Recently, I was walking the beautiful seawall around False Creek in Vancouver, listening to some gospel music by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir on my iPod. Although I find the lyrics less than relevant I do love the harmonies. Then some words caught my attention. “Every heartache you’ve had, he bore it and will bear it for you. No-one is a friend like Jesus.” Somewhat to my surprise I felt an affinity for these convincingly expressed words. It helps to explain why the Christian myth has such great appeal to those who suffer and are in need. I noticed a yearning for the simplicity of a familiar belief that is uncomplicated, unchallenging and requires little personal responsibility.
I realize now that this yearning for simplicity is childlike; a desire for the safety of the familiar. I also realized that it was not possible for me to embrace the collective myth of Christianity. I had grown up with fundamentalist Christian parents who worked incessantly to instill these beliefs in their children yet at the age of fifteen I had concluded that this was a religion I could not accept. It seemed too exclusive. How could one belief in a tri-partite God exclude the majority of the planet’s population? My personal myth was no longer aligned with the collective myth so it lost any power.
Yet despite my rejection of the basic tenets of Christianity, I have reluctantly accepted that there is power contained within it. There are many examples of lives being changed by conversion to Christianity. I grew up in a home where the power of prayer was believed to perform miracles. On one such occasion that my parents had concluded that they would have to sell the house as they could not make the mortgage payments. They prayed for help and the next morning an envelope arrived from a friend of my father’s who wrote that she had been guided to send them money. On another occasion my brother performed an amazing healing of his baby son in the name of Jesus. My parents attempted to convince me that this power proved they were right.
So what gives? I soon realized that there are thousands of similar stories not just about Christianity but from every spiritual tradition around the globe. From the gurus in India to the witchdoctors of Africa there is evidence of power that defies the logical/rational paradigm. From where does this power emanate and do we control it or is it more random in its beneficence. I wonder if when we have a personal myth aligned with a collective myth then there is a potential power available to us. The collective adds to the potential of the individual. The catch 22 in this, is that when the collective myth no longer works for us personally then we lose its power. This seems supported in from the perspective of practitioners of voodoo can only have power over those who believe in it.
For much of my life I was an atheist. I suspect my personal myth was overwhelmed by the collective myth of the time that was to believe only in the logical and rational. Since I began my personal exploration of my relationship with the divine I have found my personal myth to shift frequently. A wise minister once told me to revisit my God concept each year. So my life becomes a continued quest to find a personal myth, experience its power then let it go.