... about Beloved.
She gave me that book, which I so happily and greedily devoured this week. A book about a minister and her faith journey. And Beloved is, as I may have mentioned here already, an atheist. At least, that's what she says.
And yet she holds some ideas that don't quite go along with atheism. For example. When she was young (in her 20's) she was very ill, and went into a coma that lasted nearly a month. During that time she had a vivid experience of Jesus. She says that she saw him, that he looked like the Roman Catholic depictions in which the Sacred Heart is open and visible. And she felt a tremendous sense of peace emanating from him, as well as a sense of encouragement. She understood from him that she could choose her path: death, which was not frightening except for the fact of leaving her young daughter behind; or life, which entailed a long recovery and significant physical suffering. With his encouragement she chose life and recovery.
But it's all a fairy tale, and he's just a nice idea. She says.
Another belief she expressed recently floored me. She spoke of her mother, a less than ideal human being, and a stepfather who, if there is a hell, is surely roasting slowly on a spit (I hope). And she said, That's one thing I worry about, with respect to dying.
What's that? I asked.
Seeing them again, she replied. How awful that would be. The threat of that will keep me alive a very long time.
It is unfair, of course, for me to ask Beloved (or anyone, for that matter) to have consistency in the matter of her views on religion. I understand that about 33% of Americans believe in reincarnation. That means that a substantial number of Christians believe in it. Of all the things I've been tempted to believe, I have to admit... that's not one of them. But apparently a significant minority of Christians think that the transmigration of the soul is not inconsistent with Christian belief.
Beloved is understandably skeptical about religion. She thinks there are an awful lot of charlatans out there, preying on the gullible masses and doing lots of damage along the way. She thinks I'm alright... at least we know I'm not telling people that gays are an abomination unto the Lord. She thinks I'm more than alright, actually... she came to my church the Sunday after Christmas a couple of years ago, and heard me preach, just once. She told me it was very beautiful, and that I have a gift, and that she'll not be coming again.
That is fine with me. I don't need my lover to accept the tenets of my faith in order for us to be together. I hope that we knit together something fine, my faith and trust in God and in her, and hers in me and in her skepticism. I hope that together we can see more clearly than either of us can see alone. I hope that, through me, God can show her a Christianity that celebrates who she is and offers welcome at love's table, should she ever decide to come back.