’re lucky, you may gain something. The Church provides words that haven’t been digested & transmuted into gold wisdom.
Is this to say that the Divine, the Miraculous, the Living Unknown do not exist? No. It only means that a systemic structure such as a Church cannot be the unpredictable, ineffable symbol of the Real. Now this engenders a whole host of issues of which the question “What is Real?” is at the centre. I don’t know the answer. I do know that the systemisers pretend to know.
What of confession? There’s something so essential, so oneself that hesitates to confess to another man one’s “sins”. The Greek word for “sin” is harmatia which means “missing the mark”. The assumption here is that both the priest and the confessor have agreed on what is sin. Even if they do agree as to what constitutes sin, it still sucks to confess these sins to another person. If it is true that God is not only transcendent but also imminent it follows that all failings and sins are already known to Him. The argument goes that when one confesses one is not confessing to the priest but rather through the priest to God. In other words the priest is an intermediary, a flesh & blood telephone. The priest also has the power to decide what, if any, penance is required. If you pay now you won’t have to worry about the interest rate in the after life. As a consequence, merely by humbling yourself to the intermediary, the priest, you will gain peace of mind and soul.
Do I need the responsibility of my life to rest on the decisions of a church man? What if the after life, the here after is THIS LIFE again? Yes, instead of a Ground Hog Day – a Ground Hog Life. Does it mean I will be forever doomed to pay lip service to a caricature of divinity just so I secure a respectable soul? Maybe there are souls that don’t fit the respectable mould. This does not mean they are not chosen by God. It only means that they may have another calling.
It goes deeper than this, it goes to the curve of one’s heart desire.
In me there resides the need to know, to understand. In me this desire to know who I am, what is my place in the universe and why I am here has directed the shape of my life. This desire has taken me to the edge of sanity where flying saucer landing pads in a commune’s backyard took the place of Hills Hoists. This desire has also turned my mind to the study of numbers, symbols, astrology, magic and divination – all of the mantic arts. The curve of my heart’s desire turns away from dogma & belief to the ever present mystery of simple life. This curvature reveals along its edge another calling that has nothing to do with any church or institution.
The desire to know was also probably Adam & Eve’s original sin. We all know what happened to them when they took a bite of the Apple.
Yes, I am inflicted because I seek knowledge of the Divine and I don’t want church men hovering around the curve of my heart’s desire.
Gday and salaams mate…
For sure Islam today is as guilty of systemisation and “try hard” protestant work ethic, production focused attitudes as everything else, in this post colonial world. But the gyst of what you say here is why I am a freshly minted Muslim, albeit very classically oriented. No clergy, no church, just the Ummah.
The curve of my Heart’s desire in the Real must be sacrilised, and this must not only mean to gain approval from any franchise. This is tricky though, what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander…. can we handle the way by which prejudice and bias towards those of one`s own ancestry might be sacrilised? The eternal (if not Eternal) desire for war and valiant battle? The intensity and danger of owning responsibility for the various sexual forces and powers within?
Another protestant force her wayward daughter modernity inherits, to be aware of – ceaseless sectarian splitting by way of individual convictions. Indigenous and Chinese ways are to always hold respect for the elders – even if systemising that is ultimately a self destructively bad idea, part of that is just a way to hold community and family together over the generational communication gap. Physical and material “sustainability” means nothing without this respect to enable cultural and lineal sustainability.
And Allah sapana wata`allah In best.