By David Jones
People of our same spiritual tradition don’t know what to do with us when we’re not like the group. People outside of our tradition stay at a distance and assume we’re just like all the others who share our belief system. The life of a misfit is filled with the awareness that we don’t belong. Some can handle that just fine, but sometimes I don’t.
Without a home, we also don’t have a tribe or community. We stand outside of the community, which means we’re always looking inside. We stand at the door and knock: “I’m a spiritual seeker who doesn’t believe everything you believe. Can I come in and sit with you?” We expect the answer will be “No.” We’re an outcast. The answer is always no.
Then we find The Tattooed Buddha.
A group of self-proclaimed spiritual misfits and contemplative rebels is appealing specifically because there isn’t the dogma that straight-jackets folks the moment we walk through the door. It’s liberating.
Granted, with a name like The Tattooed Buddha one expects a Buddhist flavor, but such a group attracts people of other traditions as well—not every traveler walks the same path.
As a Christian misfit, I should be used to it. The congregations are welcoming at first, until they discover we aren’t going to fit in and be just like them. As soon as we let a church know we don’t believe Jesus was ever God, that there isn’t a place called Hell, and that the King James Bible isn’t the only “true” version, we generally find the welcome mat sort of disappears.
As a Christian writer, I’m pretty unorthodox. I’ve been judged and found guilty by most of the world’s denominations. I don’t believe a righteous God tortures people for eternity, I don’t take every verse literally, and I don’t believe that only one particular group has The Truth and pleases God.
The challenge for me, being in a predominantly Buddhist setting, is reaching out in love and compassion to those who turned to Buddhism to escape an abusive Christendom.
Religious Trauma is real and widespread.
What’s worse is the media thrusts a certain type of Christian in our faces continually. One so certain of their own rightness that they feel no qualms about loudly judging everyone else. It’s easy to assume I must be just like them because of my tradition’s label.
But here’s how I see all this: There have been news reports of Buddhist monks in Myanmar targeting non-native Muslims for assault and abuse. Do I assume all Buddhists are like that? Some Muslims crashed jets into the World Trade Center and want death to Westerners. Do I assume all Muslims are like that? No, I know better. So I hope those alarmed by rigid Fundamentalists and dogmatic Evangelicals don’t lump me in with the rabble simply because we share a category. Some will anyway, of course. Preachy, judgey people cause others to suffer, and we all react to that suffering in our own ways.
My hope is that I can write articles from a Mindful Christian viewpoint, not to convert anyone or trigger animosity but to help clean away the pain and division. I want to ease suffering caused by those in my religion who feel it’s their right and duty to cause grief for outsiders. I can’t do that by staying silent.
Some people in the world want to stand out and be rebels, which for them amounts to a different wardrobe and hair color. Some are naturally outsiders and rejoice in it. I don’t think I’m either of those. I’m just me, and the rest is the perceptions of others. Sometimes being different weighs on me, and I get lonely.
But, I’ve found the Island of Misfit Spiritual Travelers, a congregation of people trying to walk their paths, a sangha of folks who have also come out of the cold to sit by the fire. I have a place to call home.
Editor: Alicia Wozniak
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