this next posting is from the middle of the manuscript, from the section called ” I’m awake, I’m naked and I think I’m a Christian”. (hard to explain out of context…)

I didn’t keep posting consecutively for 2 reasons:
1) i realize that if i keep doing that, eventually no one will have reason to buy my book (knock on wood).
2) the first section seems so whiney and memoir-y without the other parts and i didn’t want people to get depressed and stop reading.

so here’s a chapter straight from the middle. hasn’t been proofread yet…

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
I think it’s called a Revolution.

You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
But when you talk about destruction
Don’t you know that you can count me out
Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right
all right, all right

You say you got a real solution
Well, you know
We’d all love to see the plan
You ask me for a contribution
Well, you know
We’re doing what we can
But when you want money
for people with minds that hate
All I can tell is brother you have to wait
Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right
all right, all right
Ah

I took this class called American Pop Culture at this school down the road from my school taught by this man I secretly call Flat Top Terry. It was a pretty cool class, seeing as I like to learn where things come from, including trends and history and all that. I learned all kinds of trivia, like that Peter Paul and Mary’s “There is Love” is the only secular song blessed by the Roman Catholic Church for a Wedding Mass.

Everyone says that this world is getting worse and worse and I guess I see what they’re saying, but one thing I saw from this class, as we moved from decade to decade in American culture, is that we aren’t really getting worse…we are just moving in a circle. People have always been and will always be the same flawed, beat up (dinosaurs) that we have always been. Human nature is not getting worse because you can’t get much more broke than broken. I think people are always searching for ways to fill our wounds, to stop the bleeding and we see the ways it didn’t work for our parents and so we try a new way and our children do the same and it seems like eventually we come full circuit. (examples).

If history does indeed repeat itself, as Flat Top Terry says, then if I could pick a decade for our present time to resemble, I would have to choose the 1960’s. It’s like those word similes (“associations”?) you have to do in the SATs

1960 is to Y2K as:
a) Vietnam Conflict is to the War on Terror
b) John F Kennedy is to Barack Obama
c) The Beatles are to the Jonas Brothers

I’m not saying things are identical but it is more like a second cousin type thing- you can see it around the eyes. One thing Flat Top Terry taught us was that the revolutionary spirit of the 1960’s was fueled by education. This makes sense to me. I see this at college all the time: we learn things away from the confines of our old self, have a group of peers learning the same things and we talk, discuss and get each other amped up to make a change. College enrollment swelled in the 60’s because parents of the baby boomers wanted them to have a better life than their generation did. Flat Top Terry said that some colleges had to build temporary trailers and even rent out hotel rooms just to house all of the students. So when the Vietnam Conflict happened and the draft started snatching these college age men off to war, their peers were informed and united enough to make a stink about it.

I’m really not trying to be political about all of this. I’m actually just trying to make a point about the Church, if I can just get to it.

My friend Danielle is one of those people with what I think of as a sensitive spirit. Like she has a divining rod in her heart that tells her when change is coming or when God is moving. Honestly, sometimes it’s creepy but most of the time I’m spine-tingled in awe. We have been friends for a long time (in fact, she was one of my Werewolf Jesus cohorts) and I have learned that when she says she feels God doing something, I shut my face and listen. Right around the time I started thinking about this Christian culture that I am trying to unpack, she started telling me about the work she is doing in a local youth group and how she feels this generation yearning for a change. She says she feels like something is going to happen but she’s not sure what. I picture it like those massively pregnant women you see on the beach in bikinis. There’s so much pressure on that skin and you just know a baby has to come soon or she will bust open. Danielle says she can’t see the Church functioning much longer the way it has been. That a revolution has to be born or we are going to explode. Actually, she said “implode”, nova-like, collapse in upon ourselves…but explode matches my pregnant belly description.
Here’s the thing about revolution, though. I think it usually has two parts: the deconstruction of the present way of doing things and the construction of a newer, better way. But one without the other is just stupid chaos. My 6th grade teacher took a missions trip to Haiti and came back with all kinds of stories about the poverty and squalor she encountered. She told us that Haiti used to be a rich and beautiful French territory, built on slave labor. When these slaves banded together and overthrew the French rulers, they burned and destroyed most of the French construction on the island. You can’t blame them for wanting to wipe the slate clean, but the thing is that the French had built some helpful inventions, like irrigation systems and farming machinery. Without these things, Haiti had a hard time getting back on its feet and has yet to develop much since then.

The students who led the revolutions in the 1960’s wanted the government to stop doing things the way they were doing and start doing them a new way. I’m sure there were students who joined protests in ignorance, just jumping in on a cause because their brother/boyfriend/roommate got killed or sent away. I think this is where a revolution can get into trouble- when people desire the deconstruction of the “bad” without being informed enough to see it through to the construction of the “good”. I think some people just say “yes! I agree with what you’re saying! The way we do _____ sucks! Let’s destroy it!” This kind of short-lived passion can help fuel revolutions but it can also set them off track. (They are built off of pain and anger…instead of knowledge and care…fundamentalists, radicals, jihad, crusades, Haiti…) From what I can see, the best kind of revolution is the kind that is done with a plan from the very beginning (Civil Rights, Ghandi, etc)….

But the change that Danielle feels coming (and the reason I write any of this) is not in Iraq or Vietnam. It’s closer to home. It’s in the Church that we love.
(And there’s this squeezing on my heart when I write this because I really do love the Church. It’s my home and it’s the people I love. I know things need to change but I hate to be the one to suggest a deconstruction zone. It feels disrespectful and judgmental and ungrateful and disloyal to say that I think the church is doing anything wrong. )
In a world of crooked politicians, voice synthesizers, food preservatives, breast implants and pastors with fake smiles, I think our generation is yearning for authenticity. We have grown up learning to discuss problems and seek our own solutions, but in Church we memorize the answers and are sent out to tell them to others. We have grown up encouraged to be the best that we can be and stay true to ourselves, but in Church a lip ring or an honest confession can get you bumped down a notch on the hierarchy of holiness. We grew up learning about equality and freedom, but we all know there is black church and there is white church. In Sunday school we read the Sermon on the Mount and recite the Beatitudes when there are people begging for money and lonely souls cutting their wrists just steps down the street. (When what matters more is that we are safe and happy and blessed. If we can sit in our pews and feel content, I think that might not be a good thing? If we are comfortable with everyone in our congregation, maybe that’s not good? Maybe we should bring someone to church who makes us uncomfortable? – quote from Traveling Pants 3 about people acting the worst when they are hurting the most?- not saying I do this…not gonna be one of those people who tell you that in order to be a Christian, you can never be happy or admit that you are blessed. But maybe that shouldn’t be our goal? ) I think our generation is tired of this disconnect.

But the revolution that Danielle feels coming in the church and I see necessary for our generation needs to be holistic. It needs to include a deconstruction of the way we do things and a reconstruction of a newer, better way. But we need to learn from the Haitians to not throw the baby out with the bathwater. But we need to deconstruct without destroying. I believe we are uniquely primed for this too. Our postmodern mindset may be built on the nonexistence of objective or absolute truth, but Christianity- or any belief- is built on the existence (and need for!) truth. This creates a unique standpoint for any postmodern Christian today. I think it finds balance in the embrace of “fragmented” or “conglomerate” truth, where one that admits that no human can have it all figured out. It is a willingness and humility to admit that we could be wrong and the way we do things could be wrong, we are just messed up humans trying to follow and imitate a perfect God. The way our parents did church is flawed…and so will be our newly constructed way. The only type of plan a flawed human can make is a flawed one. We need to realize this and take the truth and the beauty from the present way and use it as a foundation for the new way. And then we need to see it through to fruition. This is difficult, because some of us are in this because we are angry or hurt. Some of us want revolution because we hate what the Church did to our brother/boyfriend/roommate. This is not productive or useful.

I have no idea what this new church will look like. That will probably be someone else’s job. But since I know our generation begs for authenticity- I think we will go back to the basics. We will choose a Werewolf over a WASP. We will look at the Church Jesus built and try to move back to that blueprint. The way I picture it is that so much time has passed since the good old original that cultural traditions and ridiculous ritual overgrew it and became calcified and mistaken for actual Truth. I think our generation would like to just Bic off all of those falsities and just have bald, naked church back. Maybe that’s what we will call it. Bald Naked Church of God.

1 Comment

  1. Great passage Marri! I got to the end and wanted to keep on reading! As part of the generation urging for a change in how things are done in the church, I can completely relate to where you are coming from here. I can not wait to read the rest!

Talk to me! (I'm a slow but decent penpal)