Take subcultures, for example. They are primal in expression, so we immediately cast them aside because they do not fit in with our need to be polished and unified. In fact, their statements of independence often strike against mainstream concerns about “how we should look/act,” and we are offended by their sheer defiance. Perhaps we find their failure to yield to the values and ideologies of the majority unpalatable. Yet that is exactly why they are subcultures. Their members behave and dress (a simple expression) in unconventional ways that hit a nerve in us.
We are often equally affronted (and intrigued) by the brazen nature of other subcultures such as the Mafia (and other organized crime families). Many of these groups lack regard for mainstream ideologies and subscribe to sets of rules that define their own social norms. Yet their members have in place very distinct values regarding loyalty and the consequences of questioning the hierarchy that erected the organization (uummm, sounds a bit mainstream). They value family, take care of their own, and turn on traitors in a heartbeat. The rules are raw, unveiled, and as a result, hard to digest. Yet below the surface, these rules are not very different from those of many other cultures. They demonstrate fear of reprisal (condemnation if you don’t play by these rules), and intimidation or rejection (no longer being a part of the family group or unit) is prevalent.
Now let’s take a look at organized religion. I recall visiting the Vatican and becoming hugely impacted by that which I did not expect. In this holy place, I expected humanity to be widely demonstrated for all, thereby acknowledging human equity and a reverence for humanity. The sadness that swept over me as I witnessed the tremendous wealth strewn throughout the city to glorify priests–all of whom were mortal men–in the name of the lord baffled me. The contrasting poverty around the city gates only intensified that distinction: there were the anointed, and then there were the others. I recognized no god among the 18-karat gold caskets and shrines to popes of the past. I became harshly educated on the hierarchy (man’s world) that has been erected in the name of religion.
Various cases of organized religion represent the sharing of values as introduced by leaders. The leaders create a forum so that members of the religion’s family gain security by becoming part of the group rather than remaining isolated. As humans, our inherent need to fit in is so primal it often can become insidious. The need to belong and be validated can become so strong that we forget to question the “norms” or hold onto our truths or individuality. We can become consumed by a measure of rank and a desire to be understood for who we are and what we stand for, even when “fitting in” means being different–like everyone else–as in a subculture.
During the promotion of my book, I recently visited the South. I was astounded by the number of bishops, prophets, pastors, ministers and reverends I encountered, all intent on leading their flocks (yes, there was a profit) in the name of God. Once again, the veil of fear was present via the threatened consequences of not turning one’s life over to God. The suggestion to join “us” was accompanied by the the fear that you might be doomed if you did not. The wealth of these successful leaders was generated by their followers, investing money to become members of the “family” and subscribe to pre-set values and ideologies.
My story is intentionally transparent because transparency has no veil. It was written and told in honor of truth. It does not attempt to conceal or conform by pandering to readers. It strikes a chord in women whose feminine power has been stolen and held for ransom by an industry (or a man) that has made a living by selling the sexuality of women–perhaps another subculture. It challenges how we view women sexually. It also calls into question how little empathy we sometimes show for both ourselves and others.
However, the story culminates in how forgiveness and love can transform. It speaks of believing in the God in you, that piece in you which distinguishes good from bad and knows right from wrong. In living in this world, we have become so compromised by fear, intimidation, hesitation, and isolation that we have reached for whatever we can find to gain refuge from the “what if’s.” So before moving forward, we must address the ever-present fear factor that resides in all of us–just as love does. Love is truth; fear is hesitation. Begin by believing in the love of self and coming into alliance with the god in you. This inner shrine truly is the testament to how you are living.
My god holds residence in my heart. I pay tribute through how I treat others rather than in financial offerings. He is my trusted anchor, encouraging truth while fostering my ability to act for humanity without judgment or persecution. He does not foster fear; he unshackles it. He encourages my voice rather than pinning me down with oppressive thoughts about what others may think. He promotes compassion and encourages acceptance. He does not limit or bind. He rescues and restores through acts of courage and honor. He never shuns the dignity of another, regardless of their past mistakes or misfortune.
In a world that is compromised by criticism and injustice, he nurtures and shields. He does not become limited by fear, as in his love it cannot exist. He turns hurdles into forward strides and recovery from disappointment into appreciation of the lessons learned. He is in you and in me. Our choice and perhaps responsibility is to nurture and feed that reservoir (love), trust it (faith), and share it (acts), and so He shall be substance for our hungry souls and our inherent need to belong rather than simply be left behind. Just tap into the reservoir within and let it flow. BTW, he is she . . . as are we.