Fri, 27 October 2017
Cass Midgley and guest co-host and fellow ex-pastor Dave Warnock interview Shanna in Canada. After a portent encounter with "god" that left her searching for answers and doubting god's goodness, Shanna set out on a three year search to discover how the God she loved and devoted her life to could hunger for his own glory in the face of her suffering. In the process, she dismantled the scaffolding her Christian faith and dogma had built around life and love, deforming what it means to be human. She discovered that "God" is really the god of our imagination. It is in faith that we craft the god we need to meet the unmet needs of our lives. Shanna is a contemplative atheist on the journey of coming back to her self and the world - body and mind--after years of disembodied living perpetuated by belief and faith. In letting go of faith, she began discovering the gifts of being human by finding new life-giving rhythms to center her life inside the body and in trusting the lived experience. Shanna holds an M.A. in Counselling and a certification in play therapy. She is a licensed clinical counselor and has been working in the field of trauma and child development for 11 years.
The underlying theme of Shanna's story is disembodiment. She probably uses that word 20 times before I figure out what she's talking about. There are a few epiphanies in this talk, had by all, but Shanna, like many ex-Christians, found herself in a natural world, not a supernatural world, the real world. And she found it beautiful in its raw form. Religion tries to put clothes on reality to hide its ugly, shameful parts. But many of us peaked behind the covering and saw that it wasn't scary. The process of peaking was scary, but underneath was a beautiful body. Yeah, there's blemishes and irregularities and even loneliness. But those of us that left faith embrace life's blemishes including our own. Everything just is what it is and the clothing is a way of saying "no" to it.
Often the reason that the grand narrative of "God is in control" and is "working all things together for your good," is so appealing is that life apart from that comforting narrative life bangs with chaos and injustice; it rattles and throbs with unease and lack of settled significance or even hope sometimes, but it's the world in which we find ourselves. And saying "no" to it doesn't make it go away, it just hides it from our immature eyes. The real world is sometimes unnerving or banal; it is tactile and unpredictable like the wind. The physical world, which includes our bodies, is foreign, at first, to the human who's been steeped in the metaphysical world. But our lives become art, not dogma. Dynamic, not static. Wild, not controllable. Physical , not metaphysical. Samuel Beckett, the 20th century Irish poet contrasted poetry and metaphysics like this: "Poetry is essentially the antithesis of Metaphysics: Metaphysics purge the mind of the senses and cultivate the disembodiment of the spiritual; Poetry is all passionate and feeling and animates the inanimate; Metaphysics are most perfect when concerned with universals; Poetry, when most concerned with particulars." For me, Art is my religion. The only world I want to live in is one seen through the lens of Art and the freedom of Art. The freedom to make mistakes and they become part of the creation and are in fact absorbed and welcomed as that which gives the piece character and honestly.
Also, on this subject of embodiment, when I read Ta-Nehisi Coates' book, Between the World and Me, which is framed as a letter to his teenage son on how to live in a black body in America, I was immediately struck with ample his use of the word "body" throughout and how often he identified himself as his body. He calls disembodiment of form of terrorism. Perhaps you can see where a black person shunned and shamed for his skin color his whole life could be tempted to resent his own body and want to detach from it. But Coates defies the devaluation of his body and the mistake of disembodiment.
Adolescent teenagers or even adults can look in the mirror, maybe naked in front of a full body mirror and dislike with they see and engage in a form of disembodiment. Christianity seems to only convey that the human body is only good when God dwells there. In fact, that's it's main purpose--to be a temple, a vessel for the seemingly greedy dictator that wants to own all the bodies all and control them all. "You are not your own, you've been bought with a price." They do know that's the definition of slavery, right? They'll say, "it's because he knows best." Well, it's a good thing God doesn't exist because this is my body and although I may not always know or practice what's best for it, it is a precious thing and the only thing I truly own on the earth. So politically speaking, I'm a body anarchist, and I insist on my freedom. All the amazing functions of the body--eating, digestion, looking at things, feeling things, sex--are not ugly or sinful; they're amazing machines that took billions of years to evolve into what they are today.
We taped this conversation on September 23rd, 2017. We interview people you don’t know, about a subject no one wants to talk about. We hope to encourage people in the process of deconstructing their faith and help curb the loneliness that accompanies it. We think the world is a better place when more people live by sight, not by faith. Please subscribe to our podcast, and leave a review wherever you listen to podcasts. Our show is available on most podcast platforms. Also, you can support us monetarily in two easy ways: you can pledge one dollar per episode or more through Patreon; that’s www.patreon.com/eapodcast, or leave a lump-sum donation through PayPal at our website, www.everyonesagnostic.com. The smallest contribution is greatly appreciated.
Thanks for listening and be a yes-sayer to what is.
Krista Tippet's interview with Bessel van der Kolk about how trauma lodges in the body