For the Jews, Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement. I don’t pretend to know why, or what day Yom Kippur actually is. I’m also not a Jew, so technically, this might be cultural appropriation. But by cracky, today is my Yom Kippur.
I don’t mean to be dramatic, but I had an epiphany this evening that can’t be ignored. I was reading E. J. Dionne’s new book, Souled Out, which is one of the many books I was thinking about in my previous post, “A New Age.”
Souled Out is about “reclaiming faith and politics after the Religious Right,” according to the subtitle. Dionne’s opinion is that the Religous Right (distinguished from those who are both faithful and political by their representation of religion as “a realm of cultural combat in which only abortion and gay marriage matter”) is done, and that people of faith are tired of being told that they must either hate gays or be unChristian.
“I would insist… that believers eventually get around to asking whether what they believe is true,” Dionne writes. “…few believers are blind automatons who never subject their beliefs to serious inquiry. Mother Teresa was not alone among believers in asking why she was not hearing from God.”
Here is the main point of my atonement. Without knowing it, I have always nursed a secret arrogance about believers. I have always believed (without realizing it) that I was smarter, stronger, more flexible and open than those who believed. Religion of all types has worried me, and I have taken that worry too far.
I don’t take back a single post I’ve ever written on this blog. I have believed and meant everything I’ve ever written, and that’s not what I feel I should atone for. What I feel I should atone for is the dark jewel of judgment that I’ve feared in others but tonight found in my own jewelry box. Why did I believe that most believers were judgmental morons, while knowing some of the most fantastic people in my life were believers? Julie, Tina, Mary, Wendy, Deb, Dawn, Sarah, Mike, Buddy, Michele, Gail, Heather! Why did I assume that all these people were exceptions to the rule, believers who questioned, that I had had the good fortune to meet, while still nursing this unexamined belief that believers never questioned?
I know some of the reasons, of course. Being agnostic means being told repeatedly that you’re not paying the least bit of attention to what’s all around you. Being unchurched means being told that if you’d just come to church… And being gay means being told that you’re bound for hell, hated by God, and have no choice but to change or deny who you truly are if you’re going to be re-embraced by God.
But that’s not the true reason I’ve felt this way. I’d love it if any of it were, and I’m sure that all of it helped me to justify it. But the fact is that I’ve been just as tribal as those I accused of tribalism. I assumed that those like me were intelligent and questioning while those not like me were not, even if they would like to be.
Without going on further, because that would sound like justification: I apologize. I atone. I ask forgiveness. I was wrong, and I hope to stop being wrong.