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.

Silence as I wander in the Valley of Death

 

“Yea as I walk through the shadow of the valley of death…” I hear nothing.

I first wrote and posted about Silence in December 2015.  Here it is May 2019, and the silence persists when I talk to my God.  The silence reverberates even more loudly than before as more hatred floods the airways sweeping up more and more in its wake.

My God doesn’t answer me.  Daily I give him an opportunity.  I usually converse with him as I perform my walkabout.  Out in the open, in the elements, in his creation…it should be a good time to talk, a good time for answers.  Wish he or she would answer a few questions…maybe it’s the way I frame them…I’m sure it is my fault. Sometimes my questions to him just pop out from nowhere…or from everywhere.

There are many times when I wish the voices in my head would shut up, this is not one of those occasions.  I’m waiting for a Saul/Paul moment. Maybe it is the voices in my head asking the questions instead of me or my road doesn’t lead to Damascus.

I grew up in the church…and then like so many young people wandered down a divergent path.  Later I would come back and then diverge again…a couple of times. I fear I might be in the divergent mode again.   

During those divergent days, my issues weren’t with Jesus, it was with organized religion…it still is.  I have problems with the “My God is greater than your god” group.

I have problems with people who are so sure of their beliefs whether it is a minister, layman or political pundit.  My issues were or are with Christians who spread their hate in the name of God, seemingly forgetting the love of Jesus, many masquerading as political pundits.  Is it hate or am I missing the point of Christian generosity? Can you quote from Leviticus and the teachings of Jesus?

My first divergence occurred because of a young minister who was so sure that if my mother truly believed she’d be cured of her terminal disease.  Well, she wasn’t cured, she did believe, and I was an angry young man whose religious beliefs had been shattered.

Now my confidence is being tested by the hatred I see…good people pulled to the fringes of their religion while I, if anything, seem to move in the other direction.   Hellfire and brimstone seem to swirl about me as I ask my questions. The smell of sulfur hangs in the air of my head. The punishing God of the Old Testament seems to be loading up his burning stones and aiming them at anyone not toeing the fundamentalist line…I should be ready to duck.

If you believe in a fundamental, punishing god that is your right.  I will not attempt to convert you. I just can’t believe in or worship that kind of god.  I promise I won’t attempt to transmute you to my way of thinking. Please give me the same consideration.

Generally, I’m not very open about my religious beliefs…nor outspoken at all.  Writing this is an unbelievable stretch for me. Yesterday I stretched even further as I engaged a very good friend, metaphorically laying myself bare.  She is a non-believer…maybe, sometimes I wonder. She has better than a good heart.

After laying myself bare, she attempted to apply a soothing balm, “(You are) a caring human being and a spiritual soul. The goodness I see in you doesn’t require a grand biblical gesture or event to validate or verify what and who you are.”

Her comment lifted my spirits but this morning I wonder.  I don’t feel very spiritual or validated but I do keep asking myself questions and mulling while waiting, hoping for an answer.

Rewritten From December 2015

I worry. Worry for family, country, and friends. Friends of all races, creeds, sexual preferences and colors. I pray. There is no answer, nothing but silence.  

I ask, What happened to “live and let live?”

I agonize over students having to face death in what should be one of the safest places in the world.  Students giving their lives to protect others when the people we entrust with their safety seem to only to offer “thoughts and prayers.”  While we have plenty of suppositions, we offer little else other than “It is God’s will.” It’s this, it’s that, it’s not something else but we do nothing.  The silence is becoming oppressive.

I worry about worshippers of all religions, unable to praise their god for fear of bombings, burnings or the sound of rapid-fire weapons echoing in the foreground.  There seems to be no answer from above or here on earth. Does God help those who help themselves? We might try that.

I wonder. Wonder at how the world has come to this. I pray and then I rage. Rage at Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Atheist, Liberals, Conservatives, anyone in between and any religion I failed to mention.

I pray. Again, there is no succor, only silence.

I hate. Mostly I hate myself for hating. I pray for the hatred to be taken away. From myself and from people I don’t even know.  It does not relent. The silence swells in my mind.

I ask for enlightenment. Understanding, Wisdom, Awareness, and Insight. Why do we do nothing but debate? Why do we do the same things over and over again, expecting a different outcome?  It is insanity.

Why do we do nothing but wait until the next episode of terror…? I pray. There is nothing but deep, dark silence.

My grandmother instructed me to “lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.”

I pray to look “unto the hills” but the silence has become a deafening roar in my ears.

I must keep looking unto the hills. I will keep praying…hoping God will take the silence away.

Thanks, Lynn, for listening.

Don Miller’s author’s page may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image is from https://gravitycenter.com/silence/