Luna de los Muertos

Christmas isn’t my happy place. The popular press has several narratives. One is a constant, Chihuahua on crack exortation to get out there and spend money on gifts and holiday meals. It’s a choir of info-babes and merchants cajoling us into spending money we don’t really have. It’s a season of giving, they say. We are also told we must help the doe-eyed po’ folk they parade before the camera once a year. This is the time when we show how compassionate and generous we are. 1 month out of 12 we hear about kids who are giving coats & blankets to the homeless, the bare shelves at the local food bank, the poor child with leukemia whose parents can’t pay for medical care and some benevolent one-percenter drops a wad of cash to cover the cost, the anonymous donor who pays off the layaways of strangers, the local charities who do the angel tree thing, you know the drill. All the while the merchants continue their nagging that we haven’t spent enough yet. Easy credit, everybody gets approved, no payments until 2115, come on down, prices will never be lower . . .

The other almost fits how I feel. It’s the “reason for the season” thing. I was raised in the church, spending Sunday mornings for most of my youth in Sunday School. I’ve been up there at the alter giving my life to Christ more than once. I am very aware of the real reason for the season. It’s about Cheeezus, and so we should spend the Advent season flopping about the floor in front of the altar speaking in tongues and confessing what a shit we’ve been then take what we were going to spend at Macy’s and give it to the church. You still end up in the same place January 1st–broke, hung-over and a little desperate.

hello-kitty-christmas-treeThough, dumping your Christmas shopping cash into the offering plate will mean some long faces Christmas morning when the family goes to look at the tree and it’s some sad, pink artificial thing with no gifts under it and a short in the wiring which means the lights don’t work and there is a scary smell of burning plastic. If you go this route I’d be careful about eating the milk & cookies. You never know.

I’ve been that grump that stomps about the mall mumbling about the show of wealth on display, how there are starving children in Africa, the world has no peas, Santa is a creepy drunk, and these people need to get themselves to revival forthwith.

This is the time of year when things feel bleak. It’s warm outside but I feel a chill in my home. I’m not in a very celebratory mood. This is when the harvest has come in, the fields are brown with corn husks and soybean plant stalks covered by manure from the neighbor’s cows. It is when the trees look like they died. The whole world seems to have picked up and moved to Hades. Anybody that can afford to has gone elsewhere, to more pleasant climes where the service staff knows the GFE game. The rest of us schlubs are still getting up at 5am to clean out the stalls, put down fresh hay, and try again to get the old tractor fixed. My yard is covered in leaves and the grass is a sickly brown. When I got back from the road the cold that had been lurking about came on full force. I feel like crap.

Something about us, that whistles in the dark against our fears and nightmares, that wants life to always be immortal sunshine and lollipops, that wishes for the days before we knew what the word, “no” meant and could count on the comforting nursery of our mothers. We don’t like to acknowledge the dead, admit that in the spring as life reawakens there are storms which flood and tear down homes. There is something desperate about us this season, as the world hibernates, that wants our binkie and desirous weather. It’s that something desperate that makes me annoyed.

Life inhales and exhales. There are seasons of the dead, of winter and miserable grey skies, the ground sometimes covered in snow, a time to sit close to a hot wood stove and read post-apocalyptic fiction by candlelight. To be asked to binge on giving, binge on food, to pretend it isn’t winter while everything is in Hades, feels like a lie. I don’t want to exhale yet. My sinuses hurt and I’m low on Kleenex. Merry Texmas, y’all.

Christmas is in 9 days. We start a new year in 16 days. Another year gone by, another few months gripping the kerosene lantern and it’s feeble light not quite beating back the malaise of the season. Typical for me, the cupboard is bare, the wallet too thin, I don’t have a job, the job I had claims that I defied some rules so no bonus for me, bills are due in a couple weeks and the well intentioned wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year don’t make me feel better.

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That’s Absurd!

First Posted 18-Jun-2014

Yes it is. This space is absurd. It’s religious roots are absurd. This space believes that a Nazarene carpenter was martyred by the Romans at the request of members of his church, he died and rose again on the third day. There are more absurdities published here. Drunk aliens and titular emperors of Berkeley’s People’s Park, itself an absurdity.

cheval-4Absurdist Art is a genre of work you’ll find in museums. Eugene O’Neil wrote, “The Hairy Ape”. My first version of this post didn’t consider absurdism. I am the son of an electrical engineer and a social worker. Science is a god in my Dad’s house. Syllogisms are psalms. My Dad needs the world to be rational. I took it on faith for many years that the American creation story could sustain a nicely Aristotelian logical progression all the way back to Genesis 1:1. That things might be absurd was a piece of disgusting heresy to me.

How do you explain me? I’ve done so many things wrong if you evaluate “correct” by my inherited assumptions about proper from my parents. I’ve never kept a “good job” for more than a couple years. I’ve been in jail. I’ve been homeless. If I am only my past, if my born nature is immutable, how come I am here, in a house I rent, with a car, between jobs, able to write this post? Should I not be on some street corner with a sign begging for quarters, my son beside me, looking forward to a miserable, anonymous death? Perhaps. Didn’t happen that way. This happened. The sun rose, my rowboat was dry and I rose above my station. I am an affront to Natural Law.

My good friend loves Natural Law. The squishy, messy world I live in of poets and storytellers, of talking rabbits and cats whose smile remains–it bothers him. He has a faith in an inviolate, indisputable set of laws explicating the world and defining moral behavior that is nearly religious in its fervor. “It’s not religion!” he says with a fair amount of animus, “it’s fact!”

Uh huh. The world is flat, that is fact as well. One of the great questions: “what is truth?” My friend would find this to be a stupid question because, obviously, truth is what you can tangibly prove to be true. Ok. Does my car exist even though as I type this I can’t see it? Does solipsism explain everything? What of the realm of, “why?” Can you prove, tangibly, the why of misery, of mystery? Bad things happen to good people. Many reasons to explain this are offered. Only some of them are comforting. Also and perhaps more annoying, good things happen to bad people.

We know the wind by its effect, of air because we feel it when we breathe. We can, through science, come some distance toward explaining why the wind blows where it will. There is still that bit of mystery, of randomness, of fungible truth that escapes explanation through science. There are still those nagging questions like, “what is truth?” and “why do bad things happen to good people?” which resist syllogistic explanation.

You miss so much beauty by limiting the world to the natural laws of Socrates, Aristotle and Plato. Something is irretrievably lost if we destroy Picasso’s work because it is not representational. Do we obliterate everything Pollack because it isn’t clearly of natural law? Should O’Neil’s work be burned? What of Tennessee Williams? There is much that isn’t provable by the scientific method that is still enlightening and true in a bigger sense than simple fact. What Homer left for us has truth, though of a different quality than the truth of the color the sky is or that the world is flat.

I am not opposed to Natural Law any more than I am opposed to someone who would insist that the sky is actually teal instead of blue. There are truths that, over time, have become indisputable because they have survived countless hours of debate. I choose to exist, though, in the realm of the bard, where God is martyred by the religious leadership and leaders are to wash the feet of those they wish to serve. Where murderous persecutors of the faithful become saints. Truth, here, is a bit more difficult because behind the looking glass mystery looms large. The absurd is accepted as a norm and the norm is sometimes made to be absurd. It’s a funny place with talking rabbits and invisible cats whose smiles remain. I like it though. I think I’ll stay.

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Mean, Just Mean

First Posted 26-Jun-2014

So, imagine yourself young, still in high school, calling a tough neighborhood home, counting a single Mom as a parent, and learning that you are pregnant. The boyfriend wants to abort the child. You are conflicted, thinking maybe since it’s not been that long, that the embryo isn’t a baby yet, so would it really be so wrong? Then, you are invited to an event where there is food and friends, the senior pastor of a prominent church, some of the elders of that church, the youth pastor and the praise team leader. There is also the leadership of a local non-profit whose stated purpose is to help at-risk kids become productive members of society. The leader of that non-profit is passionately pro-life as are many in the room. It is announced that there will be a debate, that you will captain one of the debate teams, and the topic is, “when does life begin?” The moderator of the debate tells you that you are to argue this point of view, “it’s not a baby until the heart begins beating“.

pro lifeEverybody you care about is there along with church leadership. Your private problem is about to be everybody’s business. You start to figure out that through the debate you are about to be called out and publicly shamed. As captain of one of the debate teams you are asked to speak first. In front of everybody you are expected to argue in favor of your boyfriend’s words, “it isn’t really a baby yet so an abortion isn’t so bad”. That’s the setup.

I and my son would last about a nano-second before exploding, cussing out the room, and leaving. I would totally understand if this girl broke down in tears in front of everybody and ran outside. What she did amazed me. She stood her ground and did her best to state the case asked of her, that it isn’t a baby until the heart starts beating. Her boyfriend was there and he stood with her, trying to honor the elders in the room by echoing their less than helpful words–it’s not a baby, it’s like a cyst you can just freeze off. For the next 45 minutes she stood at the back of the room and watched us kick this issue around. I watched this charade and was heart-broken for the girl. All these people assembled, some prominent in our community, to push her to make another choice besides an abortion. As I watched I looked online for info on when a baby’s heart begins beating. One source I found said that it can occur as early as 18 days from conception. This girl was nearing the end of her first trimester. If the premise is that it isn’t a baby until it has a heartbeat then she and her unborn child had passed that milestone. Nothing about this was going to be easy.

What set me off was the huge social pressure brought to bear on this new mother through the charade of a debate. There was nothing debate about it. The whole thing was rigged to push a point of view–abortion is murder and your unborn child is a baby because by now, it does have a heartbeat. That’s not a debate. That night the “debate” devolved pretty quickly. The truth of the game afoot became clear in the first minute. This was a dirty trick to pull on this mother. I don’t like abortion. I also don’t like false premises like this being perpetrated as a means justified by its desired end. We are not removed from our obligation to behave well just because an egregious sin is threatened.

Last I heard the mother had agreed to give the child up for adoption. Ends should not always justify means. We too must answer to God for our behavior. We are saved by grace but we live here, in this broken world, with each other and though we are saved, we still have to mind our manners.

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Does this evangelism tract make me look fat?

First Posted 06-Jul-2014

At church today we started our conversation on missions to our neighbors. It was the same old same old. Lots of brainstorming around our strengths, how to make ourselves more attractive to our neighbors–like some dejected debutante who is freaked out days before the cotillion because no one has invited her. We talked about stuff we’d done in the past and I got kind of annoyed at all of it.

watchtower-magazineThe big problem is that we go into our own neighborhood with the wrong attitude. We want them to come to us, to be part of our church and don’t pay much mind to who they are, what their strengths are, their hopes & dreams or whether they are already part of a church. It’s an altered version of the Jehovah’s Witness door-knock bit. We go through the neighborhood, knocking on doors, wondering if we chose the right dress, if our hair looks good, if we picked the right perfume, nervous about what to say . . . all about us.

We’ve been a church at this location for 75 years. The neighborhood knows who we are and they don’t like us. By now, we are that bible toting old bitty in the ill-fitting blonde wig and crooked lipstick who accosts each neighbor she encounters with, “are you saved?” We park outside their homes instead of across the street in front of our own building or in our own parking lot. We make noise at times when they wished we were quiet. We don’t bother asking if they are Episcipalian. No, we hire expensive, outside consulting firms to compile census data and tell us the demographics of our neighbors. We think we are great and wonder why our neighbors don’t agree. We really haven’t changed, in some respects, in 75 years. We are still annoying.

What’s the answer, then? We are pretty enough, or were at one time. The attitude we fail with is the assumption that we are there to meet needs that remain hidden behind locked doors so that more folk will fill the pews on Sunday morning. We are not. We are there to identify strengths to be enhanced and ways in which our needs can embolden our neighbors to take care of themselves[Lupton, 2012]. We are there to help them help themselves.

It doesn’t matter that all of our best dresses are in the cleaners and we can’t afford to get them out. That we haven’t had our hair done in a month because pesky things like the mortgage and the car payment, the Internet and light bill, got paid first. They don’t care that our French manicure is two months old for similar reasons. What matters is what we can help them do for themselves. Regardless of the holes in our jeans and the rips in our flip-flops, we can still provide knowledge and resources. Also, I’d bet, behind those doors are strained relationships no less intense than what we might find in “ghettos”. Upper-middle class life comes with its own traps and chains. The only reason we don’t see addiction, abuse, abandonment or adultery is because this crowd can afford to hide it better. It’s there and through seeking to serve them, to build on their strengths, the needs will reveal themselves.

So, yeah, do events, wear last year’s dress and ask that pimply, near-sighted, scruffy guy if he’ll go to the cotillion with you; find ways to engage in conversations with our neighbors. But, in the talking, remember that we are not selling timeshares in the Bahamas or indulgences assuring entrance to Heaven. We might discover, by listening, that the pimply guy put out a Kickstarter proposal for an animated watchband that was a $50,00.00 ask and raised 5 million. That pimply guy, cleaned up, ain’t half bad. That the sudden windfall of wealth has created unintended problems you can help with. We should be humbly seeking ways to serve through identifying the strengths of our neighbors and ways in which we can build on these strengths.

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What Else You Got?

First Posted 15-Jul-2014

I said this while kidding around with a friend, “what else you got?” The back story is that she was throwing the usual threats at me of violence, prison, cut off from resources like food & housing as ways to gain my compliance. These were said in jest. My retort was that I’d had all that done to me and survived, so . . . Genocide has been used to bring a population under heel. Torture, confiscation of land, burning villages, name an abhorrent act and its been done by soldiers while attempting to force a populace to give up the fight. There are always survivors. They remember the war. If they choose to fight there is not much you can do to stop them.

So, what’s the plan? Global apocalypse so that the population is reduced from 7 billion to oh, maybe 2.3 billion or so? In our personal relationships, arm ourselves heavily and solve our differences by shooting each other until we tire of attending funerals? We know what the world is like with violence, war, conflict and strife. There is no innovation needed if we are to maintain our traditional, warring ways. We know how to fight.

Various emperors, kings and governments have been trying to control the Afghans since at least 330 BCE when Alexander the Great tried to invade. We went to Afghanistan to topple Taliban control of Afghanistan. Did that, then stuck around much longer trying to prop up the puppet democracy we foisted on them. The Taliban just moved into the mountains of Waziristan. They knew that we would get bored with the fight and go home eventually. They were right.

The Afghans have been fighting on that land for centuries. No one has been able to win against them or sustain control of them in all that time. The Russians went home because they ran out of money. We’ve unloaded many thousands of tons of munitions on those we seek to destroy. Our best fighters have won battles. Once we announced we were leaving the Taliban started to move back, knowing that we’d be more embarrassed at having to come back than having to leave as losers.

The press, in the last couple years, has fallen in love with stories of bullying. Every few months we get another story of some poor sap who lashed out or committed suicide because of the insults and ugly behavior of a bully. Is the answer to find the bully and beat him or her down? Should we fill more graves with bullies? The press seems to like “sensitivity training” as if talking to a bully will make them stop. It’s a version of, “if you knew you would understand and if you understood you would behave in a way more pleasing to me.” Uhm, yeah . . . about that . . . You are reading my blog. Just saying. The ones I know will listen and as they do, brainstorm ways to beat you silly once the sensitivity training is done.

I’ve been on both sides. I’ve been bullied, beaten, a victim and I’ve been the bully, the beater. I know the world I lived in before I became so crazy for loving my enemies. I know what awaits me should I choose to abandon more than ten years of work to be salt and light to those who are tempted toward violence. We did carpet bomb Germany in WWII. We pressed the full weight of our might against the Taliban and they are still there. Fighting harder isn’t the answer. What else would we do? The answer really has not changed in at least 2,000 years. Before we lobbed missiles at each other we spoke words. Once the ground is muddied with enough blood we will speak again of life after the war. There really is only one choice: love God with all our heart, mind and strength, love our neighbor as ourselves, and love our enemies. Any other plan leads to familiar and ugly conclusions.

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Darlene

First Posted 13-Jul-2014

The story below is a turning point in my life. I tell it a lot. This version is what I sent to my aunt recently: A few years ago, when I was calling an emergency shelter program home, I was parked near a place that let folk sell blood plasma. I was down to a few dollars in my wallet. My pre-paid phone was almost out of minutes. My truck was down to fumes. I was parked on a meter and out of coins. I prayed, and heard back, “Will you quit whining! Just, please, if what you intend to say is more complaints, shut up! You say you love me, that you are a follower of the Way, that you trust me and even with all that, your prayer life is dominated by moaning and complaining. Stop it. From now, each time an urge to complain arises, I only want three words from you, ‘I trust you.” I was pissed. What is this from a God that says he loves me? How dare he upbraid me like that? If he really cared he’d bless me with a windfall of money to get me out of this mess. Well . . . after I settled down and tried praying as asked, my cell phone rang. On the other end was a recovering crack addict I knew who needed a ride while she did some errands. She offered gas money. Not much, but enough that I could buy gas and maybe a sandwich from the refrigerator case at the gas station. For the next year, she and I helped each other. She, by offering gas money as she was able, and I, by driving her on errands. It became clear after a while, that what I was called to do was serve without hope of return. I knew that, kind of, but was so awash in my self-indulgent tears, that I had a tough time listening. Since then I’ve managed to stay housed, keep a car, stay fed (mostly) and though I don’t have what I might wish, I have enough.

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Gifts

First Posted 19-Jul-2014

Yeah, I know. It works better if we who have done something can still be painted as unrepentant. It helps the victim thing. We are not static. Most of us who have a past that is apology worthy are not only the things for which we have regret. We are that, that which causes us to have to answer for our past behavior. We are more, though. We also have gifts. It’s easy to get stuck on battling against that which we do not want and forget to forge ahead in the endeavor to give life to what we want.

Spiritual-Gifts-LogoThis can be hard to hear for those we injured. There is a tomorrow for perpetrator and victim alike. The fight to a draw with what we fear is seductive. It can consume us. Locking ourselves to the moments when we sinned traps us in slavery to the pain of those moments. Part of gaining freedom is to forgive, sure. Another part is finding a new life with the fading reflection of what we did that causes regret.

This is not for those who are still unrepentant. There are folk who remain a problem until they become a regrettable corpse to be cremated with tax dollars and buried in a public graveyard. I can’t do anything with those folk. Hopefully, their ugly behavior will come to the attention of law enforcement and they’ll suffer appropriate consequences.

This is for those who have repented and are trying to live in the aftermath. So, what to do? Stay locked on to the acts that give us a reason to repent? Focus our energies on therapy and medication to cure someone from a diagnosis based on those regrettable moments? At least for me, it became a self-perpetuating tornado of weird that kept alive the very thing that needed to die and be healed so that I could live today and into forever tomorrow. Instead, confess, repent, and in this step, start figuring out gifts that will support a vision and mission for the rest of your life. And, yes, giving your life to Christ can be part of this.

I’m going to catch flack from some folk for this paragraph. For them, the first, and most crucial step, is confessing faith in Christ. They take it on faith that just that alone is enough. It isn’t. It is important and I do believe that for me, without Christ, things would not be going so well. I know too many, some of them confessed Christians, who still sin (Pastor Weenie!), who still act out, though they grew up in the church, know the right thing to do, and have answered the altar call more than once. The fulfillment of a confession of faith comes in the days following as we live out our professed surrender to Christ.

I’ve also met folk who, fresh out of prison or jail, know what they don’t want. They have no vision, mission or sense of their gifts. They are very clear on what they don’t want. This is a problem. Left alone, with only a fear of unwanted consequences, their risk of recidivism is high. They need a mission, something to live for. And sorry, just saying that he or she is living for Cheeeezus isn’t enough. St. Paul said those that don’t work won’t eat. We need to find work for ourselves. I’ve said enough about my major malfunctions. Now the hard part, to assess my gifts and publish a mission & vision for myself. Through therapy and the narrative I tell about my family, I’ve become very good at moaning about my sins. I’m not as good at celebrating my gifts. This will be hard. It is needed, though. Just sweating to prevent that which I do not want is not enough. There has to be something I want that gives purpose to my life. As I discover it I’ll post it here. Stay tuned.

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Chicken Little

First Posted 21-Jul-2014

I have people in my life who narrate certain events in the most emotionally dissonant way possible. Suggesting that parasitic space aliens are infecting family members through transporter beams embedded in cell phones has them nodding agreeably. It totally explains the voices in their heads and their secret urge to eat live silk worms as a primary protein.

Predator-FaceSomeone I know checked their bank balance and saw that $900.00 was gone. This was not a transaction they had authorized. Panic. An hour in the bank, nuke everything that may have been compromised, new everything in its place, and the bank said, after investigation, that they may give back the $900.00. This is somebody like me, who lives paycheck to paycheck, so this was a huge loss for them. That’s the back story. In the meantime, his financial life has taken a big hit and important bills like rent, car payments, insurance, groceries, and utilities and so on, are now harder than usual.

Last I heard, he’d gotten some help here so it’ll be ok. Still, in the early moments of this, life was scary. Along the way, wanting to understand why he took a $900.00 hit on his account, he tried checking his credit score to see if anything was there. This guy, though, is young and so far, except for checking and savings, does not have a credit history. He grew up in a family that operates with cash, usually without a bank account. What they own they save for and pay cash. Credit just isn’t in the plan for them. So, being a good son, he also has cash, mostly, though the checking and savings accounts were/are necessary for payroll. Now, that’s the mellow, reasonable explanation for browsing to a credit reporting agency’s site and finding nothing.

This site likes parasitic aliens. It explains a lot. We know there is no such but parasitic aliens is such a seductive lie it’s hard to ignore. I mean, Ray(bert(a)) is a thing in this space, just saying. The lack of a credit report and the questions the site asked along the way can’t be spoken of as a normal thing. Nope. That doesn’t have the requisite emotional heat. Better still is this: Russian Separatist Rebels had hacked the credit reporting web site and put up a page to phish for this guy’s data so they could get more than $900.00. The rebels, having been cut off because the old accounts were nuked, were now pissed and thus, sending Mexican gang members infected with alien parasites to educate this guy with knives and baseball bats on proper humility and cooperation with the rebel’s need for more money. Crazy, right?

We write novels and make movies with stories like that. We spend good money watching them. But, in life, such stories can be a problem for us. The emotional energy in them, that makes great fiction, can drive us to behave in ways which generate trouble and could manifest a version of our insane narrative. My friend is ok. He did the needful and now has his bills paid. The bank has said that it’ll take time but it looks like he didn’t do this and so they’ll be giving him his money back. It could have gone differently, perhaps if he’d taken on the “Russian Rebels” narrative. It didn’t, though, and that’s a good thing.

We can’t always control the circumstances we find ourselves in. We can control the way we narrate those circumstances for ourselves and for others. We can also control our choices in those circumstances. Please, before you start hating on cell phones & family members, ask yourself if this isn’t a little nuts. Maybe the story you tell about cell phones & family members needs a little fact-checking. Also, it’s probably not true that Russian Separatist Rebels would put that much work into a web site to attack just one young guy. Just saying.

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Bunch of Heathens

First Posted 24-July-02014

We’ve made a mistake at our church. In gathering some information about our neighbors, we ended the assessment with, “Tuckahoe Tom and Grove Avenue Gladys have yet to realize that the only way to ultimate joy and fulfillment, and to eternal life, is through Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior. Shouldn’t we tell them?” Our explanation for why folk don’t come to St. Giles is that they don’t know Cheeeeeezus. Oy. Really? Are we serious right now?

street preacherBack in the day, I was closer to the collective worry among Pentacostal Christians that we had not saved enough souls. The big emphasis was on gathering the unwashed and bringing them to heel at the altar. Somehow, it was our problem that there were still people vertical, warm & breathing who had not yet confessed their faith at the First Pentacostal Non-Demoninational House of Cheeezus. It pissed me off. It still does.

I am still annoyed at the noisy minority of Christians who tally saved souls on the inside back cover of their Bible. They talk of quotas, of bonus programs, threats of fire & brimstone of all the tactics sales managers use to increase sales. All well & good but day 2 and they are in the wind, a new heathen in their sights.

It’s a stereoptype, I know. This guy, the one with the white shoes, tropical tie, plaid pants, striped blazer, big Tootsie sunglasses and impressive, leather bound bible who is on the corner on a milk crate predicting the end of the world today so we all had better come to Cheeezus. He’s there on the corner reliably from 8am-5pm every weekday. What bugs me about him, and this is also a part of the stereotype, is that the same guy could be found in a strip bar, puke drunk, in a track suit throwing tithe dollars at strippers. All he wanted, all he needed, was for you to come to Jesus so he could get back to her, to Aprhodite, the 30-something blonde strine sheila who has been promoted as a nubile 18-year old freshie stripper for over a decade. The illusion works on stage. Off stage Aphrodite’s years of crystal meth addiction are obvious. Pastor Weenie isn’t throwing tithe dollars at the truth.

Pastor Weenie will never be found serving food in Monroe Park or on Missions in Honduras. His neighbor’s marriage worries are only interesting if they will help Pastor Weenie collect [cough] tithe dollars for, uhm, poor starving children in, uh . . . Bosnia, yeah, Bosnia, that’s right. He’s all about getting a confession of faith. After that he’s still aching for Aprhodite.

We do this as Christians. We don’t listen. We assign to those we encounter a back story made entirely of our own hurts, habits & hangups. Out of that we push a stream of sales rhetoric intended to get the target to agree with us. We sink energy into good intentioned and doomed to fail evangelism and missions projects because we launched on false premises. Pastor Weenie needs to get outed by Aphrodite. My hope for Aphrodite is that she’d go back to rehab and stick with it. We’ll get to the “come to Jesus” part in due time.

The first thing we have to start doing is shut up and listen. Start by being neighbors, by surveying gifts instead of serving perceived needs. (Yes, Lupton again.) My church is not immune to this thick-necked approach to evangelism & missions. We are not as bad as Pastor Weenie. We are still rather pig-headed.

There are a half-dozen churches within a mile of our building near Grove & Libbie in Richmond, VA. It’s such a useless idea that we have landed on the shores of a nubile pastoral utopia ripe for evangelism. One huge problem with Pastor Weenie is that in seminary he absorbed a false idol of the New World that should have died a long time ago. St. Giles shares some of that same delusion. We treat the Upper West End like it is the shores of the Chesapeake Bay in 1607. Nobody is served by 400 year old ideas of manifest destiny pasted on to our Upper-West End neighbors.

It’s hard to testify, to converse, if we start by telling other folk what’s wrong with them before investing in a relationship and open communication. Even those who don’t know Cheeeeeezus and seek Jesus are put in a tough place when faced with evangelism done this way. It’s the sort of thing that gets a “Well, bless your heart,” here in the capital of the South.

What happens to Pastor Weenie? He gets outed most of the time. There is a kerfuffle that blows across the airwaves for a couple weeks then falls out of the news cycle. There are consequences. In the case of Jimmie Baker there is a period of quietude and a rebuilding of the empire. My fictional Pastor Weenie is outed. His ordination is from the Universal Life Church. He lands at The Healing Place where he is kicked out for fraternizing with Amber Lewis (Aphrodite) and failing a piss test. He’s still a denizen of Monroe Park, still in & out of recovery meetings, on a merry-go-round of programs promising to finally get it together. Lewis is 3 years sober, reunited with her kids, living at an Extended Stay hotel, and working at Bob Evans. She’s got a restraining order on Weenie. She goes to church but asked me to not say which one because Weenie is still being a jerk.

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Anachronism

My son and I have started a regular Sunday afternoon phone call to keep in touch. He’s moved out, off to college. We talked about this blog, this wall of text. I am, this blog is, an anachronism. The Interweby thingo favors audio or video content. YouTubes is the blog medium of choice. The yungins film themselves with webcams or whatever and post them there. This, in WordPress, with over 60 posts so far, is so 2005, says my son. In the year that I was born:

  • Castro took over the city of Havana, Cuba and made our Caribbean playground communist. La Familia was not pleased.
  • Sleeping Beauty is released by Disney.
  • Buddy Holly died in a plane crash.
  • High tech audio was stereophonic vinyl record players. Buying a single song meant purchasing a 45rpm single pressed on vinyl. It usually had an A-side with the song you wanted and another song on the B-side. Magnetic tape was still a leading edge, expensive technology that only corporations and government could afford.
  • Televisions were black & white, mostly. Widespread adoption of analog color tv was a few years off.
  • Telephones were rotary, with dials instead of buttons. The cool, teenage phone accessory was a 20’ coiled cord between the handset and the phone so you could talk away from snooping, parental ears.
  • Mobile phones were too big to be practical as something you could carry around as you walked. Bluetooth earpieces were science fiction. Many mobile phones required an initial call to an operator who would in turn, connect you to your party. Because of their size and weight they were most commonly installed in cars.
  • There was no Internet. Al Gore was 11 years old. Computer networks existed but with some exceptions, were not interconnected. Communication between networks could be difficult and expensive.
  • Computers filled rooms, were expensive to operate, and mostly owned by large corporations and governments. The best printers used steel bands embossed with the alphabet, were the size of a small table, noisy and heavy. Printing images involved using repetitive typing of letters in the shape of the desired image. Laser printers would not appear for another 26 years.
  • Hard drives had been introduced three years earlier with the IBM 305 RAMAC. Storage capacity was 3.75MB, massive for the time. Punch cards were still a primary data storage medium.
  • The primary tool for writing was either pen and paper or the typewriter. If you made a single mistake the whole page would have to be redone. Except for large enterprises the primary data storage medium was paper and file cabinets.
  • Combining images and text on a single page was an involved and difficult process. The first Macintosh computer would not appear until a quarter century later. The most common method used photolithography to produce copper plates that were assembled along with line-cast type into chases. Higher volume printing used photogravure and web presses. Graphic design shared much of its technique with mechanical drawing.

I come from an anachronistic time. I’m old enough that the angst I’d experience trying to compete in the marketplace of ideas of my son is more than the angst I experience writing a blog no one pays attention to. So, in 500 words or so, ‘eff you. I don’t care that this blog isn’t relevant to the youth of 2014. It is relevant to me. That will have to be enough

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