Poet Scott Cairns talks about something adjacent to an element of my own conversion–and, like me, he found this truth in Judaism as well as Christianity. The title of this post comes from Christianity in Jewish Terms, a fascinating little pomo book which helped me quite a bit in sorting through what I believed and how my Christian spirituality was shaped.
…Raised a Baptist, Cairns’ faith journey involved a deep study of Jewish texts and Christian theology as well as a period as a Presbyterian before he found the Eastern Orthodox Church, where the sensuous worship experience and “rabbinic” approach to language struck a deep chord.
“The life of worship itself, the life of prayer itself, the life of making poems — these are endless,” he said. “The practice of poetry prepared me for the practice, I think, of Orthodox worship.” …
Q: Talk about your faith journey. How did you come to be Baptist, Presbyterian and then Orthodox?
Well, I came to be a Baptist because my parents were. My parents were raised without church. But they met with a group of people who then built a church in Tacoma, Wash.
I grew up in this community that my parents had very strongly invested in — my father physically helped build the church and these people were their closest, dearest friends, and many of their families became like our family.
I was born into a fairly fundamentalist Baptist group, very conservative, and I guess was oblivious to the alternatives.
Then when I went away to college, I started reading a little more and meeting other people and my world grew a little, and I found that sort of cranky faith untenable and found a little more generous version of it among the Presbyterians.
In time, I became more interested in sacramental theology and a sense of the world as being worthy of our attention and of our care. This was concurrent with my having discovered rabbinic genres of text — in particular, midrashim.
I was awakened to a different attitude toward words; the words themselves became stuff, and not just names for stuff.