08 April, 2011

The Faith Entry Pt 7: The Spiritual Orphan Wanders

I spent a good amount of time in 2010 recovering from what I went through with The Journey. In all honesty. I was pretty isolated throughout most of 2010. All I remembered was starting 2010 in Singapore, getting ready for CNY 2010, and did like a total of 4 lion dance performances during the CNY season. I missed the CNY Parade that year for a weekend workshop. I spent the spring 2010 getting ready for a lion and dragon performance at a temple's centennial celebration. I was not really going to church. I began to explore churches and spiritual centers that were outside of the mainstream Christian faith. I made several visits to the Christ Unity Centers. I still have the shell necklace they gave me on my car. What I liked about the Unity Center was a more candid approach the speakers took. I wasn't used to not having any Biblical references. Their lunches were superb. I don't want to say that attending Unity was because of the food factor, but in some ways, it was.

I sporadically began attending MBCC again since they moved from the South of Market location to a closer Ocean Avenue location. They also moved the worship time to Sunday evening which meant I could just stop by on my way home from Chinatown on Sundays. They started a "moment of silence" time which I adored. Admittedly, there were times when I used that period to actually doze off. Other times, I was able to briefly put into practice all those active meditation techniques I learned through various personal development programs.

Bruce was one of the few folks from MBCC who remembered me. Part of it was because we've been Facebook friends for a year or two prior to my returning, and because of the fact that I'd run into various members of his family at random spots. He told me about Philz Coffee and I eventually tried it in the fall of 2010. I've been a regular @ Philz since. He inquired about my time @ The Journey, but after seeing the expression on my face, he moved onto a different topic.

What I liked about MBCC approach is their "inclusiveness." In most traditional churches, the practice of communion was that only those who were actual members of the church was allowed to participate. (Communion is a practice of passing bread and juice and/or wine to members commemorating Christ's last supper) Churches were considered "liberal" or "progressive" if they allowed "visitors" ("spiritual orphans") who were at least "Christian" to participate. In the case of MBCC, people who didn't considered themselves as a Christian were allowed to participate. A part of the appeal was their use of Kings Hawaiian Bread as the communion bread. (Popular with the kids and me)

I recently heard of the controversy regarding a book by Rob Bell titled "Love Wins." I have yet to read the book, however his first book "Velvet Elvis" is a book that I considered to drastically help me on my cynicism towards Christians and Christianity. My response to Christians who's mantra was "love the sinner, hate the sin," was "I love God, I hate Christians." Velvet Elvis, Searching for God Knows What, by Donald Miller were saving grace books for me. This is part 7 of entries I've done and I haven't even gotten into what I said I was going to do: give my perspective on faith. I've only shared a very abbreviated version of my 16 year spiritual journey. (Even less than Cliff Notes!) What does this have to do with authors like Rob Bell and Donald Miller? I shared in entry #2 about my Sunday School teacher whom in my opinion and personal observation that he worship everything and everyone else EXCEPT God. When I recommend a book I do not do so as if it has any sort of authority on the topic the book is about. I recommend the book because of how it helped me personally. Nothing more, nothing less. When I recommend a class or a course, or an acting coach, it's based on how I benefited. The course or the technique or the instructor is not the end all be all. One of the controversy about Bell's latest book is the topic of "Christian Universalism." I was doing some research on this approach to spirituality. I say "spirituality" and not "Christianity" because from what I've researched so far, "Christian Universalism" is a more inclusive approach to spirituality. It appeals to me because of that reason. This is not to be mistaken with "Univeralist Unitarian," though truthfully I wouldn't mind visiting one of their services.

So this past year in addition to regularly visiting MBCC, I've trekked and visited a few Unity Christ services. I've been doing a lot of personal development within the LGA (large group awareness) setting these past three years, so what Unity had to offer was elements of my personal development and the Christian ideals together along with a very liberal inclusiveness. What was challenging was the parking situation as they were located in a prime neighborhood in San Francisco. (Pacific Heights) Their post-service breakfast spread was also appealing. What was confusing was there there seemed to be a aimless direction with lots of rituals. I felt lost at times there. On top of that, for a group who claims a Christian faith, the absence of the Bible as the primary literature was a little too off for my personal taste.

So many are wondering why not just simply take the plunge and just go for a membership at MBCC. A part of it had to do with the previous three memberships and the yearn to avoid certain patterns. The second is the fact that even though I like the worship style, the inclusiveness, the interaction during the service, the meals, there appears from my viewpoint that the overall paradigm undermines what I'm attempting to implement into my life in regards to my personal development. This is a church where the general consensus frowns upon the wealthy. One member recently announced that he is unable to assist the victims in Japan other than prayer because he's "broke." In fact, I recall several offerings being taken on behalf of Haiti at different times because of the economic reputation of Haiti. Recently, the only actions I've observed on behalf of Japan is "prayer."

Lastly, it was announced less that a month ago that my friend was stepping down as pastor effective May of this year. This is nothing new to me at all on the spiritual front. In fact, I believe I experienced one of the worse timing in regards to a pastoral departure. (Both Dr Dave, Dave 2, and Pete leaving to Texas at the same time my mother passed) Besides I kinda saw it coming when I initially began attending on a regular basis. Anytime there's talks on transitioning a pastoral position from fulltime to parttime to "allow" the pastor on pursuing other endeavors, that's a tell-tale sign a pastoral switch is in the air.

I'm a contract worker for UCSF Medical School. I do what's referred to as a "standardized patient." By that, I'm allowed to get paid as an actor by receiving a case to present to medical students within a simulated clinical environment. One of the cases I've presented several times was that of a character named T.E. His background was that he grew up in a conservative Christian family environment and that upon moving to San Francisco he was like a young child at a candy store. One of the exercises practiced by the medical student was to let TE know of his medical condition and my character raises issues on spirituality in regards to the diagnosis. As the character, I protested the pressure and expectation on attending church and defended my love of a regular visit to the beach to be in touch with nature. In some ways, that was me talking. I'd rather do my own thing and feel connected to "Source, Universe, God, Spirit, ect" than to attend a church service and leave disconnected to self, others and God. Because honestly, I've been through those periods where exactly that happened. On top of everything else, I felt cheated because my hour to two hours were "wasted."

The bottom line is that I've been following rules, advice, suggestions, feedback on how to let "God" change my life "for the better." Some of it were effective and I'm thankful for the changes that occurred. Most of it was looked back upon with regret that I yielded my personal power away to someone else, not finding the solution nor peace of mind I was pursuing.

So lets get to the nitty-gritty on my view on Faith and Spirituality...

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