Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Trouble in Endor

Even though I'm telephone dating a preacher named Jack Daniels, my essential Bokonism remains intact. I have no more and no less belief in This God Thing than I ever did. I like the idea of a higher power, but in the final analysis, it doesn't matter if God exists or not. Despite some insistence to the contrary, Ethics and Morality have never been dependent on the existence of a deity or two or any kind of afterlife.

Some people have enough faith in their own abilities to declare once and for all there is no God. I don't see how any human who has ever lived can draw any conclusions about God despite all the speculation. When I try to imagine anything like God, I tend to go along with Herman Hesse's Siddhartha or Disney's Pocahontas. I figure that if you listen to the colors of the wind, you'll hear: Respect each other and the planet and calm the fuck down. I can't remember what Siddhartha had to say, but if he were to pass me a reefer right now, I'd smoke it. Namaste.

Apparently, I'm pretty good at contextual, exegetical hermeneutic discussions on the fly. Who knew? I always knew I was helpful with my friend's English papers in college, and frankly, I don't see a whole hell of a lot of difference between a sermon and an English paper except that with sermons, you absolutely have to bring in Jesus and The Bible which is actually what you would have to do if you were in a class in The Bible as Literature. Actually, Jesus is only relevant in The New Testament - but it's all still The Bible as Literature and you can bring in current events and comparative mythologies all you want.

In all this sermonating, I have learned about a character called The Witch of Endor. Never think I have started reading the Bible. I haven't read it yet in all my fifty years, and I'm not starting now. I might read it some day if there's a large print edition with pages that don't stick together. My mother got me an Amplified Bible some years ago in a subtle attempt to nudge me into giving Velvet a Christian Education, and I haven't even filled in the family tree.

**Side Note** I made Velvet go to Sunday School roughly eight times when he was in fifth grade. My thinking was that if he were forced to go to church long enough so that he begged to stay home, Velvet wouldn't turn into an Adolescent Evangelist and start telling me I'm going to Hell in my own living room. I hate that Bible Thumping Bullshit, and I felt it was my duty to society and to myself to prevent my own child from becoming a Bible Thumper. To date, this plan was successful.

Even though I still refuse to read The Bible, I have taken it down off the top book shelf and looked at it once when I was on the phone with JD. My intent is to leave it on the nightstand and pretend like I'm reading it when, really, JD is just telling me what it says.

One of the people JD told me about is The Witch of Endor. Some ancient king was about to go into battle and didn't feel like consulting God/Jehovah about anything. He preferred to consult some dead prophet. This king either went to see The Witch of Endor or had somebody fetch her so she could conjure up the prophet from the underworld. Once the prophet was conjured, he declared that the king sucked so thoroughly as a leader that he had to die in order to make way for the Kingdom of David.

In keeping with the generally patriarchal nature of Bible stories, The Witch of Endor doesn't get much stage time. And frankly, I'm most interested in the Endor part. Anyone familiar with Star Wars knows that the forest moon Endor is the home of the Ewoks.


If we can believe Joseph Campbell, and I believe we can, then Star Wars is just as Biblical as The Bible. Ewoks may be overgrown teddy bears with limited technology and fire power - but they can bring down an Imperial Walker with a length of strong rope. I especially liked it when they smashed one with a couple of well-aimed swinging logs. If memory serves, the Bil Moyers-Joseph Campbell discussions show that people around the world in every kind of culture have stories about little guys triumphing over the forces of Evil.

In Star Wars, we know for sure that every ambassador and senator in the galaxy can't or won't do jack shit about The Forces of Evil - and we see it today when Dick Cheney can publicly admit to War Crimes and nobody in the government even yawns.

It's too bad that real life doesn't play out like popular movies and pervasive mythologies. Maybe here in America we're all oppressed by malaise as we wait and wait and wait for a leader. And truly, the Ewoks of Endor could not defeat the Empire on their own - and neither could the Rebel forces or the Jedi. They all had to work together. This alliance indicates that any changes for the better in this country will only result if We the People, the few true populists in the government and liberal churches work together.

According to Jack Daniels, 20th Century theologians struggled to reconcile the horror of the World Wars with the idea of God. Paul Tillich and some other theologians went in a direction that makes a bit of sense and the rest insisted on clinging to an understanding of God that only works by denying a reality that slaps you in the face every morning - which is how we wound up with Conservative Christian Right Wing Republican Straight White American Males like those bastards at C Street running the show. We have church loads of congregants who have been conditioned to deny facts such a Obama''s Hawaiian Birth Certificate and whose fantastical notions persist even as they are being crushed to death - like the notion that Corporations are basically Good and a free market generates the best of all possible worlds, especially in Banking and Health Care.

Personally, I dismissed The Church back in eighth grade as irrelevant because it was filled with greedy hypocrites. I have to wonder, however, if the liberal branch of the church could provide a structure to facilitate social change from the grass roots. The Church where I work has been calling for social justice since the first service in 1931. Despite the fact that Martin Luther King, Jr preached from our pulpit - and Nelson Mandela, too - we haven't seem to have gotten very far with the Social Justice mission. Those guys were real leaders, however. We haven't seen a real leader in this country since Ronald Reagan took office and told the white people to forget social justice, go back to the suburbs and shop. Rudy Giuliani and George W also said the most patriotic thing Americans could do after World Trade Center Day was shop.

I got an email today from Howard Dean saying he wasn't going to stop fighting for a public option. Naturally I sent twenty bucks - but this endless argufying over health care is making me cranky. I feel like we've passed the point of going to Hell in a Hand basket and are careening toward Idiocracy like the Jamaican bobsled team - except I liked the Jamaican Bobsled Team. Between an education system that is designed to produce an underclass who will follow instructions and churches across the land encouraging cognitive disconnect, the outlook is bleak at best.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

Apparently Edmund Burke never said that even though he is often credited with the statement. Wikiquotte says that the line probably came from the screen adaptation of War and Peace. I like the War and Peace idea better since we're up to our ass in a class war where the Tea Baggers have been mobilized by propaganda masters retained by the wealthy to maintain the status quo. At least the Tea Baggers are doing something, though. We watch Rachel Maddow with our fingers crossed.

It doesn't matter which stories resonate for you - The Bible, Lord of The Rings, Harry Potter or Star Wars - sooner or later, Evil gets so strong that little people have to fight back. As much as I continue to support Barack Obama, The Empire is in Endor. Saruman is in The Shire, and Dumbledore is dead.

Davis Fleetwoood from No Cure for That has a suggestion:

15 comments:

Justin said...

"it doesn't matter if God exists or not."

But it does seem to matter whether or not people believe in God. At any rate, faith isn't likely for intelligent, educated people these days. When such people are religious, in my experience, it seems to be just an abstract clinging to the symbolism of religion. Nostalgia, really. Someone described it to me recently as 'second-order religion' (in reference to Wittgenstein's Christianity). Religious faith just isn't resonant with the age we live in. It will be again someday.

Teeluck said...

Religion is on it's way out...thank God. You write wonderfully PEN, this is great. Keep up the good work. See you at the Dublin thing...

MRMacrum said...

God's been getting in our way for entirely too long. God's been a crutch for entirely too long. But like you, I have no opinion as to whether a higher power exists. I think anyone who is positive one way or the other is turning wishful thinking into fact. Believe an idea long enough and get enough people to go along and that unproven idea becomes fact. Rabid atheists are no better than snake slingin Christian Fundamentalists.

I was an acolyte as a young man. I had even considered seminary school for a moment or two. Jeez, the dumb things we do as kids. Sure glad drugs came along and saved me.

PENolan said...

Welcome Justin - it's hard to have Faith in anything these days. And somebody mentioned Wittgenstein to me the other day, too. Odd.

Teeluck - Good to see you, and I will definitely be there on the 22nd. Most likely, I'll be bringing lots of food, wine and beer.
Maybe even weed, but that's a secret.

MRM - Blessed Be ;)

Vancouver Voyeur said...

Wow, you mention the Bible and great philosophers that I studied repeatedly in college and really should remember something about. ...Um, nope, recognize the names, can't remember their writings. I am what's wrong with America I fear. I can't remember anything. I easily forget the deep, the complicated, the important, the relevant, and feast on the fluff of society that doesn't matter. I am a pawn in the game of big business to keep us ignorant, pacified, and apathetic. Must break free.....

JD said...

Let me just throw these things into the hopper:

“Ethics and Morality have never been dependent on the existence of a deity or two or any kind of afterlife.” I think our anthropological journey through history offers evidence to the contrary. Whether it’s the classical Greco-Roman philosophical schools, or the ancient indigenous value systems of Native Americans, or the civilized ethos of peoples from Celts to Sumerians, you’ll usually find a priest, shaman, Teacher, druid, or some Oracle attached to the system.

The other thing worth sharing: I have it on good authority that soon after Rosa Parks was busted for illegal bus riding, a group of church ladies approached their young pastor and firmly encouraged him to step out of his study and help them make a response. These weren’t the sort of church ladies that helped Dana Carvey create his successful caricature. These were educated, southern, African American women. They spoke and their pastor listened. They organized a social action group and elected him its president and spokesman as they launched the Montgomery Bus Boycott. That’s how Martin Luther King, Jr. got his start as the primary leader of the Civil Rights Movement, a movement grounded in an authentic religious Christian ethic.

One other thing your post calls to mind is the definitive power of story. The Bible is a patchwork collection of stories whose narratives have inspired people for at least three millenia. But in our time and place, the most influential, defining and reflective stories seem to be those found in film and television. (My apologies to print, but that's just the way of it now.) We might even add the stories that unfold in whatever video game we've put on the computer or the game console. Or even the stories being told via venues like YouTube on the internet. When I ponder such things, it seems wholly appropriate to go to Endor, whip out the lightsaber and kick some ass with the Ewoks.

Anonymous said...

Hi PENolan, stopped by to say hello, I do believe in God, to me he is the only thing that makes sense. But have to agree, to me the Bible, is a collection of stories retold generation after generation, not to mention, that men translated this century's after these books were written, as well as still do not get why a Catholic Bible is different containg more books. Also in my experience interpations very from one church to another is most common. All writings can be twisted to suit whom evers need. But as you can tell from my writting have never studied great philosophers, attended college, etc...As more time goes on with world changing so, feel even more under educated like one who has been left in the dust. But humans need something to believe in. Be it God or Luke Skywalker..
I take exception to people who interupt the Bible to say what they want to hear. Makes me very crazy.
I go to sunday school at a Methodist Church, that is more about the fellow ship, but gota tell ya make the rest of them crazy, because am still trying to support President OBama.. do not understand why so many people think that a Republican is the right hand of GOD...(NOT)
OH almost forgot.
VV, stop thinking so much, or too deep. have you considered that maybe your just getting older? the last thing one could say about you is that your anyone's pawn. or apathetic. What you are is very human. :)
p

PENolan said...

P, glad to see you. Aren't you V.V.'s sister? And V.V. - you are the last thing that is wrong with America - but I think a lot of thoughtful, reflective individuals who search for ethics and equity in our society are burned out and overwhelmed by Life As We Know It.

I still suspect that the organizational structure of the Church provides a mechanism to facilitate social change. The trouble is that a great number of progressives, for lack of a better term, would only set foot in a church at gunpoint. Weed at Wednesday night fellowship might help - maybe you can arrange it, JD, once Lent is over ;)

Communities need chiefs and shamans for a variety of reasons, but I maintain that these authority figures exist as human constructs. These authorities are sources of justice, wisdom and/or cosmology but that doesn't mean they have been informed by a deity of any kind despite no matter how loudly they insist God told them so.

It's very comforting to believe in a Just God or Karma that makes sure what goes around comes around - or a universe that assures anything you send out comes back to you threefold. Even I have faith that somehow everything is going to work out all right in the long run - but I hardly think God is going to rain frogs on those bastards at C Street and every other corrupt SOB in Washington DC and on Wall Street.

We the People have a job to do. It looks like more church ladies need to start rousting preachers until a suitable leader emerges.

Anonymous said...

Yes am guilty, am the much older and wiser sister. GRINS FROM EAR TO EAR...:)
Know you will get a giggle, my pastor, is INdian from INDIA, generally Wend. is soup night, But I'm a tomato soup kinda gal, and he puts hot pepper, curry and colainder in everything he makes and hunks of ginger, my stomach can not deal with it any more, so have been begging off to stay home and fix supper for my husband and myself. Rather than attend the Wednesday night not to mention free time to my self, am getting a bit greedy with that sort of thing lately.
It's been many years since indulged in the wild & wacky weed, but thinking about it could put quite a spin on things. They like it when I bring brownies, maybe some extra special ones are in order. Bad Pat Bad Pat.. Have a great afternoon.
Forgot to mention, mom lived in Austin quite a few years, on a visit she took me to see the blue bonnett fields very nice.
Have a preference for smelly flowers, did you ever make it to Lilac Fes. in Rochester NY> p

Gail said...

Hi there-

Like all things, it is what we do with our belief system that matters. I don't care if people believe in God, or frogs as the 'truth' or 'jelly beans' so long as in staying true - the beliefs promote love and goodness and justice and so forth.
Personally? I ally with Jesus - not in a freakish way - I like his teachings and his hope. God? ummmmmm, ya.

And there was one line in your post that I didn't know what two of the words meant. Guess which two!! :=-)

"I'm pretty good at contextual, exegetical hermeneutic discussions on the fly"

Love you girl
Gail
peace...

PENolan said...

Gail, I didn't know them either until about a week ago when Jack Daniels used them to label a discussion we were having about Mary Magdalene . . . It has to do with Excavating and Building Bridges.
Pat - Never saw that Lily Festival, but I'd bet it would make me sneeze ;)

Vancouver Voyeur said...

Boy Pat, thinking about making "special" brownies for the church. For shame!! ;-) Bet it would liven things up a bit, maybe make the gathering a little more meaningful as everything does get that way when you get to a certain point, and probably on the Wednesday dinner night would be best, for the munchies that follow. Thanks for the visual and a great laugh.

Mr. Charleston said...

Pat, I think you are my long lost soul mate, or at least sister! Agree with everything you said except the part about turning out an underclass who will follow instructions. Would that it were so. I fear the contrary, they are turning out an underclass that is totally unruly and self-absorbed thus creating a malaise so thick that the capitalists can have their way with no fear of the people ever getting it together enough to challenge them. If they, the rabble, truly followed instructions there would at least be some hope that an organized rebellion could spring from the pulpit. As it is, we had better hope there is such thing as God and a beautiful afterlife.

Punch said...

Ok, ok I have not read anything more than the banner headlines about you and your endorin' love of preacher Jack Daniels or was it Jim Beam, or Hoesay Quarvo, I forget, but I am here to say. (ahem)
God is love.
Love is Blind.
ergo
Ray Charles
Stevie Wonder
Jose Feliciano
Blind Willie Jefferson
Blind Willie McTell
Blind Willie Johnson
Are among the sons of god.
I hope it all works out well, between you and Jack D.
God, I loved that "contextural exegetical hermeneutic discussion about flies. My, My, My.
This is true brilliance. (no kidding)
Namaste
by the way
Everyone Knows that Eric Clapton Is God!!

PENolan said...

Punch, the sentence reads "discussions ON the fly" not "on flies"
Sheesh - talk about blind ;)
Years ago, I saw Eric Clapton all the time because he came to an AA meeting at the YMCA where I worked. Nice fellow, God.

Mr. C, I meant the kind of instructions you need to be able to follow in order to close out a cash register and other tasks in low level jobs. Don't get me started on those greedy dumbshits . . .

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