SPECIAL SERIES: Perspectives on spirituality by young people...
1. Phoebe Coyne
1. Phoebe Coyne
POST SCRIPT: Phoebe provided a follow-up recorded interview a couple of weeks after this perspective was published. The interview can be heard (click link), or downloaded (right click and "save"), at www.catholica.com.au/media/PhoebeInterview.mp3. Note: Download may take some time as other heavy multi-media content is also playing on this present page.
My religious outlook today...
I don't consider that I have a "religious outlook" today — or if I do, my religious outlook is certainly "approach with caution". I consider myself a deeply spiritual person though, and I devote much of my energies to my spiritual drive to make a difference on the planet socially, politically, ecologically and economically.
In my early twenties, I heard about social, political and environmental activism. I think it was before that that Catholicism had lost my interest — to the tunes of turning towards a spirituality that could activate and engage me to do stuff — activation and engagement being the operative words. My travels have since led me, and my 'religious alignment' per se, to a position today where I would consider myself to be most closely aligned with Buddhism, and eco-philosophies and spiritual practices.
Catholic teaching, for me, was for the most part, way too anthropocentric for my spirituality and my way of connecting with and being in the world. Catholicism stopped short of places that I wanted to explore. It did not have the flexibility or openness to travel with me. It left me behind when it taught to "love one another" on condition of x, y or z (consider the Catholic vs the Protestant scenarios), or condoned behaviours, which may have been morally or ethically wrong, but which I found in conflict with my own strong set of values and beliefs (for example gender & sexuality issues, contraception, abortion). I don't need a church to make those decisiond for me — I have my own values, thanks, and I can mix and match my experience of being in the world.
I guess, on that observation alone, that we have become a lot more individualistic, and so want to determine our own power. And why wouldn't we when so much of it is constantly under attack: politically, socially, economically.
My life is a prayer...
I believe that my life is a prayer. Part of the challenge facing humanity at the moment has been our incapacity to see a bigger picture or a holistic perspective. As long as we are plundering the resources on which we survive to sustain us, and don't respect them or treat them as sacred, we are going to lose them.
Ecologist and Gaian philosopher Stephan Harding argues that we have lost our vital connection to "Animate Earth," and that we need to reconnect with the natural world and the true place of humans in the cosmos.
When I consider all the colonialisation that the Catholic Church has done, from quashing early pagan and earth-honouring spirituality and practices, not to mention the many indigenous practises where spirituality and religion were incorporated into all tiers of being — social, ecological and economic practices in every day existence — I am not surprised at my disenchantment. Religion, quite honestly scares the hell out of me: especially when we look at the extremes of religious zeal — Andrew Denton painted this picture well, within our own context in the recent feature film: "With God on Our Side" — of the illness and danger of fundamentalist Christianity in the US.
By the same token, Islamic leaders have been vilified by various economic and political agendas of the West — led by the US, and followed sychophantically by the Australian government and other allies — through a grossly deluded and misrepresented picture of the rest of the world. To me, institutionalised religion is dangerous because it polarises the community on account of the dogma within each church of vetting Their God against and above any Other God of any other practicing religion- Our God is better than yours. And these arguments are not new, by any stretch of the imagination.
Jesus may have been Lord, but he was alive a very long time ago. What if we all took it upon ourselves to be Bodhisattvas, and to aspire to take our own power back by doing that? The Catholic Church has indoctrinated us that "we are all sinners," and in so doing, all imperfect and unable to spire to the goodness of Jesus. What if there was another way of being? I was recently told that in Eastern spirituality, they are unfamiliar with issues of low self-esteem and low-self worth, since everyone in the community is geared toward being perfect incarnations in this lifetime, and aspiring towards greatness and beauty? Catholicism suggests that we're all stuffed before we start, so what point is there in trying? I was however, recently inspired to meet and talk with Ploughshare activists, and to engage with radical Christian peace activists. These people do give me hope but we have a long haul if there is to be a global energy realignment in the year 2012 as some predict based on the Mayan calendar.
In recent times though I have experienced some kind of epiphany. I've been attracted back to Christ as Lord in some curious way. The most recent and influential has been in the direct translations of the bible from Aramaic. The way I can most directly relate this is in the Aramaic Lord's Prayer:
The Aramaic Lord's Prayer
Abwoon (Father-Mother of the Cosmos)
Abwoon d'bvashmayo, nethqadash shmok. Te-the malkutokh. Nehwé tseby o-nokh, aykano d'bvash'mayo of -ba'r'o. Habv lan lahma d'sunqonan yow-mano, Washboqlan hawbén w'kh-t'hén, aykano dof h'nan shba-qn l'hayobén. W'lo tahlan l'nesyun'eh, elo patson men bisho. Metol d'dilok hi malkutokh, w'haylo, w'teshbuh-to lo'alam 'o-l'min. Amén.
What a powerful and enchanting way to re-engage: that suggests earth, and cosmos honouring simply in the title, let alone painting a picture that the world we are in incorporates more than just us reckless humans!
I do believe in a more powerful entity than ourselves, I believe in incarnation, reincarnation, purpose and karma.
The world's greatest religion...
I think that the world's greatest religion of our time is market capitalism, and that that is why infinite numbers have been lost from the church — in the belief that they can find what they are looking for in a shopping mall?! All we need to do is look at the lack of sanctity and regard with which Christmas is held- Don't buy anything for Christmas: Jesus has enough already, and so do we. I was asking a 40+ year old Russian friend recently if she would be spending Christmas with her family. Her response was "I moved from Russia when I was eleven years old. I had never even heard of Jesus before I came to Australia. (No, it is not a time of importance or celebration to me)." My head has totally been reeling ever since. How utterly bizarre would it be in your young childhood to find all these quacks totally obsessed with this dude who was on the planet and informed us all that "He died for our sins" — if sins were a value or belief that you happened to value or hold previously or not.
The value with which the Catholic Church has taken it upon itself to plunder, wipe out and colonise millions of communities the world over absolutely disgusts me. I am incensed that I was ever involved in the practises of a belief and value system which saw it fit to be superior over many other value systems that have been wiped out. I think of the Pagan and Wiccan practises of many centuries ago, and missionaries all over the planet of the belief that people needed to be "saved". These people were all largely white, male, and dominant, or female, white and subservient, thrown into environments, territories and climates that were absolutely unsuited to their colonising efforts, despite their determination. All this, particularly cast in the dirty light within which some practices within the church have been condoned such as clergy abuse, and continue to be veiled by secrecy EVEN BY THE CURRENT LEADERSHIP! Hello! We live in the Twenty-First Century now! Wakey wakey! What happened to transparency and accountability, eh? This is absolutely intolerable, and many of these practices continue within the church, within remote regions of the world, today.
The Spirit of Generation Y
The Australian Catholic University and Christian Research Association has recently published a research paper entitled "The Spirit of Generation Y" (see www.apo.org.au/linkboard/results.chtml?filename_num=94315), which makes interesting reading about the religious and spiritual values of the current generation, when compared against those of the previous generation X, and those of the Baby Boomers.
Considering the polarisation currently going on in society, of pitting one religion against the other and all the whacked out and crazy fundamentalism that is born out of this erroneous behaviour — particularly, I think of George W and his "War on terror" which seems to be perpetrated from some Christian fundamentalist perspective — I question what this is this doing for restoring peace, good will, celebration of diversity and inclusion of all peoples regardless of their race, sexual preferences, gender, class and culture in our societies.
How can one religion or political ideology be so morally superior over another that it can move in and kill off or destroy another? We see it today in a political sense with the War on Terror. It's all exactly the same, and comes from the one source: FEAR.