The Passion of the Beardless Christs

Easter always reminds me of the year the Seagrass Clan insisted I come with them to see their eldest son perform in something called a Passion Play. I had no idea what a Passion Play was but their eldest daughter Connie and I had just become friends and she really, really wanted to introduce me to her brother.

One year my grandparents came to visit for Easter and my little sister and I got Easter bonnets! Look at those lovely shoes though!

My parents had no strong religious beliefs. We went to church from time to time primarily for appearances and they joined the closest church to our house so that we could walk to Sunday school classes while they slept off their hangovers. Saturday nights there was always a party somewhere.

To this day, I cannot tell you what distinguishes a Methodist from a Baptist but the Methodists seemed like decent folk.

Photo courtesy of my friend Layton, who by the oddest of coincidences, attended the same seminary as Connie’s brother … probably about the same time. It’s been too long ago for a positive ID but the bearded fellow above does look like a Seagrass.

The Seagrass Clan, on the other hand, lived and breathed Jesus Christ, all of the Angels, all of the Saints, the current Pope and, oh yeah, the Virgin Mary. They were also all about food. The morning of the Passion Play, I arrived at their house to find them packing the back of their station wagon with baskets of food: frosted brownies, cheesy lasagna, chocolate chip cookies and freshly baked rolls they called Yeast Bunnies. All homemade and all smelling divine. They been up all night cooking, Connie told me.

Courtesy of Layton Damiano

I’d assumed this seminary would be somewhere in Reno Nevada where we lived. But after climbing into the car next to Connie, her eight year old brother and six year old sister, Mother Seagrass (the driver) announced that it was snowing over the pass and we needed to recite several Hail Marys and invoke the mercy of some saint whose statuette she affixed to the dashboard. We were going to California. We would be back that night but possibly quite late. Lord have mercy.

Bing Images

We said a lot of Hail Marys going over the summit. The snow blew sideways and the bridges were covered over with black ice but once we began to descend into the Sacramento Valley the sun came out and ignited a dizzying sea of vivid greens on the foothills. The further into the Sacramento Valley we drove, the greener it got. However, Mother Seagrass wasn’t used to driving on freeways the size of those in California and so slammed on the brakes when unsure which exit to take. “Lord, which exit should we take?” she would pray as the rest of us peed our pants.

Again courtesy of Layton

A passion play, Connie finally explained to me, depicts the trial and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. To this day, I don’t understand what’s so passionate about such a grim subject and I don’t really want to know. Over the many, many years since then, I’ve seen that … such intense devotion and strict adherence to religion has a dark side. But I do remember that day well, all those bright young men, dressed in robes and sandals and sporting ill-fitting beards, their joy at greeting loved ones and their joy at seeing the feast awaiting them after the play. And the green of Spring all around.

From the Solemn Gloom of the Temple

From the solemn gloom of the temple
children run out to sit in the dust,
God watches them play
and forgets the priest.
– Rabindranath Tagore

On an unstable day filled with hail bursts and wind gusts and a lightening strike or two, I watched Bill Maher’s movie Religulous.  It was, in a word, horrifying.  A horrification most likely amplified by the weather. Luckily the tree which always threatened to wipe out our house in such weather is gone.  Sadly, so is neighbor who refused to chop it down. But I didn’t do it.  Honest.  His was a natural death.

Bill Maher is a comedian with a nighttime talkshow which is, like all talkshows these days, highly politicized. He’s also famous for being an outspoken atheist and pot smoker.  Religulous (an anagram of religious and ridiculous) is basically about people whose beliefs cannot be swayed by any amount of logic. I don’t know how he rounded those folks up. That must have been some casting call.  

I’ve known and worked with Muslims, Jews, Sufis, Hindus, Witches, Satanists, Atheists, Agnostics and Transpeople of all varieties.  Not to mention a plethora of Christians.  Most did not feel the need to convince me that their path was the only one.  Oh, one particular Charismatic Catholic claimed that God had a message for me through her and it wasn’t good news. But since she specialized in only channeling dire warnings from the Supreme Being about my fate in the hereafter, I didn’t pay much attention. Although when you’re a child, it’s always upsetting to be bullied by God’s Special Whisperer.

Which brings me back to, how did Bill Maher find so many people who have no doubt they are absolutely right? The Bible was written by God; Mary was a virgin, Jonas lived in a whale and Jesus never had sex.  And if you doubt any one of these “facts” you are going to hell, even if you follow the commandments to the letter.

To me, this is intolerance and bullying. Because. . . 

I hope your celebration of spring is full of love and completely devoid of any discussion of hell.

My fancies are fireflies

– Specks of living light
      twinkling in the dark.    R. Tagore

In my family Easter is more about chocolate eggs than the Resurrection. But that doesn’t mean I’m an atheist or even an agnostic. I have been to church and I have been baptized; I even spent a year studying the Bible in college. Churches can be wonderful institutions, even the ones whose beliefs leave me scratching my head but

my church is wild and uncontrolled by man.

IMG_1687Outside, be it deep in the woods or by the sea, that’s where I feel close to the inexplicable, all-encompassing, transcendental forces which philosophers far wiser than me struggle to comprehend.


Theories about blogging differ wildly. Some insist that you put yourself out there.  Don’t be afraid to take positions on controversial subjects. Encourage debate, particularly if your platform is something like kinky sex.


Others recommend extreme caution.  Stay clear of controversial subjects like politics and religion.  Don’t do anything to infuriate a potential buyer!


Of course, which direction you take depends on your target audience and why you’re writing in the first place.  In general I’m a bit of a wimp.  I share bits of my life and only dip into controversy when I just can’t stand nonsense any more.  But it’s Easter and so I feel inspired to share with you the work of Rabindranath Tagore, my go-to guy for peace of mind.  I was introduced Tagore, a Bengali writer and painter, at the stupid age of eighteen by a dear friend intent on freeing my mind from convention.  For decades I’ve carried a copy of his “thoughts” (Fireflies) with me wherever I go. It’s beat up and stained and the spine gave up long ago but the book is out of print and almost impossible to replace.

Tagore was inspired by Chinese and Japanese “thoughts” painted on fans and pieces of silk, thus his works are not poems or haikus or even sonnets, just thoughts.  Like “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” and “let he who is without sin throw the first stone” and  “love thy neighbors as thyself” and so many other thoughts by another great philosopher. IMG_2648