Prayer for the wounded (Poem)

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unsplash-logoToa Heftiba

The bruises now are healed
The scars covered by tattoos
I don’t jump when I hear the door
Nor am I a captive audience in the pews

You took away my innocence
The little boy who loves God and Santa
You beat me where no one could see me
When your anger turned into rage

I might as well have been born, abroad
Where bombs explode and bullets rain
Yet, I lived here in the land of freedom of conscience, of thought
while my screams ignited an inferno that
Burned my childhood to the ground

The things you did, you did them to me
The smell of smoke engulfed my lungs
As you bounced my head off of the flame red tile
Where no help could come to me

You were like the Roman soldier
The Pharisee and Pilot and the nails
I was the little boy, Jesus
now I am the woman at the well

Deliver me, Oh God, from what was done
Rewrite what happened in your name
Resurrect me once again, my Lord
Even though my mouth and my clothes and my faith smell of brimstone

I’ve been in the presence of evil, real evil
Yet I am alive, somehow….

 

Before Hitler was Anything – He was a Racist

 

I read an article in the Baptist New Global online magazine.  It was a dressing down by Miguel De La Torre dated Nov, 13 2017. In his scathing remarks, he addresses what has transpired in America concerning the support of the Evangelical Movement and their support for Donald Trump. You can read his article here. 

The article itself was bombastic – but I think De La Torre brought up a few good points. However, being a preacher’s kid a long time ago in the fundamentalist tradition – I am not as surprised to hear about the move of Evangelicals to Trump. I think they were waiting for someone like him to come along.

America’s churches are in a crisis. Some say, including the late, great, Phyliss Tickle, that we are actually at the beginning of what theologians and historians are starting to refer to as The Great Emergence. You can read about it in the books she published later on in life. You can also seek her out on youtube where she talked, at length, about the phenomenon.

Yet, as someone who is now on the outside of fundamentalism, I can’t help but think with their minds. I remember well the indoctrination, the wrath, and the judgment, but most of all I remember the hypocrisy, and the anger, and the bigotry.  Or, the stories about how a preacher took off the with the church’s money, ran off to Vegas with a woman he was having an affair with. Or, the daughter of the preacher getting caught having sex in the nursery with her boyfriend. Or, the woman who was pulled up on stage one night and called a whore because someone drove past her house and saw a man’s car in the driveway.

For those outside these movements, what goes on inside these churches seems almost patently absurd. I mean, it’s like Payton Place, if you know, Payton place had jean floor-length skirts and a cloud of Aquanet hovering above them. It was a political atmosphere to be sure and despite all the railing from the pulpit about morality and judgment, these organizations seemed to suffer terribly from their own lack of both.

It took me years to get away from that worldview. Because that’s what fundamental evangelicalism is.  Christianity is the faith, sure. But fundamental evangelicalism is the lens through which you view everything around you.  If naivete can shade someone’s worldview rose-colored, surely these people wear yellow-colored jaundiced ones.

The world didn’t change my worldview. Not really. I began to backtrack away from fundamentalism when looking into the legacy of the church. It’s not all pretty. Heck, the reformation was a terrible bloody event on both sides. Yet, I do believe there were great moments of triumph and terrible moments of failure.

De La Torre is right in his view of these people who’ve allowed the church to become so ill on its own ager and hatred – it can no longer see clearly. And while history doesn’t repeat itself, as Mark Twain pointed out, it often does rhyme. With people like Trump  and company having won such a big swath of this kind of believer – it’s worth noting that we’ve seen something like this before.

 

In the 1930’s, famed Lutheran Theologian and minister Detriech Bonhoeffer came to study in America. Upon traveling to the deep south during the height of Jim Crow law, Bonhoeffer was stunned at what he saw.

BPK 10.016.073
Now, mind you Hitler is just beginning his ascension to power in Germany and although Jew’s had been treated badly the world over for centuries -the worst was yet to come for them.
Also, mind you, that the last Lynching on record in the United States was 1955 with Emmet Till, a 14-year-old boy, who was accused of winking at a white woman.
In grief and despair, Detrich Bonhoeffer declared that, “…Christianity in America is dead.”
That was until he was invited by a minister to attend another gathering at Abyssinian Baptist Church, a black church, in Harlem, New York.
It was the first time he’d ever hear gospel music. There, he recanted his statement and said, “…these people suffer and they are joyful. God is in Harlem.”
He would take that gospel music back with him to Germany and share it with his friends and fellow believers in what he called, “The Confessing Church.”
Now, Bonhoeffer was a pacifist, and he loved his country desperately, however – before the Allies could rescue him toward the end of the war he would be taken out and assassinated for his plot to kill Adolf Hitler.
My father was an evangelist for a time and I would, of course, ride the small circuit up in Michigan with him to various churches where he would go to preach.
Someone would give an altar call, someone would begin to sing Just as I am, or All to Jesus, or Amazing Grace. And here, these lily white folks would come streaming down the aisles hands raised to heaven to be saved or to ‘get right with God.’ Not knowing for a second – that the song they were singing, “Amazing Grace” was entrenched in Slavery.
The author, John Newton, was a slave ship captain, who would lose his eyesight, become a monk in the Church of England, and in turn would become one of the world’s first abolitionists. As a matter of fact, he along with Wilberforce would end the practice of Slavery in Great Britain years before the United States would.
There are so many people surprised that 85 percent of white evangelicals would side with Donald Trump despite the many flagrant and cavalier ways he stands for almost everything Christianity stands against. Yet, I don’t understand why you’re so shocked. This has gone on for years. This has been their M.O. for as long as I knew them. It’s been their M.O dating back decades since before Brown Vs. Board of Education.
I left the faith tradition over 15 years ago and while I was still there, I left it mentally long before that due in large part to it’s inherent racism. See, I grew up in a predominately African American City, went to a predominately black middle school and high school, and while the preachers preached AGAINST interracial marriage – due to inequality of the races – I wondered at who was actually unequal.
The Principle was Dr. Betty Hines. Exceptionally well dressed, professional, she ruled over that school with an iron fist. There was Dr. Granderson, a Chemistry teacher who could always be spotted walking up and down the hall with his lab coat and pushing a cart. He was also always smartly dressed and professional. They all drove nice cars and were this constant stable presence in my life while at home – my personal life was in shreds.
In the 1930’s, according to Charles Marsh’s ‘Strange Glory’ the biography of Bonhoeffer I highly suggest people read – the author makes it very clear that when Hitler began his ascent to power, the Lutheran Church in that era immediately abdicated to him. They wanted the power that Hilter promised them and he did grant it to them for a time. They even flew the swastika in their churches. Until he found no more use for them and unceremoniously cast them aside.
But by then it was too late.
Understand this: Before Hitler was anything, he was a racist and so is this 85 percent of evangelicals. All you have to do is look at case law after the 1954 Supreme Court Decision of Brown V. Board of Education. Bob Jones Sr. v The United States.
Before Donald Trump is anything – he’s a racist all you need to do is look back at his trying to get men put in prison for a crime they didn’t commit, his having to be sued by the Nixon Administration for not allowing blacks to rent apartment space in his buildings, his statement against Hispanics, Muslims, and the list goes on.
They can call themselves Christians all day long and twice on Sunday. They’re not. They never were. They’re anti-Christians since they do the exact opposite of what was told to them by Christ. That being, take care of the poor, the sick, the weakest among you, and pray in private.
I am a Christain. I don’t believe Christianity is dead in America. I think preachers like John Palvolitz, Bishop Barber, and Nadia Bolz Weber (this Emergent or Emerging Church leaders) are Christianity in America – and they’re struggling. And they’re not the only ones. They’re out there.

Is Christianity dead in Evangelicalism? In 85 percent of them, I’d say yes. Yet, again, I think they’ve been dead for a very long time.

 

 

 

The Peculiar Timing of the Nashville Statement by The Southern Baptist Convention

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Pana Vasquez

I’ve been watching the news of the absolute devastation that has taken place in our country over the last week or so.

Houston, Texas, along with many other smaller communities along the Texas gulf coast was slammed hard by a massive Hurricane.

Yet in the midst of the wind and the rain, the destruction of homes by wind gusts topping 140 miles per hour, the wiping away of family homes and business, the upending of lives in an area so large it would cover Michigan from end to end, in the midst of turmoil and death, evangelical leaders decided at that particular moment to hold Houston’s head underneath the water.

150 ministers from the S.B.C gathered in Nashville to build and ratify a manifesto that takes aim homosexuality and trans-gendered folks. The language is divisive, it’s old age fundamentalist rhetoric, with debatable versus thrown in for good measure.

To a lot of people, including the Mayor of Nashville, found not only the statement appalling and not reflective of Nashville’s values, but people really questioned the timing giving what has transpired over the course of this past week as well as the ruining of many people’s lives, lively-hood, childhood homes, as well as the death of people caught in this terrible tropical storm.

I, however, am not looking at that.

The Southern Baptist Convention was formed to push back against the wave of northern Baptists’ vocal dislike over the institution of slavery years and years ago. It was created in Virginia on May 10, 1845, oddly enough, the very same state where the author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights once prophesied that, “A national sin will cause a nation calamity.”

The sin: Slavery

The calamity: The Civil War

Do you ever sit back and wonder why the Civil War was so bad. Why so many people died? Why Jim Crow was so bad? Why the KKK was so powerful during the lynching years of the 1920s? You ever wonder why race is still, 17 years into the 21st century still such a hot topic of debate?

Look  no further that the Southern Baptist Convention. In short: These people used the Bible, the Holy Word of God, not to cover up the sin of owning, beating, selling, mutilating, raping, and murdering human beings, but to justify it. The ministers preached it out of the pulpits using some pretty impressive mental gymnastics and the ‘Sin of Ham’.

Heck it was southern ministers like Oral Roberts and Bob Jones Sr along with Jerry Falwell who, being furious over Brown v Board of Education, sued the government to be allowed to open whites only Christian schools using their 501c3.

They lost 8 -1

However, just a day or so ago, The S.B.C reached back into it’s utterly ungodly past and just like their predecessors raised the devil of bigotry and divisiveness once more.

This time, however, their beef wasn’t with the Northern Baptists and their sudden revulsion of the inhumane treatment of slaves that threated rich landowners. No. It was directed, purposefully, at a southern city in one of the proudest states this union has ever known. Houston.

Houston, Texas is the 3rd largest city in the United States. I believe it boasts the 13th largest G.D.P in the entire country. With a population of about 6 million people inside Houston proper and it’s outlying areas, the great city of Houston is a proud, beautiful, and diverse part of the gorgeous lady that calls her name Texas. A name derived from a Native American name Tejas meaning ‘Friend’ or ‘Ally’.

I hypothesis, leaning hard on ‘knowing’ because I was once a nut job fundi, that this storm provided a perfect time to condemn Houston for recently having an out, married, lesbian mayor Annise Parker who served her city for six years.

While the debate of Climate Change rages through the country, and through the world, these S.B.C ministers in their desire to cling to power, didn’t just pass condemnation of gay people and people who were trans-gendered. They decided to release this statement as a counter argument that God brought destruction to the Gulf Coast for Houston’s political decision in electing Mrs. Parker.

Alas, in the past 72 hours, when pastors like Joel Olsteen of Houston couldn’t be bothered to open the doors of his massive mega church to those in need, Texans did as Texans often do in these situations. They didn’t wait for help to arrive, they didn’t sit idly by while neighbors suffered, they didn’t blame people for their suffering, they didn’t do things for political reasons, although the Southern Baptist Convention surely did.

They became like Christ.

Even in their limited capacity as human beings to be perfect, political ideology died, racism died, divisions about sexual orientation died, gender, culture, heritage, all the things that serve to divide mankind into camps of ‘Us’ vs ‘ Them’ things that were nailed to the cross of human suffering  2,000 years ago and in this great hour of need mercy, charity, forbearance, benevolence, and the complex and fickle and hard to kill human spirit stepped in.

In the days and weeks ahead, there is going to be a lot of discussion over what happened in Houston. There is going to be a lot of money required to put these people’s lives back together. There will be homes needing to be rebuilt. There will be schools needing to be cleaned out and repaired. There will be churches that will need the same. And, as tragic as it is, there will be people needing to  be laid to rest and families will gather to mourn.

In the divisiveness of this past year, in the chaos of the world, Houston Texas and it’s outlying areas came together to show people in this country who we really are. We are America. We will survive. We will not only survive but we will thrive. And we will thrive because American’s of all walks of life, all religious backgrounds, all faith backgrounds, all cultural, ethnic, and orientations – have a promise woven into their hearts. A promise hard fought and although sometimes having lost it’s way, the ties that bind are as strong now as they ever were.

That promise is:

We hold these truths to be self evident. That all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights and that among those rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

And an even older promise than that,

For God so loved the World that He gave his only begotten Son that whosoever beleiveth in him shall not perish but have ever lasting life. John 3:16

For God so loved the World, SBC

Not some of it. Not some of them. Not just white ones. Not just republican ones. Not just Straight ones. Not just Male and Female ones. Not Southern Baptists, alone. All of it.

You were wrong then, you’re wrong, now.  The statement made by S.B.C and it’s signatories ought to be seen for what it was, shameful, a low blow, and a sin.

She deserved better than that. We deserve better than that. God deserves better than that.

I hope Houston, once she get’s her cowboy hat on again,  responds accordingly.

Sources:

http://www.baptisthistory.org/baptistorigins/southernbaptistbeginnings.html

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/05/religious-right-real-origins-107133

Check your words three times (Poem)

 

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(Photo by Imani Clovis)

 

check one
check two
check three
sit and ponder – is this me?
pick it apart, tear it asunder
flip it over and look at it under
a microscope, throw it up in the air
a telescope, wondering where
the words they say stop and where I begin
Is it normal to be living in sin
and what is sin? What is this thing
is it still constant even with my wedding ring
and is it still real if I don’t believe everything
that comes rolling out of the mouths of they
who’s sin is wrapped up in the modesty of Sears Clothing?

But there’s no softer side here
no pastel feelings no warmth do they bring
Sat up before us like kings and like queens
of banana pudding and too much hair spray
hair jacked to Jesus – as drag queens often say
who are they? Who are they?
who use rhetorical flourish – who use a book to beat people
when it was origionally created to nourish and bring life
now its a weapon used against a wife
who wants to leave because her man is abusive
the comfort of The Holy Spirit who was supposed to be constant
has now become elusive, obtuse and
M.I.A.
What Can I say?

Tear down that statue, iis what I say, rip down that flag
But they reply , “Don’t say nothin’ boy, you’s nothin but a fag”
those black men, they don’t like you
it’s all gang-bangers and do-rags, its inbred in their race

But those same people who try to sew division
on Sunday they’re the loudest when they sing
Amazing Grace – hands stretched to God
tears rolling down their face
My God, don’t they know?
That John Newton was The Captain of a Slave Ship
Who – back when those men’s backs learned the anger
of the master’s bull whip
said “STOP!” Wait. What have I done?
How can I claim The Father and the Son
How do I try to plea the blood
when I’m the one who failed to read the book of Exodus
So, here, let me fix this – let me become the worlds first Abolitionist and pen a song now that I’m blind
and feeble in my bereavement let me work to do God’s work
and live to free men to see them
so mine eyes can see the glory of the coming of the Lord

Check one
Check two
Check three
sit and ponder – is this me?
Or is this them who be talkin’
talkin’ talkin’ yet they don’t do no walkin’
Their faith has become static – like that statue in N’awlins
lost in time they don’t realize
the differences in mankind aint about them
but this poem is, my flow is, the words often spoken
in hate, and fear, and malice -they’ve used that that I toss back at them
us ‘others’ we ain’t in it
talk about sin
their sin – they sit in it – and are proud of it
and repeat it, and believe it, and wonder why they’re all alone
sittin’ on a throne of bones, tombs, and headstones
When you say you’re saved – ain’t nobody believes it
The God you speak of – yeah he probably still loves
but it’s in spite of and not because of
those words that should make any man hesitate
and say, “Wait a minute, is this me?”
Let me stop, drop, let me see
and before I speak – are these words anointed
in the love I so needed , from God up above
or has my philosophy been informed solely by my geography
and grandaddy’s broke down theology
so’s I’m out creating disciples twice as fit for hell as I was?

Check one
Check two
Check three
Check your words three times before you speak.

Message in a Bottle (Part 8)

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I woke up thinking about Power this morning and was going to blog about that. But after reading the rawness of yesterday’s post, I have instead opted to talk about thankfulness.

I find myself in a unique position. On one hand, I despise having to have gone through all that I did. I hate it. I hate what the churches under those men did to my family. I hate the way my parents abdicated to them. And I hate their garbage, shallow, theology.

100 percent guarantee of heaven is snake oil and the product of what happens when Capitalism meets Religion. It’s like those late night 19.99 commercials for whatever product some loud mouth boob is hoping your recent case of insomnia, as well as the resulting delirium, will pay for it. And this ‘free gift’ while free comes with an alarmingly high-interest rate paid out by pounds of flesh.

But through it all…I have to admit that I am also grateful for it. I know that sounds weird.

I know things other people don’t. I see things through a lens other people can’t. Now, I am not alone in this, I’ve found a massive group of others like me. Which, of course, makes me grateful as well since I don’t feel like a freak anymore.

I think that was the worst part. Thinking that the hell that went on inside my house was an anomaly. Now I’ve known other child abuse survivors but their stories consisted of alcohol or drug use. Ours happened in full sobriety. It was the sobriety of all it that drove me into madness. That’s the hard part.

When I was little, I was a gentle little kid who everyone called Freddie Boy. And Freddie Boy took that title and ran with it. I used to introduce myself as Freddie Boy to strangers. My dad said people used to think that was so cute, he relayed to me on the telephone. “Before…”

Before what? Before I came out as gay or before I stopped you from beating me? I’ll never know.

But I am also grateful for the path it’s lead me on. As screwed up and as bumpy as it’s been I feel like that to hate it would mean I’d have to be ungrateful for my husband as well. And I can’t do that. I won’t do that. I am a huge believer in providence, oddly enough. And I have worked out that because I was looking for love, I sought God. Because God is ultimately love.

As awful as those memories are. I wouldn’t trade them for where I am today. And it was only love that saved me. Isn’t love the only thing in the end that saves any of us?

People don’t like that. The ‘love’ God.

They like the God of Retribution. Revenge. Anger. Wrath.

Frank Schaffer made a good point when he said, “The same people that believe in that kind of God, believe the Jewish Prisoner who was gassed at Auschwitz also went to hell because she didn’t accept Jesus Christ as her personal savior.”

That’s not a god. As Frank also points out, ‘….that’s making God dumber than we are.”

I am not without fault. God help me, that isn’t the case.

But I went my entire life thinking everything bad in my life WAS my fault because of being a sinner. And that was before I even began to deal with my homosexuality. Throw that in. I’m just screwed.

So I guess this is about power in some ways because I’ve stripped those who used to have it over me by stripping back the belief system that for fifteen years was drilled into my head. Or perhaps that is what this blog is doing. Stripping it back layer by layer till all that is left is me.

I have the power. I am thankful for figuring out where that mess ended and where I began.Getting through that mess was hard. Learning to be thankful for it in part, is harder. It took me long enough.

I’ll write more later…

 

 

 

Message in a bottle (part 7)

 

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I recently quit smoking. And by recently I mean forty-eight hours ago. 2 days. And boy do I miss it. I am not doing it cold turkey. No. I think that’s inviting insanity. And for someone who gets extremely moody if I get hungry, I don’t think that’s a good idea. My husband and I are using a vaporizer as cessation. Now I know what people say, vaporizers aren’t completely safe. And that’s true. We read up on some of the literature that talks about the dangers. But put next to cigarettes. There is no comparison in regards to danger. Zero. From there we’ll wean ourselves off of those.

But yes, I do miss lighting up. I was a Marlboro man most my life although I started off on Newports when I was in high school.

And it was cigarettes that got me beaten one morning while my father was in a bad way.

See, I didn’t start off a smoker. But my friends’ parents and my friends were. In my idiot 15/16-year-old logic – I figured – that if I was being accused and catching hell for it, I would just give in and do it. I was coming home from my friend’s houses smelling like an ashtray. They all smoked inside, especially during the winter months.

But the original cigarettes I’d smoked hadn’t come from my friends. Or from peer pressure.

See, my parents treated their love of God, like a drug. Or a drink. And often times they would ‘fall off the wagon’ and leave church. And when that happened, the beatings on Saturday night, the inner family feuds, the banning of certain television shows were lifted, movies were purchased, we did things as a family and my parents would smoke and drink.

Now as a kid that had all of that drilled into his head as being wrong. It was hard to watch them drink and smoke. But as I grew older, I came to expect it. Their faith and personal lives swung like a pendulum.

Nothing was stable. Nothing. That’s the root of the insanity of this story. Our lives were in a constant state of upheaval.

But I digress. It wasn’t my friends’ cigarettes I smoked first. It was my parents. Left in a little saucer on the kitchen table they used as an ashtray.

It wasn’t my friends’ cigarettes I smoked first. It was my parents. Left in a little saucer on the kitchen table they used as an ashtray.

The final time I’d been beaten, my mother yelled in from the dining room into the bedroom where my father had a fifteen-year-old me bent over, bare-assed, breaking my will and stripped of dignity (a 15/16 year old has things his parents don’t need to see. Which sorta makes this demeaning in a sexual way) – and told him to “…beat the hell out of him. He’s down the street smoking with those bitches.”

At this point, they were back in church and had changed once again. By this time I’d gotten so used to the on again off again relationship they had with christ, I’d stopped shifting along with them. They weren’t believers. They were addicts trading booze for Jesus.

However, in the midst of his new high with Jesus, he’d finally been able to use a wooden plank he brought home from work, in the shape of a paddle, on one of us. And unfortunately that morning, I’d drawn the short straw. He’d been positively giddy that the two-inch thick board, with holes in it, would make a whistle before it connected. And boy, it sure did. I was bruised for weeks.

He doesn’t know how close he came to dying that day. I often think about what would have happened if I had turned on him. Snatched that out of his hand and beat him to death with it. No jury in the world would have convicted me. Or perhaps they would have. But they’d look at their children a bit different from that point on.

Instead, this incident resulted in me taking them to court. At that point, I’d had enough. I left home, called social services, and at sixteen years old stood in front of a judge. No kid should have to do that. To have to turn on your parents. To be the one that put an end to years and years of abuse. And even though I lost my case for emancipation (it had been outlawed in Michigan a year prior) the physical shit ended.

But from that point forward, I smoked every day since then.

This blog, my yoga, book writing, poetry, my smoking cessation – is a way to let go. A way to say goodbye to all of that. I’m ready, now, to quit. It just took me fifteen years to get here. So maybe I don’t miss it so much.

 

Ugh, these people were assholes. They were fucking detestable assholes.  And their ‘god’ and ‘church’ was a joke.

Fuck them.

I’ll write more when i can.

 

 

Message in a Bottle (Part 6)

“Do you know if you were to die today, that you would go to heaven?”

Yikes. That’s the million dollar question that could have many different answers. But it was a question posed to me by my father in our home in Detroit when I was seven years old. I remember it clearly.

I was sitting on a picnic table my father had built for a kitchen table inside of the house. I remember sitting next to him as he asked me that question. I remember it was summertime. I remember that his friend Mr. Z came over afterward.

But I remember my father sharing with me the gospel and him reading to me the Bible where it says that every man is a sinner and without Jesus would go to Hell. And then he described Hell to me – a place of eternal torment, where the body and the worm is never consumed, and it lasts for all eternity.

Your damn right I ‘got saved’. And afterward, he explained to me that I was 100 percent saved and could never lose it. Ever.

Everyone loves certainty. Right? Knowing what’s going to happen next? Knowing 100 percent that no matter what, you’re gonna be alright?

It’s sort of a rare thing in this world.

Or is it?

The foundation of Fundamentalism in Christianity is that 100 percent pure certainty. And it’s not just in regard to going to heaven. That amount of certainty exists in other facets of it as well. The 100 percent belief that The Bible is God’s word. The 100 percent belief that the King James Version is the only correct translation. The 100 percent beleif that the pastor is God’s chosen man and anything he says, does, etc. is all anointed by God. His political views are your political views, his words are your words, his social views become your social views. His opinions on books, movies, prime time television, going to the movie theater, the mall, the beach, how to raise your family, how to punish your children, how to punish your wife, how a wife should look for her husband, and on and on that goes…

And all of it is certain.

Yesterday, 2 events took place inside of the United States and as far as we know, Isis – or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (and curiously the name is identical to an Egyptian goddess) has claimed responsibility.  That person(s) stabbed a group of people at all mall. Hurt a lot of them. Also last night, someone detonated a bomb in the neighborhood of Chelsea in New York City. It is unknown at this time who was responsible. Like the certainty I was offered on the picnic table, certainty that I took because Hell sounded like it sucked, these people also acted on certainty.

For 15 years, America has been combating certainty. Absolutism. Another term for that is FUNDAMENTALISM. And for fifteen years there has been a hyper-awareness of the religion Islam. Now, prior to 9/11 most people didn’t know where Afghanistan was on a map, didn’t know who the Mujahadeen were, had no clue what a Taliban was, Osama Bin Laden may have been a bit more familiar given then 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center by Mohammed Yousef, but not much more. Today, however, especially in New York – people know these terms.

And politicians do what politicians do – especially if they suck at being politicians and want to distract from their own platform – and do their best to draw attention to a group of people as a distraction. Is ISIS a threat? Yes. Duh. Were the Taliban a threat? Sure. How about Al-Queada? Hamas? Hezbollah? The PLO? Sure. Yes. These people often kind of suck.

What do they all have in common?

The dummies would say Islam. Or Michelle Bachmann, Steve King, and Donald Trump – but I repeat myself…

Someone who knows better, who grew up in fundamentalism, would know better. The things they have in common is fundamentalism. Absolutism. And most of all, Certainty. They’re very very sure of themselves. They know 100 percent their convictions are correct.

Sound familiar?

 

What if I were to tell you that Fundamental Baptist, Catholic, Pentecostal is to Christianity what The Taliban is to Islam?

Oh, you’re kind of reaching, some would say.

Am I?

See, Certainty can be a real mother for people who don’t possess it.

Certainty causes people to fly planes into buildings, shoot abortion doctors, call women who’re seeking an abortion, whores. Certainty allows children to be beaten and tortured, women to be raped and told to apologize to their rapist in America, stoned to death in the Middle East. Certainty allows cognitive dissonances. It hides sociopathy. And is starting to be considered not only by The Pope, but by health professionals, as a mental illness.

In interim before society takes that leap. Listen to who the biggest screamers are over Islamic Fundamentalists setting up Sharia Law, etc. People like Franklin Graham who is so not his daddy. Jerry Falwell Jr who is his daddy. The far alt right, the fundamentalists – those who have insisted that man live under THIER thumb. See Isis isn’t so much an invading force to them as it is a threat to their power. Franklin Graham – notoriously anti-lgbt – even tried to plead with the LGBT community to resist them.

“They throw gay people off buildings over there!”

Yeah, Frankie? How uncivilized of them. Here, we just guilt them into suicide because you make them so CERTAIN that they are better off dead than being gay.

I’ve changed my mind on my whole ‘saved’ state of being. Mostly, because I’ve had to give up on certainty. Certainly tells me that the hell I went through as a kid was justified. My head, my heart, my soul, and my conscience, say otherwise. I don’t even believe in Hell anymore. And I’m kinda suspect on the idea of Heaven. I think these aren’t destinations and agree with Pope Paul, I think it’s a state being. I’m not certain, though. But I am getting to be okay with that.

America has it’s own problems with fundamentalists. Just because ours don’t ‘have funny names’ doesn’t make it untrue. 411722_orig

I’ll write more when I can

 

Message in a Bottle (Part 3)

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My husband is my primary source of inspiration. His presence, his love, his patience with me, his dedication, his tenderness, his faithfulness, and his desire for me has pulled me out of the shaded gray area that I lived in all my life.

Also, his intelligence and wisdom satisfies my wandering and inquisitive mind.

When John and I first met, our fights concerning God were epic. I mean bad. I believed in a God of Wrath and Anger and John believed in a God of Love. We are both Christians, he was a Catholic (to fundi’s that isn’t a real Christian) and I was an escapee from Fundi Land still wrapped up in the hug-me jacket of that religion. Needless to say, he and I had very different religious experiences.

He’d been a monk at one point in his life and wanted to be a Jesuit Priest. But for circumstances pertaining to homophobia and an associate of his, he was shamed for his sexuality and he made the choice to leave. It was an experience that hurt him.

But looking back on both our lives it felt like something (god, the universe, the source) had put us on a collision course toward each other.

The differences in our faith came down to the intellectual foundations of those faiths. John’s Catholicism believed as St. Thomas Aquinas said,”..Mankind is a pile of snow. And every once in awhile the snow gets dirty. And every once in a while we need the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ to cover that snow.”

Essentially, their belief is that mankind is inherently good.

However, Martin Luther – the founder of Protestantism took Aquinas’ words and ideas and inverted them saying, “Mankind is a pile of shit. And the grace of the lord covers that shit to keep the stench out of God’s nostrils.”

Not only was he a foul-mouthed man, Luther was a notorious Anti-Semite who later penned a book called, “The Jews and their lies,” After the Jews rejected his new found faith.

According to Luther – mankind was inherently bad.

And that viewpoint is strengthened and promoted to the nth degree in Protestant Fundamentalism. And sometimes it’s taken to an extreme. Coupled with the King James Version of the Bible that was translated by a King with an authoritarian agenda – the agenda of fundamentalism becomes clear.

Convince the world how bad it is, paganize God and make him a god of anger, wrath, and war, and the power you can wield becomes unlimited. Grow strong enough, your power goes unchecked. Unchecked power and influence become inherently corrupted and people suffer. Abuse of that power – runs rampant. But those abuses aren’t likely to be reported because the pastor or head of that organization is the ultimate authority, by divine right, and you are seen as someone trying to usurp that power. You are a trouble-maker and probably under the Devil’s influence.

And they accomplish all of this, by cutting people off from the world. Isolating them. Using 2 Corinthians (Two Corinthians ha- ha) 6:17: Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.

Well, that unclean thing is the world and everything of the world. Including laws and those who enforce them. The natural mistrust of government – which I believe is inherently an American trait given the nature of our founding- was substantially increased to the point of paranoia. And looking back I realize it would have been hard for sociopathy to hide behind the cross should someone fear that a member of the church would go outside of the church to tell on them.

Now to most people that sounds ridiculous. Chief Justice John Roberts in Snyder v Phelps ruled that the signs and website of the Westboro Baptist Church while disgusting were so extreme that they became hyperbole and the rational person would see it as such. And in that regard, I agree with him. People would see it as such.

If they were rational.

But the question I have, is what happens to those who are inside and a captive audience to so said speech and authority? Children for example.

Here is Nate Phelps talking about leaving Westboro.  ((Now some see this church as an extreme church for what they do. But the views aren’t far from what other fundamentalist churches believe.))

There were two brothers in upstate New York recently who were subject to brutality and even torture. There was a nineteen-year-old and a seventeen-year-old and they wanted to leave the church. The nineteen-year-old was beaten to death over countless hours of torture. The seventeen-year-old was put into a hospital in critical condition. As far as I know – he survived and the people responsible were arrested.

Follow the link to read about it here

However, their defense is that they had the authority granted by God to do what they did.

Now we know in a court of law that would never fly. I  believe the standard is the ‘Belief-Action distinction’, you may believe a certain thing but you can’t act on it because the act is against the law. And that’s great.

IF YOU’RE IN A COURT OF LAW. However, that amount of ‘Will Breaking’ was not only viewed as okay, it was expected. And even if the state (the state in this case being the government) were to have stepped in – all it does in confirm the paranoia that the government is trying to surpress their free excersice of religion.

The brutality that I and my siblings endured (and thousands more like the two aforementioned young men) would have NEVER flown in a court of law. But we were not protected by the laws of this country as we were not citizens of this country. We were citizens of a kingdom of preachers who while they maintain their Independence of each other – were and probably still are – ideologically linked. And we weren’t governed by a President, we were governed, lorded over, by the doctrine of a King. And all roads, for us, led to Crowne Point, Indiana.

America has it’s own problems with fundamentalism that it refuses to address to the physical, emotion, psychological, and even spiritual detriment of many.

I’ll write more when I can.

P.S. John taught me more about the love of Christ than any of those churches ever did.

 

 

 

 

 

Message in a bottle (part 2)

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It’s hard to sleep at night when voices of the past come back to talk to you. Like ghosts stepping out of the wall, they kneel down by my bed to whisper memories of what had transpired in my life. And like the little kid in the Sixth Sense, I used to close my eyes and wish them away.

But by the time my husband goes to bed until sometimes after The Witching Hour has passed. I am in a deadlocked argument with these memories while I stand in my kitchen and my eyes see the faces of those memories from long ago. And instead of clenching my eyes shut I open them wide and receive those spirits into my presence and we do battle.

And every night it’s different scenes. A different cast of characters who step out of the void and between the hours of midnight and three a.m. I do battle in silence with them. Sometimes I write poetry during these times and post them on social media. Bits of the conversations with dead things that I’ve had with rhyme and style.

But there are other times when I look over at my sleeping husband and I am so moved by him. By his love for me. By his willingness to show me who God really is. And his presence in my life gives me the courage to face down all those ghosts. And then I’ll write a poem for him. I’ve never known love of another person or the love of God so much so then when I started to leave the old ways I’d been taught. There is this old Muslim poet who once said, “Do not seek love. Remove the things in your life that keep love from you.”

And for me, that is a constant, daily, nightly, endeavor. I feel like some kind of monk in a monastery somewhere saying his prayers and reciting his scripture and singing his hymns.

It’s such a strange thing for me. I should hate God. I should hate everything he is and stands for. But I don’t.I just don’t think the abuses men wage on each other – even in the realm of religion – has anything to do with God.  And I don’t mean to be sentimental, but I feel God put my husband in my life to show me who He really is. That wherever love is, he is. And I know that goes against Christendom in its majority, but like Dr. Angelou once said, “I have heard, and I believe, that one with God constitutes a majority. So I commend you on your courage to come and face me.”

I survived fifteen years of physical abuse which I believe was tantamount to torture. I’ve watched in horror as my sisters were hurt or thrown out of the house. I suffered in silence in their absence. And lived in dread as each one of them departed and like a prince in the midst of some white trash Shakespearean play, I would be the next in line for my crown of thorns. And my parents didn’t disappoint.

See, in our religion which is the Christian equivalent to Brokovich’s Hexavalent Chromium, there is a pecking order. The man is the head and absolute authority in the house, the women are to be silent and obey her master, and the children’s WILL should be broken. Some of the ‘intellectuals’ in our brand of fundamentalism – people like Dr. Jack Hyles – believed that you could beat a child as early as infancy to accomplish this. He even wrote about it in his book, Rearing Children. It’s available on Amazon. It’s similar to the book written by Michael and Debi Pearl called, To Train up a Child. This book has resulted in three known deaths of children due to torture. Torture that includes:

  • Using plastic tubing to beat children, since it is “too light to cause damage to the muscle or the bone”
  • Wearing the plastic tubing around the parent’s neck as a constant reminder to obey
  • “Swatting” babies as young as six months old with instruments such as “a 12-inch willowy branch,” thinner plastic tubing or a wooden spoon
  • “Blanket training” babies by hitting them with an instrument if they try to crawl off a blanket on the floor
  • Beating older children with rulers, paddles, belts and larger tree branches
  • “Training” children with pain before they even disobey, in order to teach total obedience
  • Giving cold water baths, putting children outside in cold weather and withholding meals as discipline
  • Hosing off children who have potty training accidents
  • Inflicting punishment until a child is “without breath to complain”

I went through some of that, including the infliction until I couldn’t breathe to cry anymore.

I was not a Martyr (willing or otherwise) for my faith because I didn’t die. I am a Confessor for my faith. And because of what had happened to me, to my siblings, I despise those who did what they did.

Like Henry the Fifths daughter,I think,  who when asked how much she loved her father told him: “I cannot heave my heart into my mouth,” words fall short in describing the loathing I feel toward these people. Perhaps this would clear some of this up, If there were an Anti-Christ with his eyes set on these people. I’d gladly hold his coat.

I’ll write more when I can.

F.E.

(P.S. It’s relevant to note that both children of Jack Hyle’s kid David, are also dead. I guess it could have been worse)

 

 

Message in a Bottle

 

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There is no pain so profound as a story waiting, inside, to be told. I believe that is quote by Dr. Maya Angelou. But I haven’t the will to sluice through Google to find out.  It doesn’t really matter anyway since it’s the truth.  I fell in love with that woman on the day she passed away.  And it always feels that way. That I’d missed my chance. I’d missed my opportunity to get to know her.

I have always felt like I’ve arrived in life a day late and a dollar short.  Born in the concrete jungle in a city that used to be. A city on the edge of a river that flows down to Lake Erie in Michigan’s handprint state. Detroit was a city that used to be, more Roman Ruins than American Exceptional. The gothic towers of old churches pointed heavenward amidst the broken down and bedraggled houses built during the world wars.

With broken concrete, broken dreams, and broken taillights the city’s skyline shined on the Detroit River like false advertisement.  Motown, HockeyTown, The Motor City – often vied for the title Murder Capital of the World along with Chicago and Washington D.C.

In the 1980’s, when I was young, the city to consisted of a few houses in a lower-middle-class neighborhood on the Southwest Side. Forbidden to the cross the street or go beyond the bushes that bordered my grandmother’s house several houses down, that had been my world.  Things were not bad then, or at least that’s what my brain tries to tell me, but bits of memory like so much smoke in an old juke joint rise up from in between memories of Christmas and summertime to make a liar out of me.

The 1990’s was pure hell. In summers heat gangs were restless and bored. And during the cold months leading to Halloween, they sometimes firebombed homes for the fun of it. We called that Devil’s night.

I am writing this today, mostly, as a sort of message in a bottle. Written down hastily, corked, and thrown out onto the sea of the internet in hopes that someone would read it. And once they’ve read it would sit down along the shoreline and believe the words that I’ve written. And in that belief wonder at how it was that a soul like mine could have gotten so lost. No, that isn’t exactly true. I don’t want your pity. I just want you to believe me.

Over the course of several years, I’ve tried to figure out what happened in my life to make me so sad. Why I carry with me this weight in my heart that stoops my shoulders and bows my head. And for many years I did everything I could to escape it. From joining the army, to going to the middle east, to coming home and running all over hell’s half-acre. But like a great shadow, a conscious creature, it followed me wherever I went.

The newness of my new world and new circumstances would wear off and there I would be.  Knee deep in my ‘me-ness’. When I lamented that to an ex-lover – he sniffed and shook his head with profound (profoundness purchased from his several shrinks he loved to keep on his payroll, I’m sure) seriousness and said, “Freddie, no matter where you go there you are.”

Now this sage wisdom came rolling off the lips of someone who cut hair for a living. Not that there was anything wrong with that. Certainly not. Many people make great money doing it as he did. But the statement was out of character for him. I had failed to been added to his thin concerns which were only for himself. Of course, until I wanted to leave and then he’d tell me he loved me, or he’d cry, or a million other reasons why I didn’t walk away. It would take me three years, and several random men who approached me to tell me about him, to figure that out for myself.

But that’s a story for a later time.  Right now I am focused on beginnings.  Where things originated. My Genisis, so to speak. As a writer, I have often pondered about putting all this down in book form. But the idea of making money off the stripes on my back make me curl inward as if I had just witnessed something obscene. It felt dirty that I would be airing my life out and more than ever I felt reticent about selling a book that would reek of scandal and be tantamount to some cheap ‘tell-all novel’ about the inner workings of fundamentalistic religion and  how I survived it.

Recently, I’ve even emailed four educators, professors, experts in fundamentalist religion and violence and offered myself and my story up for use by them or any student working under them who needed dissertation material, or thesis material for their Master’s degree. I figure someone somewhere ‘out there’ could use this information.

I received one reply email today from one of those experts. A nice man who informed me that the was no longer in fundamentalism and didn’t have any graduate students studying about it at present. He thanked me for my query and wished me luck saying, “I’m sure you have much to offer in the above regard by way of your personal experience. I hope you eventually find an appropriate venue for such discourse.”

See, that’s the problem. I’ve never been able to find so said appropriate venue. All I know is I’ve had stories rattling around in my head that would probably curl people’s hair. It’s weighed me down in ways that I can’t even begin to describe and as I said in my email to this man (and to three others)that, “… if I can’t relieve myself of the weight of them (my stories) then perhaps I can use it for the greater good.”

Again, a day late and a dollar short.

Not to say that I am unhappy. I am not. I am a happy guy. I have happiness in my life. I have a wonderful husband and a near-do-well writing career.  But I have sadness in me sequestered into a corner of my mind that every once in awhile – like a ghost- decides to raise it’s head and tell me stories I’d like to forget.

So, without any other ‘appropriate venue’ I think I am going to bring it here. A message in a bottle. Or a series of messages in a bottle from a storm-tossed soul. A man who’s gay, an ex- fundamentalist, an ex-republican, married, scary story/ romance writer who hopes that someone out there tonight – or in the following days, months, years etc. would believe him.

Because like most horror stories, novels, and movies out there – sometimes there is no answer to what happens to the cast of characters when the story ends. So, this is my S.O.S as I’m stranded on the isle of recovery from what would amount to an American Horror Story. Except the ghosts were real, and the monsters loved Jesus.

I don’t know how often I’ll write. But I will write as often as I can. Thanks

F.E.