Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

I Ran With a Lutheran Street Gang

Playing on the iPod: "Apartment Ledge," The Amaranth Signal
Meters swum today: 1600 (barely)

It's true; I was not raised a Buddhist. I don't think many of the not-of-Asian-descent Buddhists in this country are. Most of us seem to fall in the door around our mid-thirties or later, which is part of some trend or other by the Pew Research Center (I love that name! If their research stinks, they can always say, "Well, hey, our name is..."). Americans change religion like they change underwear, or, if that's too sacreligious, we move around a lot. For the most part, though, we move around different denominations of the Christian faith. A Presbyterian becoming a Babtist really isn't that big a stretch, though a Presbyterian becoming a Catholic (or the reverse) kind of is. Honestly, though, I don't know any Lutherans who became Pagans who then became Buddhists. I might be kind of unique there.

I was raised in a nice middle class Lutheran church by nice middle class Lutheran parents. You've probably seen Lutheran gangs at work; rampaging through downtown, pissing off elected officials, feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, getting medical care to the uninsured, hugging little old ladies, writing "Jesus Loves You" on the sidewalk in erasable chalk--honestly, there should be a law. I think if I'd been brought up any other stripe of Christianity I'd have bailed on it a lot sooner. Hanging around with Lutherans was pretty cool, though, up until I wanted to get married and discovered I couldn't do it in the church. Not because my sweetie wasn't Lutheran, but because she wasn't male. Like that's her fault? She was probably born that way.

We were married by a Lutheran pastor at an unabashedly Lutheran ceremony, but it didn't take place in the church and I always felt vaguely cheated by that. It got worse when a few years later, the bishop backed off his "blessing of same sex unions is to be discouraged" stance and a gay male couple got married in the same church. Or maybe that's not the reason. Maybe it was 9/11, the millenium, the pastor retiring, George Bush becoming president, I dunno, but around seven, eight years ago I was in a position of no longer being terribly interested, yet also being terribly stuck (in the choir, on some committees, in charge of some things, etc.) It's hard to just bail on a church, never mind a whole religion. They find you. They know where you live.

Moving to Texas was the catalyist. No one can really complain about that. I mean, no matter how desperately they need somebody to make the paper flowers, not even the BBCs (broads with the big breasts and clipboards--yes, you know who you are) are going to insist you fly 2,000 miles to do so. Being a Lutheran in Texas wasn't easy, either; there aren't a whole lot of them, and what there is, is mostly Missouri Synod. But I'm not gonna 'splain what that means because synod politics is its own 5,000 page tome and this post is getting plenty long already. Let's just say that Missouri Synod folks tend not to care for people like me. And that's kind of the root of the matter. I've always been fond of Jesus (long haired radical! Held the Jewish men of his time to a higher standard than the law! Refused to do the popular thing when he could do the right thing instead!) but His fan club is something else again.

So we got here and I tried being a Pagan only to discover it was too much work. Reading? Studying? Rituals? Spells? Good God, is this high school? I'm glad I tripped over Buddhism. You have no idea how much easier it is to just sit there. And anybody who doesn't think Buddhists cast spells has clearly never hung out in Tibet very much. Still, I doubt that was a very typical religious progression. Don't tell the Pew Research folks about me. I might ruin their bell curve.

Ironically, the guy who got me interested in Buddhism in the first place, my brother-in-law, Mike, is now running with an Episcopal street gang. Well, the Lutherans and Episcopals are all friends now, so I guess that's okay. I've warned him about the BBCs. Forewarned is half an octopus and all that.

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