Thursday, November 1, 2012

Religious Maverick

Maverick. The word defined:
  • An unbranded range animal, especially a calf that has become separated from its mother, traditionally considered the property of the first person who brands it.
  • Being independent in thought and action or exhibiting such independence.

My dad was a maverick—in this I am my father's daughter—but it didn't do his career any good. He was a federal probation officer who spoke for and published about restorative justice as an alternative to the then-current attitudes in criminology of social vengeance, punishment, and deterrence. The people in his office made fun of him and he was passed over for promotion throughout his 35 year career, ending it at the same level at which he'd entered. Finding another position would have been impossible, especially after he started teaching evening classes in comparative religion, but he accepted the label "weirdo" with a great good humor that I can't seem to find inside myself.

I've been deeply impacted by his beliefs, especially his religious beliefs. He called himself a Buddhist Unitarian Jew, and he steadfastly refused to give up on any of those, insisting that at the heart of all religions was the same impulse to love god and do good. The Jews rejected him outright for this, the Buddhists cheerfully came to our Passover Seders in their stead, and the Unitarians invited him to speak from the pulpit on Sunday mornings.

My father, the maverick, has long gone off to his safe corral in the sky. That's his picture along with a self-portrait. Like him, I feel myself to be deeply religious and like him, no one institutionalized form encompasses the spiritual reality in which I live. I am an animist, which means that I believe all material being is alive, intelligent, and infused with soul. I'm polytheistic, which means that I believe in the existence of many gods, and I worship a pantheon I call the Gods of Love. I'm also a follower of Jesus of Nazareth, seeking to live the radical love to which he called the world.

I worship Father, Son, and Holy Spirit side-by-side with people who would see me as destined for hell and sip bourbon with scientific materialists who find all of my religious beliefs anathema. Like my dad, I refuse to give any of them up, but unlike my dad, I've been hiding in a closet all my life, afraid of the sting of rejection, unable to find that enormous sense of humor that can encompass even humiliation and ostracism. It's time to come out and laugh a little.

A maverick, by definition, is unbranded, but perhaps there are others like me, wandering the spiritual metropolis without a home but with a fierce faith in something greater than human. Could that be you? I'd love to hear from you!

PS: Since writing this post, I've become aware of Huston Smith, a religious scholar who has practiced a number of religions throughout his long life. He's an inveterate seeker after truth and he believes that for all its faults, religion is as valid a path to truth as science. More about Mr. Smith is easy to find with a simple google search.


Anonymous said...

I stumbled onto your blog by googling Christian Animism, for while I'm not a Christian, I'm definitely an animist, but I'm left feeling far too "conservative" by pagan animists. So I thought I might find something closer with Christian animist...

You are DEFINITELY not alone in your beliefs. I've read a bunch of your posts, this last several minutes, with great glee. We are also poly-an and it looks like we really agree with you on a lot! Looking forward to reading much more of your thoughts!

Blessings and high regards to you! :)

puny human said...

Hey, thanks Anonymous, for your supportive comment. I finally had to leave the church completely, and dis-identify as any kind of Christian. Sad, because there is so much potential in it. Happy, because I've made the leap to full integrity in my beliefs and practices.

I hope you'll continue to follow and learn about Polytheistic Animism by going to That's where the action's happening now!

Thanks again and all the best,