**THIS IS NOT A ‘RELIGIOUS’ BLOG**
I grew up in a non-religious home. We never went to church and when I asked my parents about it when I was in my 20’s, they told me that it was up to me to decide who, when, how and what I wanted to worship. Oh, um…okay. I also remember taking a course on Tibetan Buddhism and my mother warned me ‘not to tell my father’ – which indicated to me, that they considered themselves Christians, but just didn’t admit to it.
As a kid, I would occasionally go to Sunday school with a friend of mine – she belonged to an Anglican church and yeah, I lost interest pretty quickly. Then, a few years later, another friend came along and her family were devout members of a Pentecostal church and I think I might have gone once and well, that was some scary shit, right there. Yikes. All that yelling and weeping and wailing and flailing of arms – uh, no thanks.
So, I was sort of left to my own to decide what I believed in. Hmm. Good question.
I never put much thought into it, to be honest. I just assumed there was God and Jesus and for the most part – what I learned about religion was based on Jesus Christ Superstar (I still freakin’ love that movie).
About 15 years ago, my family all went to see the Passion Play in the badlands of Alberta. I wanted to go because it was set outdoors and it was supposed to be quite spectacular – and indeed, it was (if anyone is interested, here is the website: http://canadianpassionplay.com/). I laughed, I cried, I was moved – it was I suppose, a religious experience. I’ve been back once since then, and I’d go see it again in a heartbeat. It’s an amazing story. I also remember my sister and I having a heated discussion on the way there – I asked her about her beliefs and she declared herself an Athiest and I couldn’t figure out why the hell she’d want to go see the story of Christ. Ah, good times.
I plodded along, not paying much particular attention. I’d go to church for weddings and funerals, but that was about it. I have very good friends that are Ukrainian Orthodox and the inside of their church is simply beautiful and steeped in tradition. I was in Paris a few years ago, and two of my favourite places were the insides of Notre Dame and Sacre Coeur. They were awe inspiring and immensely beautiful in their design and age.
It wasn’t really until after my father died that I started wondering. I look back now, and I think it was because I of course, was questioning ‘life after death’ and the idea of heaven and all those things that one thinks about upon the death of a loved one. Was I mad at God? Well, I was mad, but I realized it wasn’t at God, because I didn’t BELIEVE in God. Huh…well isn’t THAT interesting. I realized that I had a spiritual sense – rather – I believed in the spirit of the universe and that we are all energy and connected. Did I believe in Christ? Well, I think he was a stand-up guy; he was principled and preached the words of love and kindness. Did I believe he was the ‘Son of God’? No.
So, the past several years, I have found a sense of comfort, if you will, in putting my faith into the universe and knowing that everything happens for a reason…if I didn’t have that, I think I’d be in a much different frame of mind (and not in a good way). When something goes wrong, I get upset, angry (insert emotion here) – but through it, I try to remind myself that it’s the universe’s way of telling me it isn’t the right time, right thing, right person – whatever the case may be. That helped me through the agonizing grief I had after my father died and a number of other life altering things that have been thrown at me. Don’t get me wrong – I get good and mad and weepy when something happens – but it’s that little voice telling me to be patient. Whatever it is that I need, will come to me in its’ own sweet time.
Fast forward to this past week: I have been invited to join the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. Wow, really? Me? Huh. So, I did some research and it’s an amazing Order that basically supports those who are sick or poor and can’t help themselves (I paraphrase). That’s something I could certainly get behind! It’s an Order that dates back to the Crusades…er…wait a minute…that’s ‘Christian talk’ – and I don’t consider myself a Christian. Would joining the Order go against my own beliefs, also – would my lack of Christian beliefs offend those already in it? I had to give this some serious thought.
I spoke with the woman who nominated me and she has assured me that my lack of Christian beliefs were nothing to worry about – the Order requires that one lives ‘by Christian values’ (and by that, I’m assuming they mean the ‘good’ Christian values, not the bad ones – because, there are some of those). I researched the organization and came across this: Notwithstanding the order’s devotion to Christian ideals of charity and its official position that the order has a “Christian character”, its Grand Council has since 1999 affirmed that “profession of the Christian Faith should not be a condition of membership of the Order.” The issue of the order’s Christian character and the issue of “inclusive membership” was dealt with in the Grand Council’s Pro Fide Report in 2005, wherein it was said that the order’s life is shaped by Christian faith and values, but that “[r]ather than the emphasis being primarily upon ‘spiritual beliefs or doctrine’ it is on works of mercy rendered through St. John”. Therefore, while the Great Officers are required to profess the Christian faith, the same is “not an essential condition of membership” and “[t]he onus is on the man or woman who is invited to the privilege of membership to decide whether he or she can with a good conscience promise to be faithful to the stated aims and purposes of this Christian lay order of chivalry.” On the subject of inclusive membership, the report stated “Christian hospitality is a criterion which can be applied to the Order’s relationships to persons of other religious faiths,” and “the Order needs to be characterized by a hospitable disposition towards other faith traditions while holding fast to its own origins and foundational identity in Christian faith.”
I have begun the paperwork this morning. It doesn’t matter WHAT we believe in – as long as we’re all working towards the betterment of humanity.
PS: For more information on the Order, here is a website: http://www.sosjinternational.org/