Unredeemed it Would Seem

 

As I read the book, The Redeemers by Ace Atkins, a quote caught my eye and stung like an accidental splash of toothpaste to the same eye.  Am I the only idiot figuring out a way to get toothpaste in his eye and actually doing it more than once?

Is comparing a quote to a stinging eyeball a horrible analogy?  “His quote stung like toothpaste rubbed in my eye.”  It probably explains why I’m using an Ace Atkins quote instead of one of my own and why I try to avoid using analogies.  “Her hair glistened in the rain like nose hair after a sneeze.”

The quote from the book, “There is nothing that Southerners hate more than self-examination,” resonated and sparked my own self-examination of the paradoxes which seem to surround me.  The quote was thoroughly accurate as far as my own moral failings are concerned and honestly it is more about my own self-examination.

Before I’m accused of broad stroking an entire group of people, I’m not.  If this shoe doesn’t fit, don’t try to force your foot into it.  That is on you and you may find your foot, along with your shoe, stuck in your mouth and my foot stuck somewhere else…metaphorically of course.  I’m not talking to or about you if the shoe is not yours.  If the shoe fits…well that is between you and your lord and I just want you to ponder as I do.

The South has been accused of having many paradoxes, like pointing out someone’s moral failings while ignoring one’s own or railing against someone else’s corruption, moral or monetary, while disregarding the corruption or moral failings of your favorite politician as long as it advances your political agenda.  All one has to do is look at the histories of our state governments to find great examples.  Wilbur Mill’s reelection after running afoul of Fannie Foxe, the “Tidal Basin Bombshell” comes to mind.  Southerners haven’t cornered the market on moral failings or paradoxes, we just get caught with great style and dash.

Some paradoxes are quaint or cute, others not so much.  As you might imagine, my essay will eventually turn from the cute or quaint.  It will turn toward paradoxes that revolve around religion and politics.   I’m sure other parts of the country have their own paradoxes…and issues with religion as it relates to politics but again we Southerners do it with such elegance.  

“Religion, Religion! Oh, there is a thin line between Saturday night and Sunday morning.”  The words shouted in Jimmy Buffett’s ditty, Fruitcakes came to mind when country-western icon Vince Gill and his wife, the “Queen of Christian Pop” music Amy Grant were discussing the paradoxes of their relationship during an interview.  Vince pointed out that they weren’t that different.  They were actually singing to the same clientele.  He was singing to the drunks and hell raisers on Saturday night and she was singing to the same drunks and hell raisers, now recovering and praying for redemption, on Sunday morning.

Not a direct quote but the crux of one paradox.  It’s also one of the cute or quaint paradoxes.  There are a lot of “Sunday morning and Wednesday night Christians” who will enjoy ‘several’ too many shots of brown liquor on a Saturday night and pray for forgiveness through a blinding hangover on Sunday morning.  Bless our pea-pickin’ hearts and please help me remember exactly what sins I committed last Saturday night…or maybe I really don’t want to know.

Saturday night might be relative.  I know Fannie Foxe’s foray into the Washington Tidal Basin took place on a late Monday night and while not stopping Wilbur’s reelection to the House of Representatives, might have derailed his dream of a much higher office.

I live in the Bible Belt and like a stereotypical big-bellied sheriff’s Sam Brown Belt, we wrap our religious mantle tightly around us…except when we don’t.  Sometimes we even make jokes about it.   “What’s the difference between a Baptist and a Methodist?
The Methodist will say hello to you in the liquor store.”  “How does a Baptist get into Heaven?  They bring a casserole.”

Only recently were we less conservative, Jesus loving, Agnostic, Deist, Buddhaptists allowed to enjoy a store-bought adult beverage during a Sunday lunch out on the town as Blue Laws were relaxed.  While I struggle with my religious beliefs I do believe in something, “I believe I’ll have another drink.”

Like the good Methodist turned Baptist that I am, anytime I publically order a beer I look around first to see if any of my former students or my church peers are in attendance.  I’m still gonna order, I’ll just make sure I avoid eye contact.

Religion even gets intertwined with our eating habits.  We had an advertising war that took on religious overtones.   An anti-LGBTQ, we ain’t gonna open on a Sunday, chicken sandwich chain was purported to have divine support over the spicy, straight from Satan’s “sin city of the South”, fried chicken chain.  Chanting and making the sign of the cross with crossed fingers, “My God loves X’s chicken sandwiches better than those of the Devil’s Minion!”  See, we can be insanely funny.  Accent on insane.  Yep, I like the spicy chicken place better…”Get thee behind me Satan!”

Insanity could explain some of our choices during election cycles.  I lean left in a deeply Southern red state and sometimes I believe we’ve lost our minds…just not as badly as some other deep red Southern states  In the most recent cycle a deep South state almost elected an accused pedophile rather than electing a…gasp…Democrat.  Politics over family values just as Jesus intended.

We tend to wrap our religion tightly with the flag along with our patriotism and tie them all together…I’m just not sure which flag, the national flag or the Confederate Battle Flag.  If we were on the side of the angels why did God allow us to lose?   Did someone sin?

Some Southerners will ridicule and threaten to tar and feather you if you don’t stand for the National Anthem at a football game while wearing a “Forget Hell” belt buckle and flying the battle flag from pickup trucks displaying several Son’s of Confederate Veteran bumper stickers.  Confusing ain’t it.

I have “bigly” concerns over our touting of the “sacred” Second Amendment while ignoring the parts of the First Amendment that include “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

Certain more conservative than me religious groups would like to put iconic stone tablets into every government building or school but would get a might squirrelly if a coven of witches wanted to honor the goddess of fertility, Ostara…by dancing ‘nekid’ on the town square next to the Confederate War monument.  Beware of what you wish for, it may have unwanted repercussions.  One should be just as unconstitutional as the other and I don’t wish to live in your theocracy.

Paradoxes aside, a quote by Flannery O’Conner, “I think it is safe to say that while the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted” sparked more self-examination.

I am haunted by the days when I sat attentively beside my brother, in between our parents on the short pew no other church member would dare sit on because “That’s where the Miller’s sit.”  Haunted days before I began to think for myself and question motivations.  Days when I didn’t wonder if Jesus’s message was being bastardized and the Bible weaponized.  Days when religions had not moved so far right…or is that the paradox.  Have I just moved left?

Don Miller writes on a variety of subjects, non-fiction, and fiction.  You may access his author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Fruitcakes by Jimmy Buffett

 

The featured image is from https://imgur.com/gallery/D0FKLsK/comment/1073493907.  I actually had this done.  A cyst on my wrist was thumped with the family Bible and for a time disappeared.  It came back, much like my self-examination and self-ridicule.

 

 

True Believers?

 

True Believer?

true believer. noun. One who is deeply, sometimes fanatically devoted to a cause, organization, or person

  1. (ecclesiastical) A strict follower of a religious doctrine.
  2. (idiomatic) One who sticks to one’s dogma or beliefs irrespective of the facts

 

I wish I was a “true believer,” all smug and sure of my beliefs on politics and religion.  I’m not.  As I interact with those who are, I find myself questioning my own beliefs and other people’s motives.  They say I only need to read the Bible to find the answers.  According to Biblegateway.com, there are over two hundred different translations of the Christian Bible in over sixty languages…”Which translation is the true word?”

There has been a positive outcome to my self-imposed abasement, my metaphorical self-flagellation.  I’ve found I am continually trying to answer the question, “What do I really believe” and continue to question my God as I make my quest.  I also wonder if “questing” is a sin.  According to some of these same “true believers”…maybe.

I grew up in the Methodist Church.  A very structured, high liturgical Methodist Church in a then-rural area with very “give me that old time religion” religious values.  In a previous writing, I might have referred to the church of my youth as a very “tight-assed” church.  “Tight-assed” as in very conventional, very orthodox…just like me at the time.

I have become less so as I have grown older but still consider myself a ‘way too’ conventional person who’s a want-to-be flower child.  Know any flower children hiding in an inhibited and repressed body?  I just can’t seem to dance like no one is watching. No matter how much I wish to be the aging 60’s hippy, I’m still…just…too…tight-assed.  Maybe if they legalize that there “marijahoochie….”  My Mother is rolling in her grave.

I left my tight-assed little rural church in 1968 and went on to attend a tight-assed Lutheran school of higher learning and received a liberal arts degree in history and education.  Again, a very conventional ‘I went to Vespers and Chapel kind of education’, and even considered becoming a man of the cloth until Greek and Latin got in the way.

For some reason, some “true believers” have been deemed my education “totally useless” even a “waste of time”.  With my recently vilified “Liberal Arts” diploma, my equally liberal advanced degrees in secondary education, I taught and coached for forty-five years, warping the minds of our youth.

I taught in schools that are being denigrated by some of my political and Christian right (far right?) friends as “hotbeds” of liberalism.  According to them, instead of teaching the three R’s we quote Marx and Lenin, create project-based lesson plans on the ‘Joys of Communism’ and begin every school day with a silent prayer to the Vodun Goddess Mahu.

I might have exaggerated a bit, but one exfriend deemed I had no worthwhile, “real” life experiences and did not understand “day to day” struggles of “real” men.  “As weak as preacher’s piss,” he said.  I’m guessing his educational experiences weren’t very positive.  Another brought by vocabulary in to question, “Simply showing off” because I used the term cognitive dissonance.   Well, bless your heart.

Reality is: teachers do none of the above, they do have the day to day struggles and I’ve known few weak ones.  Teachers are forced to teach to a test they’ve never seen or been allowed to ask questions about and administered at the end of the year.  They have little time to devote to politics or religion, liberal or conservative.  Also, I talk like I talk.

Teachers do pray, silently just after cursing under their breath, every time there is a full moon, the day very being. Teachers pray to Jehovah, Yahweh, “Sweet Baby Jesus wrapped in fleece” or the patron saint of educators, Saint John-Baptiste de la Salle.  They pray to anyone listening for survival and until “true believers” walk in their shoes, they should be quiet and sit down.  Too strong?  Sorry…now be quiet and sit down.

I don’t like combining politics and religion…or teaching for that matter.  Tying “a” religion to politics is destructive to both…and is against the Constitution, something “true believers” seem to forget unless it is the Second Amendment.  The recent political battle between Progressives and Populists has pulled the middle toward opposite poles and taken religion with it…or maybe religion began the tug of war.  It bears pointing out, neither side is being productive doing it.

Despite my heresy…or blasphemy, I talk to God daily, multiple times.  As I ponder what I am typing now, I continue to ask to be “refreshed” and shown the true light.  I get no answer and take his or her silence to mean, “You’re on the right track, Bubba.”

Most of my conversations with Him revolve around my beliefs.  I continue to search for the path and question why so many “true believers” seem to express so much hatred toward their fellow humans.  Their expressions seem to be so contrary to the Good News I’ve read in the Gospels of Jesus Christ.

Let’s be clear.  I’m not speaking of all “true believers”.  Just those who believe theirs is the only way, those who are so sure of themselves religiously or politically, those who believe there is only black and white.  Those whose beliefs are hurtful to those who have no sin other than to be different.  Those who cross the boundary between deeply believing to extreme fanaticism.

My problem, if it truly is a problem, is that I view life in shades of gray.  There is no black or white…and no one hundred percent certainty.  There is no ‘ALL’ or ‘EVERY’.  There is only uncertainty.

An Indian philosopher, Bara Dada, in a quote restructured and attributed falsely to Gandhi, said, “Jesus is ideal and wonderful, but you Christians, you are not like him.”  I don’t believe this is true of all, but I believe the number of “not like Christ” Christians are growing to the point that I self-identify as a “Christ Follower” and not with a specific religion…I know, I still attend a Baptist Church.

Please don’t take my rant as being “holier than thou.”  I’m not.  Refer to the paragraph beginning “My problem….”  I just don’t understand why we are arguing our beliefs as if they were playing a rival football game…or a war.  “My god is better than yours?”  I should also point out, I have atheist friends and friends who practice non-Christian beliefs.  They seem to be more “Christ-like” and embracing than me.

I have just now realized my concerns are not about beliefs…it is about actions.  Your actions tell me all I need to know.  I believe words carry the same weight as actions.  My actions and words have weight.

It doesn’t matter what you call your God or god.  Be it Elohim, Jehovah, Yahweh or Joe, do you rationalize your hate with your religion?  How do you rationalize it?  Maybe I’m not the one who needs to self-evaluate…but I will continue to do so.

For more gentle rantings https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image is the Church of Uncertain sign near Uncertain, Texas 

 

 

The Super Bowl and the Politics of Losing

 

It’s Super Bowl Sunday!  If polls are to be believed, I will join over one hundred million other fans watching the world championship of football.  Unless something disastrous happens before this evening’s game, I will watch my fifty-second game.  I’ve watched them all, dating back to the first one when the Bart Starr led Packers easily defeated the Len Dawson led Chiefs in what was not even called the Super Bowl.  It was the NFL-AFL Championship.  It doesn’t matter, I pulled for the wrong team…as usual.

The game has certainly changed…except for me pulling for the losing team.  I have actually rooted for the winner half a dozen times…maybe.  In some ways, it has become more about the concerts, half-time show and commercials than the game itself.  I must admit I have always enjoyed the commercials…especially the Budweiser Frogs and Clydesdales.  And there was the one featuring a scantily clad and pubescent Britney Spears dancing under erect Pepsi Cola bottles, which popped their lids in a foaming conclusion…after a Viagra commercial.  Very poor timing.

What I’ve not enjoyed, is seeing teams I pull for demolished.  As I look back, the line from the Steely Dan tune, “Deacon Blues”, comes to mind.

“They got a name for the winners in the world
I want a name when I lose
They call Alabama the Crimson Tide
Call me Deacon Blues”

So just call me Deacon Don I guess.

On to the politics of the game.  Kneeling versus Standing…or Standing versus Kneeling, boycotting versus watching.  Because my father was a World War II veteran, I will…probably never kneel…even though I believe their cause is just.  Because my father was a World War II veteran I’ll never berate those who do, and I’ll never boycott.  It may be the biggest game of the year, but it is still a game…an expensive game but a game none-the-less.  It’s not life or death…and despite what they might say, it isn’t war.

I find it interesting people will wish failure upon others because of their political views.  Sure, some of the people playing the game are spoiled and I would say all are overpaid…just like in other businesses.  According to many, it’s just Capitalism.  The league and owners are getting rich and commercials cost way too much.  Just Capitalism… right?  Some of the players are criminals…just like in other businesses.  Some are not very loveable…just like in other businesses. I would also comment that an old white guy probably shouldn’t comment on the trials and tribulations young black men might go through despite what they make now because it’s not about money.

What really concerns me are the folks who make their livings off professional football who aren’t players, coaches or owners.  The groundskeepers, the guy on the street hawking knock-off t-shirts, the folks working in concessions, even the folks working in the Wilson factory producing the footballs for the game…over three hundred.  These people rely upon the game of football for their livelihoods.  Do we wish to put them out of work because of a political stand?  I don’t.

Art, and I believe there is an art to all forms of athletics, has always reflected the politics of the times.  From Dante’s Inferno to Common Sense to “For What It’s Worth” to present day Rap and in between.  Politics and social upheavals have fueled many art forms and people have used their forums to express their beliefs…and their protest.  They have the right, and we need to protect those rights at all costs…and yes, you have the same right to turn it off or change the channel.  I also reserve the right to believe wishing failure upon my friends and neighbors is stupid…even if I don’t know them, and even if they pull for a different team…or political party.

Above all, and most important…Gooooo Loser!

Don Miller writes on varying subjects…some might be considered interesting.  Please go to his author’s page and check him out.  https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

A Little Humor Please…!

I yearn for the days when Chevy Chase fell…and everyone laughed.  Mr. Chase, a comedian, was poking fun at one of the most athletic presidents in our history, Gerald Ford.  Athletic, but a bit of a klutz.  Something I can relate to…the klutzicism, not the athleticism.  Wow, I just invented a word.  The thing is, when Chase fell, everyone laughed…including President Ford.  Our politicians, and “the two sides of one bird” aren’t making us laugh very much…nor are they laughing.

Are things so bad that we can’t laugh at ourselves?  Just look for a little humor.  Does everything have to be so serious…morbidly serious.  Do all jokes have to be divisive?  Must we insist that every political statement is followed by insistence we boycott the poor stiff who made it?

I know there are subjects we shouldn’t poke fun at but after seeing the American political experiment in action for over sixty years…the President ain’t one of those subjects.  I would say anyone involved in politics ain’t one of them.  Hey, remember President Johnson and his “Johnson?”  That was a real knee slapper.  Double entendre?  Possibly, I wasn’t there.

Just saw a news report stating that a train carrying GOP congressmen ran into a garbage truck.  Wish one of the passengers on the truck hadn’t died for many reasons, one of which is there is something humorous about boarding the “Trump Train” and hitting a garbage truck.  Am I terrible?  I’m sorry…for their loss.

It’s either humorous or President Obama owned the trash company, purchased through several shell companies, and bought with money loaned to him by Hillary from the bribes she received from the sale of the Uranium One business.  Again, I am sorry someone died. (Special thanks to Max Holland for starting me on this runaway train.)

I have hopes that when we elect a new president, he or she is a comedian…not red nose or floppy shoes funny, but funny…maybe Gerald Ford funny.

If you take offense to my humor I suggest you go look for yours and come back later.  Love and Kisses.

If you aren’t going to boycott me and are interested in reading more of Don Miller’s wanderings, try https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM