Your Leaders Are Not Your Leaders

This woman may give you better guidance than your daddy ever did.

Oh my God.

I am immersed in studying the Bible for a group I’m in, and I’m actively trying to get my head around a healthy experience of Christian Scripture. Most of us don’t have that. Scripture is a deep well of truth and beauty, and yet people in charge have shat all over it for many, many years, and we don’t know what to make of it, so we have to form our own understanding in the quiet dark of early morning.

(Okay, so maybe that’s not you, it’s me. Whatever.)

I am an artist, and a writer, and I love people, and I love story. And one of the things I’ve uncovered in recent years is a righteous anger about the way God and Jesus have been handled and talked about by people in power. These people who I feel have been out of alignment, and just flat out wrong for a very long time, have dictated the stories of the Bible, and have suggested they know better, and have suggested I’m inferior in my understanding because I’m a woman, and they’ve tried to lock me out of the pearly gates. And now I’m like, Yo. I’m a mother and a writer and a teacher. I’ve been an academic. I’ve studied yoga. I’m operating a small business in its infancy. I’ve been through some shit, I’ve come out on the other side, and bitches, I’ve come to play.

In boots.

Because every prophet needs a good pair of boots.

So much about Scripture is that it is a living, breathing entity. The way one engages with it is the way one might engage with a Tarot card. You look, and something beyond guides you, something that exists below the surface, beyond the literal. Only Tarot cards are kind of a problem, and I don’t do them anymore, because they just caused a big ol’ mess in my head. Scripture, on the other hand, is holy, a slow massage. It is not holy because it is the “literal word of God.” It is holy because it has the energy and seasoning of many many years, of many many hands of faithful people. None of those people was perfect. People who tell you what stories in the Bible mean do not necessarily know. Your job, your life’s work, is to uncover what God is calling you to do. It is to understand we are all different, and we all have a path. And if you are to lead a happy and fulfilling life, it has very little to do with big houses and fancy cars. (Those things are so nice, though!) It has much more to do with a life that is true to yourself, and true to your creator. And what’s true to being you does not have anything to do, necessarily, with someone else’s expectations and beliefs.

That’s the friggin’ truth.

We’re all toiling, trying to understand our lives and what we should do, looking for a leader to guide us.

Listen to Jesus. I mean, did he do everything his parents said? Did he sit in a cubicle for 20 years? Did he wear underwear? (We really just can’t know. He might have gone commando.) Did he get married and have a gaggle of kids? That guy didn’t even have a dog.

What Jesus says, over and over, and what other parts of the Bible and Old Testament say, too, is that the people deemed “leaders” are not your leaders. They may not be worth listening to. You can give them a try, of course. You don’t have to condemn anybody. But just because someone has wealth and status doesn’t mean he or she knows any better than you do in a particular situation. It doesn’t mean you have to hand your life over to him or her, say Here, live this for me. Your life is for you. You are meant to be you. That’s why you were created. Not to be a shadow of someone else. Not to live in fear and shame and guilt and a deep sense of wrongdoing for being alive. Jesus’s whole point—and, um, I never read a part where he says you should live in shame?—is that you deserve to be here, and you deserve to be alive, and the greatest goal is not all of these earthly cares but exists in the simple act of breaking bread, in love, in kindness and generosity. And the people who do this best are often on the fringe of society.

Living this way doesn’t get you into a mansion in Beverly Hills, usually. Living this way actually got him killed.

His is still a radical message. Still.

Trying to discern God’s path for you, trying to form a relationship with this Massive Everything-Being, takes time and work, but it is the most rewarding relationship you’ll ever have. It sets you free. It really does. I mean, there’s a lot that is a pain in the ass about it too. An active faith means you discover, again and again, all the shit you don’t and can’t know. (You’re humble, instead of egotistical.) You end up being judged by people. (Even people who say they follow Jesus, and even though Jesus says not to judge!) You end up feeling alone sometimes, or on the fringe, or like an outcast. You end up making decisions that to other people—people who have different operating systems—just doesn’t make sense. Because a lot of people’s operating systems is Being Successful in the World, or Being Appreciated by People Who Matter, and your operating system is Love, Truth, Love. (And also Wisdom. Don’t want to forget that.)

And this is all very tiring! And illuminating. And tiring! Which is why it’s good to watch a nonviolent TV show once in a while.

But the path of Love has good company.

You’ll have Jesus, who is so so sweet and so misunderstood. He died for Love, by the way. Like Romeo and Juliet. People killed him because he taught love and challenged authority. He also didn’t have any money. He was also homeless.

You’ll have Mother Mary, who smells like roses and soothes you like a calm river.

You’ll have Saint Rita, my personal favorite saint, who is the cutest, like a teddy bear for your soul.

And you’ll have people like Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. and all the women who we don’t know because all the books covered them up and it’s time to unearth them now.

In the concrete world, you’ll have good friends who give you hugs, who meet you in your confusion and give you a boost.

You’ll appreciate music, and you’ll dance, and you’ll eat a donut or a cookie with utmost glee.

And you’ll meet cool people in coffee shops all the time. Coffee shops are like sanctuaries.

All of this sounds like a ramble, but my intention is to tell you that what Scripture backs up, again and again, despite the people who tell you they know it so well and who judge and condemn and suggest damnation and hellfire, is that our True Leaders are not always the leaders the world assigns. It takes a deeper thinker, someone who can read between the lines, to discover this, over and over and over and over again. The True Leader does not have to be old and gray, someone called an “elder.” The True Leader does not have to have accumulated wealth or prestige. The True Leader does not have to be a married person, or someone with kids. The True Leader does not have to wear nice clothes. The True Leader does not have to have a penis. (But there is nothing wrong with penises!)

The True Leader is kind, and not just because they read a Bible passage that told them to be. They just are. The True Leader is nonjudgmental. The True Leader is someone whose presence fosters a feeling of love, and whose expression of truth may unsettle you. When you’re interacting with a True Leader, you feel accepted. You feel seen and acknowledged. The True Leader has self-respect, and operates from a system beyond traditional societal rules when those rules are just plain dumb, or when those rules are discordant with the higher message of Love. Interacting with a True Leader might appear, at first, to be confusing. Your head will have to catch up with what your heart knows.

So look for a True Leader today. I’ll bet you find one. She or he may not be in the place you expect, or look the way you thought they’d look, but you’ll walk away with a lesson.

 

“Culturalis Open Podium – Culturalis Theater” by Culturalis is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Categories: love, spirituality and faith

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2 replies

  1. Perhaps Jesus had a hot pair of sandals, and that’s why he felt so confident!

    Thank you for this article: I find that I’ve got to apologize or make a caveat if I want to say anything about Jesus, as though I have to backpedal to say anything about his words, because I am not an established Christian. In fact, several of my own family members were met by English Puritans at the boatyard in Boston upon arrival in the New World around 1667 and hanged only a short distance away at Boston Commons for being Heretics.

    I suppose I can say I come from a deep and significant tradition of rebels—the oldest Quaker family in the United States. Nonetheless, I am essentially as Christian as anybody, educated until age 19 in religious schools and almost continuously affiliated with religious establishments. Yet I cannot seem to address anyone using biblical verse without having to distance myself from “The Christians”.

    They seem to own the bible and the thumping they do is so loud and violent no one who doesn’t want THAT wants to acknowledge themselves as having any faith at all in the power of the words that formed the impetus for publishing, for even the printing press.

    You may remember I have a tattoo running down my right arm of words my mother used to say to me:

    “Faith is a bird who feels the light and sings in the darkness before the dawn”.

    Translated from Bengali, these words were written by Rabindranath Tagore around 1924, who composed the national anthem of India, but I cannot even talk about faith, or even lack thereof, without scaring myself, as though to even moisten my toes in the periodic tidal waters of religion’s beach is to threaten certain drowning in a tidal wave stirred up by the powerful winds of a Christian church establishment bent upon using religion again and again to control others and dominate their lives so that the dominated have no power of their own, not even power over the words of verse meant to liberate them.

    We have strayed so far towards “logic” in the name of distancing ourselves from chaos, that seemingly illogical biblical verse has become either condemned as evil or lifted up as law. We forget that verse, and Scripture, has its own harmonic logic, even to the point that we can forget how logic as a paradigm of Greek philosophers was developed to help understand those profound experiences of the divine, not to dismiss them or deny them, let alone to make people feel ashamed of having had them.

    The Torah, or Old Testament teachings, suggests that we “Be still, and know that I am God”, and are we not all seeking to find stillness in the midst of a busy world? Lao Tsu wrote that “Life is suffering, but there is an end to suffering, and the end of suffering is The Way, and the way is the Tao”; wouldn’t we all like to find a way to end our own suffering? Arjuna sought an answer to the dilemma of fighting with his own family, and Krishna visited him to explain that it was his duty, his Dharma, to be a soldier, and that if others raised their hands to kill him he should realize his destiny and fight back, survive in spite of the attacks of his own family, to celebrate the Divine wisdom of spirituality and God.

    Perhaps when, like you, we start to read Christian Scripture as fluently as a born again minister, or as passionately as we want to be moved, we will be so moved, not by “The wrath of an angry God”, nor by an angry man who tries to use those words to condemn others for gain. Instead, we can begin to own language, in any context, that speaks to us so movingly, whether Christian or otherwise:

    “When love beckons to you, follow him
    Though his ways are hard and steep.
    And when his wings enfold you
    Yield to Him
    Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
    And when he speaks to you,
    Believe him, though his voice may shatter your dreams
    As the North wind lays waste the garden.”

    -from The Holy Qu’ran (not “The Satanic Verses”, another often appropriated book of verse).
    Much love to you, even on the day AFTER national kindness day!

    Like

    • Thanks, Sydney. People who I felt were very troubling, judgmental, and domineering took over the bible and TiredChristianity, and it kept me away from religion for a long time. Religion is a structure and an institution that is often very flawed. Community is different. Faith is different. And despite my own needs and desires (which is to sleep under a tree and rest for a good long time), I have consistently been directed here, on this path, to discover something new, to offer an alternate way. So much of life is a matter of just coming into alignment and not fighting or resisting anymore. That doesn’t make it easy. But it does make life more beautiful. And it does get us closer to Truth, capital T.

      Like

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