This is our truth, tell us yours
It’s been a while since I did one of these, for a number of reasons, but high on the list is the fact I left my church. I would like to use that old cliche, my church left me, but it simply isnt true. It was always a place where LGBT issues were reduced to opposition to gay marriage by certain members of the congregation, loud, petition wielding members. It was somewhere which discussed poverty as something that happened to others, whilst I sat working out if we hid from the milkman whether the kids could go to the church youth club. Which isn’t to say it was all negative, far from it, it was full of decent, caring, open hearted people too. They simply were not enough.
Belonging to groups is something both I and Carter have written about, earlier today he wrote brilliantly of Nick Cohens latest feckwittery, appropriating Jewishness because apparently that would…well I am not sure even Cohen knows what the point would be. In his piece Carter discusses how you frame personal morality with group morality, how to not be led along by others into transgressing your own personal boundaries.
For me, and it may be partly because of the reasons discussed here, belonging has always been….complicated. Drawn by a yearning to understand what seems to come naturally to others, yet always putting my foot in it, forever outside looking in. Perhaps the only difference now is understanding that belonging, being accepted, is a transitory experience whoever you are. Today of all days proves that.
Today is Palm Sunday in the Christian calendar, always one of my favorite days since I was a child. Most churches would have some kind of procession, a reenactment of that triumphal entry into jerusalem. We would wave palms and celebrate, turning our backs against the growing darkness, pretending for a moment the passion was not inevitable.
6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”“Hosanna in the highest heaven!” 10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” 11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Its that moment of acceptance, of belonging. The crowd celebrates the arrival of the prophet, and treats him as their as yet to be anointed King. I can imagine the apostles thinking, this is it, we have made it, these are our people, this is the start of something huge.
And less than a week later the crowd called for His blood.
I suppose wanting to belong is all too human, wanting to be accepted not a flaw, simply a fact. The joy at the entry into Jerusalem is not something that the apostles can be blamed for, after years of vagabond wandering, never knowing where they might have to flee from next, they had found their home. That Jesus knew, or at least suspected (given that the crowd still had free will, the theology of the inevitability of the crucifixion makes my brain ache) is the darker side of the story.
Its the side that perhaps gives me, and others on the outside, hope. It is not wrong of us to want community, its a natural human urge. But, we must ride past the cheering crowds, knowing that any sense of being part of them is only ever fleeting. If we are to do that without harming our own sense of self, we need to make sure nothing we do to get that acceptance contradicts with who we are, or who we want to be. Then we can revel in the celebration, but also understand that the rejection is no more about us than any other part of it. If we keep to our own codes, our own morals, the decision of others to include, or exclude us is about them, not us.
Its not a point I have reached, but I am getting there, as I learn to love myself, and not be distracted by the Hosannas of those around me.