Sunday, 30 January 2011


A lot of people raised in Christian homes reach adolescence and young adulthood and simply find they've lost their belief in Christ and God, if they ever really believed in the first place.
  They will tell you "I have so many fond, happy memories of growing up in that kind of environment.  I think it's really good for kids, you know, to learn about morality, and how to treat other people.  But you know?  I just don't have that faith.  I'm sure they find it comforting, which is great, and I wish them all the best, but it's just not for me."  They don't feel like they've "lost" it, though.  They feel they've seen through and outgrown it.

  As usual, I have done things backwards.  I reached adolescence and found I'd lost my belief in other Christians, and in being raised in an insular church setting, if I ever really believed in the first place.

  I will tell you "I have many horrible, upsetting memories of what can go on in those kinds of environments.  (Child molestation, money laundering, addictions, spousal abuse, suicides, murders and the like.  All of which it isn't viewed as Christian or "constructive" to mention or try to work through emotionally.  They so need to be anomalies, and not symptoms.)
  All human communities have those things going on in them, of course.  It's how rigorously Christians seem to unthinkingly deny that these problems are serious ones in Christian communities too (and how much less fairly, dependably and effectively they are dealt with there) that I can't drop.
    I think it's not safe for kids to learn (in the unspoken lessons that daily go on) that they, as Christians, are just better than nonChristians and that the people in their group are better taught than people in other Christian groups, and that they can go ahead and just ignore others unless one is "helping" them by preaching at them.  I think it's not safe for them to learn that they are never to say what they feel, nor feel what they feel unless the feelings are good, Christian ones.  I think it isn't safe them them to be taught not to be who they are, for that matter.  I think it isn't safe to teach children "Don't be who God made you, be who others need you to be.  Right now I need you to be more cheerful and to not talk about That Thing and how it bothers you."  But you know?  I still have, and have always had a relationship (often stormy) with God.  I generally find it challenging and troubling, and I'm stuck with it.  It's real, whether I want it or believe in it or not."

  But I don't think I believe in Christians anymore.  Or church.  And I don't mean "the Church" (ecclesia) as a concept put forth in the bible, of course.  I mean what the average person on the street means by the word.

  I grew up believing that I needed the church community to keep me from sinning, to keep me believing in God and the bible, to keep me from substance abuse, to give me a social community in which I actually belonged, to provide me with social interaction (right from Friday night activities, up to and including a spouse), to teach me what God wanted, to tell me what the bible said, to keep me reading the bible and praying.  The community was supposedly essential, I was told, to make sure I was ok and protect me from spiritual attack, to comfort me in times of trouble, to be healthy for me in terms of my emotional health, to help out with money, to help me find work, to keep me away from other Christian groups who had inferior understandings about religious matters, and host of other unstated things.

  What I found was this:
The community didn't keep people from sinning so much as it defined the precise shape and manner of sinning in which they indulged.  And they indulged.  I feel I believe in God and the bible very much despite the church community, and not because of it.  The church expected complete abstinence from all recreational substances as the only real way to ensure there were no substance abuse problems.  That's overkill in my case.  Drinking a beer with friends is something valuable and worthwhile to me.  In some cases, substance abuse happened with pharmaceuticals in churches.  Or people just took in ridiculous amounts of sugar and caffeine.
    The church community was completely ill-equipped to provide me with any social interaction with creative people, with thinkers, with artists.  (I didn't ask to be born with a streak of that through me, but I was).  I found I had to increasingly ignore what I was being told in the church community in order to learn anything God might be wanting to say to me, particularly if it was something which in any way involved the church community.  Because it was contradictory.
   I found that the church community was so determined to argue that the bible clearly meant they should just keep on doing what they did, that they were unwilling to discuss openly or deal with what it straight out said, much of the time.
   I read the bible and prayed despite, and about, the church community.  As a threat to my being who God created me to be, oftentimes, as that was simply a fact.  The church community proved itself completely inept at dealing with spiritual vulnerabilities they had, and was not safe from malicious, backstabbing, bigoted, anti-thinking, anti-feeling contemptuous spirits of arrogant malice.  In fact, they routinely ran everything.  It was troubling, maddening and downright bad in there, rather than a comfort.
   When I needed money, no one gave me any, despite there being many rich folk and many people who ran businesses and owned a lot of property.  It didn't generally help me find work.  Living the Christian life and attending all the stuff and giving it lip service made me want to be dead.  My connecting to other Christian groups, much against the wishes of the community, taught me that people from other groups were a striking mixture of valuable alternative perspectives on things, and having all the exact same problems, equally not dealt with.

In my life sometimes individuals, Christian or otherwise, have eventually let me down.  Communities of all kinds (Christian and otherwise) have though, and that quite early on, consistently screwed me over, sidelined me, shut me, ostracised or sanctioned me and otherwise generally proved themselves to be about some theoretical collective, and not actually about any person who formed a part of it who wasn't "in a position of leadership."  Communities are for "people managing."  For herding sheep.  I have a Manager, and a Shepherd already.

So I believe in God and I believe in people.  Two or three at a time.  And I do not believe in the modern approach to Christian community and consciously make a decision to wilfully avoid it.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Taking Song Requests By Email Now

I was just thinking today how that I keep writing things and recording songs and putting them up here, and how I never really know if anyone is looking at/listening to them or whatever.  I realized today that it would make my day if I just had report of anyone listening to anything I'd done more than once, or downloading it and keeping it in their  hard drive.  I have a hit counter on my main site, which surely and steadily goes up, but I don't actually know who's checking what out, nor what they think.  (I get a tirade of abuse and personal comments a few times a year, but that hardly counts as constructive or friendly feedback or affirmation.)

And then a friend of mine emailed a request for me to record a Johnny Cash cover, of a song I, oddly, hadn't heard before.  I did it anyway.  Lit some candles, yelled at the cat to stop wrestling around with lyrics papers in my guitar case a few times, put a googled set of the lyrics up after having learned the song by looking at Johnny and June do it as a duet on YouTube, and here it is.

I'm trying to do a song that needs Motown or soul vocals, and that's a stretch for my voice.  This country/folk cover, meanwhile, is the sort of song that my voice is much more suited to doing easily.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Hello, Down There

This is all by way of explaining this song.  In 1988, I was 18, and deeply in love with an out-of-town church girl.  She was red-haired, and I was writing letters to her and getting poised for a serious romantic relationship, fresh on the heels of the guilt I'd felt from falling for a curly-haired, tiny doe-eyed brunette with a big, white smile, of no fixed faith, who went to my school.  I wrote poems and songs (none of which I shared with Ms. Ginger, of course) and drew pictures and sculpted things.

There was a bible conference at the local college at Easter.  I felt/feared her interest slipping away, long-distance, and carved and painted a little wooden chickadee with pewter legs and feet.  Her birthday was around Easter time, so I was going to present it to her at this spring bible conference, which events were hotbeds of fertility-god-style teenaged tumescence.  It soon became clear to me at the event that she was avoiding me like the plague.  Her sister kept denying it, but it was happening.  Every time I entered a room, across it I saw flaming red hair darting through a different exit.  I felt like death on legs.  I went and leaned on the wall outside the cafeteria at supper-time, numb with shock, a buzzing in my ears, overcome with amazement that a person could feel this messed up.

As I so leaned, a 19 year old walked by with a small child on his head.  You know how you give a kid a piggyback ride on your shoulders?  Like that, but on his head.  And, shortly behind him followed his brother, a smaller, ginger teenager, with an even smaller small child on his head.  There was something deeply surreal about the experience.  The younger, more ginger teen released his child to run off, and soon started up a conversation.  He was a jolly, friendly, sunny type who was clearly intelligent and artistic, which combined traits I had never before encountered in a church attending person.  We started a friendship.  He liked quaint, Broadway/opera/classical/oldies music.  Stuff I thought was cheesy.  I was just starting to branch out into harder and harder rock.  I'd been taught that all rock musicians were Satanists recruiting for their Dark Lord, and was starting to learn that this was a bullshit lie and I was angry.  Not angry enough to listen to metal at that point, but this soon followed.

What also soon followed was that my new ginger friend started dating Ms. Ginger.  They put their ginger heads together and seemed bent on producing a ginger family.  My ginger friend was all guilt, as he'd only befriended me to try to get close to Ms. Ginger.  You see, he'd heard that she and I had been a bit of a thing, at least by church standards, so he'd insinuated himself strategically.  I found this out when I went to a distant bible conference (Toledo Ohio) to hang out with him, and he was with her, holding ginger hands.  He braced himself for my ire, and though I felt tricked by him, I realized that I really didn't want to be saddled with her.  Seen from the vantagepoint I now had, I wondered what I'd ever seen in her to begin with.  She was kind of befreckled and vacant-eyed, and she spoke in a sing-song voice, wore befrilled Little House on the Prairie, Laura Ashley dresses with lacy collars, and was affecting carrying a tin bucket as a purse that year.

All was not well in Gingerland, though, and the dating didn't last.  Despite the admission of why he'd befriended me, somehow, starting out with guilt and perceived friendship obligation due to his dubious behaviour at the start of things, we two remain friends to this day.  Years ago I sat down with him and tried to write a song about how we became friends, to form part of a concept album of mine in which emo me has dug a giant, deep hole (rather than built a giant wall) and is being invited to come on out and be friends (by a jolly, oldies-loving guy) when I am in a darker, angry place.  We got a bit of something, but mostly the song sprang into my head later, and I have since recorded it several times.  This latest one represents me trying to push the envelope on how heavy the "me" part is.

A big problem with my singing heavy songs is that I have a mellow baritone voice.  When White Zombie came up on my iPod shuffle on time, I realized that I couldn't really sing like him at all, but that I sure could shout "YEah!" in a raspy voice.  In this song, I do that a lot.

On a side note, by way of epilogue: at a later bible conference, I fell head over heels for a Hispanic girl from the Dominican Republic.  We wrote a bit, but she then married my cousin.  Her brother, though?  Married Ms. Ginger.