Tag Archives: spiritual
A few days ago I received a rather desperate message claiming my posts were contaminating Facebook and the Internet. Given their perspective, perhaps they were right. I am not able to determine what is right for them, as I am unable to fully declare what is right and truth for me.
There is an assumption made that appears to be consistent across the spectrum of thought we have been exposed to on many social media sites. That is, since I don’t believe as many others do I must not be a Christian and I certainly do not believe in God. The thinking that fosters this kind of attitude is sadly out of tune with, not only who I am, but also what I am thinking these days.
I make no apologies for what I write as contained within them are the basic questions I am struggling with about my life-long faith. Please note that fb poses a question to all of us each time we open our fb page and that is, “What’s on your mind?” I have taken that question seriously and often post what really is on my mind. These days, my faith is on my mind. I make no apologies for what I write even though to some what I write is troubling. If you are one of those who are worried about my soul I take that concern very seriously. I do not ridicule or ignore it as I take it as a genuine concern for my spiritual welfare and me as person. Your prayers on my behalf are welcome. Yet, I cannot ignore the questions that I ask of God and the questions that propel me to look in many directions for truth.
It is interesting to me that, because of what I think and believe, that I am drummed out of existence as if I were some kind of threat to someone’s very soul. Perhaps I do represent an alternative to the usual approach to faith, I can’t answer for you what might be your best approach, but dismissing me, as so many have done, will not change the facts and faith at stake for me.
I do appreciate your concern for me, I really do, and I hope to sustain family and friend relationships for many years to come. If being true to myself and my questions poses serious difficulties for you and you find yourself unable to tolerate what I write, then I would move on. My hope is that by clarifying my position that you would stop and consider what it means for you and me by choosing to abandon this relationship. After all, friendships are neither mandatory nor obligatory. If one chooses to sever a relationship I would hope it would be in the best interest of all, including this one. Thanks for taking the time to read and consider my point of view.
Truth is hard to come by. There seem to be those who believe the truth they espouse is the only truth and that attempting to understand one’s faith from a different perspective is somehow worth insulting with little understanding. Though the above is mild by comparison to several others I have received from “friends”, I find it interesting that one would be inclined to distance themselves from my perspective without asking why or attempting to understand. I can only conclude there is little or no interest in exploring faith’s foundations, except as taught within the system. “It must be so because I have been told it was so”, and if one has always been told one thing there cannot be another.
For some time I have observed security to be described in terms of either black or white. Feeling safe is a right most contend they have been given while feeling unsafe is a threat few would desire. What we think about is either safe or not safe. Often it is in between. We gravitate toward those places and thoughts that make us feel safe and do our best to avoid the discomfort of little or no security.
Many ideas about the world come to us from our parents and those we respect. These ideas become “grafted” into our unconscious. We make assumptions about these truths and live, for a time, without questioning them. The existence of Santa Claus and his reindeer are one of the first “facts” we are told. And, for most of us, that reality was as sure as anything else we have ever been told. That is, until someone, perhaps an older sibling, said there was no Santa Claus. That revealing statement became a troubling thought. At first, we denied it. Couldn’t be. No, Mom and Dad would not tell a lie. But then little things gnawed at our suspicions causing them to open like a festering wound that would not heal. The truth was unwelcome and inconvenient.
Truth works like that especially when a respected person, usually a parent, shares the “truth” with you. It becomes very difficult to give up the “truth” when it comes from such high authority as an all-knowing and invincible parent. Giving up Santa is like giving up a parent, a very difficult proposition.
Given the fact that other cultures have alternative Santa Claus figures best fitting their belief systems, one begins to wonder if a universal truth exists. There is no doubt that many believe in a universal truth but proof is difficult to produce. One accepts Santa Claus stories on faith since the persons promoting the idea have a credible role as parent or adult.
If I were born in Utah chances are I would be a Mormon. If I was raised in Egypt I might be Islamic, and if I was born in Thailand I would probably be convinced Buddhism was my religious identity. Much of our religious identity has to do with where we were born and to whom we were born.
So, when someone questions religious identities people begin to feel insecure. Their protection and security is threatened. People fear there might be a mistake and so to protect their beliefs they tend to lash out in defense. Some religions will even threaten anyone who believes differently. Some even threaten death. Some are in danger of losing their reputation or even their life over a belief system as an agnostic, atheist or unbeliever. It is true that many pin their hopes on religion to assist them through some of the darkest people experiences. It doesn’t matter where their hope comes from it just matters that they are given something to believe. If one doesn’t believe as the predominating culture does those threatening ideas are subject to being crushed and the person is excluded from the group. The person who does not believe as others do is made to pay for independent thinking.
Is it better to shut down those who question the “truth” than to find cogent arguments to preserve a way of living? One can feel secure because the person who has questioned a belief system is presumed to have been intellectually and spiritually vanquished. After all, if you have faith you have all you need. Or, do you?
Cowboys and Jesus
For a few hours I was a “cowboy”. Standing next to a vintage hand-painted blue ‘41 Chevy pickup, I was the real dude. Leaning into the truck, I jawed and pointed to somewhere, then self-consciously sauntered about as a Marlboro man covering the back 40. A pair of crusty boots, attached stirrups, torn and tight jeans and a grease-stained hat augmented my role. The photographer nodded approvingly.
A swaggering gait with a machismo grind deliciously possessed me once I pulled those high-heeled, narrow-toed boots on. The only thing missing was a cigarette, smoke lazily lifting off the butt end and a woman or two squaring up to dance. Don’t know much about smoking, can’t dance very well either. Funny how we make these things into romantic something’s at the time.
As I looked down at my weathered alligator, “pointy-toed” boots and inserted my thumbs into the belt loops of my jeans, I couldn’t help but think of the days, some 50+ years ago, when my younger brother was strapped into a plastic horse head and told to sing. The extravaganza took place at old-fashioned tent meetings conducted by our parents traveling as evangelists to claim America for Jesus. The family took my brother to work the crowds with them. Dad always set the scene for the assemblage with his usual show-biz evangelistic fervor. Something like, “Our little four year-old cowboy is going to sing a song he wrote with his mother called, ‘Let’s be Cowboys for Jesus.’ Cowgirls and cowboys let’s welcome…Little Richy…!”
Generator furnished electricity lit up incandescent lights strung on thin wire between creosoted wooden tent poles. The lights struck my brother’s blonde hair and handsome face with theatrical “glowworm” sheen. He wore a black Hopalong Cassidy outfit sporting silver-studded buttons and buckles, an outfit chosen to lend authenticity to his nightly cowboy role. A toy plastic horse head, the kind you strap to your waist Mom and Dad found in a “five and dime” Woolworth’s store looked proportionately right on my brother’s four year-old body. He sang boldly into a vintage microphone. The public address system responded with a scratch, crackle, and a whimpering pop. All eyes were on him as he sprightly pranced about the stage to the throaty sounds of laughter, little people giggles and spontaneous applause. He was an antidote to boredom while fabricating happiness. A hero in the making.
This was Little Richy, (not to be mistaken for Little Richard). “Richy” later became a medical doctor and while en-route to his practice tasted the legendary lifestyle of Haight-Ashbury and its seductive drug culture. This was a kid who would become student government president of every school he attended. That’s a story we’ll get to later.
Mom smiled approvingly from her piano bench while accompanying Richy on the poorly tuned upright piano near to tipping over on the low budget, hastily assembled, quarter-inch plywood stage floor. He’d sing his song on cue and mean it too…at least, then he did!
I am a little cowboy I ride a buckin’ bronco,
I like to play with lasso, rope, and gun.
I’d love to be a sheriff and capture all the outlaws,
So come to my log cabin we’ll have a lot of fun.
Let’s be cowboys for Jesus. Let’s be cowboys for Jesus.
We’ll work and play ‘til break of day and capture the outlaws for Him.
As the photographer circled the Chevy pickup truck I thought about the song “Little Richy” sang. The lyrics got stuck in my throat, just wouldn’t come out. While I clearly remembered the words and simple tune it got me to thinking nostalgically in a bittersweet kind of way. I thought about those days of glory for Jesus, touring the country, doing tent meetings. “Little Richy” was just too young to escape the spectacle of it all. We didn’t see it then, and my parents would disavow this were they alive, but I see it now as a form of child abuse and exploitation. “Little Richy” had no choice in the matter. Just as any kid would, he enjoyed the flattering attention.
Being in grade school at the time, I escaped most of this spectacle. Still, it impacted me forcibly on weekends and summer vacation as it would be assumed I would take part in these performances whenever I was with the family. I learned to lean on the crowd for laughs, tears and acceptance. Can’t say I miss it much today, but then it was vitally important. It had a lasting and profound influence on my life. I discovered you could get people to “love” you by performing well.
Was it really for Jesus? Did Jesus care if I took my pre-adolescent talent on tour for Him? Did He care that I gave up little league baseball and my friends for a chance at a big-time evangelistic outreach sometimes drawing 50-75 people a night? Did He care that our family sacrificed home shelter to live in pup tents, servant’s quarters, “prophets chambers” and trailers so we could have a chance at bringing people to Christ? Did He really care? I wonder! I don’t know. Is it possible that any good could come of this for two brothers, a four and seven year old, who weren’t given the chance to make up their own minds about Jesus? Personal decisions would be put off for later.
That is what I remember of our little “carnival” act; religious passion covered over with street savvy show business. The family business was based on a mix of manipulation and piety, a product of daydreams designed to call others from bedrooms of shame, gambling gaming tables and forbidden drinks. We were going to win these people to our way of life and knew this would be the road to our success. And, we were going to feel good and frothy while making it into meaningful employment. We believed this with all our hearts. We knew we were headed for the big time. And we were convinced there would be a reward of some kind somewhere, somehow.
I felt a grubby shame somewhere near the soles of my feet that sucked the life out of my childhood imagination and creativity while pulling me down into ministry expectations. I bought the whole thing, yes, every bit of it, and passionately preached it as an adult. And, I always made sure it came bathed in passion as one who genuinely believed it to be true. Because I believed it all to be true.
I had a compulsion to perform (I wonder where that came from?). But performance had to be at least good if not excellent for we were singing, playing and praying for God. I mean, this was about, and allegedly for, the God of the universe. The thing is, if you weren’t good at what you did musically forget about a second invitation. You had to be good or you would suffer a personal kind of rejection. It was the people who decided, not God, as some would have us believe. This really wasn’t about worshipping God. This was about worshipping the deliverer of shimmering vocals who could bring worshippers to heights of ecstatic unguarded emotional experience.
You could judge how we did by record sales, or the sale of photos we made of ourselves purchased by admirers for memorabilia and autographs. Yes, autographs! Adolescent idolizers and tearful senior citizens would line up at our product table to purchase a whiff of what they thought was fame. During the span of my musical career sales of 78 and 33-rpm records, cassettes, CD’s and photos were the indicator of just how well we did. And, of course, there was the saving souls angle. We just knew that our notoriety came from winning souls. No one was really counting, yet it was always the reason for our existence; to win and encourage souls. Did we do that? I wonder. The applause was most satisfying, easily distracting us from our mission. Listening to the candid stories of people in deep distress who wanted to come to Jesus was much more difficult than signing the back of an L.P., CD or photo.
There were always the needy and adoring. The tendency was to cater to the supporter and find a way to shorten the road to salvation for the seeker so we could find the quickest way back to the adoring souls and our next gig.
To be continued…
Copyright Ed Anderson, 2013