Copyright © 2012 by Chris R. Glaser. All rights reserved. Permission granted for non-profit use with attribution of author and blogsite.
Thank you, G. B., for making the first donation to this ministry! Others may do so by clicking on the “donate” link on either my blog or web site or by mail to MCC, P.O. Box 50488, Sarasota FL 34232, designating in the memo are, “For Progressive Christian Reflections.” Readers are the sole support of this ministry. Thank you! –Chris
The night after writing last week’s post about a dream, I had another. This time I found myself in the office of the church I last served, empty of my things save for a few "sacramentals" I had mistakenly left behind. I gathered these few items, but the only one I remembered after awaking was Ganesha, the elephant-headed Hindu god who is known variously as the Remover of Obstacles, the deity (deva in Sanskrit) of intellect, wisdom, and literature. With his gift for ironic humor, my Mormon nephew gave it to me one year for Christmas, and for years it sat atop my computer in hopes it would remove any technological obstacles I might encounter. Perhaps at some unconscious level I had hoped it might remove obstacles in the church I served.
I like that the “Remover of Obstacles” is also the deity of literature. As I wrote in my journal for the spiritual formation class I described last week, “Jesus is my liberator. But writing is my salvation.” Not just my writing, of course, but the writing of others as well, from ancient scriptures to contemporary storytellers. Writing may help us transcend obstacles, whether religious, political, historical, cultural, personal, or material. As such, writing may serve as a deeply spiritual medium. Not always, of course. Perhaps not most of the time.
When I served as a reporter and then news editor of a gay newsmagazine, I despaired that I would no longer be involved in spiritual matters as I had when employed by a church or writing my first few books. But what I discovered was that many if not most of the stories we covered were about spiritual warfare: religion attacking LGBT rights in the culture and excluding our spirituality in the church, refusing to welcome and celebrate our membership and ministries and marriages. Again, writing might come to the spiritual rescue.
In the interests of full disclosure, my dream may have been prompted by finally getting around to reading my Yale Div School classmate Barbara Brown Taylor’s memoir, Leaving Church. She adroitly describes the conflicting demands on every pastor, not the least of which is the spiritual warfare among those who follow the Prince of Peace. And almost offhandedly, she offers this bit of spiritual wisdom: “Church is not a stopping place but a starting place for discerning God’s presence in the world.”
Religion becomes a “stopping place”—an obstacle—when it thinks of itself more highly than it ought. That’s one of the things from which Jesus—our own “Remover of Obstacles”—tried to free us.