I am not what you would call a religious person. I was brought up in both the Catholic and Anglican Church, and have a respect and fascination for theology, but I do not believe in God in the Christian sense. I think Jesus the man was a dude who was totally switched on to what makes us human, but I don’t believe he was the Messiah. I have a deep and abiding Hermetic belief in the interconnectedness of all things. I feel the Universe is a conscious force that we are all connected to and are a part of. I believe in magic because I’ve seen and made it happen. But no, I don’t believe in God, certainly not the one that religion created.
Having said that, every time I walk into a church, I feel something. A presence, if you will, that is all-encompassing and powerful. It is full of love – not the butterflies and puppy dogs kind of love, but that deep, primordial, ancient love that is a little bit scary. I feel it more when the church is empty, devoid of humankind’s interpretation of that power. In going to mass – which I do rarely and only when my father is in the pulpit – I feel only the catechism; the dogma. I feel the congregation’s guilt for not being a good enough Christian. I feel their boredom as they reel off the prayers and responses by rote. I feel their hypocrisy, their hope that if they do this enough times, surely they’ll get into Heaven.
I don’t mean that as disrespectfully as it sounds. Some people’s faith is inspiring, quiet and beautiful; the type of faith that is unfettered by judgment, hate, and intolerance; that is fueled by love. My father’s faith in his God is comforting to me because my father’s God is accepting and loving and enriching, not vengeful and wrathful.
Maybe that’s what I feel when the church is empty. I feel the true belief, created by persons who strive to be Christ-like, whose love for themselves, their neighbour, and their God is uplifting and powerful. We have, as humans, an ability to influence the world around us purely through thought. Action and deed compounds this, of course, but in the simple moment of feeling love, compassion or empathy we can project that energy out and do some amazing things.
I have not been very loving of late. I have been caught up in anger and frustration and hurt towards people I once loved and respected, people I put things aside for and helped and looked after when they needed me. But now I have compassion fatigue and it’s exhausting me. Ageing me. Sickening me. People have poured their woes into me, and siphoned out my tolerance and acceptance, and now I feel I’ve been used up and spat out and trodden all over, and it makes me feel very sorry for myself.
And whose fault is it?
Mine. Entirely. Because as I sat in an empty church today and felt that power overwhelm me, I realised I haven’t been looking after me. I’ve been so concerned with others, and so caught up in my own pain, I forgot to love myself. Maybe I’ve never actually known how, but now I’ll start to learn. I have to. I’ll be the Universe expressing itself as a human being for a while and let the Universe love itself through me. Then everything else will fall into place and be connected again. Then I can love again, and be that compassionate, empathetic person I pride myself on being.
It’s hard. Oh my [insert deity here], it’s hard. I feel like a coal mine with no coal left. Like a dried up well. Like a million other metaphors that I can’t think of because I no longer have the resources left for thinking. But it’s either do it, or crumple, and I will not crumple. I want that feeling of being in an empty church everywhere I go.
Watch this space.