Petra comes out of the closet

When I turned 18, my parents urged me to register to vote so I could help defeat a school levy that would increase their property taxes. But at school, I realized that voting against the levy would deprive staff members and fellow students of services and equipment they needed. And though I would soon graduate, my brother was a year–and my sister was three years–behind me.

So I voted FOR the levy.

We went through some hard times as a family. We relied on food stamps and commodities, got free lunches at school, and my brother, sister, and I were able to go to college thanks to federal grants.

So now, when I vote, I make sure others have access to the social programs that enabled me to achieve what I have in life.

I grew up a fundamentalist Christian. I didn’t know much about politics, but it seemed pretty clear to me that, had Jesus been alive, he would’ve been a democrat. He fed the poor, healed the sick, forgave people, and encouraged us not to judge one another. He also considered wealth to be more of a liability than an asset.

When friends came out of the closet, I knew Jesus would’ve gathered them in a warm embrace, so I did, too. And when I learned about the failed birth control and post-partum PTSD that led to friends’ abortions, I just opened my heart wider and loved them more.

I don’t know when Christianity and republicanism became conflated, but it forced me to make a choice. To stay in integrity, I had to let go of something. I chose to let go of my religion but continued to model my own life after the life of Jesus.

I’ve kept quiet about this. I haven’t wanted to upset people I care about or lose their love. But my silence isn’t serving me. I can’t take care of people by withholding who I am from them anymore. I need to follow the example of my gay friends and muster the courage to come out of the closet:

I am a democrat to the marrow of my bones.

And I am no longer a Christian.

There is a cost to coming out. My own mother is 100 percent sure I’m going to hell, which makes serving as her caregiver painful for both of us. But I cannot change who I am to put her mind at ease. I cannot, as is the case in the Grimm Brothers’ version of Cinderella, cut off parts of myself to fit into the glass slipper of fundamentalist Christianity.

So, there you have it. In our current political climate, I understand if you feel the need to cut ties with me as a result of this revelation. If so, know that I appreciate the role you’ve played in my life. I release you in love.

Truth, and where to find it

I was raised a fundamentalist Christian, and the Bible was our sole source of truth. It was considered inerrant, which means, in essence, that God dictated every word of it, and that it was perfect in every way.

It doesn’t take much scrutiny to discover contradictions and ethical quandaries in the Bible, and that’s not a problem if you consider it a book that was written over a period of hundreds of years by countless authors. But if you believe that the Bible is literally the word of God, these contradictions are a big problem that leads pastors everywhere to cherry-pick the bits that serve them and sweep the rest under the carpet.

Of course, as a Sunday school teacher, youth group leader, Christian camp counselor, and resident assistant in a dorm at a Christian university, I cherry-picked, too. Only I swept much bigger things under the carpet—things I never understood. Like why Jesus had to die for my sins (the core tenet of fundamentalist Christianity) and communion (the idea of symbolically eating Christ’s body and drinking his blood grossed me out). Large cracks began to form in my faith, but on the whole, it still held together.

Then two of my former youth group kids died at the age of 17 and 18 in the same car accident and my faith crumbled. It took two decades to rebuild my cosmology, and I slowly found new sources of Truth. I no longer wanted to BELIEVE something was true. I wanted to KNOW it was true.

When I believe something, it calls on me to have faith. Like, say, that the Bible is literally the word of God. When I know something, every pore in my body opens to receive it and incorporate it into my being. Believing is an intellectual experience. Knowing is a physical one.

Long after Mike and Jill died, a woman in her seventies handed me a cassette tape and suggested that I listen to it. I did and knew there was Truth on that tape. Then I learned that the Truth was channeled. This posed a problem. If I accepted this new source of Truth, I would have to keep it secret. My fundamentalist loved ones would consider it satanic and fear for my mortal soul.

In the end, I decided to accept this new source of Truth and concluded that:

Truth is Truth, no matter where you find it.

This mindset has made it possible for me to find Truth in unexpected places. Like a quote by musician Marilyn Manson in the movie Bowling for Columbine, while dreaming, and while packing for a move.

Recently, I discovered my most cherished source of Truth yet: Shamanic journeying. Journeying provides a means of obtaining direct revelation, which is something I’ve yearned for all my life. Until now, the quality of my connection with the Universe was about as good as you can achieve with two soup cans and a string. I always longed for a hard-wired, broadband connection that provides me with a sense of direction and spiritual companionship. Journeying is it.

Again, I have found a source of Truth that I have to hide from people who love me. But Truth is Truth, no matter where you find it. And I couldn’t be more grateful for this one.

An unexpected visitor

Most religions teach that we have spiritual companions–angels, guides, totems, the higher self–they have lots of names. I believe I have spiritual partners on my journey, but sometimes they feel like imaginary friends, and I just want one of them to sit at the foot of my bed and have a conversation with me like any two people would.

Sometimes, I can’t stand it anymore and beg for evidence–demanding something tangible to make me feel less alone. I have been doing more of that lately, while also asking for insight, guidance, and intervention without ceasing. Last night, I had the most amazing shift in perception, and this morning, I woke up and saw a pile of gray beside the shelter in the goat pen. On closer inspection, I saw that it was a great-horned owl.

I read up on how to rescue raptors on the Internet. Poke ventilation holes in a box, put a towel in the bottom, get another towel, and take the whole shebang out to the raptor. Then cover the raptor with a towel, wrap it up, and put it in the box. My 10-year-old son courageously took on the task, and soon the owl was in an undignified position on his back in the bottom of the box–defenseless against the affectionate petting of an enamored boy.

I took it to our local falconer, who immediately determined that it had a compound fracture in its left wing. He said he’d take it to the vet, nurse it back to health, and then determine whether it could survive on its own in the wild. If it couldn’t, he’d try to find a zoo or other institution that would take it in.

Great horned owl Great horned owl

There was something about having the owl only a few feet away and looking directly into its immense eyes that touched me to the depths of my soul. I feel blessed and less alone. The chances of this happening when and where it did are so slim that I feel I’ve been given the tangible gesture of spiritual solidarity that I craved. And tonight, I don’t feel quite as alone.