I am grateful to my people of origin, the Evangelicals. Sure they scared the hell out of me, left me with a dank reservoir of guilt and shame, and gave me an image of God more like an alcoholic father than the author of love and mercy—but I am sure I will get over those things eventually.
When I was growing up, we Evangelicals were still afraid of popular culture and condemned everything that wasn’t us—from Lutherans to The Love Boat to Roller Disco—it was all just different shades of the Devil’s lies. We had the truth, we had the Bible and we could wield that sword to fight off the secular powers that ran the world. When I was growing up, we Evangelicals were still a rebellious people, not yet the shallow faith of the late-capitalist American Empire. My people raised me to question the World’s dominant narrative—although no one would ever use that language—we might have thought it sounded vaguely like some kind of kinky sex story.
We found another narrative in Bible, one that brought us salvation and called us to bring that salvation to the world. I was taught to study the Bible and to know the Word of God in my heart. It was important because…well, because, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” Romans 1:16
Obsessed With Hans
I have been a little obsessed lately with this Norwegian poet, Hans Børli. This super great, super smart Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) resident, new to House of Mercy, my church, turned me on to him. We met for coffee (which if you like talking about yourself, you should try to meet for coffee with a CPE resident because they always turn the conversation back to you –how are you doing? what is going on in your life?– and he had a book of Scandinavian poetry, which I noted. We talked poetry, Scandinavian poetry, which I know nothing about, and he told me about doing research on Hans Børli.
Hans Børli was a lumberjack and a poet, born in 1918, in the remote eastern forests of Norway. His poems are raw and mystical, earthy passion and metaphysical desire. He was prolific all his life, but there is only one volume translated in English, We Own the Forests. I couldn’t ever find that much about him in English, but I did come across this sentence on a translated website:
A strict Christian upbringing would leave Børli forever struggling with the counteractive forces of rebellion and a deeply embedded sense of religious awe.
Grateful for Evangelical Gifts
Forever struggling with the counteractive forces of rebellion and a deeply embedded sense of religious awe—I recognized that. My people instilled rebellion in my marrow and embedded a sense of awe/a spiritual hunger in my blood. I am grateful to my Evangelical people for this. This sense of awe I have, particularly for the text. I hungrily study texts, all kinds of texts, but especially the Biblical text and I can’t help my desire to overturn whatever system I encounter.
I soon turned my rebellion and exegetical voracity on my Evangelical people, battling them with the gifts they had given me. But I even moved on from that fight a long time ago. Now I am happy to look back with gratitude–mostly gratitude.