Tag Archives: fear

The Great Whale

We haven’t been talking much. Something keeps us.

The religion of perfect peace in this house, perhaps. It creates an atmosphere too heavy to disturb.

I admit I’m gone a lot. Mostly I’m at work. When I’m home I’m on the internet often, swimming in the blessed invention of the laptop private pool of otherness. Or playing with the little kids. In games you don’t have to say the what is and isn’t.

She’s gone, she’s at home canning bushels of pears, she’s at church in the woods with the four or five families that still come. The only people who are her people. All others are untrustworthy- the sea in which The Remnant must stay afloat- preferably without wetting the hems of their robe. She chooses the Remnant. She has no one else.

My sister.

What would happen if we talked? What would we say?

The headlines. A boy, twelve years old, was out playing in a park. Imaginary monsters swimming through his eyes, he brandished his defense against them- an imaginary weapon. Whatever fear crawled closer to him- in the air of a world where death drives the streets slowly and buys coffee while it sizes up the passersby- he would defeat. And the air would pull back and happy and proud he could breath. He had won. He can beat the monsters. His teeth flash like black Peter Pan; the Child Whom Pirates Cannot Kill.

In the air of a world where fear takes the shapes of those it consumes and uses them to its own ends, a shape not quite gone picked up a phone. In the twilight of security, what was left of a voice cautioned, “It’s probably a fake.”

Fear wants to know what’s real but fear can’t ask a child. Can’t be led by a child. Can’t lead even a child to safety. Fear is too unsafe.

Fear asks the Authorities. Can you check? Can you tell me?

Death set down its coffee.

When Death arrived on the scene, two seconds went by. Then Death’s shape was revealed.

Without justice, said the long dead father, what is a nation but a great robber band?

The Child lay dying and Death stood over him, watching him die.

The Pirate whom Time Forgot.

Or was it us?

If one of these little ones causes you to sin, tie a millstone around their neck and drop them into the heart of the sea. Then stand and watch them drown. Jesus didn’t actually say that last part, but we can infer from our knowledge of biblical principles.

One of the last times we talked about anything more other than pears or changing clouds her voice was lacing itself with anger.

“I think pointing out race IS racism! You are making the problem by talking about it!”

When she had still just learned to walk and talk they poured cold water over her head. She had been sitting under the table crying at the top of her lungs. Her wail had cut off as she gasped, unable to breath.

In God there are no shifting shadows. If you see such things, your eyes are wrong. If your eye is wrong, put it out. The only tears allowed are blood.

As I float in my pool of hurt and strange, escaping from the perfect light and peace in which, for other reasons, I do not exist, my brother plays on the floor.

A Child of the Remnant. A child in what we are sure, this time, finally, are the Last Days. They must be. Everyone is against us. Already, he is afraid. His body has begun to grow, stretching him past the legs of his jeans. He weeps and clings to his too small clothing when they throw his holey safety away. He pulls back from new things as if burned, running to people who once hit him daily and call him an idiot, begging to know what’s allowed. His Authorities.

Tell him, tell him, what’s Good and what’s Evil. The Innocent can’t know these things for themselves. Only the Guilty.

He daydreams on the rug as he goes through his arsenal of toys. Orange capped, black, glossy and realistic as possible to protect him from the air he breathes. Imaginary weapons.

They never let him out to play with other children. Though funny and clever and lonely he has no friends.

You know what? Death will probably never stand over him in the streets. He may never feel safe enough to play there. And one day he will stand. Where will it be?

He’s twelve years old.

How could she possibly talk with me?

Who did this?

When I grow up I’m not going to be a pirate. I have no human enemy. Nor will I pursue such creatures. I’m going to be a whaler.

I imagine a harpoon, feel its weight and the grain of its haft made of nothing in my hand.

God, the imaginary monster, no real weapon can kill.

We are the only ones here.

 

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2014/nov/26/tamir-rice-video-shows-boy-shot-police-cleveland

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2014/12/02/cleveland-cop-said-he-had-no-choice-but-to-shoot-12-year-old-tamir-rice-father-says/

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2854617/Cops-shot-12-year-old-Tamir-Rice-dead-holding-BB-gun-did-not-aid-watched-lie-agony-died-just-hours-later.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/24/tamir-rice-boy-shot-cleveland-police_n_6211064.html

http://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2014/12/police_procedure_experts_quest.html

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2014/dec/03/officer-who-fatally-shot-tamir-rice-had-been-judged-unfit

 

 

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The Fear of God

“… to call someone a Corinthian was really- well- it wasn’t a nice thing.”

I pulled the top off a new marker and continued to draw.  I’d been staying away from the the Church Bible Studies.  But  this one was at my parents house. All the people who had asked my family about me while I was gone were coming.  I had no real excuse that didn’t sound like obvious avoidance.

So I brought my sketchbook and some metallic markers and sat in a corner of the crowded room. This was what I had always done- I just hoped my expressions weren’t too expressive.  Pastor was talking about Corinthians.

“The church in Corinth was surrounded by horrible immorality.  Imagine if our church was plucked up and set down in the middle of San Francisco-  in the middle of…” he fumbled, looking for the words “-in the middle of a gay scene? Can you imagine how hard that would be? ”

Camouflaged as a person among people, I tried to imagine.

You must not MIX with the immoral, Pastor explained.  You could be around them at work, he granted, but you couldn’t join your life with theirs in any significant way.  The only result would be suffering.  Terrible suffering.

The Church meets  at a summer camp and it’s member’s living rooms because it doesn’t have a building.  Most of the families home school/ed and most of the girls wore long denim skirts up until a few years ago.  The youth were swept with a restless wind about that time. The girls started wearing long skirts made of not denim, along with über fashionable tops that showed their upper arms.

While they stayed home and waited for someone to marry them.  In their late twenties.

I wondered how the ‘adults’ would react if they suddenly were aware that that the immorality they had so studiously isolated their progeny from, and that they contemplated with such horror from half a nation away, was sitting in the room with them.

I focused on drawing. The line of the pen on the page. Focus. Focus.

Pastor went on.

“…Now, when we say ‘the fear of the Lord’, does that mean we sit around shaking with fear because God is going to come and get us?”

Que the explanation of how ‘the fear of the lord’ doesn’t mean abject terror but respect, I told myself, planning  to pat myself on the back for knowing the talking points so well.

“It only partly means that.”  I looked up in surprise.  I thought I knew this speech.  “It does partially mean that, because after all, we serve an awesome God. But it also means having respect for God…”

They’ve been upgrading their definitions while I was away.  It isn’t the definition of fear that’s changed necessarily. He did still mention the fear= respect thing.  It’s just the definition of awesome that’s changed.

Serving an ‘awesome’ person now means serving ‘a person so frightening that you would be immobilized with helplessness and terror at the thought of disagreeing with them, because they are going to show up and do horrible things to you in revenge”

I wonder if Rich Mullins knew that.

Awesome is no longer awesome.

The Pastor went on to talk about how  a true Christian must stand for one’s convictions even when surrounded by those who disagree with them.  Then he talked in a soft and tender voice about suffering.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw my mom move. He was saying this for her, I suspected. About her situation.

The point of life isn’t to be happy he said. The point of life is to obey. God. In whatever He wills for you.

They prayed.

The Bible Study ended.  I went to face/escape from a large gaggle of young women in long skirts and fashionable tops. In ecstatically happy voices that managed to sound prerecorded, they asked me how I was doing.

Closed in my sketchbook was a picture of a Hindu god. Stylized and glittering, the god’s arms and aura swirled around him.

“Now I am become Death- the Destroyer of Worlds”

 

 

 

 

my personal avoidance issues

True confession: I haven’t read the Gospels in years.

I spent my childhood and teenage years reading and rereading the Bible- Old Testament and New.  Recently, I… I’m not really sure what I did. Something clicked in my mind and I started reading in a new light. I had a class where some of the optional reading material was about trauma and childhood abuse. I read all of it. And more. And More. That may have been what did it actually. Because I realized that, if the Old Testament were literally true, as I had been brought up to believe, God isn’t a tough but fair guy, who was sad about how we continually failed him and how we all deserved to die in a fire, but who let us make our own choices anyway.

God- if he were literally true, as I was raised to believe- is an abuser.

Who threatens to kill his children for the slightest disobedience. Who arranges for other people to torture them if they aren’t living up to his standards. Who literally gets them pregnant, if he feels like it.

Who can demand that a parent murder their own child.

Who can wipe out the population of a planet as ?punishment? for things he authorized in the first place.

I don’t see how being The God of Everything somehow makes permissible in Him things that in us would be crimes. Shouldn’t He be the example the ethics he demands of us?

Yet he does not.

I’ve been mucking about in the Old Testament for some time now. The world becomes more surreal the longer I do.

The context of the New Testament can change its meaning. I know that. Both Christianity and Judaism refer to the Tanach (the Jewish Bible or the Old Testament) as the Word of God. But how you interpret this older section of text determines whether you see the specifically Christian portion of the Bible as being More Word of God or as being the crackpot writings of first century Judaic malcontents.

Now my interpretation of the Old Testament has shifted away from anything I have heard of from Jews or Christians.

The last time I read the gospels, years ago, I had to read them backwards- starting at the last chapter and reading one chapter at a time till I reached the first- to keep my attention from wandering. I had heard the words repeated so many times, read them so often, that they no longer registered as having meaning. Like when you write the word declare a million times.

declare

declare

declare

declare

declare

declare

declare

declare

declare

declare

declare

I decided I would stop trying to read them- just for a while- until my mind could recover from the repetition and the text could regrow its meanings for me.

I don’t know how much longer I can put off reading them again. I’m pretty sure that when I do, they are going to have meaning,

This is kind of cowardly of me, but I’m afraid.

God turned into a monster while I wasn’t looking.  What’s Jesus going to be?

I was always kind of afraid of God.  If I lose Jesus too- I’m not sure what I’ll do.

the childrens’ teeth are set on edge

Ezekiel 18 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “What do you people mean by quoting this proverb about the land of Israel:

“‘The parents eat sour grapes,
    and the children’s teeth are set on edge’?

3 “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel. 4 For everyone belongs to me, the parent as well as the child—both alike belong to me. The one who sins is the one who will die.

“Why not?  He’s already said he’s going to kill us.” The newly made king Manasseh picked up the seal he’d been toying with, and looked over at Shebna.   “Nothing I do can make him happy now.  He’s angry with my father, not me.  I’m just the one who’s going to die for it.” He smiled bitterly.  “Or not die.  As the case may be. You all are the ones to whom he’s giving that privilege.  I’m going to be living in the lap of luxury- serving up my tender ass to the king of Babylon.” He put the seal down and looked up at the ceiling in mock rapture.  “Do you think he’s really as handsome as the images they make of him? I mean- the Assyrians had those stiff glossy beards that looked-”

Shebna could feel his face turning red.   He wasn’t young anymore and he hadn’t been for a long time. This was not to be tolerated.

“The House of David has sinned, Manasseh!   You didn’t win this kingdom for yourself- you inherited it.  You inherited its failures as well.  God is angry with us.  He will do as he pleases.  Your responsibility to your descendants and to your nation is to keep from angering Him further, and you-

“My descendants!?” Manasseh interrupted.  “By the Name- do you understand what a eunuch is?

“-you may convince him to relent.”

“And what can I possibly do that my father didn’t? My father-” his voice choked and he looked away.  His eyes were glistening.

“Hezekiah was a good king.  Maybe even a great one.  But he was not without his faults-”

“He was the greatest king we’ve ever had!  Even Isaiah thought so!”

“It is perfectly within His right to punish-”

“The violation of a rule that never existed?”

“He is within His right to do as He pleases!”  Shebna felt a twinge of long suppressed suspicion, even under his anger.  The priests had long said that they knew what the Lord required of His people.  That they had records.  But they never produced them.  He turned his irritation towards the young king.  “And it is not within your right to question! The Lord did great things, great and marvelous things, for your father’s sake.  He saved our nation-”

“So that he could destroy it himself!  How could He possibly let it be said that anyone but Him was allowed to touch His toys?  But that doesn’t mean He finds them amusing any longer. That doesn’t mean He isn’t going to throw them away.”

Manasseh put his head in his hands.

Shebna could feel his veins pulsing.  The shock was making his tongue feel woolen.

“Have you no fear of God?” He gasped.

“What has God left me to be afraid of, Shebna?  Tell me that!”

Shebna couldn’t answer.  The room was swimming around him.  When Manasseh looked up, Shebna thought he saw the face of a child.  A child who had played happily in the palace, spilling his ink and hiding behind him when ambassadors arrived and Hezekiah had to look stately.  Who had come running to him.

Manasseh caught him as he fell.  He lowered him gently to the floor, then ran to the door way, yelling.  He came running back, the tears he had forced down now flowing around his eyes.

Shebna kept trying to talk, as servants came and things were done frantically around them.

“Not like… idolaters… you are…  …sacrifice…  the king’s son… Hezekiah…”

Manasseh tried to shush him to get him to lay quiet, but the light was going out of the old man’s eyes.  The others kept trying long after Manasseh had sat back on his heels.

“You don’t want me to sacrifice my son to Baal for wealth and peace??” he asked the emptiness in Shebna’s eyes.  “But I’m just like my father.”

“How could I not?”

***

2 Kings 20:14 Then Isaiah the prophet went to King Hezekiah and asked, “What did those men say, and where did they come from?”

“From a distant land,” Hezekiah replied. “They came from Babylon.”

15 The prophet asked, “What did they see in your palace?”

“They saw everything in my palace,” Hezekiah said. “There is nothing among my treasures that I did not show them.”

16 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord: 17 The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your predecessors have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the Lord. 18 And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood who will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”

19 “The word of the Lord you have spoken is good,” Hezekiah replied. For he thought, “Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?”