teacher of the truth

teacher of the truth June 27, 2012

church as teacher of the truth cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward

I learned a lot through the church. I’m thankful for that. But what I’ve also learned is what I needed to unlearn because of the church. I also learned that there’s much to learn that the church prefers to prevent. This is not always the case. But it seems to be generally true for many.

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  • justin

    Thanks for the post – a healthy reminder for all those that “teach” (since we all teach in some way or another). Mostly it helps me to think that sometimes the best I can do is to “get out of God’s way”.
    Always appreciate your cartoons.

  • Ben

    To paraphrase Obi Won, “This is not the truth you’re looking for…Move along.”

  • Tell

    Following the Christ, one called Jesus, I met in jail during my own Damascus Road experience is easy to follow and to love.. the churches and traditions of man are not.

    My previous lifestyle was one of hating that thing people called “God,” or Christ. Total atheist and hater of all things “religious.” As a addicted person I couldn’t even allow or make programs of recovery work for me because of my disdain and hate for the mere mention of the word “God” or Jesus. So AA and me had some issues that prevented me from getting sober. That is until the true Christ, the true living waters touched me and filled me while behind bars. Too much evil and negativity in this world to dare believe in such a thing, I thought.

    So I had to go out and learn about this thing called “religion,” the church, and the many denominations and sects out there that all proclaimed to have the “Truth.” It led me to burn-out and utter dismay. All wanted me to conform and twist my spiritual experience to suit their own agendas and denominational doctrines and teachings. So after years of this I just had to walk away from all of it and depend only on the love and instruction that the Christ I met one morning gave me. Which is simple yet difficult, a blessing and a sort of a curse to bear. But I had to learn the hard way.

    The bottom line is the lord set me free from my addictions… I was a new man in Christ. Those “living waters” while flowing through me called me by name and told me “I love you.” He showed me my past like a total past life preview. I think I died because at one point I was not in a cell any longer but in a beautiful field being filled and shown many things. One major thing I was told I have to lean on today after all my struggles and searching in man’s churches and their many demands and doctrines. The lord told me after I asked him.. Who do I follow, what church do I go to? He thundered… “Not to follow the traditions of man. None teach the true gospel. None can! None are righteous no not one. But to love one another and there should be no divisions. Tell them all that I am coming soon, that I love them and that there are many mansions in my fathers house.” That is about it in a small nutshell. Now can you imagine the walls I hit facing off with the many … doctrines and traditions of man? I had to “unlearn” quite a bit and still doing it. It still makes my bible readings and meditations difficult. It makes living in this world very hard especially when dealing with modern propaganda, evangelist (I have met many and new seemed to … walk the talk or walk the walk off camera.) and social engineering that all have their own agendas. Telling us we are free when we are not. That we are fully and totally informed by the news and media and by the churches when we are not. That for some of us if we don’t fit-in or our own messages or experience doesn’t fit the typical mold or doctrinal expectations then there is something wrong with us and nothing wrong with the many demands so they can, in their eyes, ratify or justify our own revelations of God, or Christ. If we don’t fit in to their molds, play sheep and follow, then we are the outcast, the fringe, or the heretics. Or any other choice of labeling and pigeon-holing that is used today.

    Thank you Pastor… you make me think and to remember. I enjoy reading things that make me go back to the “hour I first believed.” It was so simple then, so pure, so divine and un-corrupted by the hands of mankind.

    Years back after training I just had to walk away from the mainstream ordination and just be me. Had to spend many years playing hermit too just to try to get my balance back and to un-learn many things. To learn many things that we are told NOT to learn or to read or to study about. I guess in ways I was in a previous life a non-conformist. Today… must be going back to being the non-conformist and leaning totally on what I know to be nothing but pure fact and spiritual truth. At least for me.

    Thank you sir!

  • Tell

    Sorry, I think I forgot to check the notification box! LOL.

  • VanPastorMan

    This picture reminds me of the warning given in Scripture that we who teach are held to a higher standard. God will judge the quality of our work on whether we taught His Word and not the traditions of men.

  • I have come to suspect that looking for something called “Truth” is fundamentally a mistake in and of itself. The word itself implies a singularity, an exclusivity and a desperate idealization. Talking about “Truth” with a capital “T” seems to me to be the root of much unnecessary suffering.

    The church can’t obstruct it, because it ain’t there to be found, claimed, realized, embodied, enjoyed or the like. There ain’t no it. IMHO

  • Gary

    I have been looking at this all day trying to determine what I thought. I knew I loved it right from the start…but was not fully sure why.

    As a former pastor and teacher I think I am beginning to see why it appeals to me so much. I have spent most of my life teaching the bible. Not that I think this is bad necessarily…but the bible is only a shadow of the truth. The real truth, I believe, is much bigger…much grander than anything we could contain within this book. Jesus (The TRUE Word) said He was sending the Spirit of Truth.

    How ironic that we literally have the living Truth in the world…and yet we still teach only this book. Why I wonder? It can’t be to keep us from erring on truth because no sect or denomination agrees on what the truth really is within the pages. It can’t be because it is the only way to know truth because for many centuries Christians did not have the bible and yet were devoted followers of Christ. I even wonder if we have done the faith a great disservice by having a text we declare to be holy writ.

    I have come to believe that most of the church has lost the ability to communicate with the Living Word and are forced to simply read about Him in cold dead pages. How else does one explain a religion that has so totally messed up the one primary command of our God…to love as He loved us? Nothing else should signify the life of a Christian more…and yet the lack of agape love is how most of us are now known.

    The shadow of truth taught in most churches has sadly become a shroud hiding the reality rather than illuminating it.

  • There is truth.

    The earth is not flat.

    The Naked Pastor’s name is David…not Fred.

    The earth had a beginning, and will have an end.


    Jesus said, “I am the truth, and the life…”

    One either believes it, or not. But there is truth.

  • @ Steve Martin:

    Indeed, there are truths — all with small “t’s”. Well, they are “truths” in that they are the best approximations to reality we may agree on. But there is not “TRUTH” with a capital “T”. So may statement still holds.

    And concerning your Bible quote: I highly doubt Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” Instead, it was probably the author of the gospel of John making up something while a bit too high on hallucinogens or he was a bit deluded by philosophical obsessions. OR, if Jesus said it, he was delusional.

    But of course, I would expect you to disagree.

    But the funny thing about these sorts of religious claims is that there is no way to test their truthfulness. So as long as you keep making untestable, confessional claims the choir sings “amen” while the rest say “ahem”.

  • VanPastorMan

    Sabio, your statement to Steve is what I would call unbelief. John 3:16 says we have to believe, put our trust in Jesus to gain eternal life.If we don’t put our trust in Christ then we are condemned already. I only say this because I care. Fighting is not something I luvvvvvvvvv to do.
    Gary, the Spirit of Truth was the promise that Christ would send the Holy Spirit. Every person according to Paul in Romans 8 has the Spirit if they believed the Gospel.
    Folks, I am one who takes the Scriptures seriously, trying to put them in context with each other,and figuring out what they mean for us today. I’m what many would call a fundamental,Bible believing Christian. I truly believe Jesus saved me soul when I trusted in him at 18. Just so we know where each other stands is why I am sharing this.

  • You are right, Sabio.

    Some hear it (that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life) and believen it. And others do not.

    I happen to believe it. There was a time when I didn’t. I can’t explain why I now believe other than to say that I heard something and faith was born. Even against all my determination to not be a believer.

  • Gary

    I understand your fundamental views very well VanPastorMan because I used to share them completely. For the record…I still believe Jesus is who He said He was and put my faith for eternity in Him. I also believe God intended us to have scripture…I just have come to believe He never intended us to elevate it to a position of holy perfection thereby giving our focus and obedience to a book over the Spirit. I believe salvation comes through the cross of Christ but have come to believe He came to save ALL men as He said. I believe the biblical case for this view is far stronger than the one for eternal damnation the church adopted some centuries following the cross.

    I do recognize that this is a position not widely accepted in the church. However…I worry little about such as I have come to believe the church has wandered far from the true gospel. Thought you might like to know more about where I stand.

  • @ VanPastorMan
    You are right, I am an unbeliever — and, as you proudly proclaim, in your world and Steve Martin’s world, I am bound for unending torture in hell. No eternal life for me. I am very glad the real world has nothing to do with the fantasies in your mind.

    @ Steve Martin
    I too use to believe as you did — faith was once born in me too, “even in my determination to not be a believer.” I converted to a ‘born again’ faith as an adult as you did. But unlike you, I also mysteriously left that believing world.

    Now I feel that “belief” has nothing to do with a person’s eternal destiny. Whether it is a universalist’s “salvation comes through the cross of Christ” Christianity of Gary, or your and VanPastorMan’s highly exclusive salvation, I feel theological belief is irrelevant to a person’s heart — it is often mere clothing used for protection or show.

    All the chatter about right belief by Christians here who list their creeds to try to prove to each other that they are real Christians just seems silly to me. But I use to do the same, so I guess I get it.

  • Carol

    I believe that every pilgrim (earthly) church has two realities – an institutional reality and a transformational reality:

    The Church Beneath the church

    by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés
    Closing address to the CTA National Conference
    I came to speak to you today with a full heart. I would like to tell you about “the Church beneath the church.” The ones who told me about the Church beneath the church are my grandmothers.
    I came to know my grandmothers when I was an older adopted child. I was called into the priesthood as a child. I healed broken plants, and children, and dogs, and I pounded out hosts from Wonder Bread. The birds took one host apiece, but the dogs were greedy. They ate 40 or 50 hosts at a time! Some of my familiares, my relatives, would say, “Oh, isn’t that sweet. She’s playing priest.” And my grandmother Viktoría would flash a milky eye and say, “She is not playing.”

    One day I would understand that genealogy is significant, and that apostolic succession is important. But we Catholics have a third tradition by which a woman becomes priest, and that is via parthenogenesis. This means to be conceived by a massive infusion of grace from One greater than myself, and I must answer the call. Parthenogenesis: developing into a new individual without being formed by merely human means.

    My life deepened further when my grandmothers and my aunts, and nuns, consecrated me to the Blessed Virgin Mary and to Santo Niño, literally, “Saint Little Boy” — the Baby Jesus. I was consecrated at age six. I took the vow of Fidelity, meaning that I would do whatever Virgin Mother and the Cristocito asked of me, when and if I could hear them via the Holy Spirit, and when they could give me a sign. I promised that I would try to follow their wishes in all prayerful grace. All of us little girls who were consecrated at that time also promised our eternal virginity to Blessed Mother. As I used to whisper later as a girl-gang leader, “Two out of three ain’t bad, baby.”

    Time went on. When I came home from my high school theology classes —I’d say something to my grandmother like, “I want to tell you what Ignatius of Antioch said about martyrdom.” My grandmother would say, “I want to tell you what Viktoría of Dombovar says about living life without being a martyr.” Whenever I brought home academic material, including much later during my psychoanalytic training, all my grandmothers and my aunts would correct it. (I know you have relatives like this. Otherwise you wouldn’t be laughing…)

    I am what I am, for one other reason. I was raised daytimes by “the madwomen in black.” We didn’t have day care back then. We had Catholic school. I was raised by the great nuns of the world. They were fierce and beloved, cantankerous and difficult, horrible and wonderful. They were brave souls who marched for civil rights before The Civil Rights Act became contentious law to some.

    During sophomore year in high school, our nun-principal brought Dorothy Day to us. We were in the midst of the Viet Nam war. Many of my male peers had already received their induction notices… to this day those men still remember their draft numbers. When Dorothy Day was asked in our high school auditorium what to do about the war and the draft, she said, “Fill the jails. Fill the jails.” It was a transformative moment. She was a grandmother of a woman, with huge power of soul. In spirit, she indeed was a nun, a priest, an eternal virgin, a lover of human beings without compare. She changed my life, for I could see that she started fires wherever she went, good fires, by throwing immense sparks from her soul.

    People worldwide so often ask me, “How can you still be a Catholic, after all that has happened?” There are 3,000 reasons — each of you sitting here with me. Also, the nuns, priests, and all the heroes of Catholicism are somehow inside me. They nourish me, help me to enact what I am asked by a Voice Greater.

    Grandmothers’ Wisdom

    When we walked to church with my grandmother and were in view of the church, she would often say, “See that church?” “Yes, we see that church,” we would say. “That’s not our church,” she would say. “Yes it is, grandma, that’s
    our church.” “No, no. Our Church is beneath that church. We don’t belong to that brick church. We belong to the Church underneath that church.”

    This has stayed with me all my life. When people ask, “How can you still be a Catholic?” I think about the Church beneath the church, and Who lives there, that Heart of Christ that beats and throbs in the underground Church, regardless of the mayhem above it. You can hear that Heart if you lie on the earth. You can hear it at night in your dreams, in prayer, in song, in art… it throbs with endless and immaculate Love. I can feel it in “the Church beneath the church,” though I often cannot feel it in the church above ground. The underground Church is the place I return to, over and over again. Health of the Soul. True Refuge of Spirit.

    My grandmother often led us in prayers. When we would pray the “Hail Mary,” we’d get down on our knees, all the mommies, the daddies, the grandparents, the grandchildren, the babies held in arms, the animals. While we were praying, “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou amongst ALL women…,” my grandmother would be saying — under her breath, but so loud it drowned all of us out: “O my Mary, my sister, I am so sorry you had to give birth with only the poor animals to attend you. Your poor distraught husband…I am so sorry you had to be alone, because…. what did Joe know?! If I had been there with you, I would have held your thighs for you. I would have cut the cord for our beloved Baby Jesus.” And we would be bleating into the closing, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, please pray for us sinners, now, and at the hour of our death. Amen.” And my grandmother would always say, “A-MEN… and A-little-WOMAN!” The Church beneath the church.

    I have a form of what I jokingly call “Catholic Tourette’s Syndrome.” It makes me say unguarded things sometimes for which I then must go to Confession. When CTA first invited me to come speak, they asked for a title for my speech. The Holy Spirit inflamed me, and before I could stop, out came: “Tell them the speech is called “The Holy Spirit is Really Pissed Off— and Is Coming Soon to a Church Near You.””

    But, I had a second and far more reasonable thought. (Two out of three ain’t bad, baby.) “Alright,” I said, “I will read from Letter to a Young Activist During Troubled Times, a missive I wrote which now has literally millions of copies circulating worldwide on the Internet. And, I will talk as time allows, about Mary Magdalene, for she is the one who first saw the Living God return, that One who built and lives in “the Church beneath the church.””

    Letter to a Young Activist During Troubled Times

    Let me read you a bit of this letter:
    “Mis Estimados: Do not lose heart. We were made for these times.
    “I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered, very concerned about the state of affairs in our world. One has to have strong cojones and ovarios to withstand much of what passes for good in our culture today. Abject disregard for what the soul finds most precious and irreplaceable, and the corruption of principled ideals, has become in so many places “the new normal.” It’s hard to say which one of these most egregious matters has rocked the people’s worlds and beliefs more. Ours is a time of almost daily jaw-dropping, astonishment, and righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people. You are right in your assessments. The luster and hubris some have aspired to, while endorsing acts so heinous against children and elders and everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet I urge you, and I ask you, I gentle you….do not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially, do not lose hope, most particularly because the fact is: WE WERE MADE FOR THESE TIMES. For years we’ve been practicing, learning, been in training for, and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement. I cannot tell you often enough that WE ARE DEFINITELY THE LEADERS THAT WE HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR….

    “I grew up on the Great Lakes, and I recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakened souls: there have never been more awakened souls across this world than there are right now. Not only that…they are fully provisioned, and they are able to signal one another, as never before in the history of humankind. Via electronics, in the mail, through the air, by satellite, across the land, we are able to signal one another in ways that were unthought of, unheard of, before this time. So, if you will allow me, I would take your hands for a moment, and assure you that you are built well for these times. And despite your stints of doubt and your frustrations in facing all that needs change right now, right this minute, or even feeling you have lost the map entirely, you are not without resource, and you are not alone.

    “Look out over your own prow. Look out and see: there are millions of boats in the water with you. Millions of righteous souls on the water with you. In your deepest bones you have always known this is so. Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave and stormy roil, and even though you feel you might fly apart in these times, I assure you that the long timbers that make up your bow, your rudder, and your prow come from a greater forest. That long-grained lumber is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold its own, and to advance, regardless of what else goes on in your life, or in the world. We’ve been in training for dark times such as these since the day we assented to come to earth. For many decades worldwide, souls just like us have been felled and left for dead in many ways, over one deadly thing or another. It is true that via assault or ambush, various cultural institutions have come to depend upon decimating the soul as part of their commercial activity. So, we have a history of being gutted. But, we also, of necessity, have perfected the knack of resurrection.”

    No matter how many times we are killed, we go into a lacunae and revive ourselves. “No matter how many times we are brought down, no matter how many times we are exiled, no matter how many times we are told we have no worth, no merit, no credit… we come back.” It is the Catholic way. “We come back. And this is as true and sturdy a prognosis for the destroyed worlds around us, as it is for our own once mortally wounded selves.” Through conscious tikkun olam, “the repair of the world soul,” the earth and her people are resurrected again through us, and in us, and we all live forward into a stronger, more able and pure state.

    Mary Magdalene as Exemplar

    Let me speak to you now about Mary Magdalene. She was one of the quintessential souls who had knowledge about how to resurrect herself. I have often thought about the seven demons said to have been taken out of her. When I first read about her life in Spanish, I thought she was relieved, not of siete demonios, but of seven sorrows, seven dolores. I wondered: what would a woman’s seven dolores mean? What would it mean to be relieved of them? Could it be that she would be held in esteem instead of depreciated? Could that be one way — one demon and one sorrow gone? Would she be valued for the heart and soul of her intuition — another demon and sorrow gone? When she said what she saw, and if others could not yet see the same, they would still honor her visions— another demon and sorrow gone. And so on.

    When I was old enough to read, I also read the King James version, in its beautiful Elizabethan English. When the Magdalene came to the sepulchre to see if she could minister with herbs and oils to Jesus who had been crucified—she found the tomb empty. She cried to the angels sitting inside the tomb, “…they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.” She begs the beings of Light to tell her where her Lord has been hidden, so she might take Him back.

    Every time I would read this, I would cry. I felt that way too. So many times in my life I thought, “Thou hast taken my Lord away from me, and I know not where you have laid Him. Tell me, please, where have you taken Him, so I can go to there and give care to Him again?”

    Did it happen for the first time when I was adopted, and my brother and I were adopted into separate families? I, personally, went from the frying pan into the fire… from Mexicano parents to immigrant Hungarian parents. (All of whom, interestingly enough, have two things in common: Mexicanos and Magyars both love hot peppers, and they love to dance themselves into the ground. How lucky can a girl get?)

    Yet I mourned for my natal mother and father, sisters and brothers, for many years. When I was a late teenager, I went to Catholic Services and asked, “Please help me find my mother and father and sisters and brothers?” The priest who was head of Catholic Charities said: “You are mentally ill to want that.” I wept. I felt like Mary Magdalene. “I have sought to tend to my wounded Lord, and someone has taken Him away.” I did not know then, that many years later via this experience, I would become a force in the national adoption movement, insisting that medical records and family heritage and ethnic stories and roots be handed down to adoptees as an a priori human right. But, at the time I was turned away , I was bereft. I worried so for my mother, father, brothers and sisters. Where were they? Were they alright? Were they dead or alive? Did they need my help?

    In the meantime, my adoptive family searched for and found what tatters were left of their relatives who had survived the confiscation of their farms by the Nazis in Eastern Europe, who were driven from their land, their children killed, and who had endured slave labor camps during World War II. Soon, waves of broken refugees streamed to our home. Imagine 17 refugees in one tiny twobedroom home with one bathroom, no garage, and only a kitchen, a living room and spooky cellar. But I learned so much. They needed me; to read for them, for they could not. They especially needed me to show them life through the eyes of a child filled with hope.

    The Notre Dame Library

    Because my family could not read, or did so haltingly, some were proud of me because I could. When I was 10 years old, one of my refugee aunts who had found work in the cafeteria at the University of Notre Dame said she had arranged with a priest that I could go to the Notre Dame library and look at any book I wanted to look at. Such a thrill. There were no books in my house. I could hardly wait. We dressed me all up in my best clothes like I was going to Mass on Sunday. I had a white collar and I remember ironing the little lace around the edges. I wanted to look perfect. I went to the door I had been told to go to. I knocked on the tall door, and a priest came to its little window. I said, “I am here to read the books.” The priest gestured: NO! I repeated, “But, I am here to read the books. Is Father O’Brien here?” The priest behind the glass shouted: “NO FEMALES. NO FEMALES.” It was some other priest, not Father O’Brien. I thought:, “My Lord has been taken from me, and I know not where they have laid Him.”

    But, since I was called to the priesthood, I stood at that tall door with my arms out in the form of a cross until it got dark, offering up penance, because I had been taught that you could redeem a soul in purgatory if you made a sacrifice. I stood there until my aunt, desperately looking for me, came and collected me. I remember the look on her face. She said, “Some day, because you can read, you will come back here and you will teach them.” Well, I have not yet been invited to Notre Dame, but hopefully some day. If I am, I would like to speak in the library! The first thing I would like to say is, “YES, FEMALES! FEMALES, YES!” (Even though now, fifty years later, many females are there, which is a blessed thing.)

    So life continued. I could see that each time something devastating occurred, I was somehow eventually able to again find the Body of Christ. Through my prayers. Through devotions to Blessed Mother, who would speak to me, and give me signs, and tell me how to do it, often in service to others — which was not always easy. But I wanted to fulfill my consecrated promises. (At least the two that I could keep.)

    That third issue, virginity, eventually brought me to a great sorrow. One moment after high school graduation, I became pregnant without being married. I was abandoned. You have to try to understand the times back then. People were so afraid of a woman who was pregnant and not married. Instead of what we today adhere to, ‘family values,’ with everyone coming around to say, “How can we help you to keep this child, to support this child, and be family with your own blood of your blood, bones of your bones?” — instead they thought: “It would be better if we sent you far away where no one knows you, and where you are alone in your sorrow and pain.” Thus, I was forsaken by the sensitive father of my child, whose parents came from a higher class, whereas we were the lowest of the low. There was not to be a marriage. I was exiled by my poor adopted parents, who could not bear the shame they feared would be rained down upon them by other people. I went away to Misericordia, a Catholic institution in Chicago, 90 miles away, within constant whiff’s reach of the Stockyards. The windows were painted green so you could not see out. For six months I never saw the unfettered light of day. I took care of what they called “damaged and deformed” babies there. Many were dying, but also, many had Down’s Syndrome, autism, and hydrocephalus, hermaphroditia, or were in constant convulsions, and we, young, often backwoods girls, from age 12 to 18, were the ones who, although unpaid, cared for the children daily in that house of sorrow. We fed the little babies. We bathed them tenderly. We loved them.

    I cannot tell you how shocked I was to see perfectly wonderful little children shut away. Some ‘experts’ back then advised that when children had Down’s Syndrome, autism, or other, they should be “institutionalized,” that the family should go on to have other, “normal” children. Precious few of the institutionalized children had visitors. And though family visitors came on Sundays for most of the other girls, I had no visitors. I was looking at the empty tomb again, and angels were asking me: Woman, why weepest thou? And I was saying: “I am looking for the Living God. Please tell me where have you taken Him?” And then, a man I hardly knew, a priest who had heard of my agonista, came to Misericordia — one of the most miserable places on the face of the earth. He came and brought a host — (not made of Wonder Bread, a real one) and he gave it to me. I felt like I was baptized back into the Body of Christ again, by the kindness of that singular soul who came to me in my time of travail.

    Birth and rebirth

    When I gave birth to my first child, a beautiful little girl, I knew they would wrench her from my arms. They practiced with us that this would happen: “You will give birth, you may or may not have anesthesia, you will suffer for your sin. When you give birth, you cannot see the child. That will be the end of it. We will come a few days later, while you are still bleeding, and you will surrender, you will sign this child away to a real home and a real family. You will forget. You will go on.” On, I went indeed. But forget? Never. Never. A mother’s heart is not made to “forget” precious life.

    The day I entered the charity wards, through many hours of labor, I was alone. I gave hard birth to my baby, but I saw her, because somehow, I seized the nurse by the arm as she was carrying my baby away. I said: LET ME SEE MY CHILD. The nurse turned by my force, and in her arms was my beautiful child, blood of my blood, bones of my bones…the only blood relative I had seen since I was a young adopted child. I was weeping copiously, and I wiped a handful of my tears from my face and put them on my child’s forehead. Somehow my voice blazed out of me, “I baptize thee…I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Then the nurse turned away with my child. But I knew… that I had baptized one of the most important souls I would ever bring to this earth. Baptism by water, by blood, by fire, by desire, all together at once.

    Many years would pass before this child would find her way back to me, as an adult. Many adoptees, when they understand they have been separated from their natal mothers and fathers, give voice to a bodily sensation some feel; a sense of loss along the front of the body. For my child, there would be one place where she was ever marked with limitless love– there, on her forehead.

    When the Magdalene sees the Gardener near the tomb, He says, “Woman, why weepest thou?” She essentially says: I am looking for the Love of my life, the One who means everything to me, the one who, no matter what happens to me, can lift me up, take care of me, and I, Him. And Jesus then speaks only her name: Mary. Maria. Mir-yam. He is asking, “Do you not recognize Me in My new form?” She falls to her knees, the way anybody would who is in love, and she takes him into her whole self, saying, “Rabboni.” Teacher. My Teacher. What is a teacher, a rabbi, a rebbe, but someone you love more than anyone in the world, because they eat with you, walk with you, guide you, listen to you, they correct you, they soothe you, they lift you up. What is a teacher but all those beautiful, wonderful words: comadre,copadre, niño, hermano, hermana, special mother, father, child, brother and sister.
    This is what I have found, over and over, in my life. I must continually reach beyond my ordinary knowings and recognize Rabboni in a new way. If I can find where they have laid my Love in every difficult situation, then I somehow, somehow, will be buried and baptized again into a new form, safe in the arms of Who so lifts me, makes me whole, makes me know I can manage the next step, no matter what I face.

    Belting out the Ave Maria

    I was in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua in the 1960s. While running small gun parts, amongst other things, I was detained by the guerrillas. If you are a poor USA citizen and in peril, chances are the American embassy will willfully not know your name. In those moments of despair, surrounded by men with food on their moustaches that I could smell when they came near me, with men circling me and some saying, “Mmm. Nice girl. Maybe she needs to be raped today,” I prayed for help. Thus, I stood in my little room singing the Ave Maria at the top of my lungs. Why? Because when I saw that “they had taken my Lord,” I heard a voice: “Do you not recognize me? I come to you in song. Sing. Sing.” So I sang. “A–ve Maria…” I was shaking. “Gra–tia plena…” I was belting it out, over and over to the best of my feeble abilities. Soon, the Comandante appeared: “You must stop singing, La Señorita! You are driving my men crazy!” I said, “If you release me, I will not sing any more.” He said: “We will see about doing so right away!” Mary. Maria. Mir-yam. Do you recognize me now?

    I’ve only spoken to Catholics once before. There was a TVnewscaster where I live, who had gotten grief because her news style was to stand while wearing a shortish skirt, and lots of attitude. Her station made a commercial on her behalf using a Catholic church in our town. They showed the confessional; a woman was coming to confess that she was watching this newscaster on TV. The priest was giving her quasiabsolution. The “Alleluia” sounded in the background. Reflected in the eyeglasses of the priest was the newswoman, as though he might be dreaming of her.

    There are some things in the culture that cannot be allowed to stand without comment. Making a parody of confession publicly, making a seeming joke of priests who have taken a vow of celibacy and are often struggling with it, cannot be right. So I wrote a letter to the diocesan newspaper saying this was not acceptable, that it seemed a form of blasphemy (not a word I use lightly) and ought be contained. I thought the Holy Spirit via mi Madre was asking me to do this. I received a call from the chancellor of the diocese. “Dr. Estés, the Catholic Press Association is coming, and we would like you to be the keynote speaker.” I was so excited. I was going to be speaking to 500 of my own colleagues. How wonderful.
    A few days later however, I received a phone call from my staff. “Have you seen the newspaper this week?” Unbeknownst to me, Sister Helen Préjean had been the original invited speaker. Then apparently, someone in the hierarchy felt she had written something they didn’t quite approve of, so she had unfortunately been rather disinvited. Now, the national Catholic news media was perhaps thinking she and I were in a fight, that I had done a TKO by coming in and taking her place. To circumvent any such thing, I called New Orleans direct. “Sister Helen, this is Clarissa Pinkola Estés up in Colorado.” In her Southern accent she said, “Well, Clay- RISS-a!” She was so gracious. She said, “I am coming to Colorado to do a benefit at Dismas House, and I would love to take you to lunch.” “OK,” I said, “I’ll call the media.” We became fast friends.
    I dedicated my speech at the Catholic Press conference to several good souls, including Sister Helen.
    However, apparently someone in the national Catholic media did a search on the Internet. The next week I read in print about one of my audiotapes called, “How to Love a Woman,” and that on the flap copy was written, “For women who love women, and for men who love women.” (True.) Furthermore, eclipsing Sr. Préjean’s presumed peccadillo entirely, they noted I had been named “an honorary lesbian” by a radical women’s group in San Francisco. (True.) Well, local newspapers bled it all over their pages under headlines like, “At Diocese, Estés Raises Eyebrows.” (Who was raising whose eyebrows at whom was unclear.) The new Bishop had just been appointed, and appeared to be doing everything he could to backstroke as far away as possible. Reporters called me to ask: “Are you a lesbian?” I meant to make then laugh at the lack of perspicacity in their question: I said, “No, I’ve not been fortunate enough in this lifetime.”

    A stillborn child

    I spoke to the Press Association with family and pastoral friends present. It was a blessed occasion for it introduced me for the first time to many brave and outspoken journalists in the Catholic press community. But I also carried what had become a chronic heavy heart that night, for not very long before, we had lost our firstborn grandchild. Angelito came into the world, a perfect 9 month full-term baby boy who died ‘in utero’ the day before his due date. I have been in hell many times. But never with my whole family before. After Angelito’s birth, as we held him for hours, person after person at parishes kept telling us a child born dead could not be baptized. “Where have they taken my Lord?” But one brave priest came. He baptized little Angelito with infinite tenderness. We felt some peace on that count. In our broken states, we felt that this child’s soul had gone on, but we talked about how maybe if a new body could be created … that perhaps every soul waiting to come here was just waiting for a body sturdy enough… that there might be more than one chance for that soul.

    Gargoyle and bishop meet

    After the Catholic Press Association event, we went to see the bishop. You’re probably wondering why. Holy Spirit told me: Take your elderly father, your grieving daughter who has just given birth to a beloved dead child, and her poor husband, and take your own sorrowing husband and yourself, and go to ask for the bishop’s blessing. I remember asking, “Do I have a second choice? But we went. My father was 88 years old at the time, and he sat in the bishop’s chambers looking like a gargoyle. (I can tell from your laughter that you must have a father like that too. Or maybe you are a father like that!) My father, spoke such broken English that others would ask me to translate his English to English. (He always went to confession to a priest who spoke English only. I used to say, “But Dad, the priest doesn’t understand your Hungarian or your English.” And my dad would say, “Ya, ya, he understands all he needs to.”)

    So, we were sitting there, my daughter and my son-in-law and my husband and my father and I, but we were halfway invisible people, for our pain was still so great. We were still as though walkingdead. We said to the bishop. “We are hoping for another pregnancy, and hoping that it might occur soon, so that this little soul that is wanting, waiting to come to us, will be able to come to us.” And the bishop, for his own reasons, snapped, “That’s not Catholic.” We did not understand. But, I heard my father say under his breath: “Dat’s not very…Bishop.”

    Blessed be the gargoyles of the world. What came from that moment was a strong reminder to myself and our family, that when faced with the pain of others, to try to make a loving response rather than a rhetorical or rote response, for the heart is not healed by rules, but by love steeped in the imitation of Christ. I think in “the Church beneath the church,” there are ever loving replies to the cries of the heart, ones that strengthen souls to thrive, and to give to others what has been given to them. The last lines of “Letter to A Young Activist During Troubled Times,” are these: “The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours; They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write the following words on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for…” And so may it ever be for you my dear friends.

    Laughter is a form of prayer that I have aspired to with you today…thus, I hope that you have prayed very deeply and hard during our time together. A closing blessing on you then, in all fullness of heart for you then…. A-MEN…. and A little-WOMAN!

    Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés, scholar, poet, and
    Jungian psychoanalyst, was a post-trauma
    specialist at Columbine High School and community
    for four years after the 1999 massacre.
    She is the best-selling author of “Women
    Who Run With the Wolves”. Full text of “Letter
    to a Young Activist During Troubled Times” is
    on the CTA website: http://www.cta-usa.org

  • Gary

    No offense Carol…but would love to hear your own thoughts. Perhaps rather than posting a virtual book in the comments you might say what you personally found helpful helpful in Dr. Este’s remarks and then merely provide a link for any who are interested in reading them for themselves?

  • Tell

    @ Sabio

    “But the funny thing about these sorts of religious claims is that there is no way to test their truthfulness.”

    Yes there is. Very simple ways indeed. Even though I have my faults and character defects I work on on a daily basis… I am not the same person in mind or heart that I was before my spiritual awakening/experience. When healings happen to the mind and body that doctors or other so-called professionals don’t understand such things pass the “test.” Besides, I went half nuts trying to find a human to ratify and to make sense of what has happened to me. Especially since the first person I met just after my ordeal was a jail pastor that told me that things like what I was claiming “doesn’t happen today and our Baptist faith doesn’t follow that doctrine.” So that left me bewildered and confused. I knew nothing to little about religions. All I could say at the time of my innocent ignorance about my meet and greet with the Lord was… that “Jesus is in this cell with me and changed me, and healed me, and spoke to me. It was like water but I couldn’t see it but it filled every fiber of my being. I told the pastor I didn’t hate people anymore. All he could do is look at his watch and said he’d pray for me.

    I have had alot of pastors hate me over this. Or say God would not use a person like me. Or that if something like that happened to me it would surely happen for them too since they believe and lived good lives, and that God has blessed them so much in many other ways.

    In my previous life I was very self-centered, materialistic, very little concern for others unless I got something back in return.. most of the time. A rough neck biker type that was full of resentments, hate, confusion, revenge, and etc. Not so today.

    To me to pass the true test is the inward and outward change of a persons life. If someone claims to hear God all the time or speak for him they should walk the talk. It isn’t about becoming a billionaire and living … above the rest… while shouting some fable about how God changed them, when they have never changed, or is using them for their own personal gain while others around them suffer. There has to be a drastic change in a persons life, a very profound change. And I don’t think it is about promoting the mainstream, fitting in, following the herd, or bowing to the prosperity gospel where followers of God, or the only ones loved by God, Jesus, are all wealthy, healthy, or the only ones to have a voice in Christian media. All of us other plain folks and non-conformist must certainly be heretics and have the dis-favor of God. According to many of them.

    Telling old, hurting, and broke folks to truly follow God or to prosper, to receive his blessings is to send all they have to mega-wealthy evangelists and TV/Hollywood types. Nope, its all about change. Not about doing the same thing the worldly do and act like or expect. Nor to do something to gain in the world and just put a Christian label on it to make it all look acceptable and good.

    I know exactly where you are at. Been there done that too. You are here posting and looking. Seeking out of curiosity?

  • VanPastorMan

    Sabio, I am not happy to say the truth. You used the word, “proudly”. I’m not sure what you meant by that, but in no way am I ever happy anyone is lost. It doesn’t make me proud,happy,joyful, or anything else. I ache in my bones to know that people will be lost because Jesus provided for salvation by dying for the sins of the world. I ache because salvation is right there for the taking if you will just have faith in Him. It’s up to you, but if you don’t receive Jesus, I will NEVER be proud or happy about it. I will be saddened.

  • VanPastorMan

    Gary, by what criteria can you judge whether the church has left the Gospel? By your statement, it seems as though you are not truly convinced the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. I agree that our relationship is with Christ, with the truth of who He is and what He has done by dying on the Cross. But, how would we ever know about these things if it wasn’t for God’s Word? I don’t have a relationship with a book, but the God of the Book.May we believe as Jude did who said in Jude 1:3 Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.

  • @VPM:
    I had a personal relationship with Christ but it has now ended. How do you explain that?
    If it was such a wonderful, amazing thing, you’d think I’d never leave. Or, perhaps since I left, you’d imagine I never really had it.

    Or perhaps both you and I have knew/know an imaginary idea/feeling.
    It keeps working for you — I am happy for you. May it stay so. Either way, I am happy to have left Christ – it feels like I can now taste the world more fully.

  • Gary

    VanPastorMan, By what criteria do you believe the church has NOT left the true gospel? I do indeed value scripture very much…but most certainly DO NOT believe it is inerrant. And I do not refer to it as “The Word of God” since to do so in my opinion is a form of blasphemy. Scripture itself reserves that title (capital W) for Jesus alone. This notion is a fabrication of the church rather than an analysis of the bible itself. But even if I were to accept your assumption of inerrance…the case for universal salvation is far stronger than the one for eternal damnation in my opinion following extensive study of the subject. It is literally through my understanding of scripture that I make such a statement that the church has wandered away from the true gospel. We study the same text and yet arrive at different conclusions. This is one of the reasons why I rely on the Spirit to help me understand the scripture…Just as Jesus said we should.

  • Carol

    No offense taken Gary. I just couldn’t resist sharing Estes “story” as a reason for believing that there are two faces to the Church. It is so much more persuasive and interesting than my reasons for believing that the Church (churches) have both an institutional side and a transformative less visible side, the “church beneath the church.” When others say it better than I can, I cite the others.

    Here is a link to the beginning article in a series of articles on the varieties of christian churches that you may (or may not) find insightful:


  • @ Gary,
    You said: “This is one of the reasons why I rely on the Spirit to help me understand the scripture”

    I’ll have to object to your epistemological security in using “The Spirit”.

    Tons of Christians with completely different theologies agree with you and feels that have “the Spirit to help them understand the scripture”. So either:

    (a) the Spirit allows tons of variety of conflicting info

    (b) their ain’t no Spirit but instead it is everyone’s imagination

    (c) the Spirit’s influence is so weak that it does not matter — rely on the Spirit or not, is no guarantee to avoid coming up with garbage.

    VPM is using the Spirit just like you, I am sure. And yet we see the very different outcomes. So there seems there is no way to tell if a spirit is involved. But everyone claims “The Spirit guides me” as if it really means something.

  • Gary

    VanPastorMan – Please do not let Sabio’s ramblings distract you from our potentially productive conversation. I am pretty sure you understand that I do not claim superior access to the Spirit over you…but rather was attempting to answer your direct question (by what criteria?) by pointing out that it is by the same criteria and guidance you use that I come to my different conclusion. Each man tries to make sense of the knowledge they possess in formulating their beliefs. (Even Sabio)

    You and I share a belief in Christ as the Savior of the world and so we begin from a common worldview. But my study of church history, bible canonization and translation, and of course the directives of Christ itself, coupled with my fellowship with the Spirit, have lead me to my conclusion that the church has strayed from the gospel message Jesus delivered.

  • @ Gary
    “Sabio’s ramblings…”
    Interesting rhetoric, but I think my questions were pretty on target.

    (1) Holy Spirit rhetoric
    I agree with you that “Each [person] tries to make sense of the knowledge they possess in formulating their beliefs. (Even Sabio)”.
    So my point is, why bring in the sanctifying claim that some HOLY SPIRIT also aids your insight? Evidence in the real world shows no greater insight or guidance of believers in a Holy Spirit.

    (2) Common Worldview
    Our worldviews are complex. I don’t think that simply because you and VPM “.. share a belief in Christ as the Savior of the world” necessarily tells us that your worldviews are any closer than yours and mine. Just being Christian really doesn’t tell us much — as all the variety of Christians out there demonstrate.
    Wouldn’t you agree?

    Answer, or not, Gary, these questions are also statements and really don’t need your reply. And there is no reason to continue to engage in personal attacks.

    How does this relate to David’s post: One could imagine a person’s theology (view on Holy Spirit or on the deep binding value of being a “Christian”) as blocking their view of other people, much as a church can block the view of reality.

  • Gary

    You know I won’t dialogue with you Sabio…but I have become quite amused at you. No one asked you to challenge my communication with VanPastorMan. In fact swooping into others conversations with offensive challenges to their beliefs the way you constantly do is in bad form whether you recognize it or not.

    Personal attack? Stop being a dickhead and I won’t call your posts ramblings…pretty simple huh? 😉

  • Gary, you never disappoint!

    This is a public comment thread: We don’t have to be invited to challenge you. Why should it matter if my challenge is offensive to your belief — as long as I am not making personal attacks on you? Are we only suppose to ask safe, polite questions? David has addressed the issue of question asking many times.

    You choose not to answer very important questions that challenge some important central assumptions. Instead, you only substitute vulgar name calling — with smilies, of course. [your smilie ironically reminds us of David’s June 29th post “The Smiling“].

  • Carol

    Knowing truth is not about faith or reason; but about intuition and reason.
    Dogmatic absolutism/fideism is not faith and logical positivism is not reason.
    The radical opposition of intuition to reason in Western culture has resulted a loss of critical thinking by both people of faith and secular humanists.

    I recommend these two links for an intelligent analysis of the subject:



  • Gary

    “Knowing truth is not about faith or reason; but about intuition and reason.”

    I really like this Carol.

  • Gary

    No Sabio you once again totally miss the reality. VPM and I were discussing an issue WITHIN the Christian faith. You continue to try to direct conversations back to the question of whether or not there is a God. Yeah…we get it…you don’t accept the premise of God’s existence. But that was NOT part of our discussion. Why should we allow you to hijack it? I am beginning to think that you do this because you have significant doubt in your conclusions and you need the constant debate on the subject mostly to convince yourself.

    I choose NOT to debate God’s existence with you for two reasons.

    1. There is no satisfactory conclusion that we can arrive at proving either of us right or wrong.

    2. My past experience debating with you has shown me that it is pointless to attempt to have productive dialogue with someone who willfully engages in false and manipulative behavior as constantly as you do.

    I care not that you find this insulting. I have passed the point of willingness to attempt to reason with you. Every time you attempt to de-construct a statement of mine to reveal the folly of my religious beliefs I will rebuke you. Not because I cannot accept my views being challenged…but simply because I have no tolerance for your behaviors any longer.

  • VanPastorMan

    Carol, isn’t faith just trusting in something that somebody says? If our parents tell us they love us, we believe them,trust in their good word. The Bible uses the word faith, to convey a total trust in what God has done. He sent Jesus, His Son to die on the Cross for people’s sins. People have to come to the conclusion that they can’t save themselves, and must trust in what Jesus did to get salvation. It’s all about trusting God’s good word. I don’t know how you can come God through reason totally. The Bible says the heart of man is wicked, who can trust it? We can’t even trust our own hearts on some issues. Salvation is one of those issues. We have to trust in the Work of Christ on the Cross and none of our own good works.

  • (1)
    Yeah, you are a fantastic ex-pastoral psychologist, Gary. You basically implied that:
    I am wondering if I should run back to Jesus. So I am insecure and argue against Christianity to just reassure myself.

    Wow, I wish I had a dime for each time I have seen an internet Christian use that analysis !

    Actually, I don’t argue categorically against Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Medicine or many other thing — I try to be very focused in my criticism. I will grant you that many atheists are categorically anti-religious, but I am not one of them.

    You use all caps to yell out that your conversation is WITHIN the Christian faith.

    Is there really a clearly in vs out conversation. I guess there would be when discussing pure fiction — a conversation about Harry Potter’s world would have to stay within that realm, for instance. But I should be able to ask questions as a non-believer if want you and VPM was discussing was not fiction.

    And I simply pointed out that you said you felt that the presence of so many Christian sects is evidence that the Bible is not sufficient to be lifted to a loft position to solely guide Christians. But then you said that is why you so value the guidance of the Holy Spirit. And I merely pointed out that using the same evidence you claimed to try and dismiss a fundamentalist’s sole trust in the Bible, we could doubt your value of the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

    What I pointed out was in house, logical and clear. If you disagree, you could tell us why. If you felt I misunderstood, you could tell us why. There is no need for name-calling and psychoanalysis which merely avoids real dialogue. I think my questions have been very reasonable and not personally offensive at all — unless you consider anyone who questions your deeply held beliefs as offensive.

  • Gary

    Don’t make me throw another fuck off on your ass Sabio.

  • Carol

    Boy, Sabio knows just how to push Gary’s buttons!

    Oh, well….

    The first human being who hurled an insult instead of a stone was the founder of civilization.–Sigmund Freud

  • Gary

    He never seems to tire of it does he Carol? I don’t think I have ever encountered someone who had such a difficult time dealing with rejection…lol.

  • Great quote of Freud, Carol. Ironically appropriate for the persistent, free, unsolicited psychoanalysis from the former pastor.

    Indeed, some people’s buttons are so huge, they cover their ears, eyes and hearts.

  • Gary