Why I practice Christianity
- Love is a more compelling ideal to me than awareness. Having a deeper experience of love and being better at loving myself and others was my original motivation to practice at age 19 and is still what I care about the most.
- I wasn’t raised with any religion or church, so I don’t have person or family baggage with Christianity that makes it hard to practice.
- Given the primacy I place on love, viewing life and practice through the prism of relationship—relationship to experience, relationships to other people—is very helpful and practical for me. Cultivating a relationship to God is how I cultivate a relationship with experience.
- I resonate with the aesthetics of traditional Christianity—the idols and symbols feel very powerful to me.
- I relate to Christianity as a body of practice, not as a set of fantastic beliefs about human history. The faith I have is a faith that a different way of relating to life and of living together is possible.
- I love these practices: prayer, sharing food, welcoming strangers, telling stories, reading, writing, walking
- In this tradition, there is very little focus on personal spiritual attainments or accomplishments. The emphasis on grace means there is no story about earning or deserving what happens in life. Love is always a gift.
- There is a focus on community freedom, so there is much less struggle in the tradition about whether engagement with the world is important. In progressive Christianity, engagement is taken for granted.
- Progressive Christian communities are the most diverse communities I have practiced in. They are one of the few reliable places I can go and meet people who truly have different cultural and sub-cultural identifications from me and from each other.
Why I practice Buddhism (sometimes)
- To remind myself that there isn’t one story or framework that explains all of experience, or is always useful
- To cultivate a relationship with empty space
- To practice sitting with discomfort and ambiguity; to practice not answering questions
- The teachings of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and no “true self” helped the daily functioning of my life and also fundamentally changed my spiritual practice. Not trying to solve these characteristics out of existence helped me to let go of a lot of unnecessary struggle, and it’s good to be reminded of them.
Why I love the vajrayana view
- Non-duality is a critical counterpoint to the traditional dualism of Christianity and many schools of Buddhism.
- I am interested in full engagement over ultimate escape and participation rather than renunciation.
- I value the ideal of complete acceptance and openness to all situations and emotions, and to all people.
- I am interested in facility with the embarrassing, disgusting, uncomfortable parts of life.
- I want to live a life that is sex-positive, human-positive, interested primarily in this lifetime and this plane of existence, into the the mess of everything.
Some notes on lineage
The points above may not sound like your idea of “real” Christianity or Buddhism, which is fair. But I assure you these ideas are not my own!
The first book I read by a Christian pastor that made an impact was Breathing Space by Heidi Neumark. Nadia Bolz-Weber assured me that there is a place in the faith for single women who curse and have sex outside of marriage and who aren’t trying to change either of those conditions. Wendy Farley’s book The Thirst of God introduced me to Christian women mystics like Marguerite Porete, a profound inspiration. Dominion is a book about history, not theology, but it clarified a lot of what I love about Christian teachings that I was having trouble articulating. And while it’s true that individual people believe a lot of wild things about Jesus, it is also true that if you are going to be a practicing Christian, you cannot practice alone. Christianity a faith lived out in community, and it’s the other members of churches I have attended who have instructed me the most.
In terms of Buddhist influences, I have read dozens of dharma books over the years, many of which have been helpful, but very few that I have really loved. What I did love and wholeheartedly recommend is walking around city streets listening to just about every episode from The Buddhist Geeks podcast. You can find interviews there from a wide variety of perspectives and teachers, including the vajrayana. Emily Horn of Buddhist Geeks was my first 1:1 Buddhist meditation mentor and she helped me tremendously at a very vulnerable time in my spiritual life. More recently, the Evolving Ground community is doing super interesting work in contemporary vajrayana and they have a resources page.