Aretha Franklin - “You better think about the consequences of your actions.”
Matt ‘Guitar’ Murphy – “ Oh shut up woman!”
(Lovingly borrowed from the movie “The Blues Brothers”)
A few months ago I lent out a book by a newer young minister to a friend of mine named Georgia. Georgia has recently made it out of the mess Possum Creek Christian Fellowship devolved into. We’d been talking about new teachings we’d encountered and I’d explained that I liked this guy’s style, I steered my friend Georgia to his teachings on You Tube and lend her that book. Minister X actually has a new book out but I lent her one of the older books first.
Georgia is one of those ladies I had remained friends with even after she stayed and I skedaddled out of PCCF. She’s one of the more relaxed ones and I thought maybe she’d enjoy looking at faith from a different angle. I guess I was sorely mistaken.
Today I got the book back, sent through someone else we both knew. It was shoved down in a bag underneath a thick sheath of clippings from many magazines, newspapers, computer printed papers, several tracts and pamphlets. On top of those were plastic bags for me to recycle craft, my two compartment crudites serving bowl, a baggie of cooked squash and a few late fall vegetables from her garden. I was confused by this, particularly as I unpacked the bag, realizing that the book and accompanying papers were wrapped in brown paper and garden twine like some sort of trash or porn, something disgraceful and yuck. Something you’d bury to keep others from seeing.
When I unwrapped that bundle I knew this just wasn’t any kind of a good sign. I’d hit a nerve or something so I was relieved the paper didn’t contain white powder or nuclear waste. As I read through the clippings, print outs, tracts and other nonsense I finally got to Georgia’s long handwritten screed. She admitted she’d only read a few pages of the book, not many at all, but that Reverend So-N-So on TV Station Y, Pastor Jinks on Radio WJDG, Teacher Itchy-Man at Look At Me Ministries, ad infinitum just didn’t approve of ANY of Minister X’s writings. X was going to Double H E Hockey Sticks for his various writings.
I mean, I found this all very confusing because the book I loaned out was basically about how if you going to be a Christian you needed to be very naturally that way, that your relationship with the Divine should not be like an old coat that stays in the back your closet you put on only when you feel like. It’s not too different than teachings at conferences we’d attended in the past. You’d think he’d written the Evangelical Anarchist Cookbook with directions on how to get high on communion wine and wafers. Or sticking a banana in the tailpipe of your least favorite pastor’s car. Or overthrowing polite society for fun. Or Halloween, don’t get me started about Halloween.
It wasn’t hard to see that everyone Georgia was citing that was condemning young X was all for his latest book, one where he suggests that God loves us. It’s one of his main themes. Apparently everyone in imaginary authority over religious hordes in that sea of papers hailed from the Evangelical to the Fundamental. They railed and thundered because this newest book contained not one reference to sin, guilt, punishment, repentance or burning in hell.
The reason I haven’t named the author or the book is because it really wasn’t about Minister X and his book. It was about new notions, thinking about Christianity in differing ways. The fear of the unknown, something new or different … oooooh, boogieman hiding under the bed scary!!
What is it that is so damned frightening to the Fundi-Evangi-whatever crowd about critical thinking and analysis, with new ideas? They are all so sure they and only they have the truth, all the while busily quashing any semblance of using the old brain and fighting over turf with each other. They sometimes remind me a pack of wild dogs, growling, barking, tussling over the last greasy steak bone. I believe they are probably all that selfish too.
Life is all about change and if you aren’t open to change you sure aren’t going to grow as a person. You’re going to stay the same, safe and stagnant, missing out on the great things, missing out on wonder, joy and new vistas. Just think of all you’d miss out on. It would be tragic. You’re too busy hiding under the bed with that boogie man.
Tomorrow I’m going to write a card out to Georgia telling her how sorry I am she didn’t enjoy the book. Plus that I wasn’t wholeheartedly endorsing every word from the book, I just thought the book contained some unusual ideas and everyone is certainly entitled to an opinion.
Opinions are frightening to those who pretend to be sure about everything but secretly struggle to believe. It’s just too threatening to them.
I can’t understand that fear any longer. I guess after 5 years of Koolaid detox there’s not enough left in my system to make new ideas scary. I’m so glad. For bonus points her triggering merely puzzled me, didn’t trigger my old feelings of rejection and hurt.
Georgia did do me one service. It’s winter and I can use all the kindling I can get for the wood stove. That pile of nonsense rolled up nicely to start the fire this evening. That is the best consequence of her papers since it wouldn’t behoove me to say to her ‘Oh shut up woman!’
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NLQ Recommended Reading …
‘Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich
‘Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland
‘Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce