Mourning My Faith

Last night began the Jewish holiday of Purim. This is a celebration of the book of Esther. The last time I celebrated it was when I was still a member of a Messianic Jewish congregation two years ago, before I came out as an atheist, long before I came out as polyamorous. It was even before all the private drama that separated me from my religious community. But not before my doubts: I had doubts about Purim even then.

But this year, I’m getting closer to the point where I want to be. I miss Purim.

I miss the costumes. I miss reading the Megillah. I miss making noise and eating hamantashen.

I don’t miss the glorification of revenge, the lack of empathy and compassion, the deification of power.

But I miss getting so drunk that I can’t tell the difference between “cursed be Haman” and “blessed be Mordechai.”

And here begins a series of holidays: Purim, Pesach, Shavuot, plus the Counting of the Omer. These holidays made a difference to me. Once you truly experience them, you can never leave them completely. They’re still part of who I am, and their stories still have great meaning.

I am going to miss the Passover seder. I am going to miss its deep parallels between Judaism and Christianity. I am going to miss asking, “When do we eat?!”

I am not going to miss celebrating the death of every single firstborn male in Egypt on the orders of a god who was apparently too impotent to save his people without vilifying the innocent—because that’s what we still do today.

But I’m going to miss the metaphor of leaving slavery, eventually to arrive at Mount Sinai.

And this year, I grieve the irony. My Mount Sinai, the place where I became a whole person rather than a slave, the place where I found God, is also what made them reject me. I discovered God, and their god lashed out in reaction.

To the fundamentalist god, it’s not enough that you’re happy. To satisfy him, you must also conform. Even two years ago, I knew I was not going to be there forever. I knew I was on my way out. But I didn’t know where I was going. And they couldn’t accept me and support me while I figured it out. As soon as it became clear that my life didn’t fit into their theological box…

Truthfully, it never fit. Ever since I was a teenager, there were parts of me that I could never share with anyone. I mean not with anyone. These were secret preferences, secret longings, secret dreams. I kept them buried deep inside me in that dark corner of my soul, and pretended they didn’t exist.

But sometimes, when I was alone in the privacy of my own thoughts, I would take them out and just fantasize. And sometimes I would cry, because my life could never be what I wanted it to be. And then I would shove those dreams back into their box and lock them up tight, and go on pretending that they didn’t even exist.

No wonder I was depressed. I’ve fixed that now.

And then, just last week, it happened.

I was walking through the kitchen, going nowhere important, doing nothing in particular, thinking idle thoughts. I thought about all of who I am, and I thought about the people in my life. And I felt completely comfortable with me, comfortable in my own skin. I didn’t feel doubtful. I didn’t feel sad. I didn’t feel guilty or ashamed. I didn’t feel trapped or oppressed or angry. I just felt… happy.

One moment of unalloyed joy.

That had never happened to me before, not like that. I admitted to one of my partners, “For the first time in my life that I can remember, I feel unconditionally, blissfully happy.”

Maybe someday I’ll finagle my way into a good Reform synagogue, where I can be accepted for who I am, and I’ll be able to find new meaning in these holidays. Regardless, I’m never going back to the fundie lifestyle. Ever.

[Featured image: WikiMedia]