I occasionally go to church on Sunday mornings.
The Church of the Immaculate Bewilderment, is for people who don’t believe in God but are curious to know, if HE did exist, what would HE really be like.
Immaculate means blessed or pure. To be bewildered is to be confused or baffled. I’m certainly the latter.
Hemet, who is the resident pastor of The Church of the Immaculate Bewilderment is an ex-research biologist who was forced out of his tenured university position at the University of California when, at the age of fifty, he stopped bathing, shaving, cutting his hair and brushing his teeth. I met Hemet on a street corner one Sunday morning, where he was screaming and throwing punches at imaginary people,
“You doing okay?” I said, sticking five dollars into the paper cup Hemet panhandles with when not shouting at strangers. I often do this, give the money to homeless transients. I hate feeling sorry for people. It makes me feel guilty. “Can I get you anything?” I said.
“A vente cappuccino would be nice,” Hemet said with a sweet if slightly decayed smile.
“God bless both of you,” he said after I took the4 money back and went and got it for him.
“If God exists,” I said.
“Come with me,” Hemet said and he took me to parking lot behind the Whole Food Market and introduced me to the rest of the congregation.
At the Church of the Immaculate Bewilderment we talk about a lot of things. We talk about neurotheology which is the attempt to explain religious behavior in scientific terms. Why, for instance, does it seem that some human beings are hardwired for faith while others are not?
It doesn’t seem fair. But then, what does?
Edvard, who was a sucessful financial advisor before he retired to become a successful alchoholic, asks whether God, if He existed, would endorse capitalism. Would He be shorting the commodities market and if so, could this be construed as illegal insider trading? Which leads us all to the question, would He be a proponent of Swedish style socialism – high taxes, government regulation and health care for everyone? Or more in favor of the Divine Right of Kings? And if HE is, shouldn’t WE?
We reach no conclusions.
Poulter, a Marine vet dealing with a traumatic brain injury, likes to discuss early religions, now disingenuously termed mythology, where people believed gods were human manifestations of the natural world – sun, moon, ocean, storm – and the noetic – love, war, wisdom. Why, he’ll ask, should people assume that they’re any smarter and more devout today than we were back then.
We’re obviously not.
Jones, who has paranoid personality disorder, likes to argue about the origins of the universe, did it all come from something or nothing, with a bang or with a whimper, is it expanding or shrinking and either way – who’s fault is that, huh?! Huh!?
The nameless Gnostic transvestite who suffers from Fregoli delusion which means he thinks different people are a single person in disguise, likes to contemplate different dimensions of time and space. How many are there? Hemet will tell you there could be an infinite number which means in an infinite universe of infinite dimensions there could be an infinite number of you.
God, if you believe in Him, forbid.
And finally some one, perhaps it’s Bethyl, who deals with depersonalization disorder but is female-centric, always asks whether it’s even possible to put sacred concepts into human terms and whether a real knowledge of what is or isn’t, is even accessible to human beings.
In the end, it comes down to a matter of faith. Which our ever changing congregation has very little of. And so we end up starting the discussion all over again, in search of it. Frankly it can get pretty loud and stupid and headache inducing, sort of like a French anarchist’s convention and so usually, half way through the meditating, questioning, conjecturing, lecturing and proselytizing on Him – or in Bethyl’s system of disbelief – Her – I’ll get up and leave and go down the street and get an onion bagel.
But for some reason, I always seem to go back.
The Church of the Immaculate Bewilderment is always open to new members.