The Earth Really, Really is my Church

by cathrynbauer

Beautiful bright day in downtown Oakland.  I peeled myself away from the computer at noontime and headed out to walk on the path around Lake Merritt.  Decided that today was the day I would check out the interior of the semi-new Christ the Light Cathedral, on a corner facing the lake.  It was hugely controversial, having been built at a time when the Church is needing to pay out damages and legal fees involving sexual abuse by clergy.   From the outside, it looks like something you’d see in a Star Trek episode.  First observation: it houses an Order of Malta clinic; brilliant, since those facilities do a world of quiet, heroic good.  Second observation: a lot of light.  I was not comfortable, though.  The interior, bright as it was, just didn’t harmonize for me.  I have been in other Christian spaces, two of them in SF, where I do like to go and meditate.  (One of them, Grace Cathedral, has a sign up saying explicitly that people of all faiths are welcome.)  For one thing, there is an emphasis on the crucified Christ, an image that has become one of sadness and wasted life to me.  (Christians, this next might be offensive.  You have been warned.  But if you are offended, feel free just to avoid me, defriend me or whatever,  and this blog.)  It gives me no rush of joy or appreciation to think that Christ died for me, in expiation of my sins.  First off, I don’t feel any need for expiation.  I work to live with integrity and to ferret out wrong thoughts and behaviors.   Nearly every working day, I see and hear people in the flesh who have done wrongs that I wouldn’t even know how to go about getting started in.  Nah, I’m not perfect, but nobody needs to suffer and die so I can be forgiven of bloody anything.  Second, if I’d been asked if I wanted Christ to die for me, I would have said an emphatic, “Absolutely not.  Go be with Mary Magdalene, enjoy your friends, and have a good life.”  (You WERE warned.)  Truly, I could not wait to leave.  It was just a reminder of how wholeheartedly I threw myself into this faith, ignoring my own perceptions and understanding that might not be in sync with it — or trying to, succeeding only in twisting myself up further — and there was really not a place for me in it at all.   I left feeling very depressed.

Walked back to the courthouse along Lake Merritt, saw a gaggle of geese nearly submerged in the water,  just a few inches of velvety black neck and their heads visible.  Saw another gaggle of these very definite presences hanging about on strip of lawn between the path and busy street.  I stopped to tell them how beautiful they were.  They did not really respond, but they didn’t run away, either.  I was already feeling much better.  Kept walking, watched the light on the water, and then I saw the pelicans feeding!  They stayed within close proximity for about ten minutes.  I even got a few decent photos of them on my iPhone (see above).  It made me so happy to watch these amazing creatures.  It really is a spiritual thing to me.  For my first few years traveling in a Pagan direction, my primary spiritual practice was gardening.  When I enjoy the earth, care for the earth, I am worshiping.  The power that made the Earth, that moves the winds and tide, that is is the only Power I want or need.