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Thursday, January 13, 2011

RELIGION AND I

alleghany landscape - bullhead


A book came a couple days ago I discovered at amazon.com, THE SOUND OF THE DOVE: Singing In Appalachian Primitive Baptist Churches, by Beverly Patterson, director, I think, of the NC folklife center in Chapel Hill. It's the singing that draws me into a Primitive Baptist meeting. The churches Patterson studied were in Alleghany County and Grayson County. From what I've read so far, she's got it. She made an awful lot of interviews and recordings. Her book, as far as I can tell after about 25 pages, has to do with the historical origins of the singing as done in the Primitive Baptist churches. The doctrine behind the singing goes back to 17th century England and beyond to Gregorian chants. Patterson also accounts for why the Primitive Baptist way has continued to carry the singing style without changing as all the other protestant churches have changed over time.


I grew up in fundamentalist Baptist church in Kansas, meaning hard core fundamentalist, the preacher a Swede from Minnesota a few generations back, Johnson. The Scandinavians were every bit as hard core protestants, see BABETTE'S FEAST, read about van Gogh's preacher daddy. Kansas hard core fundamentalism was of the same belief system as Scandinavian and English 17th century protestant beliefs. It wasn't just something I was taught, but the preacher beat it into my head, week after week, day after day. Essentially, it was debilitating. It rendered every possibility of living a lifetime in this world defeated before it started.


The Pilgrims were hard core protestants of 16th and 17th century belief systems from the backlash called the Reformation following the Renaissance. This is the belief system at the foundation of our nation, though some of the composers of the Constitution and Declaration were what we call now Unitarians. Like them, I used education to help me crawl up out of the paralyzing morass of a belief system that has no practical application to this world we live in, anyway for me. I understand why the rejection, but we still have to live here. This is our spiritual playing field. Instead of living by an infinitely long list of DON'TS, I prefer to live by what makes the best sense to me, because it's my life. I prefer to live by Do instead of Don't. I was raised on No, Don't, and You Better Not, grew up with no idea it was possible to Do anything, because there was nothing left to Do, the flow of life sealed off with a log jam of Don'ts.


I'd love to be a member at a Primitive Baptist church, but I cannot adhere to a doctrine, whatever it is. I don't believe it's my duty to go to church. I go because I want to, and that is the only reason. I will not go because it's expected of me by anyone. I'd go more often than I do, but at a certain point of familiarity, expectations start arising and I start backing away. Like I'm not going to drive to Boone to go to the liquor store. When I want something from there, a few times a year, I'm going to the Sparta store. I believe in spending my money in the local economy, and I don't care who sees me or who they tell. Connected with a church, that's the big No-No, along with dancing and playing cards, and, of course, fornication. It makes me wonder if they've ever really thought about sin; like men beating wives and children is not a sin, but a sip of wine will send you to hell. Give me a break. So I took my break and live independently of other people's belief systems that are most often enforced the rooster in the chicken house way. I grew up in a chicken house. That was enough. I've paid my dues to the rooster syndrome. Am free of it and not going back.


This is the 21st century, and collective human consciousness has changed quite a lot since the 17th century. First, we've left the system of Patriarchy that governed the last 6,000 years, and have entered the age of Matriarchal and Patriarchal working together. We're moving into a time where women will be a part of decision making up front instead of in the bedroom. Male domination of the female is over. I can't identify myself with a patriarchal system in clear conscience, because I don't believe in it. In the American Indian way, women were a part of the tribe's decision making equal with the men. The male spirit needs the balance of the feminine spirit. The patriarchal time was characterized by war, power, killing, and tilted way out of balance. As we get more female perspective entering collective decision making processes, we might do a bit less killing and have less emphasis on power. The feminine spirit is nurturing. Everybody in the world needs nurturing after 6 millennia of men carried away in warrior mind, a long-standing tradition, a tough nut to crack.


If I could allow myself to join a church in this time of my life, it would be the Primitive Baptist. My connection with God is my own, however. I don't need to have my belief system approved by a board of roosters. It's only approved by me, because I'm the one living my decisions. I don't see God just the Father, but also the Mother. That may not be too acceptable to patriarchalists. It shuts me out of religion, which is a good thing. I'm of the protestant belief that my relationship with God is my own. It isn't available for approval by somebody not living my life. I am my own Calvin in that way. I don't want to lay down laws to my way of seeing for other people to follow, just to embrace it as my own, and live it, fine tuning it as I learn by experience along the way. If somebody else says the Lord commands me to go to church, too bad for his Lord, but mine says it's ok. I'm just living the original American belief system, following my own pursuit of happiness with the freedom of religion.


I don't call what I have religion. Everyday life is my church, my religion. It's in everyday life the Master wants me to work out my own inner logjams, in relation to other people, discovering the spirit in the other, learning by experience to value the people I live among. I can't do that and maintain adherence to a group that doesn't think I ought to know anyone from another group. A little too high school. Like some of my best friends are atheists. It's ok by me. As far as I can tell, it's a thinking man's place at the moment on a long path. Who am I to expect someone else to step off their own path and get on mine? It doesn't work well. Everyone's path is their own. Getting on a cruise ship of a few thousand and going together like that is ok by me.


Whatever anybody wants to do on their own path is what I want them to do. It just happens I'm alone on my path, the only way I can see that it's to be. This is where I temporarily am on my path. I'm engaged with my own flow to some degree and prefer to keep the flow in motion rather than anchor it down with doctrine. I tend to believe it's about seeing the spirit in others to the point where we're living in a heavenly way on earth, the garden, friendly associations with the people we live among. We don't live among just one kind of people. We live among every kind of people. We're like characters in Dickens novels all mixed up together. I think of the East Indian greeting, Namaste, the God in me greets the God in you.



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