There it is. American so-called Christians don't want to help the poor and will not do it, no matter what. There are exceptions, like the Sparta Methodist church. My early years were spent having the Old Testament rules and regulations repeated unto belief system that what Jesus did had a spiritual meaning that doesn't apply to living in this world; you're to love the brothers and sisters in your church. Love your neighbor means to me the people around us, next door neighbor, people in the same restaurant, essentially everybody we come in contact with in the course of a day. Not killing my neighbor does not equal loving my neighbor as I love myself. That's a little much for a fundamentalist whose idea of religion is I'm-right-you're-wrong. Introspection? Assessing self is never a priority in fundamentalism; only assessing what somebody else is doing wrong. "That's not how it is in my church." How come your church isn't doing anything to benefit poor people? Some people are poor because of crystal meth, varieties of drugs, inebriation generally; they're sinners, that's why they're poor. The wages of sin: Christians won't help you. If you're in prison, it's because of sin; Christians don't approve of sin. That's the big deal I grew up under: don't-approve-of. I say shit someplace and somebody says, "I don't approve of that kind of language." I say, "Then don't use that kind of language."
I came out from that kind of thinking when I left the home of my parents. I did not know in my late teens that there was an alternative to Fundamentalist thought. I went to a Unitarian church for awhile to appease mother that I'm in church. I figured Unitarian was as far away from Fundamentalism as it can be in the same religion. I really didn't take to it. It too concerned preachers and disapproval. I was still such a dependent that I asked the preacher to talk to my parents to appease their fear that I'd gone to worshiping Satan. I was still subject to mother's control issues that never let up. In my early years on my own, I was learning to make my own decisions, anathema in fundamentalism. The fundamentalism I was subject to drove me to atheism, mainly to get it out of my mind as a force of inhibition. You-better-not. It had me twisted up in such tight knots that I had to throw the baby out with the bathwater, so desperate to get rid of the filthy bathwater the baby had to go too. Deep within, I knew there was something to Jesus, but all the rest of it was so interwoven with the gospel that I couldn't have one without the other. So I chose none of it. An entire childhood of prayers not answered turned me against "God." I pleaded and begged God in sobbing tears every night in bed to free me from the shackles of my parents, and it never happened. It only got worse. I stopped crying at age 14, told myself one night in bed with face in the pillow that I will never wet my pillow with another tear over them. I'd cried and screamed into the pillow so they couldn't hear me every night before I went to sleep. I'd get the shit beat out of me if they heard what I was screaming. That was the final end point of the parent-child bond. Answer to prayer. Our relationship had been of them keeping me crying. When I refused to cry, our bond was broken.
In myself I saw it as liberation. I had to do as they said, but only in the same way I had to do what cops said. Rule of Law. Nothing personal. It felt like liberation to me to distance them to the objective. Answer to prayer? Yet on the psychotherapist's couch it looks neurotic. Very neurotic. This diving within for liberation is the beginning of schizophrenia. While it's happening, it's quite comfortable. It's next best thing to walking out the door and never seeing them again. I was afraid to walk out the door because I knew I wouldn't get very far, cops would bring me back, and then there would be hell to pay in super-abundance. I wondered for a lot of years why I was living in such hate, and it was indeed hate, over people who went to church every minute the church door was unlocked, and took me along. Out and about they were so sweet like good little Christians who obey the preacher like they're supposed to. Behind closed doors: look out, yer on yer own. From the way it looked to a teenager, God was the problem. The Old Testament God of YOU BETTER NOT mixed with God's son who died because I was a sinner, all of it was too confusing. I threw it all away. Good riddance. By the time I was in my mid twenties, I laughed at religionists.
I also found by my mid twenties I was unable to love. Love was not even available to me. I believed an unknown someone in the future was waiting around a corner for me to fall in love with. Never anyone I knew. It had to be somebody I didn't know. If "the one" ever showed up, I'd never have noticed. Love was shut down in me. Hate was easy. Angry inside. It was a boiling rage. When I see a man with a really red face, I know what he's feeling inside. And I know where it came from. By the time I fell in with Baba at age 33, I was still unable to love. It was some years with Baba applying WD-40 to my heart before I was able to get it. The key was the day I was reading some of Baba's words and he said that understanding was a form of love. I thought: I can do that. I did have understanding. I understood that black people are people too. I felt empathy for their situation. I knew how oppression felt. Yes, I could understand. That one word was the turn of the key that opened my heart. I'd been pursuing the development of my ego. It came to a place where ego gets out of control and becomes self-destructive. Then one's life goes to shit. It might look good on the outside, but it doesn't feel so good on the inside. Then the outside becomes a mask of what's missing inside. Round and round it goes spinning webs of illusion so thick there's no way out.
The chance opened up to move to the Blue Ridge Mountains, live on a remote gravel road at 3,000+ feet on a mountain with waterfalls a short walk into the woods on an old cow trail. I'd longed subconsciously for mountains all my life. In Kansas there weren't even any hills. All highways went in a grid of straight lines. Kansas fundamentalism was the dirty bathwater I threw the baby out with, the state where they have a problem with teaching evolution in the educational system, unto legislation popular with a majority of the population. From Kansas, Southern Baptist looked liberal. The preacher from our church made a bid every year to be received by the Southern Baptist Association in Atlanta, and was rejected every time as too unrepentantly hard shell. Really. He was a Swede from Minnesota, whose parents came over from Sweden. Ingmar Bergman and I had the same religious upbringing, Swedish Protestantism. It made us both into existentialists. Perhaps for Camus, Sartre and deBeauvior, French Catholicism had that hard core a hold on their childhoods. I've not read their biographies, so I don't know. My friends who are ex-Catholics had the same issues in childhood as my friends who are ex-Baptists and ex-Jews. It's not the whole, but particular families in the whole that spit their kids out unable to love after defeating their spirit with church.
I believed moving to the mountains that manual labor on a working farm every day would gradually work off my anger that was still loud and clear. The anger didn't go *poof* when Baba took hold of me. Year after year I kept the anger. It boiled in me when I was out stretching barbed wire, putting fence posts in the ground, cutting firewood, digging with shovels, hitting nails with hammers, mowing hay and putting it up. It seemed like the harder I worked the angrier I got. Inside, I was growling and questioning what was going on. I'm supposed to be learning something about love and I go about angry all the time. After seven years working the farm, it was time to move on. I took up house painting. It was easy, I liked it, I could work alone. Curiously, the day I left the farm all my anger went away. It was like my lifetime of anger was packed into a helium balloon and released. It all went away in one package. It really did go *poof.* I don't understand the process, but it taught me that the way of the spirit, the way of love, the path I have chosen, albeit against my own wishes at the beginning, the Way takes time, requires experience, understanding, reflection, evolution; it's truly a process of inner evolving. It's the Tao. It might be about becoming a better person or it might not. That's not what it's about in my way of seeing. Becoming a better person is a side-effect to establishing a love relationship with God. It's not the purpose. Once caught up in God's love, Divine love itself, becomes the purpose. A love relationship with God really does make for a beautiful life. It keeps me in touch with simple, honest (or dishonest) people doing what it takes to get by.
Friday evening in Galax Lowes, I spoke with a guy who was dirty and poor and a little bit slow. He was carrying a rolled up rug and we were waiting for the sales clerk at the register to return from wherever she went off to for whatever it was. I asked if that was a rug rolled up he was carrying. He said he was getting it for his grandmother whose rug was dark and she wanted a lighter rug. I asked how old his grandmother was and he said after thinking about it up in her 80s. We talked like people who knew each other. I saw in his countenance he was a lover of God. He was somebody on the social ladder who was bottom out of sight. His boy was with him who looked about 11 or 12. I could see in their connection that the boy watched out for his daddy who wasn't too good at getting around in the world. I saw in him the boy that led the blind wise man Tireseus. Clerk comes back, we go off in our different directions. I felt like I'd had a God moment, made contact with an angel unawares kind of moment. I don't have any money to give the poor, so I work with BROC in the county taking care of the poor immediately in our world, our neighbors. Putting on the Hillbilly Show once a year is our fundraiser. We don't get government money and we don't play religion. Everybody involved, about a dozen, are church going believers, individuals who paid attention to Jesus advocating for the poor. This is how I do my part for the poor. I can't join some refugee outfit and distribute rice to people in refugee camps in northern Africa and bury the dead. I can extend myself in a heartful way to someone "poor in spirit" and listen when somebody is having a hard time, needing to talk to somebody. I don't have to be doing it all the time. Only when the moment presents itself, the only times it's real. Forcing it just makes a mess of things.