(you weren’t expecting this one?)
i get the sense that many people think of jesus as someone who would not be at home in a blog called fuck politeness; but i am giving him a chance and bringing him here.
i was not brought up religious. i don’t think i was brought up to be anti-religion either; but the overall impression i got from most of my years alive has been that religion is something humanity is working to overcome.
i think many people close to me do not like religion because they feel like it has shut them out, or because they feel that by not being part of it they are claiming their right to freedom; to not being shut into something limited. most religions are limiting in the sense that they create a narrative of our existence that lends itself to being followed and accepted rather than being challenged and recreated.
the jesus story is one of those narratives it has been easy for me; and many of my family and friends in the u.k to mock or resist. in the name of logic and critical thinking we reject the idea that we have all been saved by a white man with a beard of centuries past, and that he is our only hope for salvation in the future.
jesus’ story is of course more multifarious than that; he doesn’t have to be a white man with a beard and anyway that is not the point of him. his main gig is being the son of god and having come to earth to share love and truth with human beings.
i was 19 when i first went to church of my own will. i was visiting harare for the first time in 13 years, my aunts were going to church and i went with them. my mum had told me explicitly not to get involved with the evangelical/ pentecostal churches because she does not like their ability to brainwash people into following religion and the church uncritically, which has lead to some tragic consequences. a part of me agreed with her but i like best to do what i am told not to.
the event reminded me of my last visit to church with my aunt when i was 5 years old. it had been a disaster because i had taken one look at the pastor on stage, burst into screaming raging tears and had to be taken outside. at the initial church visit, for some reason the pastor had brought out a sword onto the stage. i remember because i told people afterwards that this is what i had been afraid of, even though i knew at the time that this was a kind of lie. i was actually afraid of the pastor himself; because of the power he had, and i was afraid of all the power that appeared in the room as everyone was worshiping god. i either did not know the word, or the meaning of power yet.
i went to the black churches in america a few times, and believed nothing, or little, or occasionally everything, and sang my heart out for jesus and it was always bright and loud and the colour red and everything real. i realised that for all its problems, the church can be a space of love; the kind of space which is paradoxically rare. in london i went to st james church in piccadilly circus on my own and felt nothing of the same memories and wrote this poem about the coldness i felt there.
after a several more church visits; some that made me feel alive and others more dead than i was when i arrived, and many circular conversations with myself, i have decided not to disbelieve the bible anymore.
this is not a conversion epiphany, or a great act of the spirit. it is just an admission of what i already felt; that my life is shaped by stories, and i really find truth in any story from which i have understood a meaning. it is an acknowledgment that my grandmother prays for me, and that this somewhere must have its role in any success i encounter.
also, that religion has a lot of power, I knew when I was five, and power has a tragically great role in shaping the truth as we know it. I still come close to crying at church because I am afraid of this. at the moment, it looks to me like we cannot eliminate power, but we can hold it ourselves, and we can change its direction.
i try to write my own life and my world as i see in order to resist whatever needs resisting, and also as a way of feeling in control. i decide who my friends are and paint them in colours i wish to see them through. i decide my enemies and do the same. i decide after long enough feeling at the edge of things and writing poems about being a stranger, that there are in fact no edges but we each have a different perception of the centre point.
but these stories are rewrites with parallels everywhere. if audre lorde thought there are no new ideas, only new ways of making them felt, perhaps i think that too; and if not, i at least concede that the idea of jesus is in my blood and it will touch the art i make.
and it may be that in some places, the church will not have me critical/ independent/woman /or gay as i am (never mind giggling and misbehaving)
but god has a greater imagination than most people, and i can be with her when i want to be.