Olodumare, or Easter of Self-Respect

So it is Easter again, time to rise again, and so I shall. This is Oludumare, breathing peace into us after a terrible week.

My week was terrible because of religiosity and machismo. It began on the wrong note, as I went to church on Palm Sunday because a colleague was singing. One likes to hear beautiful music in beautiful places, and to support one’s friends’ performances, so I did.

It was, however, a distressing experience since it meant listening for an hour straight to penitents singing about how they had sinned, and about how they had enemies persecuting them, and how they needed God to smite those enemies. It was all so grim and so violent, that it was like having had an evil spell cast upon one.

Someone in the audience I knew said the feelings expressed in the songs — of hatred for enemies one is sure are closing in, and of need for some authoritarian figure to do violence to these enemies on one’s behalf — were normal and universal; I shuddered. I think the narrative of this kind of song works to construct and universalize a certain kind of self, and I am against it.

*

The next day I had an African-American event to go to. It is always a relief in the South to go to something African-American since this culture is so much less oppressive and so much more enlightened than the white one. However, on this occasion there was an influx of persons from the Nation of Islam which always means long-winded, pontificating men. Because of them, the more interesting speakers hardly got to speak, and most of the audience had to simply sit.

I was fascinated since it was such a throwback. I hadn’t been to something so Nation of Islam oriented in twenty or thirty years, so I was filled with nostalgia and memories, which I enjoy. And in their long speeches, these men did have some interesting points to make.

It was an interesting experience but I ended up amusing myself on a parallel track, trying to figure out which of the world’s men were the most pompous and verbose speakers. In my experience the three top contenders are Black Muslims, Chileans, and Spaniards, but what do you think?

*

In any case, one of the things I am most grateful for in life is not to have been baptized or raised in Christianity. My freedom shows in fearlessness, as I noticed one day fairly recently when my Brazilian friend’s young son expressed amazement at my willingness to hang a five-point star in my office just because it was pretty (he thought it might bring me bad luck, because there was no way to hang it but upside down).

What his mother said: “It will not bring her bad luck, child, because she is a free person — unbaptized and unafraid, and raised in a country which believed in civil and human rights when she was young.”

(So I am merely not superstitious, you will say. But what my friend meant is, my deeper self is not subsumed in fear and sin. At more superficial layers, I am subsumed in these things and that is what I have this blog to throw off; and I say Sondé miroir, O Legba!)

*

If what I am most pleased to have escaped is Christianity, what I most regret not having escaped are psychotherapy and psychoanalysis. Had I known what the evils of Christianity were, I would have vetted the practitioner(s) for religion. But I was not as well informed then as I am now, and I did not think this would matter. So I experienced the abusiveness of Christianity in this venue instead; that is why I know it so well and why I am so resolutely against it.

I am sure the mass psychology of all of the Abrahamic religions is just as bad, and I am against them all for that reason, although I am also willing to believe that their esoteric philosophies are interesting indeed. But a religion which will visit upon anyone what people like St. John of the Cross went through deserves to be swept from the face of the earth — now and forever, time without end, amen.

*

People always defend Christianity to me by citing people like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Leonardo Boff. I would like to point out that Boff was driven out of the church. I would hazard that the positive aspects of the African-American church come from West African religious traditions, not from Christianity, and that the other humane faces it may show come from pockets of rationality like the 18th century and some spots of ancient Greece.

Otherwise, I say Christianity is about the abolition of self and submission to grim authority, and that its goal in service of Caesar is to turn everyone into their own torturer. My most linked-to post is the text of Joan Didion’s On Self-Respect and I repeat to you, it is better reading than the Bible.

*

At this time of year in much of the northern hemisphere, spring is in full bloom; this was the case long before somber religions were imposed upon nature; our weather is beautiful and although living among the Christians I often have to shake their darkness from my shoulders, I am so glad to walk in the light.

*

I feel slightly cruel here for naming what I don’t like, because the things I don’t like are mainstream things that most people love or at least respect and tolerate. I know this post will look “angry” and feel “hurtful” to some, and it is true that I need more of the peace and strength of Olodumare.

For that, however, I must put a greater space between myself and the Christians — those sacrificers and penitents, those who dream of sitting in judgment and placing blame; those denizens convinced their enemies are closing in on them, and sure a violent and vengeful God is on their side.

Axé.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Olodumare, or Easter of Self-Respect

  1. None of the people I associate with closely are religious. Of course a lot of colorful stuff goes on around religion, but there is also the boredom you describe, which I am totally unable to tolerate.

    I can live without it.

  2. “the feelings expressed in the songs — of hatred for enemies one is sure are closing in, and of need for some authoritarian figure to do violence to these enemies on one’s behalf — were normal and universal; I shuddered.”

    I’m reading a book called “Sex at Dawn,” which is not entirely about sex and takes some interesting digressions. One of the assertions that the authors make is that humans are not necessarily inherently violent, citing several cultures as examples, mostly hunter-gatherer tribes. They also assert that violence and warfare are not even universal in the primate kingdom – particularly among our near cousins the bonobos, who are genetically closer to us than chimpanzees. It’s an interesting read, although sometimes tedious. The authors tend to tell you what they’re going to say, say it, and then tell you what they said, which gets onerous to read.

    I do envy you that you are “unbaptized and unafraid.” Were you brought up in a household that was casual about religion or were you brought up in another faith? I note your vodoun references, of course; maybe it’s too obvious for me to ask! I grew up in a religious family and unfortunately went down a path of religious extremism when I was in my 20s, from which I eventually revolted, but that’s a story for another time & place.

    I am not a fan of Christianity either. I am going to write about that on my blog, but it’s taking me a while to get my thoughts together.

    As far as pompous and verbose speakers go, Black Muslims are certainly right up there, but white Protestant Evangelical “intellectuals” certainly deserve a mention, as do certain types of Western ceremonial magickians when they lecture on occult matters.

  3. Z

    White Protestant Evangelical “intellectuals” certainly deserve a mention, as do certain types of Western ceremonial magickians when they lecture on occult matters — I believe it! Just haven’t met them yet; in my circles I get beleaguered instead by Chilean poets on a steady diet of red wine, Spaniards who might as well be Inquisitors, and so on.

    I was raised nonreligious. My father’s parents were recovering Baptists and didn’t take him to church, and likes Buddhism and things like that but isn’t in a religion, and my mother is Episcopalian in a Zen kind of way. but doesn’t do church. I hang out in Brazil and like candomble, can’t avoid it, but I am not an adept of it either.

    People don’t believe me but the polytheistic worldview or pantheistic one is really a whole different psychology from, say, the Christian one — their structure of feeling is SO not universal / not necessary.

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