So I’ve walked away from the church after they said some nasty things about gay people. Which is odd, because it’s not exactly as if it’s the first time something like this has happened. I think the statement on same-sex marriage was different in some way, but that doesn’t exactly explain the severity of my reaction.
I remember the exact day of the statement. My mind was on it the whole day, thinking about what it meant, and what I should do. The intensity of feeling has faded with time, but not the certainty that things had changed, or that I had to do something. In many ways, it felt just like a spiritual epiphany.
I may have previously mentioned Kevin Nelson’s excellent book on neuroscience, The God Impulse, in which he looks at many different spiritual experiences. One intriguing story he relates revolves around a group of people playing pinball. The basic thrust of the story is that as the game went on, they all got the impression that every movement seemed to be synchronised with the music playing in the background, right down to the ball shooting down between the flippers as the track ended.
There’s no suggestion that this rather unusual epiphany had any spiritual significance (although I must admit, I’d be quite tempted by a Church of Pinball), but it made a profound impression on all of them, even though they were embarrassed to talk about it in those terms. They couldn’t deny that they all felt as if something remarkable had happened, even though they could make no sense of it.
I wouldn’t exactly speak in those terms, but I feel that I could describe my experience in a similar way. When I heard the news of the statement that morning, it seemed that my whole perspective changed in an instant, like a switch being flicked. I’d previously had experiences that I’d have described as epiphanies, but this felt like an anti-epiphany. Rather than being drawn into a belief, I was suddenly repulsed by it.
I can rationalise my reaction, and it seems perfectly reasonable, but wonder if that’s missing the point. This wasn’t a conscious decision, as far as I can see, but an instinctive one. Just like a transcendent vision or the more prosaic examples of infatuation or love at first sight, it feels like my conscious mind is trying to catch up with a purely unconscious impulse.
This doesn’t bother me, just as it doesn’t bother me that I fell in love with my wife without consciously assessing her suitability as a mate, but I do think it’s interesting.
Photo by mojo-jo-jo, used under Attribution License