|Christus Pantocrator in the apsis of the cathedral of Cefalù, c. 1130. GNU-free documentation licence, Wiki Commons|
I don't write much about Christianity here, although it creeps in sometimes. Being more known for my Goddess work, I find it hard to talk about for fear of excluding anyone or appearing to have abandoned my devotion to She~Who~Is, which would be very far from the truth. However, I felt that I would share an experience that I had yesterday as I think that it speaks to the heart of many spiritual paths. I must say that I had the most disheartening, and in some ways blessedly enlightening, day which I am still feeling wobbly from. It was dark moon after all, but now the moon is newly born and I am reflecting on my experiences.
I went along, with some friends from the church I attend, to the Christian Resources Exhibition at Sandown Park in Surrey. I love a day out and a new experience. I believe that the exhibition has been running for more than 30 years and so I thought that it might be interesting to go along. And I was right!
I had a lovely time with my friends, and know that there were many people of good heart at the exhibition, but I am left with the impression that the mainstream manifestations of Christianity in this country, and no doubt in others, is nothing more than Corporate power feeding itself through religion. So many lovely, genuine people circling a dying star when there is so much life to be had a breath away.
Even aside from that, which is bad enough, there were several disturbing stalls there; one spreading,what I can only describe as, anti-Islamic hate material. That stall had pamphlets deriding all interfaith work, one demanding that the UK 'return to our Christian path' and one on 'Islam and slavery'. Obviously they didn't see the irony in a religion which helped to spread Colonialism, and so slavery, throughout the world making such claims about Islam without also looking at themselves. It does nothing to help when we attack others whilst not admitting our own culpability. It is shallow to do so, at best, but I feel that it does genuine harm and makes the possibility of change less and less likely. Two young women, who were probably in their early 20s, seemed very keen on the information there. It made me feel sad. Opposite that stall was one on 'Creationism', which refuted evolution. Those two stalls were relegated to a far corner of the exhibition but they were still there. I am all for freedom of expression, and Creationism is a way of thinking that it should be possible to debate without bad feeling, but the anti-Islam stall in particular seemed very wrong.
And then, right in the centre of everything, 'Christian Friends of Israel' and the Israeli Tourist Board (with perhaps the largest stand of any exhibitor), inviting us all to go on tours of the Holy Land. I wonder whether the Palestinian people have a tourist board and can invite others to visit their holy places, which are after all more or less the same ones? And I wonder whether the 'tour of the Holy Land' includes a tour of the illegal Israeli settlements on the West Bank, or of the, more than a thousand, olive groves that the Palestinian people rely on but which Israel has destroyed, or the solar panels donated to Palestine by The Netherlands on humanitarian grounds; confiscated by Israel, or perhaps the place where American activist, Rachel Corrie, was mown down and killed by an Israeli soldier driving an armoured bulldozer whilst trying to stop it destroying a Palestinian home? And then, making a nice little triangle of stalls with these, Church of England (continuing) who were informing people that attendance numbers are declining in the C of E because they allow women to be priests. What a toxic beating heart to an event that should/could have been full of Spirit.
Oh, and then there was the man who used to own the exhibition telling us his anecdotes about meeting the Royal Family in his cut glass accent, reminding me how deeply Christianity is woven in with the Establishment. I used to like the Queen until I went to the State Opening of Parliament a few years ago and saw her in her gold coach happily going to give our land back to the Tory Government who had already spent four years murdering the poor and vulnerable. There are some moments that help you see through things. That was one of mine and yesterday was another.
I did enjoy though telling someone from the Bible Society that it is a shame that Christianity gets in the way of people reading the Bible, which I consider to be full of wild wisdom. And I loved a small venture called 'Take Time', which is the idea of a lovely Baptist minister who has created some short recorded guided meditations that take you into Bible stories as though you were there. He told me that he had the idea first when he worked as a Prison Chaplain. I have done that work too, and worked in prisons for many years, and so understand the need to create a space away from the brutality of that environment. I can only imagine what a blessing he has been to many in prison. He told me some lovely stories. Yesterday, right at the end of the exhibition, I came across him and listened to his recording on the Last Supper. It was so beautiful. I emerged in tears and asked him, "how did it get from that to all of this?", looking out at the stalls and the stuff. I like to think that he understood.
Such a disheartening day but it matters to see through and beneath. There are so many beautiful people in Christianity, just as in all religions, so many activists working for change; to stop the war, to speak out for the fallen through (and without ramming religion down their necks at the same time), to provide belonging and comfort in, what for many is, a cold world. It is after all a radical, revolutionary spirituality from its very beginnings. It deserves so much better than the Christian Resources Exhibition.
Christ have mercy indeed.
Christ have mercy indeed.