Salvation Between Two Slices of Bread

Gloria was sure she wanted but to read and dream and be fed tomato sandwiches and lemonades by some angelic servant still in a shadowy hinterland.”– F. Scott Fitzgerald (The Beautiful and Damned)

The Trinity has arrived to save my soul. It was late coming this year and it may be blasphemy or sacrilege to speak of it in such a way…I don’t care. My deliverance is as close to a religious experience as…college football.

The heat and humidity are damning me to lethargy as I retreat to my recliner and air conditioning. When I am forced to venture into the outdoors, swarms of gnats cloud my vision and cause me to sneeze as I inhale them. Tiny vampires suck the blood from me, but I don’t become one of the undead…thankfully or not.

Stinging critters attack from both the air and land…some from underground…damn you, yellow jackets, minions from hell.  To top it all off, I found a tick on my person, all bloated and ugly, an incarnation of Satan himself.

I need the “Balm of Gideon” to erase all my ills and I might just have spied it. I need to be delivered from my sins and the object of my rebirth has appeared in my suffering garden.

Cherokee Purple Tomato

I was late planting due to wet weather and now we are suffering through a drought. Thunderstorms filled the skies with flashes of lightning and ear-splitting thunder…only to slide south or east, anywhere other than over my garden. Too much of one thing when you need the other, prayers unanswered.

There was a two-week period when the garden was left to its own devices due to a family emergency. My grandmother would be unhappy to see the grass in my row centers and when I returned, I found that my rabbits had eaten my green beans. A pox upon me and my laziness too. The weeds have overrun me.

The garden has suffered as have I, maybe worse as it has been set upon by the plague of squash bugs. Poxes, plagues of insects, and drought. Does sound quite Biblical.

Little green tomatoes finally appeared but haven’t gotten much larger until recently… I would not call them large. As I walked by, I saw a flash of red in sea of green. A baseball sized orb of goodness. A small goodness but I didn’t care. A ripe Cherokee Purple tomato. Nectar of my Southern gods, manna from heaven. Cherokee Purples are what my bride refers to as those “ugly” tomatoes. If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I reckon ugly is too.

I reckon it is pretty ugly. Kinda looks like a monster…or demon.

Deep reddish-purple skin with a green top, I carried it quickly, holding it carefully as if I were Sir Galahad protecting the Holy Grail. This was my balm, my soothing elixir, my anodyne. I knew exactly how to prepare it…a tomato sandwich, or as we said back home, a ‘mater sammich. I just need to let it cool to room temperature, so I don’t bite into hellfire and brimstone.

I finally had the last member of the trinity, a tomato to join white bread and mayonnaise. Not just any mayonnaise mind you, Duke’s Mayonnaise, the one with the yellow top. If you use Hellman’s or Miracle Whip, you might want to pray for the forgiveness of your sins. As for me, I believe it is a miracle anyone uses Miracle Whip. Mustard? Heresy!

Two slices of Sunbeam bread, you may use any white bread as long it is low in nutritional value. Its function is just to hold the mayo and tomato anyway. Whichever bread you choose should be a fresh, soft bread with little texture as it will become soaked in tomato and mayo juice. Wheat, pumpernickel, or rye simply won’t work.

I use Sunbeam because I love “Little Miss Sunbeam” gazing at me like a little blond angel while I drip tomato juice all over myself as a celebration of my baptism.

Little Miss Sunbeam

Unlike grape juice and communion wafers from my Methodist past, the tomato sandwich is the modern sacraments of a backslide soul…with a glass of sweet, lemon tea, the Southern Champagne, to wash it down. I will add a shake or two of salt to bring out the sweetness of the tomato and black pepper because I can.

I choose to eat it over my kitchen sink watching the heat outside my window ripple the air. My spirit soars like the thermals above a highway. Tomato juice and mayonnaise drip onto my small plate…that is, the juices that miss my shirt front. A heavenly stain upon me…the sign of my tomato god.

Oh my ‘mater sammich, how I love thee, praise be thy name.

“It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.” Louis Grizzard

A short history lesson. By the end of the nineteenth century, most Europeans, especially those of the upper classes, believed tomatoes were poisonous. After a long period of stigma, scientists finally discovered that tomatoes were the victims of bad information.

The bad information? Affluent Europeans used tin alloy dishes (pewter), which contained high levels of lead, to store food and to eat from. Because natural tomatoes are highly acidic, when they are put into tin alloy containers, they can react to the acid and cause acute lead poisoning. (Pewter no longer uses lead)

Another short history lesson. A tomato is a fruit…except in South Carolina. In my home state, it is a vegetable by legislative decree. It must have been a slow day at the capital.

Don Miller’s latest offering is “Pig Trails and Rabbit Holes” and may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR0yXYm7o67oNCZe580f0IHGFtOAndQ4-x_K4txNuTEUZlTfZIvoD-apLtU

Intersecting Easter

“In the oddity or maybe the miracle of life, the roots of something new frequently lie in the decaying husks of something old.”
― Craig D. Lounsbrough

As I finished my walk with my best friend the conversation turned toward religion, as it often does. It continued while we drank our morning coffee at a local cafe. For some reason he thinks I’m more versed in this area than I really am. Less versed but our conversation got me thinking. Always an uncertain condition for me.

One of my thoughts was how the conservative, Evangelical Southern Baptist and the liberal, raised Methodist, and Dudeist continue to find common ground. Tis a shame some of our other brothers and sisters in faith can’t find the common ground. All it takes is a little work on both our parts. For clarification I am the liberal, he the conservative.

Later my thinking took me down a pig trail and the mental gymnastics I attempt to avoid. Coming to grips with my own beliefs…or lack thereof. A day of thinking turned into my own form of comedic relief. I realize it may only be funny to me.

April is a month in which the three major monotheistic religions and pagans celebrate important somethings and I found myself doing a bit of research. I am no longer as less versed as I was three mornings ago, but a little bit of knowledge can be dangerous.

Today, as I share this, is the Christian Easter, the most important celebration on the Christian calendar that proclaims Christ’s victory over death and the forgiveness of our sins as we are washed in the blood of Christ. As a child, being washed in the blood of Christ was a bit scary as were many of the stories told to me from the Bible. I still find myself more literal than I should be.

Besides celebrating the resurrection of Christ, we have expanded our celebration to include Easter hams, hot cross buns, new clothes, chocolate bunnies, dyed eggs, and rainbow-colored chicks along with Passion Plays, Easter Masses and Communions. There seems to be a tie in with the Christian Easter and ancient pagan spring festivals celebrating fertility and rebirth. (More on that later)

In accordance with Christ’s teachings, this connection to pagan festivals is perfectly fine with me. Resurrection is a form of rebirth and there are fertile fields of pseudo believers, nonbelievers, and those who have slid back waiting to be harvested. I know, for I am one.

Connected to Easter, Biblically and by the calendar, is the Jewish celebration of Passover, the exodus of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, which occurs on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan, the first month of Aviv, or spring. To translate that into English for non-Jews, Passover is celebrated from April 15 through April 23. In Western Christianity, Easter Sunday must always follow the first full moon after the spring equinox which means Easter is celebrated near Passover. In the Eastern Orthodox Christianity, it is a bit more complicated because it involves a different calendar but sometimes, they even coincide.

During the time of The Passover, according to the Book of Exodus, God commands Moses to tell the Israelites to mark their homes with lamb’s or goat’s blood so that the Angel of Death will pass over them. This was the tenth plague placed upon Egypt for keeping the Israelites in bondage. The plague – the deaths of all first-born males except for those protected by the blood.

After the death of all firstborns, the Pharaoh orders the Israelites to leave, taking whatever, they want, and asks Moses to bless him in the name of the Lord. The Passover sacrifice of a lamb or goat recalls the time when the LORD “passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt”.

After ten plagues I understand why the Pharaoh might have been happy for the Israelites to leave but he backtracked some seven days later sending his chariots after them and setting up another miracle, The Parting of the Red Sea.

April is also the month of Ramadan for those who practice the religion of Islam. The Islamic holiday of Ramadan began on April 2 and lasts through the month of April. It’s centered around fasting, self-reflection, and prayer, and serves as one of the Five Pillars of Islam central to the religion.

During this month, Muslims can eat before sunrise – a meal called suhoor – and after sunset. The evening meal is called iftar. The month ends with a celebratory feasting holiday, Eid al-Fitr.

Unlike Easter and Passover, the origin of Ramadan is not surrounded by “blood”…that will come later. According to Muslim traditions, in a cave on a mountain, Muhammad was visited by the Angel Gabriel and was told he was a “Messenger” or “Prophet of God”. This was confirmed to Muhammad by a Christian relative Muhammad discussed it with.

Shortly after, Muhammad began to receive further revelations from Gabriel, as well as from the realizations of his own heart. According to hadith, the stories about Muhammad’s life, all holy scriptures were sent down during Ramadan, making these thirty days the holiest in the Muslim religion.

Along with the monotheistic religions I must shout out to my pagan friends too. I know I have one. They are involved in this intersection too and seem to be a fun group. Their calendar was based off the lunar cycles and equinoxes and solstices were important, none more so than the Spring Equinox. I know their lives were hard, but they certainly knew how to throw a celebration. Their Spring festival to the Goddess Oestara or Eostre or Biblically “Ishtar” being just one.

Their Spring celebration is the origin of the Easter Bunny and the Easter Egg except for the pagans it was the ‘moon hare’ that laid the ‘Cosmic Egg’ from which emerged all life. It is a short leap to chocolate bunnies and dyed eggs. The ‘hare of Eostre’ became the ‘Easter Bunny’ and the ‘Cosmic Egg’ became the Easter egg. It is thought that the word Easter morphed from Eostre.

A statue of The Cosmic Egg

Further, in pagan time special cakes were baked as sacrificial offerings to the moon goddess and were marked with an equal-armed cross to divide the cake into four quarters. These represented the four lunar quarters. The cake was then broken up into pieces and buried at the nearest crossroads as an offering. Again, we have a short leap to the ‘hot cross buns’…with a slab of Easter ham resting between two halves. That too is of pagan origins.

Biblically, Ishtar, both the mother and wife of Nimrod, a grandson of Noah, became pregnant and bore a son named Tammuz claiming he was the product of a sunray, which caused her to conceive. But Tammuz grew to be a hunter and was later killed by a wild pig. Ishtar, who claimed Nimrod had not died but became the god, Baal. She designated a forty-day period (the source of Lent?) to mark the anniversary of Tammuz’s death.

During this time, no meat was to be eaten. Every year, on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox, a celebration was made. Ishtar also proclaimed that because a pig killed Tammuz, that a pig must be eaten on that Sunday, preferably in a hot cross bun. I added the bun part.

Enough research and intersection. I hope however you celebrate Easter it is a wonderful experience. I am going to have a ham biscuit.

Thanks to Laura Dye for suggesting the site: Folklore, Customs, Legends and Mythology. It was helpful and the basis of my research on pagan celebrations. I might have even copied a bit.

Google supplied the Bunny Rabbit image although it looks just like the semi-tame bunny who lives in my back yard.

Don Miller’s latest release is a nonfiction group of stories and essays named “Pig Trails and Rabbit Holes, More Musings From a Mad Southerner.” The book may be purchased in paperback or downloaded at https://www.amazon.com/Pig-Trails-Rabbit-Holes-Southerner/dp/B09GQSNYL2/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

To Block or Not to Block….

 

Alert:  This ain’t about football…

I unfriended and blocked a poster on my social media account.  I normally have a hard and fast rule, I don’t block people unless they become threatening.  Stupid and illogical are okay…well they aren’t okay, but I like knowing those who are stupid and illogical…but if you are threatening, WHAM!  YOU ARE SACKED LIKE Y. A. TITTLE!

I went against my rule yesterday simply because I became tired of the irritation.  The poster, a woman I may be related to due to the twisted branches of my family tree and by marriage, became an irritant. It should have been a minor annoyance, reminiscent of jock itch.   Seeking relief from the itch I blocked her going straight to Defcon One using a good dose of Atomic Balm.  I’m unhappy with my decision, blocking was not the soothing anodyne I expected.

Like-minded friends engaged in the unarmed combat of social media have asked me on more than one occasion, “Why do you put up with So and So?  You have more patience than I do.”  It is not about patience, I taught school for forty-one years and coached for forty-five.  My patience ran out a long time ago.

Until yesterday, I had an easy answer to my friends’ questions.  My act of blocking would be an admission that I gave the “block-ee” control over me.  I am logical, I can argue my point…except when I’m not…and can’t.  I believe blocking is an admission of their control over my thoughts and my inability to positively argue my position.

The comment I made to her post was about empathy for someone, a public figure, who “might” be suffering from a family member’s terrible illness.  Her original post discounted his pain and made it about politics.  I countered with logic, she tried to check me with conspiracy before browbeating me with, “Since you are such a liberal maybe you should block me and go back to watching CNN.”  That isn’t the exact quote but captures the flavor of her comment.  At least she didn’t use the descriptor snowflake.

Sure, I lean middle-left but I’m not a raging radical and haven’t watched CNN in forever plus a day.  She had triggered me and I dropped the hammer on her.  I answered her with, “Done but not because you are a conservative….”  I blocked her before I could add, “…but because you are not a nice person and have the sympathy of a gnat and the empathy of an amoeba.”  Sorry amoebas and gnats.  Did I drop the hammer on her…or on me?

I had blocked her simply to be rid of her.  My attempted expungement failed.  Her Ka lingers like the smell of fried fish or liver and onions from the previous day’s supper.

Another reason I don’t block people derives from a saying from Sun Tzu’s  The Art of War.  “Know your enemy” …except they’re really not my enemies.  It’s easy to think of them as enemy combatants but they are Americans who simply share a different point of view and how does one argue logically if you don’t know your countryman’s position?  She was simply another American with a different point of view…and a nasty personality.

Blocking people with different opinions leads to interacting only with people who share your own beliefs and opinions.  I would think this “vacuum” of only like opinions might help move us farther and farther apart from those who disagree with us.  It moves us farther and farther from discovering common ground.

Walt Kelly’s intellectual opossum Pogo comes to mind. “We have met the enemy and he is us” or in this case, me.

Image result for we have met the enemy and he is us

As soon as I touched “Enter” one of the voices in my head smirked and made itself known, “You just did exactly what she wanted.  She gets her jollies from being blocked.  She’s bragging right now about how she melted a liberal snowflake.”  

My real voice agreed, “Yep if you can’t take the heat stay out of the kitchen. ” Another head voice added, “and you just gave her control over YOU.  You let her bully you into blocking her.”  I’ve also allowed her to trouble my thoughts since.  I’m not sure how to counter my ruminations.  I’m certainly not going to send another friend request to her.

The one logical voice in my head tells me my triggering is the dislike for PC culture taken to a level of bullying.  Sometimes it is best not to say exactly what is on your mind if your intent is to win friends and influence enemies.

I’ve never believed the “words can never hurt you” rhyme.  I hope my own dislike for political correctness is tempered by my humanity, empathy, and the belief people should be treated with respect until all else fails.

I’m not sure I did that.  I’m not sure all else failed.  The same voice also points out, “She ain’t worth the effort to analyze.”  Maybe.  Maybe I’m trying to analyze me.

Many more of my illogical voices are yelling too but as is their nature, quite mindlessly.  All they do is confuse an already confused issue.   

Like two offensive linemen unsure who should block the three hundred pound gorilla in the gap across from them, both decide it is the other guy’s responsibility and the quarterback pays the price as the gorilla, untouched, smashes him into the turf.  I think our country is paying for our confusion…and for the lies told to us that we pass along without a fare the well of research.

Oh well, I’m not sure writing this has helped but the morning is breaking and there should be enough to do around the foothills of the Blue Ridge to take my mind off this subject.

As I wrote this, the sunrise through my French doors was a brilliant orange making the ridgeline look as if it was on fire.  When I went out to enjoy the first hit of my cigar, I found the temperatures quite nice for early-February.  Since then, the rain has put out the fire and the temperatures have receded to normal February levels.  After temperatures in the seventies, thunderstorms, and tornadoes…it snowed.  It appears Mother Nature is confused too.

Sunrise

An early morning jog to go with my walk might just the “soothing salve” I need.  The pain of running seems to displace all other pains and takes my mind away from everything but the pain of putting one foot in front of the other.  I guess it is just replacing one pain with a more acceptable one.

Good day to all.

***

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

Images:  The featured image: The Wisconsin Badgers appear to have a body on everybody except the guy crashing from the backside.  From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blocking_(American_football)

In this 1964 photo, New York Giants quarterback Y.A. Tittle kneels after being sacked by John Baker of the Pittsburgh Steelers.  “A dazed Tittle on his knees in the end zone, helmet off, blood trickling from his balding head.”  https://www.newsobserver.com/sports/nfl/article178031466.html

A colorized version of Walt Kelly’s cartoon strip, Pogo.   https://www.myjewishlearning.com/rabbis-without-borders/we-have-met-the-enemy/

Houston Texan’s QB, DeShaun Watson, pays the price for a missed block.  https://texanswire.usatoday.com/2018/12/21/texans-qb-sean-ryan-deshaun-watson-nfl-high-sack/

A view from the ridgeline above my house.

 

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 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 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 if it advances your political agenda.  All one must do is look at the histories of our state governments to find notable 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 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 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 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 turned Dudeist that I am, anytime I publicly 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 ever-loving 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 the South 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 their pickup trucks displaying several Sons 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. Teachers pray to Jehovah, Yahweh, “Sweet Baby Jesus wrapped in fleece” or the patron saint of educators, Saint John-Baptiste de la Salle.  Some pray to Allah, some may pray to Lakshmi, some may pray to any diety willing to take “little Johnny” from their classroom.

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, destructive to children who don’t believe as you do…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 but since the pandemic, it is easier not to.

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 my many of my “Christian” friends.

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, Allah, Vishnu, 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