Sometimes we can be pulled in purely by the title of an article. When I saw the title The problem of ‘phony holiness’ and when to listen to your inner truth … I expected to read something about acting holy, acting righteous and, like the Pharisees, making a show of our prayers, and our devotion to the church, or to God.
I was not expecting to be touched by something that may have been incidental in the article, and may not even have been Ram Dass’ intent in writing it.
The sentences that touched me to the core were – I was this great loser because I had taken on Harvard and lost, and, “Everybody is looking at me like I’m some loser,” and I was just thinking, “I’ve won! This is the definition of psychosis… they’re all crazy! I was right!”
Twenty years ago I was a theological student. I had a calling to become a minister in the church, the denomination I had been attending with my family for many years. I was a good student. I know I would have made a good career out of my calling to the ministry. I think I could have “gone places” in the church. I had strong faith, and a strong desire to share the Love of God with others.
My plans were railroaded by betrayal and a systematic sabotaging of my reputation, as a person, as a student and a prospective clergy person. A sabotage I was not even aware of for nearly a year.
By the time I found out it was too late. Minds had been made up, decisions had been made. While confidential committees found in my favour, the powers-that-be went their own way, and my only recourse was to take legal action.
I wasn’t thrown out of the church. I left voluntarily. I knew there was no place for me there any longer.
I remember clearly when I knew I had to leave. Standing in my “home church” on Palm Sunday, preaching for the last time. By the time I got home, a five-hour drive later, I knew what I had to do.
And I did it.
I never wore my clerical robes again. I never attended church again, except for various family funerals and weddings.
For twenty years I have beaten myself up about it. For twenty years I have thought, everybody is looking at me like I’m some loser. For twenty years I have mourned the loss of my career, I have mourned the impact this episode has had on my family. For twenty years I have felt the loss of community and friends, the loss of purpose, of a life unlived. For twenty years I have tried to recreate what I lost. For twenty years I have beaten myself up about the choice I made, for the way it all ended.
Of course, when we take a stand against The Church, we pit ourselves against not only the people of the church, but the hierarchy, and, ultimately, God.
My sense of powerlessness came from an unspoken understanding that God was on the side of the people of the church, not mine. I was just the woman making a nuisance of herself.
I was the one to whom, as I was told, mud would stick.
I was the one, as I was told, whose voice could spell the end of A Man’s Career. (it didn’t, but mine was well and truly down a gurgler not of my own making)
How I have missed the church.
How I have missed being part of a community of faith, of taking part in its liturgy, its ceremony, its community.
How I have missed the sacrament of communion, the sharing of the cup and the bread with others.
How I have missed silent communion with God, just by sitting in a church in contemplation.
And then I read Ram Dass’ last lines – I’ve won! This is the definition of psychosis… they’re all crazy! I was right!
And I felt vindicated.
Of course I was right. Of course they were all crazy.
Of course, by living my truth, and acting on my truth, I was right.
Of course, as an organisation you don’t treat people the way my family and I were treated.
Never again will I mourn the loss of my past.
Never again will I mourn the loss of Christmas, and Easter, and the Communion of Faith.
Never again will I carry the guilt, of failing myself, of failing my family, and others I felt counted on me.
Never again will I let the vile sludge of prophetic mud stick to me.
… never again …
They were all crazy.
And I was right.
*From an article by Ram Dass – The problem of ‘phony holiness’ and when to listen to your inner truth …