james ensor, masques confronting death
One day last week, talking with a friend of many years, she was telling me about an evangelist on the radio from New Orleans who is really good. He had an experience where for some odd reason he turned up in heaven. He noticed in heaven were no Asians, except for Asian babies from abortions. I couldn't allow myself to laugh too hard. So I told a joke. This man died and went to heaven. Peter welcomed him and took him around meeting people. They were at a big outdoor dinner party with people from everywhere in the world and all religions. At one point the man asked Peter about a big white mansion on a hill off in the distance. Peter said, "We don't go over there. That's where the Baptists live. They think they're the only ones here." She didn't think that was funny. I saw that I've been feeling impatience toward fundamentalism more than ever recently. Ordinarily, I'd let such a thing go by as telling me about a preacher I'm never going to hear. This time, my basic human intelligence was insulted. I don't need to be a genius to see that preacher is full of shit.
I can listen to a mountain preacher on and on, even find insight in what they have to say. These are the God-called ones. Elder Millard Pruitt, one of the God-called ones, explained to me over 14 years what God-called means, how it was found out in a man who claimed God called him. In the old-time way, when a man felt he was being called, he had to pass rigorous tests before the ones who knew what a calling was. It wasn't a test of knowledge. He had to spell out his calling before the older preachers and was required to preach in the spirit for them to see, and for all the congregation to see. It was a test that could not be faked through. It often took years. It brought to mind the Tibetan way of finding the next Dalai Lama. Monks put the child through given tests, that again are not about knowledge, to see if this is the same soul as the Lama that left the body. In the old mountain Baptist way of getting their preachers, there was very little room for error. I've come to see, in agreement with a lot of Old Baptists I talk with, that this spirit that gave the calling to preach went away around the time of WW2.
The spirit for preaching as they did in the old way, "from the spirit," like the preacher is a vessel and a vessel only, through which the Holy Spirit speaks, went away. The Primitive Baptists here have recognized that and the preachers no longer get "het-up" (heated up) while they talk. They talk from mind now, running references, connecting dots, each man a scholar of the Bible. It looked to me like the Regular Baptists refused to let go of the old way and faded out. Something changed in that time. Big changes like that seem to accompany big wars. WW1 was the time of Dada, Duchamp, and big cultural changes as well as belief system changes. WW2 the same, but different changes. WW2 is where USA got it's We're-Number-One creidibility. That's fading as what USA has done with it's number one status is impoverish people of color and declare war on the poorest, most defenseless countries. Big changes. We're in a time of such changes that we go with the changes or fade away. Probably, somewhere in the mountains, someone is living with an outhouse and carries water in a bucket from the spring. But everybody has electricity and plumbing now. And everyboody has a tv but for a few who never took an interest. Recliners, washing machines and dryers. Very seldom do you see clothes outside hanging from clotheslines.
It seems to me like the Baptist religion has become a calcified shell protecting the life form way deep inside. Something like a chambered nautilus shell. Or something like a beehive around a queen bee that protects her and sustains her. The Truth. The Baptists have a patent on the Truth. As I can see it, the Truth of the gospels, the only part of the Bible I pay attention to, is Love God and treat other people right. That's how I approach my life. I allow others to be who they are. They allow me to be who I am. I've become independent along my spiritual path of other people telling me what I oughta do, gotta do, better do. Anyone who has ever started a sentence like that with me has been someone who definitely does not know. I'm in full accord with the core of the baptist belief system, that Jesus was the Christ. I don't see a Calvinist belief system is the equal of the Christ. In my time of abandoning the baptist belief system, I kept the part about Jesus was the Christ. All the rest I threw away and am, to this day, refreshed to have it gone from my mind. Christ does not equal doctrine. Christ is about allowing. Doctrine is about control. I cannot commit to doctrine just because I believe the core the doctrine was spun around. The doctrine is of no spiritual value. It's only value is control. It's the same in all of Christendom.
So I go my own way, like the Fleetwood Mac song. Everybody coming from any kind of doctrine tells me I'm wrong. I'm used to it. I was born wrong. Being born wrong has its blessing. It motivates finding one's own truth. Of course, to one who needs to be controlled, you can't trust yourself. You need the produce manager at the grocery store to tell you what to believe. Lord have mercy, that brought up a knot in the belly that's been there a long time. Age 17, 1959, the temperature in the house was on HI shit hitting the fan every day. Daddy and mommy, both, in moods from hell. Life among them had become unbearable, and I was living in the garage, not even in the house with them. I played Dwayne Eddy and Ronnie Hawkins records to drown them out of my mind. The same as kids today do with death metal rock, blasting parent issues out of their minds. I had no one to turn to. In a strange city I didn't grow up in, Wichita, where I had no friends, because I was the outsider who came from Kansas City. The preacher at the church I already knew I could not trust, but could think of no other way but to talk with the preacher. Maybe he could give me intelligent counsel. Not. Beyond you-gotta-get-saved-or-you're-gonna-go-to-hell, he was no help. Of course, it was my fault.
I went to see the preacher. During the week he was a produce manager at a grocery store. I never felt like he knew shit from shinola in the pulpit, but what did I know? I was the church black sheep, the kid nobody was going to stop from listening to rock and roll. The preacher in the church I grew up in in KC, Dwight Johnson, was a Bible scholar and a man of integrity. The preacher at the church in Wichita was a self-called twit, in the way I see it now. Then, he was somebody my entire being shrank from. I did not believe his integrity as a man. And I learned. I made an appointment to meet him at a time we both have time. At the beginning, I asked for total confidence, he NOT tell parents or anyone else anything I've said. He promised. By the time I got home, they were waiting, and in a very short time I was thinking I drove a gasoline truck straight into hell. Talking About Us Behind Our Backs is a felony. The atmosphere in the house became even worse. Preacher told them he didn't believe a word I'd said. They assured him he was right not to. I couldn't even look at the preacher after that. Turns out they couldn't either. It wasn't long, a very short time, in fact, before they found a better church. When I think of that dumbass, I growl within, like Caterpillar growls when she sees a dog.