Excursions into the Southern Church

It’s more than an excursion I guess. It feels more like a calling and a dream yet realized… which has all sorts of frustrations attached to it.

Its been a little over 7 months since my return from China and just about a year since I left San Francisco as a resident. It’s strange to think of time this way. The time has passed so quickly, it feels almost unjust. The farther my distance in time and intimacy from San Francisco the closer I find myself to Chattanooga, TN. Place lends itself to attention, and after some months of avoidance or just apathy I’ve been dabbling, testing the waters, of the Southern Church. It tangles me up inside. I don’t feel very safe inside Churches anymore, much like Nietzsche’s Zarathustra I feel overwhelmingly compelled to cry out – become the madman – in fiery critique as each word, sentence, declaration is uttered from the pulpit and parroted by the congregation; it all reeks of antiquation. “Have you not understanding?!! You’re beliefs are rotting beneath the very language you use to profess them! Your precious faith requires renewal, not only of the heart but of the mind!!”

I want to be the madman but the courage is not with me. Perhaps, I need more training, or perhaps I care to much for my new, prominent job as a teacher – I doubt whether I would keep my job very long if I built a reputation flying off at the handle in every new church service I attended. Even after years of excavating and healing my anger, it still finds me; it is an anger that finds fuel in the strangest of ways. Most recently it found me as I explored a new growing, popular Church in Chattanooga.

I recognize my anger. It flows from a familiar karma, an emotional, circumstantial contradiction between the is and the ought, the actual and the potential. When I walk into Church communities I am hit face to face with my own powerlessness, anger, humility, love and compassion. It’s all there. The egoic voices run first and loud: “Doesn’t the church “need” me? Hasn’t my path toward liberating the Christian mind been valuable, worth communicating and even… preaching?” This passionate frustration often expressed in anger flows from a place deep in my heart. In so many ways I have devoted my entire life toward this end – toward the liberation of the human soul. Upon this identity more than any other I hung my desire to serve and lead. I do dream of preaching a liberation and liberating gospel – that is yet to be realized in my life.

I have steered clear of these particular communities for so long – the Fundamentalist Christians – overtly “Biblical” they are demanding “Salvation” where “Jesus” and “Blood” and “Cross” are interchangeable locutions for belonging. On the one hand, I have a deep affection for this particular brand of marketed/plastic/commodified Christianity. I know it; I came from it; And I desire to change it. And on the other, the very truth I hold out as its new aim – a history of conscious evolution, the integration of religion and science, the integration of the sacred and the material, a critical consciousness of liberation, justice, and love – the conviction with which I believe “Christianity” needs this message reeks of the very judgement that I find so reprehensible in its message. “I have the “Truth” and you deserve to hear it and be redeemed by it!”

I’m working on being compassionate toward Christians. They need prayer as much as anybody. I have no business warring with it or anything for that matter. When its my time to radically change the Church I’m sure I’ll know it. In the mean time, I have to continually realize the truth which is that I am a teacher. I do not sell a new version of Christianity. I teach 6th grade Global Cultures and its awesome enough.

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