A BACK PEW BAPODIST

I wish I had never become logical…mostly logical…wishing I were logical.

When I became logical, I began to question.  I miss those days as a child when I took things at face value…especially as I move from my autumn years into the cold reality of winter.  But, I mean, at my age, I should cover all my bases, right?

“Is this what old people do?”  Do old people begin to question their beliefs?  Or do old people discount any questions as an assault on their beliefs?  I don’t know what old people do; I’ve never been old before.  “With age comes wisdom” might be the worst lie ever told.

I am habit driven and as soon as I complete my morning ablutions, I step out into the dawning morning and try to complete my absolutions or metaphorical self-flagellation.  Equal parts prayer and meditation, I try to find the moon or Sirius to focus on.  I can usually tell what kind of day I’m going to have if I can focus at all. 

I give thanks for my many blessings, ask for forgiveness of my many sins, “past and future, real and imagined.” Finally, I discuss those things that bother me so or as Buffett might sing in “He Went to Paris”, “Looking for answers to questions that bothered him so.”  I’m not going to Paris unless it is Paris, Texas and so far, my discussion is quite one sided, my questions unanswered which is quite bothersome.

My issue, problem, concern is the lack of answers forthcoming for old questions which simply create more questions de jour.  The silence is deafening.  Except for night birds, tree frogs, and a raccoon rustling in the periwinkle, I hear quiet, a hush, a stillness.  It is tranquil but tranquility is not my goal.  Maybe I’m asking the wrong questions and now I’m hearing the buzzing of mosquitoes.

I grew up in the church…a conservative, Welch’s Grape Juice and Saltines at Communion, Methodist Church.  Little Donnie in his Sunday best, shoes polished, Bible in hand, sitting in the pew designated as “Oh, don’t sit there, that’s the Miller’s pew.”

I joined the church when I was a pre-teen, I still have the Bible they presented me, a Revised Standard, my name etched in gold leaf. I even thought I might become a man of the cloth…although it was more what my mother wanted.  Sorry Mom, I know I disappointed you more than once. 

Left home the fall of my eighteenth year for a conservative Lutheran school of higher learning in the late Sixties and married a Southern Baptist woman…a couple of Baptist women.    Went through the public dunking to join the Baptist Church before sending off an email to become a Dudeist thirty years later…now a Dudeist priest I might add. “Mom, you got your wish!” Some might say I have retreated from the “light.” I say I’ve become a “recovering” Baptist. Is there a twelve-step program that includes giving up your casserole dish?

There are some Christian sects (cults?) (denominations?) that would not use Methodist or Lutheran and Conservative in the same breath.  I counter, in my little church, there was a gracious plenty of hellfire and brimstone preachin’ and long, long alter calls until someone finally stood up and made their way to the front of the church. Are preachers paid according to the number of people who answer an alter call?

Give me that old time religion” singin’, Bible thumpin’, Amen shoutin’, and summer revivals kind of church.  Pretty much I found myself inside my church’s four walls three or four times a week.  That’s a lot for a Methodist. Singing in the choir, progressing from going to vacation Bible school to teaching vacation Bible school, to teaching Sunday school. Dear God, at what point did I fall off of the straight and narrow and onto the primrose path. Another story for another time.

A side trip. I find it interesting as early as 1873, when “Give Me That Old Time Religion” became a standard in Protestant hymnals, people seemed to be dissatisfied and were singing and wishing for “that old time religion.”  Some modern day Christians still sing it but I am unsure what “old time” they are embracing. Many around my little piece of heaven seem to be combining their old time religion with “Old times they are not forgotten, Look Away, Look Away, Look Away, Dixie Land.”

Today’s question de jour, I have a problem with the “Wrath of God”.  I’ll take it one step further, the “Genocide of God”.  I’m not a fan of the Old Testament unless it is Proverbs or Psalms.  I don’t understand how a somewhat more “loving” God of the New Testament could be so harsh, angry, and vengeful to completely annihilate entire city-states in the Old. That’s one of those questions “that bothers me so.” It seems “He’s not the same God” is not the answer but that statement has its own set of questions.

In Deuteronomy 20:16–18, Moses gives these instructions: “As for the towns of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, you must not let anything that breathes remain alive. You shall annihilate them—the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites—just as the Lord your God has commanded.”  Men, women, children, and animals.  At times, it seems the Old Testament God, Yahweh, didn’t care about proselyting, opting instead for mass carnage of non-believers and I see too many embracing this mind set around the world. “Resistance is futile. Assimilate or die.”

When I was young, I was awed by the triumphant Israelites as they dispatched their enemies. I think I associated them with the triumphant Allies over evil in World War Two. Abraham, Moses, Daniel, David, and Sampson became Eisenhower, MacArthur, Nimitz, Halsey, and Patton. What I didn’t associate was the annihilations of entire city-states.

Trumpeting the fall of Jericho, banners flying.  Glory be to God, all in the name of God. Afterwards, Ai, then the people of Makkedah and Libnah and Lachish and Eglon and Debir—every man, woman, and child slaughtered and dedicated to God. In the end, the entire populations of thirty-one city-states were destroyed…and their animals. Shades of Dresden, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki but their destruction maybe more in line with Sodom and Gomorrah as “hellfire rained down from the heavens.” More questions?

I see too much of the Old Testament anger and vengeance in some of today’s so called religious folks.  Not just Christian folk. I still consider myself a Christian, just a lost one. There are very outspoken groups that spew hatred toward those who believe differently on the one hand and lament the loss of membership on the other.  I wonder if those two outcomes are related.  I guess what I consider hatred, they consider obedience to their God. That is not my cup of communion grape juice.

Too much of the world’s violence is created by religious beliefs, I think, sometimes doing more harm than good. Look no further than the Middle East. Too many wars fought with a religious component of my God is better than your god.  Too many songs like “Onward Christian Soldiers”. I’m not attacking Christianity. Well, may be I am but I’m sure other religions have similar tunes to rally them to their religion’s ideology and I am attacking them too.  I worry most for those who attach their religious leanings to their political and military leanings. At least in Christianity you can walk away without losing your head.

Worse, I have a hard time dealing with a New Testament God that would allow The Holocaust, mass shootings, the rape of Nanking, abortion, plagues, poverty, and hunger galore. I see no Divine hand at work, just the evil in the heart of man.

I’m not a theologian and not likely to be but I can’t buy it as a just God’s plan. I can’t relate to “that” God. Maybe the old Deist were correct. God set the Universe in motion like a clock and walked away. I’m sure he is shaking his head, wondering what went wrong…or maybe the joke is on us.

My next question, “Did I just sign my lease for a flat in hell for questioning God?”

Note: Dudeism is a religion/philosophy based on Taoism that preaches non-preachiness and practices as little as possible. It is the result of the movie, The Big Lebowski. It is not related to Deism which believes in the existence of a supreme being, specifically of a creator who does not intervene in the universe. Maybe they are related.

Mellow out, man

Don Miller writes on many subjects, good, bad, fiction, non-fiction. Rants, raves, etc. https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR31n_M2GoO3Us0peAwKvRMb001kyhZbwgGbY5MnU5wTKq_hy19h6qdbtiY

Yelling God image from Canva.

When Football Comes Back Again…

 

…and it will…someday.

It is the middle of the second week in August and there should be sounds, sights, and smells associated with the religion that is football.

There should be the scent of freshly cut grass, the visions of early morning mists rising off the practice fields and sharp white lines gridded on dark green.  There should be the “thump” heard ‘round the world when leather shoe meets the leather ball.

There should be aromas of Cramergesic ointment or Atomic Bomb…and ammonia from sweat-drenched athletic wear left to dry overnight and smelly athletic socks.  There should be grunts and pops, and a groan or two as large bodies running fast make contact with each other.

From a parking lot or distant practice field, the shouts of band directors, trumpet blasts, and drumbeats should be piercing the heavy, humid air.  They should be the clarions of the upcoming season.  There should be a rattle of equipment as they rush to their spots before the silence of parade rest.

Somewhere a chunky kid with a sousaphone wrapped around his chubby body should trip and fall on his way to his spot.  Laughter should reign before the silence of concern.

Spinning flags should be cutting through the air as flag lines practice their half-time routines.  Twisting school colors flying toward the morning sun.  Instead, there is the silence of the Covid-19 Twilight Zone.

Cheerleaders would be joining the band’s spinning flags with flips, cartwheels, and tumbles of their own as they practice their cheers and their routines.  “Two bits, four bits, six bits, a dollar, all for ‘so and so’ stand up and holler!”  Unfortunately, like London Bridge, their human pyramids have all fallen, the little girl at the top has crashed and burned.

There are no sounds, sights, or scents…at least near my little piece of heaven.  Football season is on hold for a bit longer, maybe the beginning of next month…maybe not.  “All activities shut down until further notice,” due to corona concerns.  The powers that be may make another decision this week.

At Hardee’s, the weekly meeting of old men wearing high crowned baseball caps should be discussing the chances of the local high school having a winning season in between bites of sausage biscuits and sips of coffee.  If it weren’t banned, Marlboros and Salems would send smoke from their fine Virginia tobacco skyward.

Instead, they are discussing the chances of having a season at all along with pontifications of, “They just ain’t as tough as we’s used to be.  We’d uh played through the Bubonic Plague if in we had to.  You remember when ole Roger played an entire season with two broke lags and his helmet knocked bass-ackwards.  Yeah, these coaches and players ain’t nothing but a bunch of wussies”.  Says the equipment manager from 1968.

The local universities have begun “teeing” it up, giving us hope, as smaller colleges await word as to whether their seasons will even take place.  Entire conferences have canceled seasons or pushed them back to the spring.  Telling a player to check his facemask takes on a new meaning in the anything but normal environment of Covid-19.

I miss football.  Not just the “I played it and coached it for so long, there seems to be something missing” missing football.  This year is different.  Every year since my retirement I’ve battled myself, attempting to silence the little football voice in my head that whispers this time of year.

“Go on up to the local high school.  I’m sure they could use your expertise and experience.”  As I’ve gotten older and creakier, the voice has been easier to silence but the little worm is still there.  There still seems to be something missing.

The voice I hear today is a different voice.  This is the low bass rattle of James Earle Jones telling me football will be canceled for this year.  It is as bad as the Beatles telling me “God is dead”.

Bordering upon sacrilege, Southern football is akin to a religion with its sacraments and cathedrals.  We have our revered gods, Bear, Pat, Vince, Bobby, and Danny.  Yes, I know Danny is still among the living and Bobby is Bobby Dodd, never Bobby Bowden.

One hundred thousand seat sanctuaries sitting empty.  The choirs of bands and cheerleaders silent.  Tailgating prayer meetings canceled, stadium parking lots noiseless and unoccupied.  Sacramental beer and pulled pork barbeque abandoned for another year…maybe.  “My Dabo, my Nick! Why have thou forsaken me?”  Will “Go Tigers” or “Roll Tide” be heard at all this year?

I have hope but my hope is tempered with concern.  If football is played someone will come down with the disease…maybe entire teams.  Even with a fatality rate of less than one percent, are we willing to sacrifice less than one percent of our athletes for a football season?  Are we willing to sacrifice our children to football gods?  Was that blasphemous?

Football is a dangerous sport.  It is something that I lived with when I played and when I coached.  You are one wrong step from a career-ending knee injury or an illegal hit away from permanent brain damage.  Some would say you are brain damaged just playing the game.

My greatest fear as a coach was losing someone to a bad hit or heat issues.  We have done much to reduce the possibility of injury or death, but it is still there.  Football is a sport that requires contact in close quarters.  I don’t know how you reduce the contact and contact is what transmits the disease.

1968 equipment managers and ‘wannabes’ are chastising those who opt-out of this season.  I don’t chastise.  I understand the fear.  If I had a son, I don’t know if I would push him toward football even in the best-case scenario.

Football teaches lessons I don’t believe can be taught in other sports.  I just don’t know if those lessons are worth ‘acceptable losses’ and I don’t believe my desires have to be those of my son or daughter.  Except for the desire for them to be safe.

Despite what I once thought, football is not life or even a reasonable facsimile. It is a distraction for most of us, a diversion, and I don’t believe our distractions should cost even one person his life.

***

Don Miller was primarily a high school teacher for forty-one years and a coach for forty-five years.  Twenty-nine of those seasons were spent coaching football in what is a football Mecca…the Deep South.  His author’s page is at  https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3H6APy6s1iIg6N1Cz5-RgcsnXmdrL3L47f2X_zzO1dKChLRG-NShnjbsk

The image is from Pinterest.  Clemson QB Jimmy Addison handing the ball off in the late Sixties.