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An Eastern Question

By Swabby429 --

I was indoctrinated as a Methodist, later United Methodist as a youngster. I didn't have any real conflict with nor issues with the Methodist church dogma until well after my deconversion in the mid-1970s.
Holy Resurrection Orthodox ChurchImage by Kristin Brenemen via Flickr
Those disagreements were and are those of official church policy on the status of LGBTQ people within the church membership. I had not been traumatized by such policies, it was only that I opposed their opinions because of their interference with the gay liberation movement's objectives of equality of rights and respect for all humans. My main interest in is that of an interested observer so as to stay in touch with people who no longer consider themselves Christian because of whatever reason. As I mentioned above, I was not traumatized by Methodism. I was bored by Christianity and simply outgrew it because it simply seemed so banal.

Just prior to washing my hands of Methodism, I checked out, but did NOT convert to the RCC. I determined that the RCC presented a painful, oppressive option. I soon abandoned any interest in studying the catechism.

Soon afterwards, I decided to check out Eastern Orthodox Christianity because of it's allegedly more mystical and philosophical leanings. I found the theology to be a bit more intellectually and spiritually challenging and also enchanting. However, on closer inspection, I found the institutionalized practice of the Eastern Church to be on par with the Roman Church, if not even more rigid and retrograde. Hence, my opinion was formed that the two main branches of Christianity are quaint, archaic relics.

The search continued and I studied Judaism at the suggestion of some close college classmates. I rather enjoyed the camaraderie of the pals who were raised as Reform Jews. To me, the religion is very compassionate and accepting, not merely tolerant. However, I always felt like an outsider and I could not get the hang of the Jewish subculture. I like interacting with Jews but still feel very much like an outsider.

After a couple of years hiatus from mainstream organized religion, I dabbled in New Age beliefs and practices. I supplemented my income by drawing astrological charts and reading the Tarot. This was more fun than anything. While I had a deep intellectual, philosophical understanding of the hows and whys, I couldn't bring myself to abandon my budding skepticism. I must say that the New Age phase of my life was a huge boost to my skeptical attitudes. But I stayed with drawing up charts and readings, because I needed the cash to help pay tuition costs.

Leaving behind my youth and college years, I entered my broadcast/media career path and became nearly, fully secular. I did take a short detour into the Abrahamic religions with some study of the Quran (spelled Koran when I read it) and Islamic culture and history. I had an especially keen interest in the Ottoman Empire and read voraciously about it. But while I enjoyed the stories of opulence and adventure of the Sultans, I couldn't get over the rigidity and intolerant nature of Islam in practical application by its believers and leaders. To me, it seems like the human version of a couple of huge wasp nests. I want no part of it.

My nickname "Swabby" is my good-natured twist on the term "Swami" which is an alter-ego for my radio persona I used several years ago. The name "Swabby" has stuck with me as a nickname from my pals.)Still, I enjoy investigating religions and culture. I was drawn to Hindu practice by a brief foray back to the New Age. This time I wanted to get to the roots of meditation and I had a desire to investigate Moksha or Enlightenment. To this day I benefit greatly by the discipline of meditation, albeit no longer the Hindu version. While I cannot bring myself to believe in the various deities the way most Hindus believe in them, I do have an elementary respect for the concepts they represent. Also, I have a strong ethical disagreement with the traditional South Asian social division of humanity into castes.

This agreeable understanding of subtle Hindu philosophy, morphed into my taking refuge as a Soto Zen Buddhist. My new boyfriend, Takeo, in 1975 was a practitioner of the Soto school of Zen. As I fell in love with him, I became totally enraptured by Japanese culture and art. Later, his residency visa was revoked and Takeo had to move back to Osaka. Japanese immigration did not allow me to follow suit to live with him. Even so, I still maintain a healthy regard and respect for Soto Zen.

Over eleven years ago, I continued my investigation of Buddhism and made an acquaintance and befriended an Englishman who has an eclectic Buddhist practice. He is very pragmatic, atheist and adventurous in nature. We hit it off right away and are still "mates" today. A few years ago, we decided to have an Indian adventure/pilgrimage. By that time I had started to investigate the Gelug School of Vajrayana (Tibetan) Buddhism. I befriended two Tibetan monks via snail mail and had established myself as their sponsor. During the Indian adventure, my Brit friend and I eventually made our visit to see our monks. We stayed at Sera Je Monastery in Karnataka State near Mysore. Our room was located just below the suite where His Holiness the Dalai Lama resides when he is not at his location in Dharamsala, India. His schedule often dictates that he teach advanced courses at Sera Je.

My current affiliation is still Tibetan and is flavored with the Vajrayana near equivalent of Zen which is called Dzogchen. I say this not to proselytize. (Buddhists are discouraged from doing that.) But to mention that this is my path and how I've taken my adventure and growth after I, long ago, left Methodism far behind. I don't have any faith nor belief in supernatural entities, but I do enjoy my yearning for inner growth and my desire to learn about various cultures, especially those of central and southern Asia.

My purpose in writing this thumbnail bio is to spur any discussion as to any experiences any of you might have had as a former member of the Eastern Orthodox Christian Church. I'm very curious about this aspect in particular. Also, has anyone here taken up another spiritual and/or philosophical path?