Not a Christian

“I am not a Christian.” A simple, declarative sentence.
My housemate’s aide asked why we do not yet have a tree up, and I answered, “I am not a Christian.”

Why is this the first time I’ve made that statement so openly? In the past, I’ve evaded. “We don’t make a fuss over the holiday, since it’s just the two of us.” Or, “I wasn’t raised to celebrate Christmas.”

It’s true, I wasn’t. My culturally but not religiously Jewish upbringing included commemoration of holidays as a remembrance of history rather than as spiritual practice. I’m old enough to have attended public schools that started the day with both the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer. For all of my first 6 years in school, I would silently add “Cross that last line out, God” when the teacher ended the prayer “In Jesus name.” Later, at convocations, graduations, other public events in pre-politically-correct times, I didn’t bother with the amendment. Other people could pray as they wished, and assume what they wished about me.

While I lived in Vietnam, in order to participate in a choir, I practiced with the group at a non-denominational Protestant church. My mother did not let me perform with them on Sundays, however. I lit incense at a temple with our Chinese housekeeper, and watched the elaborate funeral parades of some of Saigon’s wealthiest families. The first time I encountered the concept of reincarnation, I knew it to be truth, resolving as it did so many of my questions and doubts.

One of Many

One of Many

In college I took several courses in comparative religion, and sat in silence with the Quakers, drawn both by their lack of ritual and their commitment to social action. The practice of seeing “that of God in every man” enabled me to feel part of a larger whole, in contrast to my life’s lessons of being an outsider. I diligently sought, in the silence, to discern “God’s will for me” and to listen to the “still small voice” giving direction to my life.

I’ve rarely had – or perhaps only rarely remembered having – dreams. The few vivid ones that have occurred have always been crystal clear as to their meaning, and prophetic. My access to inner answers has been simpler, more direct than dream interpretation. If I frame a question before going to sleep, I awake with the answer. If I frame a question before participating in Quaker Meeting, I leave the meditation having received – either from within myself or from a spoken message – a sense of direction. I never conceive of this instruction as God speaking directly to me. Rather, I remember my grandfather’s answer to a question about why one should do right. “Because you know it is the right thing to do.”

I have followed my inner instruction because I know it to be right for me. Living and working these past twenty years amid practicing Christians, primarily Catholics, I’ve kept my views to myself in order not to offend, in order not to disturb their settled beliefs. I’ve been respectful of our differences, not feeling any need to explicate those differences.

For more than twenty years I have been student of MasterPath – a spiritual teaching, an instruction in how to find “one’s way back home” to realization of one’s true nature as Soul. Practitioners number now in the tens of thousands, come from many countries and a wide variety of faith – or no faith – backgrounds. What we have in common is the desire to know our Divine purpose – to know and be our true selves, to manifest wisdom unadulterated by considerations of body, emotions and mind.

Different religions use terms like man’s purest essence, Buddha nature, the Soul self, Christ consciousness to describe the state of pure consciousness to which my Path leads me. Many religions ascribe the capacity to manifest that pure consciousness only to the founder(s) of the religion, as something outside oneself, to be worshiped and admired, but not to be attained.

Regrettably many religions are now adulterated by ego interpretations of what it means to act “as a ______” (fill in the blank with Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Jew, Buddhist, Taoist, etc.) so that instead of manifesting the beauty and truth of their faith, they demonstrate violence, intolerance, exclusion and dominance all in the name of religious purity. It should not surprise anyone that atheists point to the history of war waged in the name of religion as proof that belief in God has a negative influence on humanity.

Religious history has little to do with why I reached my seventh decade before stating plainly, “I am not a Christian.” Or maybe it does? Maybe the intolerance of differences reflected in all those wars waged in the name of religion has seeped into my being, quietly persuading me to not make an issue of my difference from my neighbors?

No, I think it has taken me this long to be truly comfortable with who I am and what I know to be Truth; to achieve a genuine indifference to reputation and how others perceive me; to feel certain in my knowledge of my Inner Being. In other words it has taken me this long simply to Be, and hence to be free to speak my own truth. I need not weight myself down with a responsibility not to offend others. If they are discomforted by me, so be it. In a far from cartoonish and Popeye’d way, I am what I am.

In the words of a blessing spoken at the start of a lovely Ba Gua exercise called Swimming Dragon, “I am health, I am beauty, I have enough.” It is enough, that I AM.

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One Response to “Not a Christian”

  1. Jane Foraker-Thompson Says:

    Beautiful Niki. Fitting for his season of mixed religious celebrations.

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