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  • I’m going to approach a taboo subject here, religion. Some people would call this blasphemy and will say she’ll probably go straight to hell, but then this story is not for them. This is only my personal viewpoint.

    I was baptized in the Four Square church. A was about seven years old and the baptisms were done in front of the whole congregation. The preacher, had a tub full of water and he took me in his arms and leaned me back over the tub and dunked my head in the water. Meanwhile some lady, always the same one, on the right side in the front row is making with the Halleluyahs and Praise the Lord. I’ve got water up my nose and am coughing because the water went down the wrong way and they quickly ease me off the stage. Why’d they have to go and do that? I thought I was going to drown. Did I feel saved? Hell no. Did I have any idea what they were going to do to me? No. I was just another number.

    Every Sunday in Sunday school we had to memorize scriptures because when the communists came, they we’re going to burn all the bibles. The only way to save the word of God was to memorize it. If you’d memorize your scripture for the week and recite it perfectly you’d get a candy bar. I didn’t get many candy bars. I always flubbed when it came to putting in the thees, thy’s and thines in the right place.

    The memorization was nightmarish. All those wars and kings that had to be memorized. One day I was sitting in Sunday school in my dress when I realized I still had my pajama bottoms on underneath. I swear sitting through that day in Sunday school was like nails on a chalkboard to me. I was terrified someone would notice I still had my pajama bottoms on. Jesus didn’t love me, and if he did, why should he? I couldn’t even memorize a scripture to get a candy bar. I wasn’t even awake enough to get dressed right.

    From the time I was two years old until the time I was about eleven, every single Sunday, without fail, I had Sunday school. Do I remember it? Not fondly. I really didn’t like the goody two shoes kids who memorized everything just right and recited it perfectly every week. Sitting there with their better than thou smug looks on their faces, really got my goat.

    Not changing the subject, a few days ago, I found evidence of real faith. No, I wasn’t born again, nothing like that. My early experience with the church put me off organized religion for life. What I found was a man who thought similar to what I thought about religion. His views were unorthodox, so his father-in-law committed him to a funny farm because he was so devout. When I heard the words of the song and read the text, I actually got excited. This was a loving god, not a war monger. A god who loved creatures, art, music and was maybe a little quirky. I could finally relate.

    So I will share with you some words from the poet Christopher Smart, the British poet who penned his long poem Jubilate Agno, in an insane asylum. These words came from the notes and text of a program celebrating Benjamin Britten’s 100th year. Rejoice in the Lamb, was performed by the Pacific Chorale with John Alexander conducting, Sunday, April 21, 2013. I attended the performance.

    'Rejoice in God, O ye Tongues;
    Give the glory to the Lord,
    And the Lamb
    Nations, and languages,
    And every Creature
    In which is the breath of Life
    Let man and beast appear before him
    And magnify his name together.'

    Then there’s much more text and then the best part:

    'For I will consider my cat Jeoffry.
    For he is the servant of the living God.
    Duly and daily serving him.

    For at the first glance
    Of the glory of God in the East
    He worships in his way.
    For this is done by wreathing his body
    Seven times round with elegant quickness.
    For he knows that God is his savior.
    For God has bless’d him
    In the variety of his movements.
    For there is nothing sweeter
    Than his peace when at rest.

    For I am possessed of a cat,
    Surpassing in beauty,
    from whom I take occasion
    to bless Almighty God.'

    There you have it. God blesses cats. God blesses all creatures. My sister insisted there were no animals in heaven. How could there not be? If there is a heaven with no animals, no horses, no dogs, no cats, no birds where will the wonder of it be? I guess you can say my religious beliefs are a little bit unorthodox, because I believe all living things have souls. Not just people. Then the text goes on. . .

    'For H is a spirit
    And therefore he is God.
    For K is king
    And therefore he is God.
    For L is love
    And therefore he is God.
    For M is musick
    And therefore he is God.'

    What an enlightened and inspiring poet. Speaking to the essence of all creation. He even glorifies a Mouse as a creature of great personal valor.

    Then the flower part:

    'For the flowers are great blessings.
    For the flowers have their angels,
    Even the words of God’s creation.
    For the flower glorifies God and the root parries the adversary.
    For there is a language of flowers.
    For the flowers are peculiarly
    The poetry of Christ.'

    So I’ve wrestled with religion for most of my life, not really believing in man’s inhumanity to man, man’s hypocritical nature, man being made in God’s image. Has anyone ever seen him? What if he’s an amoeba? I personally don’t believe that man is in any way enlightened over all of creatures on this planet. There is only physical evidence of God’s glory. So I’m at peace with that. That piece of stardust that binds us together in this cosmos, that never erodes and forever shares the mystery of time is all the evidence I need to believe. I don’t believe there is only one religion and one god, I believe that each religion is the right one and that seeking faith outside yourself is valid no matter what doctrine you are brought up in. I do not believe people will not be accepted into heaven if they don’t believe in Jesus Christ. I don’t believe God would send all his creatures to hell who don’t believe in Jesus. There’s lots of things about religion I just cannot believe. I even believe in the rights of atheists to not believe. I’m fine with the whole thing, just have compassion for your fellow man’s beliefs. Wars are stupid, they glorify greed, they magnify intolerance, they justify violence in God’s name. I don’t buy it. I much prefer to rejoice in his creation, not destroy it.
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