Lucifer Jones

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Deep Self

A mysterious person has pierced the veil. Somebody from the company I'm working with has found the blog and presented themselves as such, commenting on a recent diary entry. It brings up an interesting angle about me, and I kinda feel like writing personally for a moment.

I spent a lot of time yesterday in public, which sets me into one of three primary moods. These three are in effect when it's just me, if I'm with somebody else then I pay attention to them. They are center of attention cool guy, alien observation mode, or counting the five dozen reasons a person like me does not belong here. I'd rather be in mood one, two is cool if I can think of an interesting literary angle, three is often not bad, unless it's a business meeting, church or some other serious affair where I'm supposed to be paying respectful attention. Yesterday was mostly three with a bit of two interspersed.

It is when I am in mood three, which I'll call 'logical rejection', that I become introspective. And my introspection is usually brief (since I know myself very well) and what follows is explication. I was at the African Marketplace in LA yesterday and I got hooked on one sentence repeating in my head as I became bored out of my gourd:

I was 8 years old when I accepted Jesus as my personal savior (pause, waiting for the audience to warm to this) and I prayed all the time. By the time I was 10, we were on very good speaking terms, Jesus and me. (warm and cuddly now). In fact, I finally asked Jesus whether it was him or my conscience talking. (turning somewhat intellectual and deep-like). Jesus told me that I already knew the answer to that, but to check back whenever I had a question my conscience couldn't answer. (whoa, deep). (extended pause). I haven't talked to Jesus much since then (uh oh) because as far as I was concerned Jesus blessed me. He left me in the hands of my conscience...

Now I'm being unfaithful to yesterday's thought. Although all of this is true, what I wanted to say yesterday was a slam right after telling people that I was saved at age 10, which is that much of Christianity only requires the emotional maturity of a child. And that is what I truly think every time I hear someone use the phrase 'heavenly father' and 'personal savior'. What is a personal savior but an invisible friend?

That is not, incidently, how I think of Jesus. It is not the kind of Christian I am. I am not a 'take all of your troubles to Jesus' kind of Christian. I do not respond to calls to redemption. One day perhaps I'll need that like oxygen, and I'll be eternally grateful that there's a balm in Gilead, but I don't sing that song today. Swing Low Sweet Chariot has always sounded to me like the very anthem of the defeated soul.

Instead, I look to Jesus as the Christ. People who say Jesus is sweet, that Jesus is love, who constantly bless and glorify the holy name of Jesus, almost never say Christ. I cannot tell you how deeply that aggravates me as a Christian. Christians, as the name implies, ought to follow the life of Christ. That has nothing to do with the Cult of Jesus.


It's odd that I get to that point this morning. There are a huge number of daunting tasks on my agenda and I should be about them. But my mysterious stranger has prompted this, Nulan too and the responses at my other new and personal blog about my Report From the Lower Upper Middle Class.

I don't have a lot to say about myself. I do, but I'm a fundamentally low key individual about myself. Sure, *I* pay a lot of attention to me, but I don't spend a lot of time trying to get other people to pay attention to me. I'm not sure why that is, but I could guess, or I could invent another true story that explains it. Another time.

So because I don't get other people to pay attention to me, my interactions with people, even over long periods of time tend to be surprising to them. And I think that when people find thing out about me it tends to make them mistrust me - being someone full of surprises is not good. That is why I wish I had something, or one thing, that could communicate me beyond the barrier. It's this blog of course, which is fairly complete about my thinking these days, but it's really not. I once wrote, back in 1999, I came to the Internet to influence people, not to make friends. That's absolutely true, and still is. But it is inevitable that a Socratic march towards philosophically consistent reasoning about the worlds of culture and politics can be deeply revealing of the self. And that self, presented here at Cobb is one I am perfectly comfortable with.

And yet it is somewhat troubling to be all that I am here, and those few things I am at work. That is because I am a consultant, and I am working for a not inconsiderable chunk of change to be a catalyst for my clients. I don't have time for a lot of small talk, I work, I prove, I facilitate, I move on. It's a painful thing to separate from a client when you've actually made things work for them. I am accustomed to being the accelerated part of other folks' jobs. Part of me longs for the pace of my old white collar world of Nordstrom shirts and suspenders when I was executive staff and the top floor pace was that sustained by executives using the force of their personalities and relationships to steer a giant ship of a 3% annual growth company. I'd have a hell of a golf game by now. Moreover people would expect to know my personality and be constantly judging my character in terms of the way I lead and motivate and discipline my team. But that's not what kind of career I have now, and I have become at long last comfortable with my inner geek - perfectly willing to be that as the situation demands.

But then there's this blog. Where the philosopher and the profane raconteur and the blistering political firebrand, and the haughty raceman and the... yeah whatever. You guys ought to write better intros of me. In fact, I'll have a contest. Shay has her quote column, I need a 'people are saying' thingy too.

Yesterday before I left to the African Marketplace, for the first time in a couple years, I looked to see if I had any Cobb business cards. The last time I went, I saw my old friend Art McGee. This time, I was out of Cobb cards, so I took some old Vision Circle cards. But the whole event was disappointing and I gave cards to no one. I wandered around through tents set up by the 50 Page Book Men and the Scientologists(!). But I'll write more about that separately. The point is that once again, I didn't feel like sharing. I kept seeing echoes of things and places where I was mentally and spiritually a really long time ago, and it sounded like.. it sounded like yesterday, and I wanted to be in the now. I wanted everybody to see Christ as I do. I wanted them to see blackness as an emergent behavior. Well, I say that now. What I wanted was to get out of there.

It's the discomfort I have in making the case for the differences that keeps me quiet face to face. I am much more comfortable being a strong silent type who responds to pointed questions rather than bogarding my complex agenda up front. What I've said before is that a rapper wants $17 of respect from a million people; I want a million dollars worth of respect from 17.

And so I'll sadly say goodbye, sometime in October to all the folks at my client, having been only who I've been. And with the exception of the mysterious stranger that's likely all they are to know. Ironically, I am perfectly comfortable with that.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Moderate Islam: A Good Idea

Gandhi famously replied to the question of what he thought of Western Civilization: "It would be a good idea". I'm thinking the same thing of Moderate Islam, but not exactly so wryly.

I caught a snippet of Krista Tippet's show yesterday. It was Karen Armstrong's voice and verbaige that attracted me once again as I was flipping through the radio station presets. As I tuned in she was relateing a story of how she and a panel of experts were stunned into silence when a Christian Fundamentalist addressed them in horror and pain. I didn't catch what the details were but it didn't come as a surprise that the man in question was hauled away by security for telling them they were all going to Hell.

We've all seen these guys. Right where my eye doctor is, in a place called the Hollywood Riviera (yes it's kind of all that) there is a man with a van that defies description who daily prophesies about the end times. He's the Man in the Jesus Van. And we ignore him. And if he one day ran himself off a cliff in Palos Verdes or set a parking lot on fire, we probably wouldn't be too surprised. He's 50 or 60 years old. But what if he was 20 and needed more action than that?

I'm an Episcopalian and I have very little to do with evangelism. I personally find evangelism arrogant and sometimes repugnant. That's because I basically grew up secular before I grew up Catholic. I was smart enough to figure out how to pray and live with my conscience as something of Lutheran intellectual exercise at a pre-pubescent age. Did I talk to Jesus? Yes. Did I accept him as my personal savior? That was between me and Jesus and none of your business. What's it to you? I thought it took a lot of nerve to ask such questions of kids, but I was asked, and told how much I needed Jesus like most smart-ass kids who actually memorize their Bible verses with a smirk. I chose which Jesus I would talk to, and He was eventually the Christ as presented by the Jesuits. I chose which traditions I would share in the Body of Christ and those were eventually the Episcopal Liturgy. My Jesus, My Religion, My Church. Not yours.

I am absolutely convinced we all do the same thing. And so it comes as no surprise that I cannot recall any sermons from the Episcopal pulpit feeling a need to explain away the behavior of Jimmy Swaggart or Pat Robertson. I've listened to the most extraordinary message about racism in the American Christian Chruch presented by Rev. Frederick Price, but I don't recall much discussion about that anywhere even by those who insist that America is a Christian Nation. Oh yeah? What kind of Christian Nation?

Jerry Seinfeld is not going to take orders from the Lubavichers. Baptists of the Southern Convention are free to ignore the Pope, and they will. Mennonites are not going to make excuses for Methodists. I think you get the idea. Moderate Islam is not going to moderate other types of Islam. 'Moderate' is an adjective, not a verb. Moreover it is an adjective of American origin. American politics are not going to make 'moderate muslims' influence Islamic Fascists.

"Some of my best friends are Sunni." Start from there.

We simply have to call spades as we see them and deal with the dirt done by those doing it. America's moral leadership on the matter is not really at issue. Even if we were a Muslim nation, we would still have sectarian and class barriers to deal with. There is something very specific that muslim fascists want to accomplish and we can resist that directly and keep our own house in order without being authoritative on Islam or Fascism. Let's stick to the religion of Freedom and let the other mullahs and popes say what they will. We can only come correct in a firm and honest defense of who we are.