Very good message to America from god. This is a god worthy of being god, almost. Actually bringing about the reversal would make it worthy of being a god.
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Very good message to America from god. This is a god worthy of being god, almost. Actually bringing about the reversal would make it worthy of being a god.
Most of my life, from somewhere around birth then amplified a thousand times 30 years ago, I’ve faced exclusion, misrepresentation, demonization. Whether deserved or not, and I’ll admit I did start to bring a lot on myself there for a while, is really besides the point, which is: shifting perspective away from the perspective of the dominant narrative. We’ll skip over my Freudian beginnings (although a change of life baby, I was no accident, I was kind of a “Fuck you!” to my early adolescent brother, so I was the thief who stole his mother) as all families are fucked up. I think Floki is right, “Families shouldn’t be happy.” I digress, which I am prone to do. Ever read One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest? I love the perspective of Chief, the psychotic narrator who hallucinates and when he goes, you go (brilliant writing). Is that digression squared, digression about digression? Or just doubled? But it’s not so much the digression as it may appear since this is a post about perspective, alternative perspective, but I’m not there yet (kinda like Alice’s Restaurant, you have to wait for it to come around, and hope I don’t miss it.)
Oh yeah, dominant narratives.
Somewhere in mid-childhood a narrative began to appear about me, or so it seemed. I’d have people I’d never met tell me that other people I’d never met had said something or another, always bad, negative. Not a lot until I was about 14 when i was introduced to the Juvenile Injustice System. I had become something of a wild kid, might have something to do with being abandoned (virtual) and left to raise myself at somewhere between 12-13. Not sure I can really blame them. I was a weird and hard to love child. My mom indulged me and I think my dad was afraid of me from birth, so they fled. Again I digress and am doing what I said I wouldn’t and that’s talk about family, because All families are fucked up, nothing special or interesting in that (mine). So, I had friends in my own neighbourhood, I had friends in neighbouring towns. My neighbour friend decided he wanted to go rob the kid up the street of his awesome record collection. Sure, Ed, let’s go. they knew who did it and the police were called, I fled. I went to hang with my friends a couple towns over. I’d stolen, I used to say took, but let’s be real, I stole my mom’s car to get there. Well we partied that night and in the morning I noticed the police rolling up and got everybody up and into the basement and quiet. They went voluntarily, I didn’t make anyone do anything they did not want to do. When the cops walked away, we all went up, out and into my car. We left. A high speed chase did ensue, but after a mile or two I’d lost them, dropped everyone off and headed off.
I was not on the run long. Within the day I was in the police station, being questioned. I was the last in. Everyone else, both from my neighbourhood and the other towns had been in. A narrative has been set. The court paperwork from my juvenile proceedings had me listed as though I were Socrates, a corrupter of youth. I was separated from my peer group by court order. There were lists of people needing protection from my corrupting influence. Off I go, to a series of mental institutions. I never returned to school, to my peer group. I tried, but it just didn’t work. I’d built up fears of them and they a narrative about me (one day hanging out at the arcade by the high school someone came up to me and said they’d heard I killed people for money NEVER!). During adolescence the Jesus People decided I was a Satanist and started in on their bullshit. I have no idea what it is about me that attracts this but it must be something.
Now, you’d think that someone with experiences such as mine would be the first to recognize that the dominant narratives about people is oft false. Yeah, didn’t connect the dots for a long, long time. But it kind of does help explain my desire to defend Judas. My attraction to characters like Jean Valjean, The Man with No Name from the spaghetti westerns, Samara Morgan, Abbie/Eli, Niamh–antiheroes. First I had to learn about dominant narrative and counternarrative. I did this in training for grass roots organizing and activism, where re-casting the narrative is the goal, because change the narrative, change the world. So, I spend a lot of time considering narrative.
I spent some time as a Christian. I can’t call myself that anymore, I have many reasons, but the biggest is the damage to people coming from those who utilize that label. When most non-christians hear christian they hear hater and that is well deserved. People using that label do the most horrific things to people and feel self-righteous in so doing. Vile creatures, so many are. I’ve felt their wrath, way back in my adolescence and more recently. You see, I let myself soften towards their religion since the daze of my youth and gave them a chance. Even as I was going into the ordination process I had to wonder if we got it all wrong. Never really seriously, well I tried to be dismissive of those thoughts. this week I wrote a short post for facebook in which I switch perspective. It is a short post in which the serpent in Genesis 3 is not a devil aimed at hurting humanity, but a liberator come to free us from the tyranny of privilege. Is this a counter narrative? Is it derivable? You can’t even explore it from the dominant perspective, all you can to is reject it. But, what if you switch perspective. Kingdoms tend to tyranny, monarchs by their very nature are tyrants that oppress. Anything short of self-determination and self-rule is oppression and, therefore, tyranny. What if the people that created the bible had an ulterior motive? What if they wanted to create sacred texts supporting monarchy, divine rule, and by extension divine right to rule? What if we considered that the texts were written by privilege?
My friend suggested I work the post into something a bit longer. I’m no writer, as you know, but I have started outlining a structure. It is a fun adventure. I like tossing ideas out on the table, like rolling bombs, just to see what happens when they go off. What new ideas will come?
I had a thought, well I thought I did. But it’s gone now, if ever it existed. How often does that happen, have a thought, one you think is fairly good, then it disappears, leaving the faint trace of a memory of a memory, the thought that a thought once existed? How many of our memories are but shadows of memories, darkened by time, even when that time is just a moment? How much of what we remember never occurred, imagination colouring in the black holes of our experience? Where do our memories go? Shaped, changed, edited and re-edited by new experience and gained information. I remember reading Les Miserables for the second time, oh 11 years ago. There was a scene that I remembered vividly from my reading 12 years prior, I can’t recall which scene it was. But upon re-reading, after the lapse of time, that scene was nothing like I remembered. The same with one of my then favourite science fiction novels, Count Zero. I had read it in serial form in some sci-fi magazine and loved it. I saw it somewhere and wanted to share it with Shannon, when we were still together, so I bought it and she read it. After her I read it again, it was not the story I had remembered from ten years earlier. How could my memory be so faulty? So faulty with what I remembered so vividly, memory. Yet my certainty failed me, my memory failed me. Not that I forgot, but that what I remembered wasn’t anything like what the facts were. I thought that maybe that Count Zero had changed from the serial in the magazine to the published book and wrote it off as that. But Les Miserables was the same version, the same translation that I had read earlier, well I think it was. How am I to think about the events of my life, do I trust my memories of them? Can I? Should I? What caused me to think of these stories one way and their, actually, being another? How do I account for that? It isn’t all books, The Hobbit remained the same, so did The Lord of the Rings, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and most all other books that I went back to re-read. What was it about these two particular books that had me remembering them so differently? Yet, it wasn’t the whole of Les Miserables, just a particular scene. With Count Zero it was like I was reading a completely different book from the one I had read serialized in the magazine. All this brings me back to my memory of having a thought today, a thought worth writing about, yet it is no longer here, vanished. Did I really have a thought or was it the product of a created memory? What could that thought have been? It was today, not so many hours ago, where could it have gone? Where do memories go when we forget? When they return are they the same ones that had left? Can we know? Thoughts and questions such as these can send me into strange loops, recursive thinking, not unlike the fugues of Bach. Spiraling down, or is it up? Who can tell, spiraling can get one so dizzy that there is no distinction betwixt up and down, in and out. Well until that point when the spiraling tightens, traps and panic sets in. When I wake from these dreams I fear sleep, because my Hell is being trapped. Spiraling thoughts, claustrophobic, leading to Hell. Searching for memories that may have never been there, yet feel so real. Searching through the blackness and emptiness of forgotten thoughts, lapsed memories. Looking, searching for completeness. Completeness that once existed, or never was. Where do out memories go when we forget? We often find something, but is it really what we were searching for? Is it a copy? A replica? A cheap imitation, a knock-off, a forgery? Mining the mind for that which was forgotten because we believe that it must still exist, if only we search long and hard enough. Maddening, lost in the labyrinth turning first this way then that. No matter which way we turn, which path we follow we spiral deeper and deeper, darker and darker. Waking is the only escape, but were we not awake when we began the journey? Are we not awake now? How then do we wake up? Now, was there a thought? Or only a shadow of a memory of a thought?
“All paradises, all utopias are designed by who is not there, by the people who are not allowed in.” – Toni Morrison
First, I love Toni Morrison, her books, her mind.
I really like this quote from Ms Morrison. As I ponder it, I see the truth to it, universal truth. We might like to turn it around and say that paradises are defined by who is included. But once you set who is included, you’ve by necessity defined the larger group of who is excluded. I think that this is a universal human tendency, to create exclusive clubs we deem Utopian.
In light of this I have been reconsidering the parable of the Great Banquet in Luke 14. Jesus attends a dinner party thrown by one of the leaders of the religious elite. While at this dinner party He tells three parables about dinner parties. Parables about exclusion.
In the first he addressed self-aggrandizement, self-righteousness. People coming in were taking it upon themselves to take the places of honor at the dinner table. Promoting themselves, setting themselves above others. In this they create exclusive space, say others are less worthy than they are, “I belong here, you don’t.”
In the next Jesus tells the host that when he has these parties he should invite the poor, the destitute, the unclean, the sinners. Why? Because there is no real benefit in being exclusive, it is in inclusion that God’s blessings come.
Now that we have the context, on to the parable I really wanted to talk about. The parable of the Great Banquet:
One of the dinner guests, on hearing this, said to him, ‘Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Someone gave a great dinner and invited many. At the time for the dinner he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, “Come; for everything is ready now.” But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, “I have bought a piece of land, and I must go out and see it; please accept my apologies.” Another said, “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please accept my apologies.” Another said, “I have just been married, and therefore I cannot come.” So the slave returned and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and said to his slave, “Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.” And the slave said, “Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room.” Then the master said to the slave, “Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those who were invited will taste my dinner.” ’
We need to remember whom Jesus was addressing, the religious elite, those who made rules that kept people out. This is pointed out in the second parable in this narrative, the one where he tells the host he should’ve invited the poor, destitute, etc. This religious club, this exclusive utopia of society’s finest (we see this in the first parable of self-aggrandizement.) These are the people who wouldn’t associate with the other, those who other those different from them. These are the people who would assume themselves invited to the great banquet. It would never occur to this audience that the other would be invited, after all they didn’t fit the qualifications, that they had devised, for invitation.
In the parable all of the “invited” guests have refused the invitation. They have to do things that the exclusive, in-people do. They have their exclusive activities that prevent them from attending this dinner party. The other is then invited, brought in to attend the party.
This is a party for all. No one is excluded, because all are invited, included. However, the religious elite have excluded themselves. In excluding the other they exclude themselves. The very act of excluding, excludes the one who thinks they are included.
In Christianity they contend that it is the religious elite that have rejected the invitation. They even contend that Jesus was talking about the church, the gentiles who are the poor and destitute who actually attend. The church likes to see itself as the sinner invited to the party. They cannot recognize that Jesus is speaking of universal truths, just as Toni Morrison addresses in the quote above. It is our human tendency toward being exclusive that is being addressed, the religious elite and the poor are illustrative, vehicles for the greater message. While Jesus was probably not talking about Christians the application can be made. But not as they would like to think. No one wants to identify with the religious elite of the parable. Christians like to comfortably identify with the poor, outcast sinners. Yet, the more the church tries to make qualifications about who is in and who is not, the further it excludes itself from the great party. The more it insists groups of people cannot be a part of the party, the further they they are from attending themselves. Just as in their judgment they drink judgment upon themselves, in their exclusion the exclude themselves.