G-d, light, miracles, and of course taboo subjects.....

Well, there I was an orthodox Jewess, sitting in on midnight Mass, observing all the little ritual pleasantries that made me realise, how I have always taken my own religious habits for granted. But more of that later....

Mikveh -BaptismThe very first thing that I wondered when entering St Mary's a few months ago was "Can they see I
haven't a clue?", "Can they tell I'm not one of them?" I was awash with absolutely nail bitingly anxiety inducing insecurity. Just waiting for it, You know the polite stiff upper lip Britishness - "Excuse me madam, but since you killed Jesus maybe you'd be more comfortable several blocks East of here, just the other side of the motorway..... (Garnethill Synagogue)

Of course it didn't happen, and my wild imagination has taken somewhat of an ordinary place on the backburner as I observe Christian folk with what they take for granted.

My life has involved celebrating passover once a year, and believe me with the whole shpiel thats more than enough! And while we make kiddush, bless the wine, cut the challah every friday night, these folks are essentially making Pesach (Passover) every week, sometimes several times a week! Whats the big deal?

OK, I thought I'd do some digging so here we go, I embarked upon the Alpha course in Wolverhampton so that I had something to do while away from my beloved Jaye and take an opportunity to learn something of her faith. I've landed up with more questions than answers.

I find myself completely torn. The music in the church reaches right into the soul. It grips your inner essence and tugs, lets go and just as you take a breath it whips your being around in a head spinning thwack in the chest. It's really awesome! but then so is Cantorial music. It's like being at home spiritually, the same essence, the same effect, but different liturgy.

So does the way we worship G-d really matter? I think so, but for reasons that differ completely from those of the Rabbi's, Vicars, Imam's and Priests et al.

If I am to believe that standing before a Cross during worship is idolatory, I am really in deep, deep doodoo, as I have been doing this on the odd occassion with Jaye. But then in the Synagogue we wave Torah Scrolls around, Swing Lulavim (Palm branches basically) during Succot and do all sorts of swinging, swaying, standing up, sitting down, turning around in front of the Ark, not to mention the poor chickens that pass out from being swung around our heads on the Eve of Yom Kippur and the fish that must choke to death on the breadcrumbs filled with our sins that we throw into the river on Rosh Hashana.

What I'm really asking is, when is symbolism, symbolism and when is it idolatory?

And here is where the big questions start to gnaw at the back of my overactive imagination. As a Jew I have been taught that I am responsible for my own salvation. Our annual religious cycle makes that possible. And for those of you that think sitting in a confessional is a big deal you should have a look at our Yom Kippur prayer book, where we confess to everything imaginable. So why do we need someone else to save us from our sins? But then you could argue that accepting Christ is a way of helping yourself and being responsible for your own salvation, couldnt you?

My greatest problem with organised religion is my sexuality. I have always considered myself bisexual. Now I am in a loving committed homosexual relationship, I am experiencing the ugly side of religion - note I say religion and not G-d.

My own community make it clear that it is not me, but my sexual preferences that they do not condone and yet because I choose to act upon those preferences, I find myself, shunned and excluded. This fallout was a long time coming, with the manipulation of my female role as subservient, and my need to participate remaining unsatisfied. So when I fell for a beautiful Christian woman, I twisted the dagger in an already festering wound.

But then on the Alpha course I was also informed of the terrible sin that I was committing and I stopped to think. As a tool to fight off missionaries and assimilation of our kind into the secular and Christian world, the rabbis have taught us to read everything biblical in it's greater context and consider all interpretations. So I started doing the same with all these Christian quotes and where do I find myself? Nowhere other than the same struggle.

Now I do admit, I have a slight edge on the competition as I studied Biblical Hebrew as an acrimonial during my first Undergrad degree and I speak, read and write colloquial Hebrew, rather well as an ex Israeli soldier. So I find my Christian friends chasing their own tails a lot of the time and this leaves me feeling disillusioned........ and empty.

But here is the difference, a big difference, Jaye as a gay woman is allowed to partake in the Eucharist, participate in church and function as a practicing Christian. Jesus doesnt exclude her for who or what she is. Even though some perceive her as a sinner, that does not exclude her from the path to her salvation. Yet my community have cut me off from the very path that I would need to achieve the salvation from my perceived sin - how is that fair?

And then there's Jesus. We all know he really existed and we know and can see the obvious impact his life and existence had had on world history, so one is tempted to ask, isn't that a miracle in it's own right, surely a fake or a fad would have died out over time?

I really enjoy going into St Mary's, it's a comfortable place, sufficiently so that I have found satisfyingly comfortable moments to pray in my own way. But I need more. I dont do doorstep worship. I always was active in my community. I miss the sense of contribution, of participation of fitting in and of being.

Is becoming a Christian a betrayal, or a fulfillment? How do I equate the gay relationship that brought me to consider this, with the vociferous condemnation of it even from Christian quarters?

How can the most fulfilling, loving adult relationship I have ever had, when it makes me feel loved, safe and able to self realise, be considered wrong or sinful, particularly since this relationship is personal and doesnt hurt anyone.

Now repeat the above paragraph, but this time with reference to Jesus and ask the Rabbi to answer this. Perhaps within the question lies the answer. No?

Ruthie Richards-Hill

Ruth, a free range human being and a middle aged mum of three adult children and very young grandmother to two little girls, is a glass artist, and a digital strategist, She retains the right to change her mind about anything and believes in a compassionate approach to most things, you can contact her using the contact page on this blog.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Rachel

    I've been interested to mull over the things you've said in your blog. There is so much to think about.

    You might be interested in this sermon which arose partly out of realising that there were some other Jewish folk coming to St Mary's last year: