What I Learned from Born Again Christianity.

Via Miriam Hall
on Feb 25, 2013
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My mother thought everything was knowable. This made her a very unhappy woman.

My dad died when I was 12. After his death, my mother told me the following things frequently:

1. I am really smart. And,

2. That my smartness would make me really unhappy.

Basically, I was doomed.

At that time, in the midst of adolescent angst, I believed her.

Man, did I ever know what was really going on with the world and man, was it bad!

I was right. She was right. Sort of.

I am not a love and light person.

But I am happier now at 35 than I ever have been before.

It’s not just because I am married, nor because I am happily self-employed.

It is, I believe, mostly because of my ability to believe.

Not my beliefs, though those are pretty helpful.

But because I have an ability now to  have faith.

To hope.

To think, to accept, that perhaps though I can know a lot and be smart, there’s a lot I don’t know.

And that’s a good thing.

My mother wasn’t arrogant, not really. She was atheist. Agnostic on an optimistic day.

That in itself does not make a person a cynic, but she was pretty fundamentalist about it.

When I told her I’d joined a church, she told me I ruined my life.

Once her husband, my father, died way too young, her feelings about any “great unknown” (God or emptiness) got pretty smooshed.

That’s understandable. It left me pretty adrift, too.

At 12, just after my dad died, I met a guy named Jason.

He was the son of a pastor of a local born-again Christian church.

An athlete. Way out of my league.

But he and I became good friends, despite my constantly trying to seduce him.

You could say, as I have for many years, that I took Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior at age 13 because I wanted a man’s attention.

Three men, even: Jason, his dad and God.

I don’t buy that anymore. I think, in fact, Jason was a lovely person. A great friend. When I drilled my mom on how to say “I love you” in both French and Russian so I could say them and write them to Jason, he hit me back with a poem called “Filio.” In it, he expressed (quite eloquently for a 15-year-old jock who sincerely wanted a friend out of a younger nerdy girl totally obsessed with him) his love for me—a friendship love, not a romantic love.

Jason really knew about mystery, and when to say “I don’t know.”

He also knew about friendship outside of romance, which it took me another two decades to really understand.

Jason’s dad, the pastor, told me when I was 14 or 15 that my dad went to hell because he didn’t accept the Lord as his savior (my father was also agnostic/atheist).

I left the church pretty soon thereafter.

Jason’s dad really thought he knew everything.

Now I know my mom was right—but not in the way she thought she was.

I like to think, and as she died when I was 19, I will never know for sure that if she were still alive, she would agree with me.

Knowing itself is not the problem—nor is intelligence.

It’s when we think we know it all, when we don’t allow for mystery, that we get into trouble.

As I have written recently on ele, Karma is one of the great mysteries that has taught me the power of faith.

I am Buddhist. I don’t believe in God. But I do believe in belief.

I realize there’s a lot I don’t know, and I am open to the possibility that maybe what I think of as emptiness, or great mystery, could be God.

I am okay with not knowing that.

That kind of intelligence—and I would argue that knowing what we don’t know and being okay with it is a kind of intelligence—is a skillful and beneficial one. One that, when embraced, can lead to happiness.

I hope my mother found it, somehow. I know she had it—after all, I have it.


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Ed: Brianna Bemel


About Miriam Hall

Miriam Hall teaches Nalanda Miksang Contemplative Photography, Contemplative Writing and other fun practices that combine perception and creative process as a part of the Shambhala Buddhist lineage. Natalie Goldberg (of Writing Down the Bones,) says: “Miriam Hall has the heart, hands and head of writing practice. Study with her.” She can be found at her website, Flickr, Twitter, Facebook and all over the world teaching and playing. You can also read more of her here, here and by visiting her website.


2 Responses to “What I Learned from Born Again Christianity.”

  1. Harvey Keck says:

    Bprn Again Christians really make it up as they go along and they think whatever they say is a truth because they are able to interpret or misinterpret the Bible in the most Fundemental terms
    They try to mke everyone believe they are going to hell if they don t accenpt Jesus Christ as their Savior
    Well I guess the only ones in Heaven are Born Again Christians or as they like to call themselves Christians and any other Christians loke Catholics or Greek Orthodox etc asre not Christians Well I am here to tell you we are It s so fundemental it s Funny de Mental
    They are so insular they only gather with the same ilk and spread nonsense
    God save us from these types of Christians I fear them more than any other evil group in the World

  2. Miriam Hall says:

    I am sorry to hear you generalize so much, Harvey. Clearly you've had some bad interactions with them. It so happens that either mine weren't so bad or I pulled something beneficial from it. Regardless, I want to make it clear that I am not interested in dismissing an entire group of people based on a label – that's the kind of trouble you are accusing them of doing.