Short Version of “My Story”

I’m “errant” in that I was certainly “called to preach” in that that role was laid out for me in my youth, even before my birth as mother had promised the Lord that if he would give her a son she would “give him to the Lord.” And one of my earliest memories is standing on a bed, trying to maintain balance, while I looked at mother and sought her attention as I held open a Gideon’s New Testament and “preached” the only words I had picked up in these early days of being verbal, “John the Baptist…and locusts and wild honey.” Somehow that little tidbit of scripture had caught my very immature fancy and was the only thing I could offer as I tried out the “fancy” that my mother and family and community were prepping me for.

And truly a desire to “please momma” was a big part of the picture as this scene in my life, one that is indelibly imprinted in my memory, clearly spoke of my knowledge that it would please mother if I would become a preacher. Furthermore, in the conservative little backwoods Arkansas subculture that I lived in being a “preacher” was a mark of honor and one road to power. For what can be more powerful than “preaching hell fire and damnation” to guilt-ridden, shame-based southern Baptists in a splinter group from the Southern Baptist Convention so conservative that the Southern Baptists were viewed as “liberal”!

But now in hindsight, I realize that I never really subscribed to this indoctrination nor to the social, familial pressure to preach. Oh sure, consciously I tried to, tried so hard to comply and adopt the right beliefs and mind-set but in the depths of my heart I never “drank the kool-aid.” I saw the importance of attempting to subscribe to the tenets of this culture and to adopt the role I was being proffered, but I knew intuitively the inauthenticity of spirituality that was ideology only, devoid of any gut-level involvement. Only in recent years, have I realized the bargain I made, “Yes, I will go along with all of this, and] I’ll try really hard to get it all right as I really want to fit in and have the comfort of belonging. So, you can have my head. BUT YOU CAN’T HAVE MY HEART!”

So I’ve been a divided soul ever since and still am though now this “autistic shell” that I retreated to is in full-scale dissolution. I now realize that it was necessary that I “rebel against god and his call” so that God could become more real in the depths of my heart. The god that I refused to give my heart to back in my early youth was a conceptual god and thus an idol god, one devoid of life. Efforts to comply with that god left me with an obsessive demand to be “right” in thought and behavior, the assumption being that it was possible in the first place. This obsession left me with an over-emphasis of cognition, believing that God could be apprehended with reason, by mere syllogistic thought. Now I know that I am not “right” and never will be and have given up trying, taking comfort in the deep-seated, intuitive knowledge that there is a Right that graces this universe and that I always have been, and always be, comfortably ensconced in its/His arms. This is called Grace.

This blog will be about my experience in this “wasteland” of fundamentalism and my sojourn out of its miry, suffocating, soul-destroying depths. That reference to the poetry of T.S. Eliot (“Wasteland”) brings to mind another line from one of his poems in which he noted to need to “live in the breakage, in the collapse of what was believed in as most certain and therefore the fittest for renunciation.” But now, living in this “breakage” I can find value in the “detritus” of scripture, value greatly enhanced by a knowledge of spiritual traditions other than my Judeo-Christian one.

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BIO INFO: I am a retired mental health counselor living in El Prado, NM, just outside of Taos, NM. I moved here one year ago with my sweet wife and two lovely dachshunds after having lived most of my life in Northwest Arkansas. I have a degree in history/psychology (double-major) from Henderson State University and a Master’s degree in counseling from the University of Arkansas. But my real education has come outside of any classroom, with my head buried in liberal arts literature, especially history, literature, philosophy, religion.

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