Second Thoughts from Momsʼ Day

Yesterdayʼs post* ended with a bitter pill: “the restʼs just sin.”** However, some reflection, inspired by coincidence and dueling theologies, has made me think twice about the idea of life as merely utter error and inescapable sin. Perhaps I have been overly programmed by my culture to misperceive reality too darkly.

I have mentioned that with the new job and its eleven-hour days***, I have fallen depressingly behind on reading the periodicals to which I subscribe. I try to skim through the weekly Science News, Time and Newsweek as they arrive (or at least within the next week), but the TLS (also weekly), The London Review of Books and The New York Review of Books (along with Discover, Smithsonian, National Geographic, The Atlantic Monthly, Scientific American and others not leaping to mind right away) have become a horrible stack of journalistic information and insights unsounded and unread. So, having awakened an hour after Janet on Sunday morning, I sat with a cup of (caffeinated) coffee to try to read a few book reviews, pulling from the top of the stack the London Review for April 14, 2011 [Volume 33, Number 8] and beginning with the first review, “Whatʼs next?” by James Wood, examining After Lives: A Guide to Heaven, Hell and Purgatory by John Casey.

The so-called Christian Dextreme: take science and twist the facts away… (Click the pic to see what I mean.)

The book sounds intriguing, and the review was stimulating. The point it raised that made me reconsider the end of my sonnet is what Wood, expanding and reflecting on Caseyʼs arguments, said about the Pauline/Augustinian invention/interpretation of Original Sin as indicating the utter depravity of human nature, redeemed only by belief in the sacrificial and beneficial nature of Christʼs suffering on the cross (that is, Faith). Furthermore, according to the classical reading of St. Paulʼs sour views, Salvation is available only by Grace, and God has mysteriously reserved that gift merely to an elect few (known, [super-]naturally only to God since before creation). From Paul through Augustine through Luther and Calvin, the eerie doom of humanity to hell is reinforced.

Without our loving Godʼs (capricious?) boon of Grace, even multitudes of the Faithful are destined for hell. Period. No further discussion permitted. No arbitration possible. (Gee, thanks for that, among so many other miserly-sphinctered rulings, Saul of Tarsus.)

Nothing one can do on oneʼs own can redeem one.

That dour theology is essentially at the heart of my grim little poem, which is what gives me second thoughts. What both the reviewer and the original author perceive, however, is that such a dire worldview has only slowly evolved historically (and temporarily, too, as current popular theology, outside the vile extremes of fundamentalism****, has more or less discarded that Pauline dark destiny in favor of a kinder, liberal, more Pelagian perception). Without the tightassed theologians of salvation-by-grace-alone, we humans have generally held a more generous and forgiving view of frailty and error. (Hey, weʼre all only human, after all.)

Maybe my emphasis on maternal love as the only redemption in the face of such patriarchal parsimony isnʼt off the mark…

However, I meant originally, as I began to type, to explicate my own little Jesusʼs-age-old poem, and I havenʼt done so. Maybe, work permitting, tomorrow. But for now, having never quite finished Woodʼs book review, perhaps I should read on to the end.

* (a sonnet, by the way, rhymed very tightly but oddly as ABCAABCADAEEAD — with C and B being nearly identical, except for a final consonant)

** (incompletely, as it turned out, when The Lovely One summoned me to depart for the Wal and some necessary purchases, including potting soil for those plants she had bought the day before)

*** (days which are now, with me having a half-hour commute at the beginning and end of each, perhaps going to extend more toward twelve hours, I fear)

**** Ironically/coincidentally/interestingly, Time made a cover story, the same week as my London Review issue, out of an evangelical (presumably, therefore, fundie) minister writing a popular book on the (possible) nonexistence of hell — utterly upsetting the fundamentalist applecart (because without hell, thereʼs no stick for the Appointed Authorities to beat the sheeple into the party line) and earning the author the brickbats and outrage of the Dextreme SelfRightous.

My brother-in-law, Brian the minister, once observed, “Itʼs a fine and splendid thing to get called ‘pastor’ by the congregation, but that title doesnʼt say much for the flock…”

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Getting it all wrong

I like the Times Literary Supplement. Unfortunately, it is so expensive that my subscriptions to the periodical run for a year and then expire for year or a few months or a few years. Why? Because every now and then the publishers offer a really reduced come-on, I think for “educators,” which I can afford, about a third or a quarter of the real subscription price. When I get one of those offers, if I’m feeling sufficiently flush, I subscribe. (Or at least I did so subscribe for nearly three decades, all the way back to the time Janet and I met.) I entered my subscription most recently back in the fall (in an orgy of spending, thanks to a full week of substitute teaching, I resubscribed to most of the periodicals I had let go when I retired, TLS included).

Saturday morning I finished reading my current copy (they are never very current, being mailed from Great Britain — that issue was for February 11) and felt surprisingly interested in many things I had read, some of which you may get to read more about soon (or not). Actually to choose the word “surprisingly” is inaccurate, as I usually enjoy at least half of the reviews and articles in every issue. I had begun the magazine on Thursday, I think, getting through the first 24 or 25 pages (I am dictating, having resurrected the pairing for the Bluetooth headset, which had evaporated, and I am still uncomfortable with Dictate’s predilection for digits over letters when I speak numbers; an old-school old fart, I still think numbers should be words through one hundred, or at least through twenty and the even tens to a hundred — and I had to edit the digits the software included in what you just read). I paused at an article reviewing a new book on ethics that constructs an elaborate system of rationale to clarify making moral decisions.

Reading the article, I thought about conflicts in medieval dar al-Islam (particularly in al-Andalus) between conservative religious figures and progressive philosophers. The philosophers held very broad and liberal views that frequently diverged entirely from traditional Islam and even verged into atheism (or at least a rejection of paradise and hell, an afterlife, and post-mortem reward or punishment forever). But these subtle thinkers devised and articulated some of the most astute insights into morality and science ever (in part or in total because of their [lack of] religious views), powerful enough to sway the scholastic philosophers of medieval Europe a few hundred years later, including (or in particular) Thomas Aquinas. (And the swaying didnʼt just involve the science but the ethics especially.) The religious guys, on the other hand, imams and jurists, argued that no matter if any of the philosopher guysʼ moral arguments were correct, the common person just wasnʼt built to understand such sophistry and intellectual finesse. The ordinary fellow could only be swayed morally by the threat of punishment, if not instantly here and now, then in the hereafter, regardless if such a supernatural retribution were actually real (for the philosophersʼ reasonings had some power in devout Muslim circles, too).

Back to the TLS article? I wasnʼt sure any typical lowbrow yahoo, like folks who post comments to Dextremist blogs (and even those who write the blogs themselves), would act morally based solely on the refined principles espoused in the book under review. That consideration made me wonder about the dubious power of narrow and judgmental fundamentalism today (and I am not just talking about Islam now, either, obviously). Does such a rigid system have any benefits whatsoever?

I may loathe the terrible folly of trying to twist oneʼs mind into accepting every word of scripture as valid (and no one does that; they all cherrypick instead — a friend posted a very funny “oops” article about someone tattooing an OT verse against homosexuality on his arm but getting the citation wrong: it referenced a verse forbidding tattoos!*), but now I wonder if goofs need the threat of hell to be decent people…

If so, what kind of dark and selfish cesspools of vileness are such supposedly simple people? And consdering the negative impacts of fundamentalism around the globe today, is that presumed moral-rectification by posthumous paddling even real?

Thatʼs a pair of scary thoughts.

* Although the source I located says the tattoo is accurate, the verse against tattooing is later. Even so… pick and choose, pick and choose…

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Choosing My Religion (or not)

Although the sun peeked out for maybe an hour, it was a gray afternoon on Wednesday, yesterday. With the weather having warmed just after the new year, the outdoors has gotten to that ugly stage when the snow is brown and gray and black, and the army-drab* grass shows through the spots of melt. I spent some hours in the morning putting close to five thousand words into the Scrivener document for “Mistakes by Moonlight,” getting Søren and Judah down from the entry they forcibly made into the Green Tower and ready to commit their theft. Judah even got two or three touches of magic into the mix, but right now thereʼs trouble brewing as threatening footsteps are tromping down the stairs toward our two heroes…

And then Janet called for some advice on a bit of business for her boss, and suddenly once the phone was hung up, I was wasting time. Again. As usual.

And therefore you get a post to read today, my punishment for idling away the afternoon learning about:

  • what my Facebook friends have been up to,
  • how I lost out on the MegaMillions lottery jackpot,
  • selfish Tightists (Ayn Rand — a name which the Dictate software had no trouble interpreting, scarily),
  • the End of Days (some whack-job in California, who has failed to correctly predict the end of the world twice before, has gotten gullible so-called christians of some self-centered sort and/or another[s] all disturbed that theyʼre going to get Raptured, May 21 — yeah, right, sure, and Iʼm gonna go with ʼem),
  • Santorum” (he of the insistent rear-entry fixationprotesting too much, wouldnʼt you guess? — could-be Prez candidate, not, no matter how many times he pollutes my state with his perverse presence), and…

Well, as this list has gotten a bit bizarrely frightening, weʼll just say and other things. (There really are a lot of scary, stupid pass-for-humans*** out there. Perhaps the snow conditions match the Nutjobs.) Suffice it to say that I got my overdose of the wigged-out unreality of the lunatic Dextreme. Again. As I wish was not usual.

But it got me thinking… well, reminiscing rather…

Back in college, sitting around one of the big tables in the student union at IWC on a late winter or early spring day, possibly in 72 or 73, some of us having read Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins (thanks, Denise, for that initial recommendation and thereafter a lifetime of periodic vast entertainment), a few friends and I briefly contemplated/laughed about creating our own religion to put over on the plebes and make a lot of cash** (just like a megachurch pastor these days), but I concluded no one would be gullible enough to swallow the kind of idiotic santorum subsequent history has now proved far too many dolts are hideously eager to consume uncomplaining, without hesitation or question. And all of that before Ramtha, ghost-hunting and the New Age! If we had only known. If only we had a crystal ball to see what demagogues and deluders have anti-accomplished since. Again. As usual.

Iʼd have to forego the beard, though…

Oh well, another missed opportunity unrealized. (Just like the lottery.) Thatʼs life. Mine, at least.

Left Behind.

Again.

Per usual.

However, maybe itʼs not too late… According to folly, Iʼve still got until May 21, and in my own case October!

I wonder if anyone outside really (and too easily) misled Buddhists would accept a plump, bald prophet/messiah/avatar-of-divinity…

Scientologists probably. Hmmmmm…

If I had only gotten that PayPal button to work here on the blog, You Could Start Sending Your Contributions Today

But back to reality, or in my case, fantasy. I left Søren and Judah in a real predicament, and there are still hours before I have to make supper, breakfast and lunch and get ready to work a little on Thursday/today.

 

* Now thereʼs an outdated reference to put me in my place chronologically, as I meant olive, not camouflage.

** I say “briefly,” but I have pondered and periodically developed story ideas arising therefrom and have not forgotten the incident since…

*** I really, really wanted to drop the “p” in that hyphenated phrase. But good taste and restraint won the day (along with not linking to a particular website one can discover when googling “Santorum gay”).

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A

Contra PoinDextremism

Intriguingly, statistics on hits have clearly shown that if I want to get lots of readers (well, “lots” for us here at Wakdjunkagaʼs Blog, which means more than a bakerʼs dozen or two), I should take a controversial stand on some issue. Sad, but from the numbers, scientifically true. The readership doubles if I pen something that perturbs somebody. That shouldnʼt surprise me (as it actually does), but it does permit my opening for a post today.

Contrary to popular (manufactured) opinion, both of these evil men were Fascists, which is European for Rightist extremists.

So, with my volatile and substantiated positions on things political/economic/pseudophilosphico-moralistic/idiotic (the best album title ever had to be Green Dayʼs American Idiot; talk about smacking the old iron spike directly on the noggin), taking aim at any aspect of the widespread plague of contemporary lunacy should be easy. However, although I have reached the appropriate age and stage in lifeʼs brief swirl of colors, shapes and sounds, to serve (at my current weight) as two Quixotes, my personal tilting at the army of metaphorical windmills parading past this old hacienda seems overwhelming, and unlike the revered Señor Quijana, I generally know an empty bag of hot gas when I smell one, even if I can be pricked like him into action anyway (viz. my recent erratic sneeze at the foul flatulence-passer of the U.S. House of Representatives, dishonoring for two years more Iowaʼs fifth district, and his wickedly amoral, overly financed, petty swipe at Iowaʼs state supreme court — who merely knew bad law when they saw it). New resolutions in place, The Dishonorable King will probably provoke further resistance on this site unless he somehow, unpredictably grows a conscience, an ethical accomplishment he conspicuously preaches and thoroughly, obviously lacks. Besides maybe heʼs not the soulless monster he appears. Let me put these rosy Rightbended glasses on… Yes, now I perceive that heʼs only an unjust kneejerk reactionary uncontrollably spewing sedition, repression and self-promotion. What harm could there be in a monogonadal mustache-less would-be dictator like that troglodytic animated-dunglump?

That felt good all over again.

Yes, the wickedly deceitful inDecent Dextreme shouldnʼt be permitted to sling their excrement without equivalent retort. But I despise the vague feeling that I in reply may reside at their foxily breitburpous beck and lame-bogging… Is it wisdom to descend to where the demonized howl in endless agony? Difficult to resist the too-easy fun, though.

My original point for this day is to acknowledge that maybe my greatest strengths, when provoked by rigid gibberish and turgid bunkum, isnʼt to attempt punditry myself, however proud I am of some of my previous posts decrying the degenerate and idiot state of American Dexdroidism*. I think I am better at just telling stories out of my rage and depression, as the vapid and demoralizing Pat Goobertson used to stir my passions to playwriting (and some of my most successful those plays were, too, thanks certainly in no small part to the talented and diligent casts and crews of those productions). Itʼs stories I want to tell. If Dextreme vanity, inanity and venality burble their black ooze of lies and manipulation to the placid surface of my mild existence, perhaps I should just think up characters, situations and revenges for fiction. I wonder… what might happen if the Tourist developed a political point of view?

Delightfully shuddersome! Further fantasies of so-called “Second Amendment solutions”…

Exactly, Right.

I am not even committed to any logical alternative to the whackRight (partly why it annoys me so violently to have them divide our citizens into “Us,” meaning them, and “Them,” meaning anyone of any rationality and therefore political stripe not ultraRightist[?], as that wholly false dichotomy is simply [and simple-mindedly?] wrong but so expressive of the anti-values that produced it), unlike the calmly eloquent Bill Maher, say. Dreading Big Government (and I really quail from — and oppose — a Government that seeks to dictate our private lives, all ye unmercifully selfRighteous!), I fear the greedy hands of Big (multinational) Business more/as much/more. I at least get a vote in government, or at least I may until the Rightizers have their fascistic way and “fix”/”take back” politics in their own witless and agonized image (after all, the so-called “socialists” have done nearly nothing in any other direction, probably a better indication, I admit, of the falsehood of the name-call than of an imaginary Far Leftʼs possible agenda). Back to the business at hand, corporations just want to use me, and history shows, abuse me in the equable assurance of future consumers to replace me when unfettered and unregulated corporate immorality has done its worst. (And of course, Kochsuckers, pay what it takes to get their unrestricted way.)

Who enjoys paying taxes? But when have humans not supported the ruling classes? And I like having the federal assurance of a “safety net” as one of my basic claims on “general welfare” — in sickness and in age. At least with Social Security, Welfare and a decent healthcare-for-all law, the ruling classes can take care of me eventually, and I donʼt trust religious zealots with my welfare, please, and thank you very much. But who wants to support societyʼs leeches? (And the Tourist does have such a case in his future…)

And I firmly believe in adhering (even strictly) to the Constitution! However, the document does grant Congress the power to enact any and all laws necessary… And that First Amendment (plus Article VI) creates a validly, necessarily secular state, “Christian America” nutjobs, as I have argued to excess recently (only to discover that zealotry seems to forbid reasonable discourse or acceptance of argumentation). And that Second Amendment clearly insists on the well-regulated militia basis for the non-infringement of the peopleʼs right to keep and bear arms (sorry, NRA faddists, but if weʼre going to stick to the Constitution, especially strictly, you gotta do what the document says — and that means join the National Guard if you want to keep that registered gun).

And, as I have previously observed on this blog, my personal freedom is paramount in my value system (acknowledging that I have been circumscribing and gnawing away at it since birth**). Nobodyʼs taking away my freedom (such as it is and has been compromised thus far), not my elected government, not mega-corporate shenanigans, not selfRighteous neighbors nosing into anyoneʼs private life, and particularly not duplicitous windbags whose sleight-of-hand verbal bombast intends to disguise that actual end (by preaching about “freedoms” but dictating submission to one narrow vision). Freedom is not a word to bandy blindly at corporate behest.

And…

But Iʼve greatly exceeded the thousand words already. (Hmmmm, why is it not the fictitious Left but the pointyDexters who seem to threaten what I value?) As my recent failure to argue just a single Fundie into recognizing truth in the face of his subjective desires should have taught me, I cannot be the wilderness voice against extremist duplicity and nonsense…

Besides, if I really were to monitor the postmortem electrical discharges of what passes for a cortex in Dextreme dogmatics, I would have to watch FoxNews. Regularly. Religiously. And the nasty, unpenitent, ceaseless repetition of whingeing falsehoods there halts my heart and shreds my soul. Who needs that on a daily basis?

* Root around in that neologism to discover the meaning.

** I really do need to pen a post on this concept that one actually deprives oneself of freedoms from infancy on (depending for oneʼs existence on Mom and therefore necessarily accepting parental restrictions from the beginning, thus commencing a long cascade of limitations on oneʼs personal freedom in exchange for safety/security). I keep alluding to the idea without a full explanation…

Over 1300 words?!

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Wasting Time

Can you find the dot for Pashitakua?

Although I planned out at least half the November novel yesterday, sitting in my truck in Dubuque, waiting for the proper time to pick The Lovely One for lunch, I canʼt claim much other progress (yet — itʼs only 3:30 right now). I now know there are predatory bird people on my imaginary planet (Tsyriel?), and the Travelers are lizardlike. I even have a reason in mind for the tentative title (in other words, how itʼs possible to be enslaved to the lesser moon). Furthermore, my callow youth must (as of this/yesterday morning) spend some time alone after his arrival (I think heʼll need some toughening up, both in character and body, if heʼs going to survive. But what if he doesnʼt? Hmmmm… intriguing novelty…)

And I am concealing from you a whole bunch of stuff, too. Actually, I wrote about two hundred more words on the new Søren and Judah extension once I got some of those Slaves to Lesser Moon ideas down in black and white (and which I will now need to transfer, orally, I assume, to the computer this afternoon). I spent some pointless time, first thing this morning, on the NaNoWriMo website updating my own and my bookʼs profiles*, which helped to shape a few ideas I have been baking in the semiconsciousness. On the other hand, those were minutes I could have spent putting words that count into the actual text before I had to leave the house for errands and Dubuque. (Well, this weenie nonwriter whines in personal excuse, I did work on the story, a little bit, in Dubuque.) But I also wandered around Samʼs Club (not finding the almost-but-not-quite-affordable Bose noise-cancelling headphones** I had seen only weeks ago) and ate with Janet. And the drive both directions gave me plenty of empty time for imagining and figuring things out (except it didnʼt work quite that way). Then I came home, all intent to Get To Work.

However, upon restarting the old iMac, I discovered that antagonist Daniel had dully kept his wits and understanding tendentiously narrowed and his argument stolidly repetitious, so I had to make one last attempt to rectify his deliberate and wish-fulfilling philosophical, historical-biographical and Constitutional mistakes*** (thus consuming irrevocably almost a half hour of my life). However, I think I should stop wasting time attempting to open a closed mind. It is a futile task, experience indicates, and probably just frustrating for the tightly constrained opponent rather than at all enlightening (my first clue of his utter resistance to reason should have been his automatic recycling of the tepid, uninspiring, incorrect and refuted assertions from our week-old exchange on this blog). If I mean to complete the novel, time-wastes are just that, particularly unproductive ones like this. (Although I like sharpening my own ideas, doing so recurrently with such a dull whetstone doesnʼt take me far; and he is the only gleam of intelligence among his selfRighteous fans — click their names to see what I mean; mct88 is particularly dim and meanspirited.)

So instead of hopping to the novel, chop chop, here I am putzing with this post (and struggling with myself to avoid discussing the positively disheartening and reactionary results of yesterdayʼs election). A conflict of promises to myself seems to be brewing. Unfortunately, both in my consciousness and already exerted effort, the blog has precedence. Perhaps… if I… just… stop. Now.

* And I quote — “PLANETARY ROMANCE.  Wisconsin college student, persuaded to test new principles in physics, is zapped from our world to another planet, supposedly another time. In this new world, he first becomes enslaved by Travelers, strange beings dissociated from the numerous other cultures and intelligent beings who compete for survival amid the remnants of a dead society.”

** You try living (even at my advanced age) with rapidly increasing tinnitus. As you may have guessed, I might, even in these recessional days, expend cash to slow the inexorable and surprisingly speedy advance of the raucous psychological static.

*** Actually his incorrections are not so much mistakes as deliberate (and perhaps even conscious, certainly not conscientious) falsifications of reality — simply to make his own desires appear (untruthfully) somewhat possible. Itʼs a very poor, selfdeafeating excuse for argumentation (and research… and reality).

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Elections Over

The Facebook pic in question. And I am… too poor to qualify as a Republican…

Election day was not my most productive, out of two so far, for the novel writing month. I let myself get distracted with politics (on Facebook). Once I had voted — first thing in the morning: although third to submit my form to get a ballot, first to send the ballot through the machine, and Janet was second on both fronts — I found a cute little picture of a button that said “I am too poor to vote Republican” which more or less summed up my view of the corporate money funneled into the party of No (as of today, I have been told by every source, the majority party in Congress, so we donʼt want to forget their established log of obstructionism). I think that when I put that picture up as my display pic, some friends were displeased. Oh, well, it will come down later yesterday (I am writing about noon on Tuesday) or early-ish today. And the resultant debate was interesting, too.

The more factual position…

Obviously, then, I donʼt know how the elections have turned out. The polls havenʼt even been open half their scheduled time yet here in Iowa. I am not optimistic, dreading that the disinformation spewed by blogiots and FoxGnaws may have had its intended effect. Democrats are no prize, either, too wimpy to claim the high ground or boldly advance genuine principles. When folks talk about entrenched interests, maybe we need to mean the two parties and their corrupted and ineffective system (completely extraneous to the Constitution, by the way). No more Republicans or Democrats!

But itʼs a new day as you read this. The elections are over, and I donʼt know how things have turned out.

I did notice that my sparring partner, Daniel, has attempted (off this blog, on his own) to answer our recent debate about undermining the Constitution (Article VI and the First Amendment) to gratify his personal so-called religious desires. He tries to misread Jeffersonʼs letter to the Danbury Baptists to support his unconstitutional notion that religulous ideas should dominate the federal government. However, Jefferson begins the content by saying clearly, “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship…” He is staking the ground strongly: matters of conscience are solely matters of conscience, which is where, within oneself alone, oneʼs relations with God, if such, are constrained. In other words, religion has no more direct influence on government than government may infringe upon free practice of religion — utterly undercutting any nonsense about “Jefferson indicates that a man’s religious values are free to infiltrate the government…” Itʼs the precise opposite: Jefferson indicates first the principle that conscience is personal rather than public to reassure the cold-shouldered Baptists of (Puritanical) Danbury that government will never revoke the First Amendment by imposing a religion on all the minorities that make up the people of the United States.

But I already replied to him on his site (at least three times, in fact). You can read my comment here, even though some peculiarity of Danielʼs comment system stripped away my own link back to the “Faithful Facts” discussion last Thursday. (I added it in a second of my comments.)

And putting together this bit of writing, my Facebook observations, and the reply to Daniel should comprise enough of a post for now (especially since I have to actually write some on my novel yet Tuesday).

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Wayfaring Stranger

Ironically, or through synchronicity, or merely by coincidence, after I had finished the posts for Wednesday and (at least roughed out) yesterday, God in America was on PBS Tuesday night. With American religion and religious history in my mind, I watched much of it (trying also to keep up on Glee and Raising Hope at the same time). First, I do recommend the series, and I learned a few things. For instance, evangelicals were behind the progressive movements of the nineteenth century: orphanages, public welfare for the poor, even Abolition (for which I had always credited the Transcendentalists, who strongly opposed and sought to end slavery but whose nature-centric, nontheistic rationalism should certainly put off most religious Tighty Righties of the present day). It must have been an unusual era, when the devout creatively practiced the preachings instead of greedily grubbing for themselves.

So I want to credit the nineteenth century evangelicals for actively promoting a genuine Christianity (and to PBS for reminding me to distinguish between evangelicalism, my own heritage, being twice-over a lapsed Methodist, and fundamentalism). Of course, even at that time, two hundred years ago, the United States was not solely Christian, however much some state constitutions and most Protestantsʼ everyday behavior expected the nation was (rather like our contemporary fundamentalists, I suppose). There were Jews in the country since the earliest colonial days. Slaves were not all (or like European Yule-celebrating ancestors, thoroughly) converted, and some if not many practiced, the best they could, their native religions from Africa (and out of that spiritual stress and mix, scholars agree, arose and evolved the complexities of voodoo). And native Americans mostly practiced their longstanding beliefs and rituals (also sometimes influenced by Christianity — which Andrew grads having taken American Lit should recognize from Leslie Marmon Silkoʼs short story “The Man to Send Rain Clouds”). Of course, first and finally, the initial Christians on what would become U.S. turf were the Catholic friars in/out of New Spainanathemic for those American Protestants (of already so many variable denominations) who had broken from the traditional faith (supposedly monolithic, ignoring Nestorians, Ethiopians and Orthodox, I guess) only a few hundred years earlier and who maintained a horror and aversion toward the church they often dubbed the Whore of Babylon.

Doréʼs Dante in the dark wood

Multiplicity of religions marked the nation from the beginning, leading freely to such religiously radical, independent-thinking revolutionaries as Jefferson and Adams, even Washington (to name only an unholy trinity out of the flood of freethinking Founders). But more important to those Framers of the Constitution were the combative and quarrelsome denominations of Protestants (and some Catholics) in which they lived — dissenters and established churchgoers. Thus the quite secular (and, as befits their neoclassic Enlightenment era, rationalistic) founding documents of the nation (which owe so much to agnostic, nearly atheistic Jefferson). I feel confident that those Framers never imagined their document would protect the free religious practices of nonchristians or disbelievers (except perhaps Jefferson), but within four decades from its signing, it already did (remember those Transcendentalists, already apostate by the early 1830s, even as evangelical spiritual rebirth enthused the nationʼs ordinary Protestants). Maybe those intellectual rebels in and around Concord were glossed as elitists by the evangelized frontiersmen, as our Fundies now wish to trash factspeakers dissenting accurately from their pseudohistory, but the comfortably Born Again were about to clash hard with an older religious division.

Immigration has never been a cozy situation for Americans, and leaving aside a national zest for xenophobia, for a long time the problem was clearly religious: the new immigrants were Roman Catholics. (I wonder if all the guntoting, teasucking immigrant bashers today would feel so frantic if incoming Hispanics were all Protestants or Mormons?) The Irish began arriving in the early 1800s, then the Italians — all Catholics and all subject to religious discrimination and violence, an abhorred threat to the snug (incompletely) Protestant nation. All in need of the shelter provided under the adamantly secular Constitution and the “free-practice” First Amendment, right along with freethinkers and the irreligious (and although they knew it not, the Catholic-bashers themselves). From those clashes and from others in the twentieth century has come our current legislative “wall of separation” between the state and religion, which Reactionary Religious Rightists seek to tear down for their own radical and novel ends (although they will lyingly pretend, as good conservatives, that it was impossibly “always so” and only altered just recently, just as they pretend that “under God” was originally part of the Pledge of Allegiance and not added at the gunbarrel of conservative antiCommie hysteria in the Fifties, no matter what blackened gaps and tortured rewrites they must impose on actual history).

My ancestors lived this history, on both sides of my family, right back to our Puritanical beginnings. These turmoils and transcendences I have summarized today comprised their lives. And I am sure some of them came down on what I would consider the wrongheaded side of the debates and conflicts (yes, you, John Winthrop). In all this mire, I have struggled to find my own way secularly and spiritually, abhorring falsehood and pretense, trying to discover a few crumbs of truth here and there. I explored my own religious history already and so wonʼt rehash it here. Besides, itʼs time to close this all out at last. I find itʼs hard to be a poor wayfaring stranger in this dark world of woe, chafed by the savage spotlights and overamped loudspeakers of fascist so-called Christians blinding themselves and too many others about what is actually out here beyond the razor-wire compounds of their faith-based concentration camps, where wellfunded stormtroops of doctrinal repression march unceasing. A new dawn would feel refreshing after the fetid black night of the soul their endless agonized wailing has imposed on the nation and the world.

Letʼs allow the Constitution to breathe free in these United States, unfettered, unbecked, by cant, hypocrisy, falsehood and sectarian prejudice.

Yikes! I penned almost a fifteen hundred words yesterday morning just in comments on Thursdayʼs post. With that I am far over doubling my net verbiage for today.

The Picasso performance was last night. As I am scheduling this post almost twenty hours ahead, I havenʼt actually performed yet, but Iʼll try to remember to write on how it went soon.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.