I'm in the middle of something so new and emotionally complicated for me that I've been dealing with it through private video blogs. I keep them on a device, not online, and I'm saving them in case the people they involve would like to see (some of) them someday. --As well as for general archival purposes. I find myself too stressed to just type, sometimes.
Most of the posts turn into prayers in some parts, because I'm talking out loud to a screen, and sooner or later it feels like when I used to pray more often (which I guess I'm doing again, in a weird way?). There's just so much of my voice, sooner or later it feels like there's a middle layer in the air, this place to ask for help, speak out my concerns like I'm being listened to, and then somehow I find things I believe to be true about God and love in the forefront of my mind, informing my take on events as I blog about them. It's a wonderful and unexpected process.
My religion has become very simple. God is love. God is a sentient, involved creator and relational being. Jesus Christ was God on earth, and His sacrifice was the only way to finish the story of an unflinching, eternal, un-self-seeking, reconciling and forgiving love. I no longer believe in substitutionary atonement (Jesus died so God wouldn't have to punish us). I just believe if you really love the world, you show up and hang out for a bit and do some really kind, amazing things, and you go hungry sometimes and you walk into scary things and you deal with loneliness (loneliness by choice is still lonely) so people who know your story will believe you were willing to suffer with them in these small, personal, and terrible experiences. And then you let two rival people groups both have a hand in your death, your really painful death, and you don't run, because if this is what the world is, this desire to hate and kill and selfishly protect everything it believes it can grab onto and keep, you're going to hang up there and forgive them as your lungs fill with water and your body bleeds and you have nothing, anymore, you're going to breathe out real love as long as you can. --So that maybe, then, the story your body just told will help the world want healing, help people groups and individuals see a better way to live and die through this sometimes awful, sometimes boring, sometimes glorious period of years we've been given.
If that's it, religion is simple. Believe you're loved; be kind to others; be brave; be generous; be forgiving. I'm wondering if that's why Jesus told a story about thanking people for all these things they did for him and them saying, "when did we ever do something nice for you," in essence, and him responding, "oh, whenever you did these kind things, it was like you were doing them for me. As if you had done them to me."
If religion is that simple, I think Christians need to stop talking about hell and start talking about inclusion. Or just go out and live the best we can, and not worry so much. I know so many people who do the loving things I believe God would do for me -- and they don't have a religion. Just bravery. Kindness. Generosity. Forgiveness. I think I believe, as The National mournfully sings in "Heavenfaced," "We'll all arrive in heaven alive." (But I don't mourn.)
Or as Gerard Manley Hopkins would have it, in "As Kingfishers Catch Fire":
"I say móre: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: thát keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is —
Chríst — for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men's faces."