The temple.

Tonight, I told my daughter that God is alive

In her body.

 

No one ever said that to me.

 

Instead, people told me all about the Commandments,

Ten of them.

Also, Seven –

deadly sins.

Some handful of Beatitudes

And what a fuck-up Eve could be.

 

God breathed God’s breath into the human body,

in order to make a living being.

Genesis says so.

 

It’s the first written words about human beings

in my own tradition.

This gorgeous scene.

 

A man and a woman, made from dust.

Through their nostrils, they are filled

With God’s breath.

 

And when the breath of God leaves

them,

and each of us,

we are returned again

to dust.

 

But what of the time between?

While God’s breath is breathing Itself in us,

how holy can we be?

 

You’ve heard it said, “mercies are new each morning”,

but I tell you,

New mercies ride in on each breath.

 

God’s breath,

In each of us.

 

No one knows what to do next.

 

Me neither.

But, I told my daughter what I wish

someone had told me.

 

Listen for God in your body, sighing softly.

Sometimes rattling.

Feel God, too.

That rhythm, the movement in and out,

filling up and letting go.

 

Rupture and repair.

Expansion and contraction.

Life, Death,

Re-birth.

 

Every cell and atom in the universe is dancing like this.

 

Later, I will tell her even more subversive things.

 

Advertisements

Eve.

To be a woman in the church,

No matter the age.

Ah, that is a great source of shame.

 

Were you, like me, given the story of Eve

to blame?

That first woman, tempted by the power of knowledge,

Not smart enough to know her place.

 

And poor, innocent Adam,

So trusting of the woman,

Now defiled

After her tango with the snake.

 

Taking serpent’s words, and God’s fruit into her body

now changed.

Now naked and ashamed.

 

Man’s first words in his own defense,

“She tricked me!”.

 

What a witch.

 

Well, here’s another trick.

Blame.

Scapegoat a gender, get every last one of them.

Meanwhile, stripping God of any feminine traits.

 

If God is male, then male is god.

 

Father, Son, and Holy Ghost?

That which cannot be named.

Only felt.

In our bodies.

This knowledge of God.

 

Who among us knew it first?

Eve.

And of course, she was afraid.

 

How does a fragile human body withstand the knowledge of God

Once consumed?

 

For me, it’s always some tender blend

of grief and grace –

Mixed.

Like Eve,

 

I cannot keep it to myself.

And, yet I too am rendered a bit naked

And ashamed.

 

But shame, beloveds, is not the toxic terror you’ve been told.

Just the stripping back of one or two dead layers,

Much like the snake.

 

Nearly every woman on earth would now pay

For the peeling

Of old skin,

 

Unearthing something new.

 

But this is not a surface peel.

The encounter with God we’ve been offered

By the snake.

 

When we eat the fruit, we risk becoming

A graveyard

For all the people we thought we were.

 

Scales falling from the eyes of Saul,

A new name, a new life, and here we have

Paul.

 

Not my favorite apostle.

Some thorn is his side about women still.

But,

Then I suppose we all have to drag our own humanity

Along

with us,

 

Long after consuming what’s been given

by Grace.

I AM.

The day Moses met God, he asked,

“What is your name?”,

 

“I have no name”, comes the reply,

From a Source now unnamed.

 

All alone atop that Holy Mountain,

Moses worries after those waiting down below.

 

“Without a name”, he pleads, “How will my people come to know

You from all the other gods

Belonging to these poor, lost, wandering men?”

 

Was it courageous, or cowardice to stand there in that place,

And so boldly ask God for the Grace –

To become small enough for them?

 

“This, not that” was the first and only Law given

By God to those two humans in the Garden.

 

An instruction for an era lost,

The Garden now invisible,

And yet –

 

Just like Moses and his people, most of us here

Are still believing “this, not that” will save us

From the pain of our uncertainty.

 

Shaped by years of wandering through deserts

Of our own,

Are we not guilty of thirsting after the image

Of arriving –

Somewhere, each one of us a beggar.

 

“This, not that, black or white, Please Lord, make it simple”.

 

Moses could have said that.

I hear it in his question.

 

Yet, God, unchanged and ever changing, always sets the tone –

A riddle for an answer.

Or perhaps, an Answer for minds too riddled to hear it:

 

“I AM”.

 

Do you ever wonder what that sound was like in the ears of the man who heard it first?

 

Could it have been pronounced “A-UM”?

 

I’ve heard that sound fall from the mouths of people

Perched atop holy mountains of their own.

Spandex on their bodies,

Twenty dollars for enlightenment.

 

Do they know the Holy mountain upon which they are standing?

They’ve at least removed their shoes.

 

“OM”, it is written, but as it moves from breath, to throat, to tongue, to lips

It sounds

More like this:

“Ahhhhhhhhhh—Ummmmmmm”.

 

The Beginning and The End.

The Alpha and The Omega.

The Atman and The Brahman.

Or can we say, The Ego and The Soul?

 

That which can perceive That which Is.

 

It’s strange and clear and merciful –

Each ancient tradition tells a story

Of this sound.

 

Do you recognize it yet?

 

It’s unclear whether Moses or his people could,

And most days it seems the same for you, and for me –

 

Perhaps this is what Jesus meant when he bothered once again

To tell us,

“I AM”.

 

The way, the truth, and the light.

 

I think we needed someone to show us,

In the flesh.

I AM.

 

“Stick your finger in my side”, he says,

To his dear doubting friend.

 

But that’s not what I was taught.

Were you?

Instead, instructed over and over to literalize,

To flatten it down.

 

But, didn’t God warn Moses?

Oh wait, I mean,

I AM.

 

Jesus may have been the flesh and bone and blood encounter

With a God

We can’t nail down.

 

Genesis tells us of Creation from No thing.

Science claims the heart begins as a null-point,

A Zero at the center.

No thing.

 

Then a twist, and a spin, and suddenly a beat:

I AM.

 

And while our riddled minds are grasping yet again

After a Name

For the magic happening here,

 

The temple curtain gets torn straight down the middle,

From top to bottom, falling away in two –

Pieces.

 

Holy of Holies now unveiled,

Each one of us bracing to be blinded

By a glimpse

Of what’s inside.

 

Yet, those among us brave or crazy enough

To look

And see –

Will find

No thing is there.

 

No name.

No nails.

 

No thing.

 

Only

I AM.

 

Did not Siddhartha while sitting under the Bodhi tree

Find

No thing too?

Once named, then unnamed, and renamed:

Awakened one.

One who sees.

 

Would you look for yourself?

 

Try Within.

 

Each one of us already knows this Place,

It’s Only human

Beings who could mistake that inner space

 

For alienation.

 

Instead of what it truly is –

Our own Holy ordination.

 

— Whitney Logan, 5.8.17

I love Eve.

Eve, my favorite bible character, or otherwise known by the patriarchy as “Adam’s wife”, showed up in a TIME op-ed piece co-written by one of my heroes, Glennon Doyle Melton. This particular bit or writing right here (click link) is the whole reason I couldn’t stand being a woman in the church any longer. In fact, I think I have now spent a cumulative 7-8 years in therapy working this poison out of my own self-concept.

More pressing still, I now have a daughter, and I’m genuinely afraid to bring her up in the church for fear she might receive the same messages I did. In fact, I go visit churches by myself like an adult pre-screening a PG-13 movie to make sure it’s not going to be too corrupting for my child’s eyes and ears. Sometimes I actually picture myself sitting in the back of her fictional Sunday School classroom, and when we get to the whole bit about Eve, standing up and saying something like:

“Alright. That’s enough of that then.

Listen up kids, let me give you a brief little background about ancient semitic oral tradition and language, and how that fits into a much larger puzzle of religious and cultural context than the story itself reveals on the surface.

You tracking with me?

Okay, cool, next up: the ‘serpent’ as a symbol of feminine spirituality and the cycles of life-death-and-re-birth innate in a woman’s developing consciousness.

Any questions so far?”.

(Somehow I’m still waiting for my invite to be a guest Sunday School teacher at any church in town?!).

As Christian women (and men) start to wake up and demand better for themselves and their daughters (and sons), the church is going to have to decide how to respond. And as they do, I sure hope they look to JESUS instead of Mike Pence for guidance. Because Jesus spent plenty of time with women, all by himself, without a chaperone. In fact, they were some of his closest companions.

This.

“If change and growth are not programmed into your spirituality, if there are not serious warnings about the blinding nature of fear and fanaticism, your religion will always end up worshiping the status quo and protecting your present ego position and personal advantage as if it were God.”

― Richard Rohr

To my eyes, ears, and heart, this could be our current, collective spiritual diagnosis.

Hard Teachings.

Jesus said, “Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you”.

Yet, how many of us actually commit to this each day? I certainly haven’t been able to point to myself as a shining example of this quite often enough. However, I do happen to have a little psychological secret to share that may help.

Herman Hesse articulates this secret best when he says,

“If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part yourself. What isn’t part ourselves doesn’t disturb us.”

If that sounds improbable to you at first, I will give an example:

There was a period of time when I felt really loathsome towards someone in my family. I was very critical towards her for many years, and sometimes still catch myself remembering something she did or said years ago and get a brief little jolt of white-hot fury. I used to say things about her like “she thinks she knows everything absolutely!”, “she has no respect for other peoples’ perspectives”, “she makes me feel small for not believing the things she believes”, “she makes me feel shallow, superficial, and vapid”, “she regards me with suspicion and contempt”, and/or “she doesn’t love or respect me”.

This went on for years.

Eventually, I had the merciful opportunity to study the experience of “hatred” from a psychological perspective, and something begin to change for me. During this time, I learned that hatred – different than anger or constructive criticism or fear – is basically useless, other than to signal to the hater that some aspect of themselves has fallen into shadow. (<– click on that link before reading any further). According to psychological theory, hatred arises to alert us about some shadow aspect – or unconscious part – of ourselves.

So then, what did I do with this new knowledge about hatred? Thankfully, I decided to use this insight to re-examine my feelings towards the family member I mentioned above. It may not surprise you to learn that I soon began to realize that SOOOOOOOOOOO many of the things that bothered me about her were things that bothered me about myself.

Here’s the abbreviated list:

  • I too was guilty of withholding love and respect from her.
  • I too was guilty of minimizing her perspectives, and thinking that mine were superior.
  • I too was guilty of regarding her as one-dimensional and shallow.
  • I too was guilty of treating her with suspicion and contempt.

“Well, hot damn”, I thought, “she and I were the same!”. I hated her behavior towards me precisely because I was doing the same damn thing to her. Not wanting to admit this to myself, I had spent years caught up in these really awful feelings towards someone I wanted to love.

A Peruvian Shaman once said it to me this way:

“That which we won’t admit about ourselves comes to possess us”.

But, here’s the good news: we have a way out of this trap! When we are caught up in hatred towards anyone in particular or any group of people, the best hope we have for softening that fury is to try to acknowledge the unconscious, ugly parts of ourselves that we might be projecting onto them.

Many times, when we are able to sincerely soften ourselves towards someone else, in time, they too will soften. Sometimes they may even soften almost immediately. I mean, just think about how disarming it would be for you if someone walked up to you and said, “I need to apologize for feeling all this ugly stuff towards you for years. I didn’t realize that a lot of that ugliness was really about me, and not about you”. Boom. How open do you suddenly feel? Maybe for some of us it would take more time, but for me, a confession like that is so relatable – and so brave – that I am inclined to start thinking of that person in near-heroic terms.

As the Buddha says,

“Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love”.

I admit it. This is a hard teaching. It’s hard for me. It’s been especially hard for me in this current political climate at times. It’s hard for most people I know. It’s probably been especially hard for most people I know in this current political climate too. But. Show me the person who can regularly soften their heart and mind towards the people whom they could also readily hate, and I will show you a person who has genuine communion with something Holy. Or, as Jesus says, “to show that you are children of your Father Who is in heaven“, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”. (Matthew 5:45,44).

Grace and peace,
Whitney

Another excerpt from the book.

When I was 12 years old, my parents started sending me to a Christian summer camp located in a much deeper part of the Bible Belt than I had been raised.

During that first summer at camp, I spent two weeks living with the nicest, most encouraging strangers I had ever met in my life. The people I met at camp seemed to value me simply for breathing, celebrate my uniqueness, and care deeply about the things that troubled me the most.

I won literal awards – in the form of actual medals and ribbons – for simply being myself.

One afternoon, I got presented with a ribbon for giving “110%” of my effort during a water-skiing lesson earlier that morning. On another occasion I received a standing ovation in the dining room for something so insignificant that I cannot even remember what it was now. At the end of the two-week term, each elective activity gave out some kind of award to a very large percentage of it’s participants, each cabin gave a special award to each camper, and the camp gave out many gender-specific awards to a handful of campers in each age group.

I often felt like I was being baptized in accolades.

And it wasn’t just the camp staff that made me feel special. The campers who had been attending this camp for years before me were also surprisingly skillful at round-the-clock encouragement. It probably helped that there were ribbons given out for being an excellent encourager, and often times campers were singled out for public praise if they had behaved in especially generous ways towards other campers. Yet, if you asked any of them why and how they were so relentlessly kind towards their peers, they would always tell you it was because they loved Jesus, and because Jesus had said that “we should treat other people the way we would want to be treated” (Matthew 7:12, paraphrase).

Being the beneficiary of this spiritual benevolence probably would have been a positive emotional experience for any adolescent girl, but for a girl who had spent the last three years being somewhat mercilessly harassed by her peers at school, this was sublime. By the time my parents would arrive to come take me home, I didn’t want to leave.

At the wise old age of 12 (and a half), I didn’t consider the complexity of my experience, nor the simplicity of my impression. I didn’t think about the uniqueness of my isolated environment, and the positive reinforcement it provided. I did not consider the multiplicity in anyone’s motives – i.e. ribbons and medals, “bonus points in heaven”, and/or something more inspired. Neither did I care about whether or not there would be strings attached to the sense of inclusion I had been offered that summer. All I could comprehend back then was that Jesus seemed to make people want to be kind and good towards one another.

Frankly, he made me want to be kind and good too. (Still does).

At some now-forgotten moment during my two-week stay in this camp, I became pretty passionately convinced that Jesus was the all-encompassing answer for me. But. Here’s the catch: I also became simultaneously certain that Jesus was the answer for everyone else too. Earnestly, I often thought to myself, “if only everyone else could get to know Jesus like the people at camp know him, then they too would start acting in loving, gracious ways, and the whole world would be so much better”!

And this, my friends, is how an ‘Evangelical’ is born.

Or, perhaps I should say: this is how one young evangelical was born.

Yet, as it is with all births — expelled along with wondrous new life, you might also push some poop out onto the delivery table.  In this case, alongside the instructions about how to treat others with generosity and love, I also learned that being a follower of Jesus meant that the good things I did were just as important as the bad things I did NOT do. In fact, I often got the impression that manifesting an abundance of love or grace towards my fellow man was not as meaningful as avoiding a very important list of explicit and implicit “don’t”‘s:

Don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t do drugs, don’t have sex outside of marriage, don’t cheat, don’t lie, don’t steal, don’t swear, don’t lust after anyone, don’t have gay feelings or “tendencies”, don’t be jealous, don’t be lazy, don’t lie (unless the truth is impolite), don’t gossip (unless you can disguise it as concern), don’t dress provocatively, don’t dance provocatively, don’t make men feel uncomfortable in general, don’t disrespect your parents, don’t challenge your elders, don’t ask questions no one can answer, don’t be a downer, and don’t be too ambitious.

Now, if that sounds a bit more like a “Southern Manners Manual for Making A Nice Christian Girl out of Your Teenage Daughter”, and less like “The Ten Commandments” or
“The Sermon on the Mount”, it might be because THAT’S WHAT IT IS.

(… once again: more later).