Never Forget is not what we are told. We are to forgive and forget. That lives alongside, “Aquellos que no pueden recordar el pasado están condenados a repetirlo.” Third, to understand Christ, to grock this 2,000 year old movement of dissident Jews, you have to understand two things. The first is our history. The Bible makes no sense at all without knowing the history of it. The second is that the Way of Jesus of Nazareth is a deeply political movement. The bible is a political document. Our commissioning narrative is of three political dissidents martyred by Rome for crimes against Caesar and Judaism. To denude Christians of politics is to willfully deny the reason our movement started. The Jews wanted a revolution to overthrow Caesar. Jesus and his followers fomented a revolution within Judaism that continues today. No history and all of it is utter nonsense.
Some tails wishing to wag big dogs want to us to forget particular narratives in favor of their own. They stomp and shout in circles around memorials to the Confederate Army and insist that all symbols of the Civil War be removed from public view. History must be purified of the bloody stains left on it by White People.
So, by that premise, Richmond’s Hollywood Cemetery is a stain on the national narrative that ought to be erased. Exhume the confederate soldiers buried there burn their bones. Every gravestone ground up into gravel for concrete to build housing and factories for the peepul. Collective farms can be made on the recovered land after the cemetery is destroyed.
Once forgotten, history can be repeated. Once the memorials and monuments are gone it becomes possible to pretend that the dark days didn’t happen. We will have a pure history correct in its details. There never was a Civil War. A peepul’s paradise can exist where the bitter memory of the War for States Rights once stood. The story can be killed because the tangible symbols of it are replaced by utopian land redistribution schemes. Things will be better once the story is dead.
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Further, these same tails foment a zealous nationalism that justifies violence and discrimination against their enemies. White People are innately racist and evil. White People stole land from brown people. Steal the land back and give it to designated brown people based on need. Every WASP oppresses somebody simply by being alive. The country will be better after we cleanse ourselves of WASPs. So, rinse repeat the genocide and turn the world deep brown.
The City of New Orleans recently removed the statues of General Robert E Lee and others. Charlottesville is considering similar measures to remove the statues of Civil War luminaries. If we don’t have to look at the symbols of slavery then somehow that will accomplish the goals of those who still carry angst because their ancestors suffered evil at the hands of White People.
Next, I know I am repeating myself. I am not the first to say this either. Those who nourish their angst for the sins of others keep themselves in pain. There is freedom in forgiveness. There is power in compassion. This is some old blah, blah, blah. You know this. And yet we still have those who claim it isn’t over, that they are owed their pound of flesh.
We must forgive. We must also never forget. Auschwitz-Berkenau must remain standing. Here in the South I want us to build memorials and monuments to our history. Richmond’s Lumpkins Jail is a parking lot today. We should rebuild it as a memorial so we don’t forget.
There have been purges throughout history. 秦始皇 through genocide and massive destruction of extant books, attempted to have history begin with him. Though he was successful some knowledge of Chinese history predating his dynasty survived. Words and story have an immortality difficult to suppress. The monuments may be gone but the memories and stories survive.
Mao’s Cultural Revolution was an attempt to purify China. Mao sought to bleed out capitalism so that nothing remained save for the revolution. It was a decade of brutal persecution that crippled China. As I listen to the Black Lives Matter folk and other nationalist movements among brown people I can’t help but hear an ache for an American Cultural Revolution to purify us of our WASP oppressors. We can begin in the South with the monuments remembering the War for States Rights.
In Praise of the Lowly
My Jesus was a no-account carpenter born in Bethlehem and hailed from Nazareth. He was the bastard child of Joseph and Mary. Everything we tell of his life is a farce of the Holy Roman Emperor. There were many before him and many since who died at the hands of genocidal kings. Their stories are forgotten. Jesus of Nazareth is remembered. His martyrdom is a cornerstone of our Reformed faith.
If we did as many suggest, and set about removing all traces of art remembering Christ we may make some headway at erasing him from history. Christians were a dissident Jewish rebellion against the Hebrew church and Rome for over 400 years. The mightiest empire in the world at that time tried to destroy us, to wipe the memory of Christ clean. Jesus must be forgotten. He is remembered. Rome fell, the church remains.
Killing words is much harder than killing people. Story outlives genocide. 秦始 failed to destroy the words so we have 道德經 from the memories of those who followed it and survived. Mao’s genocidal attempt at making a purely Communist China lasted a decade. Mao died, communism has been sullied by capitalism. Where the virulent weed of capitalism has taken seed it has exploded the wealth of those infected by it. After all that there are Jews in Germany. That went well.
Finally, I want us to remember. I want the ache of what was done to stay so we remember why we must continue to forgive. Lucas 6:27, “Pero a ustedes que me escuchan les digo: Amen a sus enemigos, hagan bien a quienes los odian” means nothing if we have erased the memory of why someone is an enemy to us. Instead of taking the Confederate Monuments down we ought to restore Lumpkins Jail and other sites so the whole story is remembered.
Horses know that old hay is no good. Why do we hoard old, moldy hay like it was more precious than gold?
Even Churches Die. One change to my writing is that Yoast SEO likes it if the “slug” the name of the blog post, appears near the start of the post. It makes the software happy. The software also has opinions on what makes my work easy to read. The software and I disagree. It wants a style of writing taught in Freshman English 1A. Yeah, so . . . sorry, no. If I comply I am promised more eyeballs, a good thing. Yes, even churches die. It’s not something that we want to think about. We want our churches to be eternal. We don’t want them to die.
They do die, though. The church dies and is reborn. This cantankerous rebellion started by a martyred carpenter from the ghetto in Nazareth follows the narrative of its founder. It dies and is reborn. If the first death were the end we would not be over 2,000 years into our dispute with Judaism. Over two millennia and we can count billions as followers of that no-account, troublemaking rebel who overturned tables in the temple and chased people with a whip. Although churches die Jesus of Nazareth continues to attract new followers. Crucifying him just made it go viral.
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This story was fact checked by the Journalistic Integrity Committee of the Peoples United Democratic Free Anarchist Republic of Berkeley and rated, “pants on fire”.
There are two services at my church. The early one is a traditional service like I grew up with. The hymnal contains nothing newer than a hundred years ago. It is Catholic Mass denuded of everything the Protestants believed was not Biblical. It is the liturgy of my youth. I have no truck with it. It’s fine.
The other service, the contemporary service, would have my Puritan ancestors declaring us apostate. There is *dancing* and singing and short skirts and boys in tight t-shirts, practically naked by 17th Century standards. At full song the service is hot and sweaty. We have amplified voices, electric guitars, electric pianos and a trap drum set. It is the furthest thing from what my ancestors considered to be pure faith.
There is a stark contrast between the earlier traditional service and the later contemporary service. I went to the 9:30 service two weeks ago. It felt like an unending dirge mourning another moldy scarecrow buried. Weddings among this clique are rare and wakes are frequent. Compare the early service to 11:00am when we raise the roof. There is life. There is noise. People pray loudly. I’ve seen friends fall out full of the spirit. There are new people showing up. New kids trailed by young parents. It is as alive as the earlier service is morbid.
We have an awesome building. Our pastor is everything we wished for when we called him. The associate pastor is awesome. We have great music, do the worship thing well. We do all the things you expect and yet our membership is declining. We are dieing. The traditional service is not gaining new members. Something has to give or we are dead.
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Northminster Baptist Church was a fixture on the Richmond religious scene for over six generations. Old in this country is anything older than a generation. Six generations is positively immortal. Northminster Baptist Church died. It is no more. What killed it? A wealthy, dedicated minority who controlled the leadership and vowed to die before they allowed necessary changes. They kept their vow. They and the church they led is no more.
Every Sunday at 10:30am at 3121 Moss Side Avenue in Richmond, VA there is raucous worship.The Northminster Campus was a sorry mid-century corpse until it was given to Atlee Community Church. Today it is reborn. The old pipe organ was given away to another church that wanted to appease scarecrows insistent on remaining Orthodox Baptist. Where the pipes were are large flat panel televisions. The pews are gone, donated to still another church that has a majority zombie leadership. In their place are stackable chairs. There is a rock band. There is that revival feeling to the worship service. They do an altar call at every service. It’s a completely different church. It is alive. It is disruptive, seditious, temple table turning crazy for the scarecrows and zombies. I love it.
More crucial to me are the reasons Northminster died. Northminster scarecrows were old money Democrats who built a legal fortress around their church to protect themselves from intrusion by outsiders. The deeds to the houses had red-lining clauses in them preventing the sale to anyone not part of the inner circle. These wealthy Baptists were a fountain of evil against a city that is one corner of the slave triangle and was once one of the largest slave markets in the South. Underneath all that holy ghost stuff was racism of a truly ugly sort. They survived long after Kennedy was shot. For them, nothing would change until they died. Yep, that’s how it went.
Today in the room they protected from outsiders there are colored folk of every stripe learning how to get a job. Most of them are exactly the kind of undesirables that the old guard kept out. Mind you, these are the good Baptists who have done everything right, went to good schools, graduated from good colleges, had the usual upper-middle class professional careers. They ran the PTA and the boy & girl scout troops. In every respect they are the heart of the country. Except . . . their NIMBY created a deeply evil racist attitude toward their neighbors exactly against what Christ taught. I’m glad they died. It was time.
That room is filled with the sort of “go fishing together” local missions deeply resisted by the scarecrows. Missions was a two week trip to Central America to build a chapel and save souls. The rest of the year it was another check written for the special offering that week. Locals needed to get themselves to the altar and beg for a fish. They were a Feedmore.org distribution site. Missions was something done to others so they could signal their virtue. They had the ability and felt obligated to fulfill perceived needs.
St. Giles is at a crossroads. We are Northminster about a decade before it died. We have enough scarecrows in key leadership positions that making necessary changes is hard. Our scarecrows have threatened to leave us and take their money with them. We don’t know how we can pay our bills without them so the threat carries some weight and we still do things to appease them that put us in compromising places.
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We don’t know how this ends. Jesus was such a threat to the church of this day that they had him killed by the Romans. At the start we were an annoying band of dissidents who seemed to be of no-account to Caesar. Four centuries later Constantine was so desperate to win a battle he offered himself and the Empire to God if God would grant him this victory. Constantine got his victory and the Empire was never the same. Everywhere scarecrows try to hold on to last year’s dessicated hay as the only hay they will fill themselves with. Jesus is holding the gates of heaven open and burning the the old hay. Jesus has never stopped being a change agent, a maker of new hay.
I hope the scarecrows die off. We can’t survive as a church with them and we are afraid we won’t survive without them. The one certain thing is that they are old and musty and the hay that stuffs them full is moldy and decaying. They will die. We won’t have them or their estates forever. Nothing is immortal.
St. Giles is younger than Northminster by a half century. We are over 75 years old. We are old enough that our founding members are going home to Jesus at an increasing rate. The memory of why we left Grace Covenant Church and much later, why we joined the split from the Presbyterian Church of USA is so yesterday. We are not yet zombie old. We are close, though, and our scarecrows seem set on having their old ways, old hay even to the death of us.
To be Christian is to agree to let die the aspects of ourselves that are out of kilter from what Jesus taught. Death to this world is a part of life in Christ. This means that the old scarecrows, if they are to have their church, must find ways to recruit new, young members and hand over the reigns. This is never easy. Those rascally youngins want all this change and innovation and there is always tension between tradition and necessary disruption to the old order.
Time will tell. We might still be a church if we are able to let the old scarecrows die, if they will surrender to inevitable change. If not, we will join the many churches that once had a heyday and now are legend and ruins.
My buddy is soothing himself by trying to arm himself and his friends. He doesn’t want to die nor be invited to a memorial service for those dear to him. I get it. I don’t want to die either. But beyond a pistol and maybe a shotgun more weapons are just more weapons. They do not increase your ability to fight.
Our military makes our infantry hump 80-90 pounds of gear. There is so much wearable tech on them that they can’t really fight and use the tech they were asked to wear. The answer? Load on more tech. Our enemies walk on to the battlefield with a knife, an AK-47 and a pistol. They don’t wear visible body armor or helmets or any of the crap our guys suffer with. They can’t call in air support or cruise missiles. They kick our ass, repeatedly.
How do you fight an MRAP? Build an IED and get out of dodge. How do you fight a platoon of US Soldiers? Lay down overwhelming small arms fire for 15 minutes and then get the hell out of there. Why 15 minutes? It takes that long for air support to arrive. Simple analog scanner radios will give you enough chatter to piece together what we are saying to each other. Command and communications can be done with smart phones using Viber. Osama Bin-Laden communicated by courier who memorized the messages and drove on a scooter to different sites daily to transact messages. That simple tactic kept him alive for a while.
Musashi famously won duels with a wooden practice sword against steel wearing only a cotton kimono, a hakama and rice straw slippers. The other guys were dressed out in full Samurai kit. If more better kit were a difference maker why are the families of Musashi’s enemies the ones that lost kin?
But . . . us first worldies love our Hollywood ideas of war, of Star Wars Storm Troopers with 3D VR helmets and RoboCop sexy weapons. We want bad guys to be 100 foot tall transformers. Dusty sheep farmers in the poppy fields of Afghanistan are just the wrong trope. It can’t be that the guy getting drunk on local hooch in a hut beside a poppy field is a war-lord. That’s just not right. Worse, that he could be winning against our guys with just a bolt-action rifle and some stunning marksmanship, that’s wrong, plain wrong.
So, my buddy, seduced by Hollywood, is filling his life with tacticool. Worse, he is mailing tacticool to friends like me and pestering us because we haven’t been to the dollar store to by the latest AirSoft automagic pepper-ball gun with laser sights and robotic ammo maker included. That I haven’t bought a Maverick 88 shotgun yet is a problem for him. Sucks to be him.
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That’s one thing rattling about my heart. The next two happened together. I have made it to Boston to see my son for the last three years. I was there from Thursday night until last night. Before that on Wednesday while I was at work my pastor called. The middle-aged son of one of our elders was in jeopardy. His wife had thrown him out in a bipolar tantrum. He had gone the full-monty. Married her and worked for her Dad and lived in an income property owned by the Dad’s brother. Without the woman he had no job, without a job he couldn’t pay rent. Without paying rent he was ass-out. Everything he was and he had was with that woman. She put him out.
I planned on driving a cab on Thursday then getting on a plane after my shift. I didn’t have time to deal with a church member who had spent the night in a Sunday School classroom on a cot and had no place to go. But . . . I am that guy who has loudly boasted that if you need something, ask and I’ll do my best to help out. Plus, this was my pastor on the phone asking. Shit.
So, with trepidation I offered him a night staying with me but he had to be out before I left for Boston. He agreed. I proceeded with my plan, made the money I needed and realized I was out of time. I did not have time to get home, get packed, get myself to the airport and deal with an unexpected guest who had no place to stay. What to do?
A lot of us would never have let him stay to begin with. We have our own shit to deal with. We are busy, struggling, trying to make our way and keep our heads above water. Making a difference is a bonus. We would have ended the cab shift early and told the house-guest to git or there would be a cop-calling argument. I feared losing a few hours to an argument which would cause me to miss my flight and screw up a half-year of planning.
I don’t know about the God you worship but mine can be a pain in the ass. He took me at my word when I said I wanted to help. So . . . I’m still headed to my last fare for the day 15 minutes from where I was realizing I was out of time. I couldn’t deal with my houseguest. I let him in, though–for just one night, kind of. This sucked.
I made a choice. I had to. My flight was too soon and I valued my effort to put my trip to Boston together more than I valued tossing a new friend on to the street. I called my guest and explained that I didn’t have time for him so he was welcome to stay until I got back. So . . . he stayed and I went to Boston. A running narrative in my head all weekend was a worry as to what I’d find when I got back. If it was RayRoberta Bob I’d come home to alien puke and an epic post beer-bash mess. This guy, my guest, was awesome. He cleaned my house for me. He left me a note letting me know he’d update me when he could. Awesome.
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Boston. This was a bucket list thing for me. Some years ago I attempted to take the Empress and my son to Disneyland. It was awful. We fought the whole weekend. I had set up everything through a web site using a debit card. On arrival in LAX I found that I could not rent a car using my debit card and had no credit cards. We were stuck at the airport. It didn’t get better. We did go to Disneyland but it was a miserable weekend with the Empress plucking last nerves I didn’t know existed. Deep within me was an unspoken oath that I’d pull off a fly/hotel/car rental weekend some day.
Done. I flew JetBlue, stayed at Extended Stay America, a hotel chain the Empress and I stayed at when we first arrived in Virginia, and rented a Fiat 500x. This isn’t blog post worthy for a lot of my upper-middle class peers. It is what we do. For me it was a victory. Planning for this started two months ago with zero money saved for it. So, as I am capable of doing and kind of dislike doing, I used my talent for making things work out to git-er-done. Tim and I squeezed in some quality time, were able to talk about stuff he’s been stuffing, and eat Pho in Boston’s Chinatown among other things. Bedford’s H-Market is awesome. It’s food court is good. Worth a trip.
It’s Monday. The trip was draining. I’ve enjoyed having today to blog, eat, sleep and do chores before heading back to my cube-rat life whacking computers. I know those stories too. The ones where the family black sheep dies a John Doe in a public hospital leaving a legacy of empties and regrets. Some would say that’s what always happens. The paternal, “get it together or you’ll end up like that guy.” I am that guy. I took the road less traveled by and it has made all the difference.
I wrote a post I titled, “Anxiety“. I wanted to be done with it. I am not done with it. I am not over it. Fear touches me in two ways lately. My son, who I don’t usually write about, suffers from anxiety that causes depression for him. This is actual for him. There isn’t a “just get over it” for him. When he gets knocked by life it takes him out. Recovery is never sure and can take months. It hurts and no amount of tough love will move the ball for him. Yeah, he is a millennial, something of a snowflake. The angst is no less powerful for him.
That’s one. The other is the intense tantrum the press is having now that HRH Pimp Daddy US has left the building. Their king, their god, their bhodisatva, did the horrible thing and let Cheeto Satan move in. It’s the end of the world as we know it. A bajillion women worldwide marched and carried protest signs and sang and spoke of wanting to burn down the White House. The *White* House. Shouldn’t it be something else, maybe the 1600 House or something. I mean, seriously, “white” House. Isn’t that racist somehow? All that strom and drang and what of it? Not so much.
I have a question for all those who are trying to learn to contort themselves so that ass and lips can meet. Who is your lord and king? Who is your Daddy? You knew this would end. Pimp Daddy US said so. Is that it? Is that who you worship? A dear leader who committed a venial sin and simply walked away from being the most powerful man on earth? You are that simple, that empty, that you worship a pimp? No wonder you are a mess.
This was going to end. It has to. It’s been a century of diddling about with socialism, either more or less of it. Every election cycle the offers of mo money came and went. Every election cycle we found out that the offered mo money was more money for our pimp, not for us. Instead of less tricks it was more. When we tried to object we got hurt.
The Soviet Union collapsed. Spain’s flirtation with anarchy fell into authoritarian socialism and after some bloodshed, came around to democracy as the least evil way to run a society. China is a mix of places. Where the party still dominates it is a shithole. Where capitalism has infested places like Hong Kong, Shenzhen, and Shanghai these places have exploded in wealth and disparity. We are at a generational turning point where the old guard of the last century is dying and losing elections. Sorry to say it, baby-girl, but this is the beginning of something impossible to avoid.
It’s one of the freakish things about abusive relationships. The victim keeps going back and the abuse keeps escalating. The cycle is well known. Obama was an abuser. Sorry, that’s what his term in office felt like to me. He spoke sweet words, said a lot, but his outcomes hurt us. Each time he would promise to treat us better, do some therapy, be a better pimp, and beat our ass back into the hospital. All the while making sure that we were out in public looking fine as fuck.
After all that, and now that he is gone, we somehow forgot the abuse and want him back. If we can’t have him then we want his bitch-in-chief, Billary. None of what we said in the hospital to the social worker means shit now. Jimmy Choo’s y’know. He took our Jimmy Choo’s with him. We want our pimp back.
The press is doubling down on the propaganda of Pimp Daddy US. They insist that Pimp Daddy US’ story was accurate. It was one of fear, of an unspoken fist in our stomach if we got out of line. Pimp Daddy never hit us in the face or above the neckline. Nobody ever saw the scars. We had to bring him his money, after all. The scars are there. Our John’s saw them.
Now that we don’t have Pimp Daddy we don’t know how to live. Self reliance? What is that? We haven’t shopped for ourselves in Walmart in 8 years. The people who shop at Walmart are missing teeth and can’t speak proper English. You want that for us? We always went to Nordstrom to the personal shopper desk with Pimp Daddy’s card. He always ordered in from a stack of takeout menus. We got thick but he said he liked it.
He’s gone. We went to the doctor and doc says we are diabetic, have high blood, are ?!obese!? and could die if we don’t quit living this way. The HIV test was negative but doc wants to test us again in 6 months. Our pimp daddy god-king left us to go on vacation in Palm Springs. How could he?
Yes, self-reliance. change the things you can, let go of the things you can’t, and pray for the wisdom to know the difference. Nothing changes if nothing changes. We who spent time in meetings have a bunch of these. Change who you worship. Get a new god-king because the one in Washington D.C. dates “models” who turn up on porn sites. Melania is just a high-class mail order bride. Think what you will of the last 2,000 years of idiot followers of that martyred Nazarene carpenter. I’ll put my martyred carpenter up against Cheeto Satan Melanic Dumpf all day. We try to use foundation to cover the bruises but we are not so different from you.
Who would you give your fealty to? A magic brown man who didn’t care enough to shoot Cheeto Satan? Cheeto Satan himself? How about . . . that dead guy the Romans killed whose followers claim is still alive and conduct a cannibalistic ritual meal of his blood and flesh? Is fealty to him, to the Nazarene carpenter any less insane, less absurd than fealty to a rich John with a taste for expensive whores?
In an insane age, in an age where the dominant language is imagery and video, the image of the crucified Christ remains powerful and good. The cross makes sense in this bonkers shit show we were born into. Cheeto Satan will do whatever. The teeth knashing over his latest crime against socialism will continue until he leaves office.
For eight years I deepened my marriage to the cross. I prayerfully sought ways to serve my neighbor, my kin, and my enemies. I have been blessed to be granted chances to do small acts of kindness, sometimes with love, sometimes not. That doesn’t change because Pimp Daddy US is out of office and playing golf until winter break is over and his daughters have to come back to school. Cheeto Satan is just a side show as it concerns the practice of my faith.
Last year some protesters stood across the freeway and stopped traffic for half an hour. They wanted us to care about black people, to understand that black lives matter. Not more than a mile from their protest is public housing where numerous churches and NGO’s are working to get the residents out of there and into stable lives. It is hard, frustrating work that goes largely unnoticed. It is stunning to me that a dozen people would block traffic and claim that black lives don’t matter in complete ignorance of the work under way in Richmond’s public housing. This says a lot about the protest community.
Cheeto Satan? Whatever. Some of what he’s doing was going to happen either by intent or by disaster. Pimp Daddy built a house of cards that was going to collapse anyway. At least Cheeto Satan wants to take it down card by card rather than just let it collapse.
I’ll end here. If fear is a powerful force in your life then you have surrendered to a false-god. You worship a lie. God made you fearfully to love him more dearly. He loves you and wants you to thrive. There is no such thing as courage. Courage is what we say about someone who was terrified and did the needful. To conquer fear get a new god, a real god, who is love. The threat to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego was not myth or an empty one. The miracle would be less amazing if it were not as the bible tells it. Yet these three men were willing to die for their faith. They risked death and found freedom. That’s an awesome god, way better than Pimp Daddy or Cheeto Satan.
Let me explain the title of this piece. This aphorism, “secrets have a way of getting out,” was in my head as I watched our local TV station report the march on Broad Street because Dumpf was inaugurated. Dumpf’s opposition is desperate for a secret that will kill his ability to be President. The secret that keeps revealing itself is our national general anxiety now that Pimp Daddy US has flown to Palm Springs to devote himself to golf.
NO TRUMP, NO KKK, NO RACIST USA! NO TRUMP, NO KKK, NO RACIST USA! NO TRUMP, NO KKK, NO RACIST USA! NO TRUMP, NO KKK, NO RACIST USA! NO TRUMP, NO KKK, NO RACIST USA!
I said in an earlier post that anxiety never speaks of life or victory. It speaks of death and injury and misery and trouble and toil. It is what God gave us so we don’t get eaten by a sabertooth tiger. I’m making this edit three weeks after I first posted this piece. Our current national mood feels like an anxiety fueled tantrum where we don’t want to understand that this was inevitable. The secret is that Dumpf is destiny.
It’s a lot easier to be against something than it is to be handed the royal scepter. I can happily write a million words of snark, never advocating for an answer and it is of little consequence. We have had a professional class of agitprops for as long as I remember. These folk make it their career to be agin it. It doesn’t matter what the thing to be agin is. They are just agin it. It has happened in history that the agitprops win and have the scepter because they killed the king. For the bulk of human history the way the regime changes is through war. Equally constant is the use of genocide to control a king’s enemies. One reason we are exceptional because we have been able to change kings without bloodshed for over two centuries. Trump is finding out that being mouthy and agin it is very different from being king.
I used to try to engage with them, to ask what they wanted. The answers were usually some foolish platitude like giving the people a fair deal. Anarchists would say they wanted to just wreck everything and replace it with governance by community boards. The Communists have tried in numerous places to enact their utopia only to find that the wealth moves into the black market and ignores them. Socialists are just communists that are willing to allow some private ownership of capital and tangible assets. Same deal, the core belief is that the community in the form of government is the better operator of the enterprises of an empire. It fails.
Now I leave them alone. I am a follower of the Way. I believe that Jesus of Nazareth died and was raised again on the third day. Read Σύμβολον τῆς Νικαίας for the rest of it. I don’t need to hate or fear or bother myself all that much with what happens in Washington D.C. The change I seek comes from being it. I’ve written extensively here about what that looks like. I’ll not repeat it here. The PUDFRB agitprops throw bricks through store windows with the same religious passion that I sing Amazing Grace. It’s a waste of time to deal with them. They are walking dead incapable of being light and salt.
We were headed, may still be headed for a Nazi America. We are almost there. We just need a leader who leads by either overarching patriotism or by a constant drumbeat of reasons to fear everything except the dear leader. Trump marks a delay in this, maybe. His opposition seems intent on furthering their goal of revolution to be replaced by some childish fantasy of what would make America great for them.
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It is a tactic. Find some juicy rumor about somebody and beat it to death on social media. Muster up a ton of righteous indignation. Keep at it because if you repeat an accusation enough times it gains the heft of truth. Lately, it is a finger pointed at the left, who have become obsessed with the idea that our president hired Russian prostitutes to piss on the bed that Obama once slept it. This is added to the steady drumbeat that Putin personally hacked the election and caused Cheeto Satan to be the most powerful man in the world.
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That’s one. We have Bradley Manning, nee Chelsea Manning, who has garnered enough sympathy by choosing to cross-dress that Obama commuted his sentence. This one goes way back for me. When I was naturalized as a citizen of the Peepul’s United Free Demokratik Republik of Berkeley I had to pass a quiz and sign a loyalty oath. I was given a classification: zzcc, for apprentice cab driver in a collective. It’s not a very high status. I would have scored higher if I had agreed to be classified after getting my first crazy check. High status goes to an African-American lesbian who has six kids by six different fathers and is on TANF, SNAP and so on. Even higher status is awarded to her if she is an addict.
What’s happened since is that guys have heard the unspoken message and decided that gaining status to get the girl means agreeing to be gender fluid. The penultimate is the love-fest for a treasonous spy simply because he decided to wear a training bra. See if this doesn’t sound nuts to you: that one could do anything, any depraved thing, and get a pass because they self-identify as trans-gender.
Young women are my krypton. I am a creepy old guy lurking about the tubes ogling women young enough to be my daughter. But . . . Chelsea Manning is my savior. I can simply declare that I self-identify as a twenty-something lesbian and solve my ethical issue. Since I now am Alice and not Alan, I am 22 and a lesbian, I gain status in my old PUFDRB home. I qualify for attaching Go-Pro’s to my shoes to get video of panties worn by SumYung HotTea and others. When challenged, I get to claim that I was born this way and am fulfilling my destiny.
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We are in trouble if your train of thought is, “sure, if that’s what makes him happy, let’s set up a personal shopping appointment at Nordstrom’s and drop some cash on a new wardrobe.” One of the inanities of some is that their rules are ok but those old rules by people they dislike, those rules are not ok. I’ve been in so many seminars by agitprops where after hours and hours of discussion the core boundaries that emerge have a strong resemblence to either the القرآن الكريم or the Bible. Efforts at wiping the slate clean are amusing to me because very often even though the past is disregarded it has a way of sneaking back into the resulting decisions.
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I am writing this on the Saturday after Trump’s inauguration. I had to turn off my phone because Inger is apoplectic. She started blasting Ray last night, who turns out to be surprisingly empathetic to Inger, and me and Felina. Through the fb meme storm, the story seems to be that she has made a home for herself in a house leased by Felina, who is the one among peers with the most legit presence. Inger is recently out of rehab and at risk of arrest because she’s blown off her drug-court judge and social worker. I don’t think I am giving too much away in saying this. So . . . yeah, Inger has garnered the ire of her housemates because she launched an epic fit. Nothing damaged that threatens the security deposit but also the house has a long weekend cleaning up. Felina doesn’t have a license. It was never necessary. The one vehicle owned by the house has expired tags. This is not a bunch that gives a rip about compliance. Felina is herself capable of epic latina angery storms. Ray and Felina managed to drive Inger to the psych ward without getting arrested. Not bad.
Inger’s tantrum seems to be an attempt at being pissed off enough, ugly enough, that she will be heard in D.C. and they will come correct and make Billary president. Inger is one of those who spent a few hours being booked and released from Richmond City Jail. She was charged with public intoxication and assault on a cop. That went well. Inger is still learning that attempting to motivate and lead by force of negative emotion is a game of diminishing returns. More hate has the opposite effect of what is intended. It’s power over a group diminishes to arrive at indifference. Inger should be out next week. It’s going to be rough because the hospital followed protocol and contacted her probation officer. Her near future will not signal very much virtue.
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There was a picture that raced about social media that claimed to be of a dead woman who had been left out in the cold with her child. So it was said, she and her child died on that bus bench because no one had stepped up to help her. The proffered answer was something program, NGO or government above and beyond what we are already doing. There was very little bandwidth given to the thought that we, without a program, could bring a cup of soup to that woman and sit on the bench with her, talking. No, it had to be Pimp Daddy US who had to do something more.
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Service is ugly. It messes with your orthodoxies. The usual tropes, that the guy asking for help is somehow damaged and undeserving of mercy, get stomped on. The other, that we are not enough, or that sacrificing will put us in jeopardy, are both shown to be false by the many who have sacrificed to give mercy and find that God has blessed them.
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Back to Chelsea. I have no interest in what underwear you choose to wear or whether you decide to be something other than whatever ugly you were born with. Neither is it noteworthy to me if you love a partner who shares your same genitals. There are two things I care about: parenting and dysfunction. For me, there are two genders: parents and non-parents. If you are a parent then I care about how you raise your kids and what that will mean to us as we have to cope with your progeny. Dysfunction should be obvious. If the reason you have decided to be an outlier and choose some gender identity that isn’t cis-male or cis-female is some bitterness or mental health thing–fix that. It’s the bitterness and the cray-cray and the way that makes an impact on us that matters to me. Whether you end up as two sausages or two oysters or whatever but are otherwise mostly healthy it is the healthy that I wish for.
I am struck by my encounters with some within the LGBTQ world. Rather than take what is noble and good about men or women they seem to like being obnoxious. The caricature they present as their true selves isn’t what we would wish from the better parts of what masculinity or femininity means. No, it’s the trashy stuff, the stuff where men or women are being asshats. That’s what seems to define the transgender set. They choose the aspects of men and women that are shameful and shove it in our faces as the real identity. It makes good copy and a terrible lifestyle.
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Things are going to change. It looks like a lot of the bribery of the Demokrats that they were using to stay in office is at risk. I am ok with this. What the Demokrats were offering through Billary was something we couldn’t keep doing. We are broke, America. Pimp Daddy US doesn’t have our money. The only difference between Dumpf and Billary was the severity of the collapse. With Billary the PUDFRB agitprops would get their D.C. in flames and a government that would have to shut down because it could no longer pay its bills. With Dumpf it may still happen but not as soon as it would have with Billary.
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I’m repeating myself in this next. Empires come and go. Emperor’s rule and die. Dynasties rise and fall. The circle of life continues. Dumpf is done in at most, eight years. In the meantime, if you want to change the world the means to do so hasn’t changed. If you have not befriended your neighbor now would be a good time to do so. If you are renting now would be a good time to look for land to buy. You want something with a lot big enough to support a small garden and maybe a few chickens. If that’s illegal where you are maybe use all that political animus to get the county or city to approve of keeping chickens. Humbly seek to strengthen your relationships to those around you. Trust your instincts. Listen with both ears and be slow to speak. You’ll know what to do.
We change the world by being the change we seek. I know, it’s a cliche. Whatever. Still, do the small acts of kindness, be merciful and gracious first. Remember this? אם אין אני לי, מי הוא בשבילי? אם אני רק לעצמי, מה אני? ואם לא עכשיו, אימתי? This also: עשו לאחרים את מה שהייתם רוצים שיעשו לכם – זאת תמצית התורה ודברי הנביאים.
1 Corintios 2:14 “El que no tiene el Espíritu no acepta lo que procede del Espíritu de Dios, pues para él es locura. No puede entenderlo, porque hay que discernirlo espiritualmente.”
Right. An omniscient, omnipotent diety gives a shit about me. That’s not crazy. Nope. This diety won’t interfere with my choice to act out and will keep me from harm even though I am causing harm to myself and maybe others. He (?He? not s/he, s/him, or whatever?) What kind of patricarchical, obtuse, obscene, oppressive, phallic bullshit is this that God has to be a cis-guy? How do we know that this is all an illusion. That I am alone in my world, there are no others, what I percieve is wind, water, smoke, mirrors or all of that? Why would solipsism be false?
We have science. For 800 years the record has been corrected. Truth identified and documented. The farce of the bible exposed. Nietzsche is deep, “God is Dead.” Can we just get on with it and dispense with all this religious folly?
To which I have questions. What of women? Women are emotional, irrational, demanding, frustrating and desirous beyond reason. Some wicked demon made it such that a pleasure equal to eating demands that we deal with women. How sick is that? Women are trouble. Yet, they are inescapable. More of the shitshow we arrived in. Woo. More questions. Are there exceptions to the law of causality? How does the quantum description of reality give rise to the reality we perceive?
I’m a bard, a bad one at that. I succeeded in my effort to avoid science as much as possible in college. My drunk alien RayRoberta Bob as god is almost plausable to me were it not a lifetime of indoctrination in the Reformed Tradition of the Presbyterian Church. So, I am going to add to my list of literary offenses and fail to answer the questions I posed.
My failure is not without purpose. First, I can’t begin to answer the physics questions I pose. I’m a stupid English major from a California State University in a time frame when degrees were being granted to proud C- students like myself. I graduated, but barely. Second, my world is absurd and mysterious. I’ve given up debating with God over whether the seven creation epochs were 7 Gregorian Calendar days of 24 hours each. The Bible and much more fails when made to survive an examination through Western scientific methods. I surrendered and in that surrender found my life to be better. God made the world in six phases and rested on the seventh. Good enough for me.
I mentioned Inger in a previous post. Inger, along with her self-serving approval of mincome, is annoyed with truth. The world consistently disobeys here desire for a modern, angular exegesis of reality. Absurdity and mystery piss her off. It should make sense. Everything should make sense. That it doesn’t is an affront to her stainless steel and concrete aesthetic.
Inger has not yet given up her fight with the universe. She means to win this one or die trying. So, all the kings men who have tried to put her back together in a less intense and more curved shape have failed. OCD much? Yeah.
I quit fighting my past. I am the dutiful first born son of a Presbyterian mother and Methodist father who became Presbyterian when he began dating my Mom. The older I get the more comfortable my same spot in the pews has become. Presbyterian Orthodoxy is an inescapable part of who I am.
So, my direct answer to the question of the existence of God is a reflexive, “yes.” No, it isn’t well-reasoned any more than my annual itches for an impossibly perfect Christmas that rattle about thanks to my Mom’s life-long fight with her sister for approval from their Mom. My belief in the existence of God is an act of faith, irrational and at odds with the world Inger wishes for. There are very few truly straight lines in my world.
Nothing I say can convince you of the existence of God. Either you agree he exists or you don’t. I’ve also lost my taste for winning the argument on this. I am quite happy in my little shack on a less traveled road in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. My call is to serve regardless of the object of my service’s beliefs regarding God. Sometimes, when you are hungry, a hot meal is the best altar call possible.
Wikipedia has an article on the question here. Allow me to offer a chain of reasoning that is weak but for me, worthy. First, does love exist? If it does and God is love, then since love exists God must also exist. Further. Love is a verb and by inference we witness the existence of God in his actions demonstrating his love for us.
Love is a weak voice shouted down by all the dissonant noise alive in the lives of us who found comfort on the shores of the River Styx. Crazy is our normal. Altruism, true altruism, triggers suspicion for us. There has to be something behind it, some gain or motive, some desire that drives the act of kindness. We find it hard to believe that self-less acts of kindness are possible. That there could be a deity who would want us to experience altruism seems impossible.
Hebreos 4:1-2, “1 Cuidémonos, por tanto, no sea que, aunque la promesa de entrar en su reposo sigue vigente, alguno de ustedes parezca quedarse atrás.2 Porque a nosotros, lo mismo que a ellos, se nos ha anunciado la buena noticia; pero el mensaje que escucharon no les sirvió de nada, porque no se unieron en la fe a los que habían prestado atención a ese mensaje.”
Yet, we live insane lives so Inger’s desire for a rational world hits our ears as a dissonant minor chord. The God I know fights being contained in a bakelite trimmed stainless steel and concrete temple. Left alone Chernobyl is overrun by moss and plants that ruin its modern architecture. His world is at least fractal in its complexity. He made a world in which Quantum theory helps make the calculus work. Why not an insane, absurd God for this shitshow?
I believe God exists for completely selfish reasons. I grew up in a house infested with mental illness. I was tormented by anxiety from a very early age. Anger became my binky. I could have what I wanted because I was able to cajole my parents into indulging me. This lasted until 1979 or so and my initial years with my paternal grandmother. I returned to Earl Palmer and the First Presbyterian of Berkeley seeking answers. I wanted something of home, even as fucked up as home was. Earl is brilliant and patient with yungins. It was after many Sundays listening to him preach that my heart was softened and I was ready to let God in. I believe God exists because that belief keeps me sane.
Later in life, as I came to understand that my life was going to collapse again and I’d have to rebuild for the fourth time, I needed a family. I found that in St. Giles, in the Men’s Fellowship. Without them I’d either be dead or in prison. Along the way I’ve experienced miracles of grace and mercy that knit well with my Protestant upbringing.
I believe God exists for irrational reasons. I attribute some of my experiences to him against reasoned deduction. It is a knowledge I have always had and found comfort in. Mine is not the place to win the argument. Mine is to serve you anyway, to share and walk with you as we count down our sunrises until we are rowed to the far shore of the River Styx.
It’s an itch we keep wanting to scratch. Dig Caesar out of his tomb and venerate his bones. It doesn’t matter whether you choose one of the two proffered candidates. Both of them are either greater or lesser minions of Rome.
This was our choice: a woman who is deeply connected to the establishment and operates an NGO which launders money or a billionaire pitching himself as an outsider because he’s never been a politician. We elected the billionaire. I voted for Dumpf. Why would I vote for the evilist of evil, evil, evil people, a rich capitalist pig whose ill gotten wealth comes from going bankrupt on other people’s money? I am supposed to understand that Dumpf is devil incarnate. Billary is a lovable fuzzball grandmother who just wants to make sure everyone gets their fair share. What’s crazy about that?
Dumpf won. There have been a string of narratives pitched regarding our new fearless leader since the election. The first was that he was a fascist bastard who was going to inter all the illegal aliens, make our gardeners and pool boys even poorer, steal food from the mouths of Appalachian babies and make Grandma survive on powdered milk and USDA bologna. Dumpf hates brown people so all brown people are even more deeply fucked than they were before the election. Brown people can help out by self-interring at the old camps from WWII. He is a real estate barron so obviously he hates the environment and we’ll all be dead from toxic waste before his term is up. Another one was that the Russians, those evil bastards, stole the election from Grandma Clinton. They hacked the voting system, they stole e-mails from her server and spread craptastic stories about influence peddling, an overly cozy relationship with Wall Street, and was secretly sex-trafficking in children sought by pedophile Oil Sheikhs.
This election taught me a couple things. First, we are nuts when it comes to choosing our leaders. We want childish, impossible things in our leaders. He has to be a man of the peeeeepul comfortable in a dive bar drinking light beer, plain spoken, wiser than Solomon, pious as St. Paul, mighty as Caesar Augustus, generous with free Cadillac’s and cell phones. He should be deeply steeped in the secular orthodoxies of the puritan left but not so wonky or stiff that he will enforce said ethics for everyone, just the enemies of the state. We want our leader to provide for us like a good pimp Daddy but not interfere when we decide to behave in transgressive ways. We want s/him to protect us from those who would perpetrate aggression, micro and otherwise, from those who behave in triggering ways while comforting us when our behavior has undesired consequences.
Second, we got played. It was a masterful checkmate. We could have voted for RayRoberta Bob. The establishment had a plan to co-opt s/him and stay firmly in control. It did not matter who we voted for. They had us at P-Q4. The massive civil service bureaucracy housed in the Executive Branch was going to ensure continuity of power regardless of whether Jill Stein, Gary Johnson, Cruz, Dumpf, Sanders, Billary or my favorite drunk alien, RayRoberta Bob won. Us who voted for Dumpf did so because we hoped it would communicate to congress and the bureaucracy that we were tired of the last century of rinse repeat.
I’ve been shut up. My usual narratives that align to some degree with the orthodoxy of conservative talk radio have been shook up. It’s a depressing thought, that hope & change by way of Washington D.C. is a non-starter. I hate the idea that we are not so different from Russia. You can elect anyone you want to be Prime Minister of Russia. He or she will still be a dictatorial bitch unsympathetic to your anxieties about the fate of Monarch Butterflies and Appalachian children. Dumpf turns out to be a kinder, gentler grandpa who wants to fiddle with the edges of our government but otherwise leave it be. Checkmate.
There is such a love-fest afoot with the press and the Obummers. It’s the sort of adoration I associate with socialist dictators in places like Asia or South & Central America. The fear and loathing seems to be a reaction to Grandma Billary’s failure to continue the dynasty attempted by the Obummers. The populist grandma telling us that she is the reasonable one who will fight for the little guy, protect the snowflakes from their own bad behavior and make those evil capitalist pigs pay their damned fair share.
It feels to me like a freed slave who stands in the middle of the road across from his former home on the plantation and realizes freedom is disruptive. He wasn’t free a moment ago before he was handed his papers. A moment ago his life was clear. He knew his fate, knew how he’d get his needs met. It was a familiar devil. Now, papers in hand, nothing is assured. He has to fend for himself. He has no income, nothing to assure his reason for existence or a purpose to pursue. Rick Warren’s book was 140 years in the future.
For some, this was exciting. It was a victory. For others it was disaster. Say what you want about the oppression contained in tenant farming in the south. Not everyone alive in the 19th century antebellum south was happy to be free. Ditto the Obummers. We have folk who are getting attention because what they wanted was a coronation of Obummer and if they couldn’t have that, an election victory that continued the Clinton Dynasty.
We have had authoritarian and socialist government since at least 1913. My ancestors were subjects of the British Empire. They were not all fervent supporters of throwing over King George. The argument over liberty vs. safety is as old as our republic. We started out hating any hint of imperialism. Our distaste for kings has diminished in the centuries since . The trend has been toward increasingly large, ineffective and authoritarian government for at least a century. Caesar is going to rise out of his tomb and be restored to the new empire soon enough. It seems to be what we want.
I voted to prevent what I didn’t want. The Supreme Court is short one justice. The choice of replacement was going to go to either Grandma Billary or Dumpf. Dumpf won. Obamacare is a growing nightmare being exploited to increase the intrusion of government into our lives. The snowflakes are winning the propaganda war and so the expectation is that we will comply. We want energy independence but it can’t come at the price of harming the butterflies or Native Americans. All perfectly reasonable and fair.
Jesus was not reasonable or fair. His message threatened the status quo within the Middle East and Jewish people. Authority came from God directly to the disciples of Christ. We didn’t need intercessors or interpreters of the Torah to facilitate our relationship to God. Caesar was cut out of the picture. The Levites were superfluous. Our rights, our laws, came directly from God the Father through his son, Jesus of Nazareth. These are troublesome words for the establishment of Christ’s day. Troublesome enough that he was crucified.
Empires fall. All of them. Ours is an empire made of a revolution 227 years old. We are fabulously successful. There is no empire in history with greater wealth and military might than ours.
Empires fall and tomorrow happens. Empires fall and there are survivors. Those that remain have to do the needful because their count of sunrises has not run out.
So . . . what? Anarchy? Anarchy is a foolish lie. Anarchy as currently promulgated means the anarchist can dictate the rules on his or her whims while being insulated from the consequences. It is how we self-governed before we had to deal with other kids and out of the purview of our parents. Though we are losing our distaste for imperialism it isn’t gone. Some of us hunger for god and express our appetite through electing authoritarian figures like Grandma Billary and Dumpf. Socialism? Hitler was a socialist before he took a hard turn into genocidal dictatorship, remember? Still, the reflexive answer remains, “certainly not! We don’t want a god-king, king or anything like that. We are a democracy!”
Might I suggest something? When our desires for a leader are crazy/absurd an absurd leader becomes the reasonable choice. Who do I think an absurd leader is? Dumpf, perhaps. We shall see. Grandma lost, so that’s not going anywhere. What about that guy, the Nazarene Carpenter of two thousand years ago, who was martyred by the Romans? What about him? I mean, he’s been dead for a while so there is no danger of him getting caught diddling kids or accepting bribes from Wall Street Bankers. He and his followers are pretty crazy, so perhaps hungering after a resurrected dead guy as a leader isn’t any less crazy than having a hard on for Grandma.
Hope and change cannot be found in the temples worshiping our secular gods of democracy. Hope and change is where it has been for a couple thousand years. The Nazarene carpenter’s disciples still follow him. They named themselves Christians. You know them. They are your neighbors. Rather than pray to the false god kings of Washington D.C. go visit one of those churches in your town. Don’t pray. Not yet. Talk to the people at the church. Share your story. Volunteer a bit–something small that can be completed in an hour or two. This is a long game that won’t pay off right away. It does pay off. The anecdotal proofs of how it pays off are numerous and reach back millennia. Ask one of those Cheezus Freak people you see at that church.
King Jesus is an absurd and wonderful monarch. The beauty of naming Jesus as king is that he is dead. It ends up at not having a king or queen, a good thing. Ditto saying that the resurrected kingdom and temple lives in our hearts. I’m counting down my remaining 12,000 sunrises. Hopefully this house of cards we have will stand. Merry Christmas!
The last question in the Explore God series was, “Can I know God personally?” There is no reasoned answer to this question. That said, nearly 500 years of Calvinist tradition says, yes, yes you can. With something like this, though, tradition and reason are not enough. You either feel it as a yes or you don’t.
First, our pastor Sarah Marsh, said this in her sermon. Next, my first reflex was to say, no you can’t know God personally. The God I know is a jealous god. He is uncompromising in his demand for surrender and devotion. If you want to know Jesus a lot of the life you have now is going to die. Remember, this is a god who launched a new kingdom by being martyred.
Another reason you can’t know God personally is modern science. Jesus is booga-booga-booga weird. We tell people that they have to die to live, to give to get, serve to be served, be a servant to lead. Being Christianity is living in a topsy-turvy world where Carol’s Wonderland is not strange. A lot of the Bible is starkly bonkers. Knowing God is the realm of the heart. If you try to bring empirical reasoning to understanding God your head will hurt. God isn’t reasonable. He is reliable. To know God you have to surrender some of that itch for utopia we get from my Puritan ancestors and some of that surety that through science we can understand how many angels fit on the head of a pin.
Next, I was raised in the church. I’ve been saved longer than I’ve not been. I’m not perfect, far from it. Dig far enough back in this blog and you’ll find plenty that I have had to apologize for. I spent some of my youth accusing my Dad and the church of various high crimes and misdemeanors. For a time I knew God as a stern taskmaster who disapproved of me and my behavior. It hasn’t been that long since I surrendered deeply to God.
Which, sort of makes me the worst one to write about this. I already believe. I know God, know Jesus. It took me a while to come around to this. I was/am a fan of apologia, of criticism of the church. Damned hypocrites, look at them.
You are going to hear all the standard answers from ordained graduates of seminary. They studied hard and I applaud them for their hard work and consequent knowledge. Their answers are worthy. Mine is not. Mine is the answer of a cantankerous man who wasn’t always this devoted to God. Mine is a lifelong relationship that has swelled and faded. God never stopped knowing me nor loving me. It is I that have shunned him at times then come home like a repentant prodigal son.
When, for the first time in my twenties I quieted down and started to listen, God had some stuff for me to do. First, shut up. No, really, be quiet. Next, all my bluster about how no one is doing anything for that little kid I saw on TV growing up, the one staring up at the camera with big eyes, God said this, “You do it.” Me? Help? When I am a wretch? When I am the one entitled to being protected from my own hot mess, coddled and spoon fed. Yep, I am to do it. I and all the other hot messes that came to Jesus.
The creator of the Universe talks to me, to this hot mess. I hear voices, hear His voice. Crazy, right? Yep. I’ve heard him since the age of 14 when he appeared to me in a vision I had while praying at summer camp. Though, his voice isn’t the lovable, round Pappa I want him to be. He’s a carpenter. He’s short, brown-skinned, curly haired and a bit thick by modern standards. His language is rough. He knows me so when I try to game him it doesn’t take him long to checkmate me. He’s the one that was in my head cussing me out when I complained yet again that I was out of gas, out of money, out of cell-phone minutes, without even change for the parking meter. He was the one laughing at me when lately I tried to catch a kitten and failed in entertaining ways.
I can’t make you agree that you can know God personally. I can only tell you that I have come to count him as an intimate friend. Know this, I tried other ways of living. I tried to keep God out of my head. All those years of Sunday School, my baptism, catechism class and the many books I’ve read and still, there is no place like my usual spot on the left side of the sanctuary, toward the front, singing hymns badly and listening to Keith and Sarah and others talk about Jesus.
The third thing God asked of me is to work for change within the church. This means I had to sign up for the full program. I am responsible for my own worship, prayer, tithe, study and service. I have to show up. Beyond that, I have to participate. Beyond that I have to contribute. Beyond that I have to serve, to serve without hope of return or desired outcome. Out of these five responsibilities I have built my relationship to God, to Jesus, to know Him. And out of *that* I can become a voice for change within the church.
Husbands know this. Many times the sexiest thing a man can do for his wife is dishes. Families are hot beds of chaos and strife. The kids are taxing, the workload withering, the ways it fails constant and numerous. Into that a guy tries to hug her and ask for a little affection. One more demand of her, one more too much. But, he’s entitled, right? It’s all over the Bible, that guys come first, get served, helped by their wives. Uhm, actually . . . no. Knowing God is a kind of death to all that came before, all that binds us to the worries of the world. Dishes are the least of it. And . . . if you remember, it is Adam that is cleaved to Eve and her family, not the other way around.
God is in some ways, a jealous husband and we are his bride. He demands that we give and give and give and it just doesn’t seem to be fair. He is demanding, his people are hotbeds of chaos and strife. Church people are taxing, the commitment withering, the ways that sin intrudes are constant and numerous. Into that arrives you, full of anguish and hope that this Jesus thing could work out for you, with your one more demand too much. Yet these Jesus people seem to be crazy in love with an absurd God. Either they are nuts (we are) or there is something to this God who does a reset by dying.
The central narrative, metaphor for life in Reformed faith is the cross. It is in death and resurrection that we find our knowledge of God and a life as a disciple of Christ. Our greatest heroes are those who made deep sacrifices, even unto death. So, I almost don’t want you to know God. You have to be ready for this. You have to risk your life to gain it. The prayer itself is trivial. Altar calls are ecstatic experiences for some. I worry about the commitment, the days after, the work of being in a relationship with God. All five of my responsibilities involve sacrifice of some sort. Are you ready for this? Are you ready to die on the cross to be reborn stripped naked and having to start over?
I’m really good at words. I’ve been in enough therapy, sat through enough Sunday School classes, that I can confess like the best. It’s all a front, though. My slings and arrows flown against the church accusing it of hypocrisy said a lot about my own life. God took me all the way to the street and to jail. He met me in my truck, out of gas, out of money, out of cell phone minutes, homeless, a convicted wife beater, in a phone call with a cocaine addict who wanted a ride to the grocery story. Boom.
If you are ready, cool. There are plenty who will welcome you and become your family in Christ as you live this new life. It doesn’t have to be me. Most Sundays you can find me in my usual spot, singing praise songs badly at St. Giles church. If you do choose me, beauty. We can walk together as we live out our promise to be a disciple of Christ.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope . . . Jeremiah 29:11, ESV
I am not sure there is a point, or a purpose to this shit-show we are born in to. I’m over late night tossing & turning wondering why I was born. I’m here and it ain’t over yet. I’ve still got time to do and while the sun still traverses the sky I need shit and have ambitions. There is world peas to attend to and those kids on TV who look so hungry. Oh and those deplorable white folk who treat black folk like range targets. I mean, somebody needs to do something, seriously.
Dumpf got elected. They are going to build a pipeline across Indian land and ruin it. I saw that kid on TV and this time the voice-over is asking me to donate to UNESCO. I don’t have a job, my girlfriend kicked me out, and breakfast this morning happened at the Grace Cathedral on California street. I tried begging and got arrested. I had to pawn my guitar to get a room for the night. I’m out of meds and the voices lately are really hard to ignore. Maybe I should just eat worms and die.
The depths of my angst never got that deep. My troubles are trifling compared to those of many. There was an afternoon at my paternal grandmother’s house where the huge problem was a lack of a Kitchen Aid stand mixer. There is a kid in my life who is twenty-something and followed a familiar narrative arc for an African American youth living in the inner city. He achieved early success as a drug dealer, gained tremendous wealth and notoriety and now, is living in public housing. The devil gaveth and the devil took it all away.
After two twelve-hour shifts driving a cab recently I arrived at Monday morning, back at my desk, with a feeling of futility. All that work and what I had to show for it was a couple Jacksons. I had magnanimous dreams. I was going to make beaucoup benjamins. I had plans for my hard earned cash. What a waste.
Wikipedia’s article on the meaning of life. You have the Dalai Lama saying that we should seek to be happy. I suspect that the full weight of his words isn’t getting through in English. Tibetan Buddhist happiness is a deep conversation. It’s one of many things that seems simple at the surface but can consume a lifetime trying to know it deeply. So, there is that. Wikipedia tries to provide a broad survey of answers. I need to warn you. This space isn’t good for you if you were looking for comfort and safety. The answers I have here are troubling.
On with it. I’d say that life does not have a purpose. Your reason to be doesn’t exist. All this angst over why you were born is neurotic, narcissistic wind and water. You are alive. ’nuff said. So, average life-span being 70-80 years, or 4 generations or so, you have time on your hands. The first couple decades happen because of your parents. After that, with some exceptions, it’s on you. A reason to be and a purpose to pursue. Well, you are here. There really isn’t a reason why you are here. So, that leaves the next 40 years or so and a purpose to pursue.
Why not 60 years?. Our lives are bookended by childhood and old age. As children we have no choice but to rely on the adults in our lives to care for us. Without them, without their support, we are fucked. Argue all you want about the oppressive tradition of a nuclear family, how it traps women into the oppression of patriarchy. I’ll grant you that embedding that oppression in law and policy is a bad idea. Women should have a voice, have agency and the freedom to pursue their chosen purpose. Please, though, if you are pregnant, or you are a Mom, it’s really important that you put your kids first, even though that limits you. Kids need parents that love and care for them.
Moving on. At the other end, at the phase of my life I am growing in to, is increasing loss. We become more dependent on the people around us for basic needs. Starting at around age 60 things escalate. We become more and more feeble until our time comes and we become epitaph. So, our purpose becomes merely breathing until death kindly stops for us. We come full circle and need to be taken care of.
That leaves the years between 20 or so and age 60 where life happens. That’s the window in which our purpose will be fulfilled. That’s the years in which your story is told. Maybe there isn’t a reason why you were born. I’ll leave the answer to that, to why you were born, to better minds than mine. It is enough that you are alive and beyond the first four levels of Maslow’s hierarchy what you do has an impact, though perhaps small. Your impact matters, thus, you matter.
This space is the house of the odd ones, the trolls, the people who generate regrets. It’d be nice if my readership had a comfortable spot on the fat part of the curve. But . . . I’d have to write about something else if that became the case. From what I know of history I’ll never run out of odd stuff to write about. So, yeah, causes to pursue . . . all that Maslow hierarchy stuff helps a lot. Unfulfilled essential needs can become a consuming purpose leaving you without much bandwidth for anything else.
There is also Ecclesiastes, “Vanity of vanities . . . all is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?” Yeah, that’s all warm & fuzzy. Thank you for sharing, Solomon.
Without God, without some sense of identity outside ourselves, life has no meaning. The nihilists are right. Solipsism is epiphany. Death after a meal of earthworms would be mercy. Without God we are supper for Satan and his minions. Things get increasingly morose. Suicide begins to feel like a plan.
God is weird. There is this book that is full of nonsense and ancient myth that some promulgate as the word of God. He leaves behind the words of St. Paul, Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” That’s not crazy, right? Who writes stuff like, “I am the vine and you are the branches.” As if we are twigs. This god that these people believe in is whom I am to find a purpose to my life? I may be crazy but that’s epic.
“Does Life Have a Purpose?” Maybe not. But, I am here and the clock has not run down to zero for me yet. If I live to age 90 there are still over 12,000 sunrises to get through. Might as well do something to pass the time. Of suicide, I believe you freeze yourself in the angst that drove you to take your own life. Because you are then frozen in your misery, death offers no relief. In life there is hope. As long as there are more sunrises there are more chances to break out of a solipsistic mood and leave a legacy of light and salt.
My answer to the troubles is a little more village and a little less delicate snowflake. If we allow a more collectivist view of our identity then it’s harder to point a quivering, accusing finger at some boogeyman who has called us a poopy-head. This is a bottom-up thing, not some dictate handed down by a bloated bureaucracy. This is you making a choice to locate your identity in something greater than yourself. When it comes in the form of a dictate from Caesar it’s not the same. With this more collectivist view our purpose isn’t good self-esteem or the markers of success envied by some. It is the well being of our kin and village.
My pastor says in his sermon on this that we need a reason to be and a cause to pursue. There is no reason for me. I exist. For the next 12,000 days or so I am going to rise each morning needing things and wanting to have some purpose to this shit-show I was born into. Now that I am off the ridge and walking into the Valley of the River Styx my legacy, the story I leave behind, is what worries me.
I hope I have served, have touched some and been a point of light that illuminates hope for the hopeless. I am saved. I was lost but now I am found, was blind but now I see. It’s been 4,380 days since I last confessed my faith to my Christian brethren at St. Giles Church. The trans-formative moment for me was a phone call from Darlene. I was to go to work for God with no hope of return or desired outcome. It’s my cause to pursue.
While your sun’s rise and fall to greet the moon I have a request. While you cower in your safe spaces at us the grownups who want you to do annoying self-care things like clean your room and wash some dishes, do a little more than that. Rather than litter the South Dakota desert with your detritus from protesting capitalist oil pigs, volunteer locally. There is something you can do, some place that would love your angst and youthful energy. Use your phone, google stuff, an NGO out there is looking for some help. Go help.
Of worm eating . . . it’s a metaphor. Just saying.
No. That’s why I like it. That’s why I believe it is true. People are unreliable. Truth is fluid. At one time the earth sat at the center of the waters under the waters. Then by observation we come to understand that the earth circles a star. Over the decades we learn more and the truth changes again. A religious text that wasn’t a hot mess is to me a suspicious text. I’d expect a species that is a hot mess to write a hot mess book. What? People are not a hot mess? Seriously?
Mohamed declared he had recieved a revelation. He wrote the القرآن الكريم. He wanted the Bible to make sense. It does not and neither does the Q’uran. The Jehovah’s Witnesses, annoyed at the flaws in translation that have crept in to the Bible over thousands of years, did the scorched earth thing, and started from scratch. They messed up. But, since, they’ve gotten on their high horses and declared all of us to be apostate. No, they are right and we are going to hell. Some Muslims, impatient with God, have decided that the way to bring about a post-apocalyptic paradise is to force God’s hand and have that final calvary battle in Syria.
Sure, God is going to reward a bunch of zealots a post Revelations paradise on earth, with Mohamed returned, because they charged across a battlefield in Syria waving swords and firing muskets at the enemy while riding horseback. That’s not nuts. That’s rational.
Let’s not forget the numerous Christians who isolated themselves somewhere yelling that the rapture was nigh and they needed to be ready. The moment comes and the less insane of them realize that the buzzer on the dryer has gone off and one of the kids is crying because it’s time to eat. Life. Intrudes. Or the more insane of these sects that loses their damned mind and immolates or drinks poison.
If you brought me a religious text designed by Apple that was all bauhaus and logically (Aristotle’s logic) solid I’d not want it. The meaning of the word “bible” is library. It is a selection of religious texts argued over from the beginning. If there is any feature of Christianity it is our love of debate and apologia. We get it from our Jewish ancestors. Our central religious texts reflect that.
How much more loving, poetic, and accurate is a canon of 66 books which have stood the test of time. And, yes, we can’t even agree on a consensus of which books belong in the bible and which should be left out. So, 66 books is a fungible number. There isn’t even one bible. BibleGateway offers roughly a hundred editions of the Bible in various languages and from different sects. Over these books a grand narrative plays out from the creation story(s) in Genesis through to the Revelation of John. It is us. It is reliable in its depiction of the core values, core beliefs of us, of followers of Christ.
Please, though, stop trying to make it into something it isn’t. The foolishness of some, that want to bend the bible into a modernist, utopian exegisis of orthodox truth, reliable in its facts, historically accurate down to the angel on pinhead count, this is nonsense. The bible is a canon of the heart and stomach. It is absurd when viewed through 20th Century, rational eyes. Let it be what it is and the beauty of its truth exposes itself.
“John 1:1-John 1:5 ESVIn the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” One of the oft-quoted mistranslations by the Jehovah’s Witnesses is: “In the beginning was the Word,+ and the Word was with God,+ and the Word was a god.*+2 This one was in the beginning with God.3 All things came into existence through him,+ and apart from him not even one thing came into existence.” Much is made of a small change, “Word was a God“.
The whole debate makes my head hurt. You can read one article on it here. It is significant to this piece because in spite of our continued wrangling over what we believe, what should and shouldn’t be part of the canon, the Bible thrives. One answer for many is to dismiss the whole mess out of hand because there has been so much hypocrisy, so much evil done in the name of the Lord. If that is you, fine. If humans have any constant, it is our talent for strife. We know the right thing to do yet we still do things we should not.
To repeat something I said in another post, my world is nuts. It is absurd. Nobody behaves, not even God. Them that throw tantrums because there are too many that don’t behave in amenable way are entertaining idiots. As I write this there is a small group of protesters who have decided to occupy a bridge. The idea is that they can stop construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Many beloved tropes about evil oil companies are sung as hymns by the press and fellow travelers. Those evil oil companies want to pipe oil across sacred Native American lands, ruining the water table, despoiling Mother Earth and worst of all, make money. This is sacred truth for the protest bunch. We who might disagree are apostate. We are ipso facto fascist.
I’m sure, were I able, opening a conversation with the protesters that challenged their orthodoxy, would not go well. They know their truth is accurate, factual. Me, the WASP, just doesn’t understand. If I understood I’d agree with them. The bible is reliable because it accurately reflects us. We are obstinate, sure of our orthodoxies, intolerant of opposition or differences, quick to speak with two mouths and close one ear. For some, my drunk alien is more true than some wild-assed fable about a martyred carpenter from Nazareth. An absurd word of God works for me.
The books we keep resonate across time. Of all the greek plays to keep we kept Oresteia. Of all the inspirational books across time there are 66 which persist in spite of everything. They reflect who we are and how we can be better. Their very absurdity is what makes them beloved by me. Last bible quote as I end this, Colossians 3:16, “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” Ok, actually, a couple more: John 1:9-14, “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. 14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”