Sunday, 23 February 2014

What I Did This Weekend

As my song states, I live alone.  Often, after a week at school that's too long, and I'm too sleep deprived, I will "take Saturday" and repeatedly nap and generally lie/putter around home.  Be lazy.  Recharge.  Indulge.
   I think a bit of that's good, but I've been having way too much of that lately.  And I've been working out, which is giving me far too much energy.  And for me, pent up energy busts out in rage, or rips me up as depression.
   And we've had a "snow day" two Fridays running.  I've been unable to make myself get enough work done, too.  Which is frustrating.  So I needed something new to do, and I did it this weekend.
  What I did was as simple as it was self-indulgent:  I went around to all the local places from my past (the hospital where I was born, my elementary school, old jobs, stuff like that) and iPhone selfied myself giving a brief run-down on what that place represented in my life.  I call it "I Was Here."
   This had me driving all over, walking all over Saturday and Sunday.  And it was hoodie weather, so that's what I was wearing.  Steeping in memories of all kinds, of all different people and things, simply by going to those places.  Places I don't normally go to anymore.  Ever.  I went to tiny villages around my home town, went to where the churches I used to go to still are, went to my old university, went to Parliament Hill in Ottawa.  I was on the move and off the couch all weekend.
   I plan to edit it together in some form.  Dunno if it will be watchable.  Don't really care.  It was quite a thing.  I highly recommend doing that, or something like it.
   I had a Humans of New York moment, walking back to my car.  On Rideau Street in Ottawa, the protocol is no eye contact with strangers in the crowds, but a guy with a slightly homeless, slightly "on something" vibe stood right beside me, smiling, like he was my friend, very gently patted me on the shoulder, didn't remove his arm, and said fondly, "You look like a friggin' hippie."  Gazing warmly into my eyes.  For a moment, I wondered if I knew him, because he was acting like I did, but I didn't.  He slowly removed his arm and stood there beaming. Then, hopefully, he said "Are ya?"
   "Nope," I said.  Trying to be polite but not too friendly.
   "It's all good," he said.  "We need more of that sixties vibe around here, THESE days..."
   I smiled and nodded, and told him I was a high school teacher, as the light changed to green and we started walking up the street.
  "Can you tell me one thing about school?" he asked.
   "I dunno," I replied.
   He said "How is it that I just never, ever, quite got Geography?  As a concept.  I mean, I studied that, but I never got it.  Now why was that?"
   "Not sure.  I wasn't there.  But I'm that way about math," I told him.
   "Oh, for sure.  Math too," he agreed.  Then he bit into a paper-wrapped shwarma he was was holding and said "Ya gotta respect the shwarma!"
   That was the interaction.  I'm not sure which part of that would have been the HONY quote.  But it was a moment.

Sunday Hockey

Hockey's a pretty big thing in Canada.  (now that's British-grade understatement.) It's not a terribly fun thing to watch it alone, though, I don't find, and I don't get a TV signal anyway.
  I have watched hockey before, but to enjoy it at all I really need to have people watching with me who actually deeply understand the game, or play it themselves, or are rabid hockey fans, so I can let them explain all the stuff they understand.  Who usually does what and what usually happens. If that is, in fact, what's happening now.  Who got hurt and is playing anyway. Stuff like that.  Usually there's a guy or girl who will love doing that.  But mostly, I'm just at home alone, and I don't "get" hockey alone.
   It's the Winter Olympics, and Canada's doing well. We have to put up with short summers and long, harsh winters here, so one consolation is that we tend to do well at events like these.  So of course Facebook is alive with endless hockey talk.  With Canadians acting more like Americans than we normally ever do.  You want to see us live up to American rather than Canadian stereotypes?  Now's your chance.  Sore winners, to a (wo)man.  Loud, brash bragging.  Gloating.  Preening.  Mocking.  You know?  The stuff Americans are famous for the world over.  Not like our usual, quiet, insecure, apologetic, slightly bashful way at all.  Never mind our elections or our military.  Hockey.  That's what we care about.
   Something happened this morning that gave me very conflicted thoughts and feelings.  My view is, as you may realize, that pastors are generally routinely, ritualistically emasculated.   Hired based on their cahones-less nature, regardless of their gender.  That they can't do their jobs anymore, really, because they can't say anything unpopular, or they'll lose their jobs.  So it's "speak unto us smooth/easy things."  Their job is to take that sugared, warm, gooey dough, and cram it into the ears of their congregations.  Tell people God loves them no matter what, and to keep doing what they're doing, and keep enjoying what they're enjoying.  Don't worry.  Keep on keeping on.  The Bobby McFerrin gospel.
    Sunday morning at most 21st century Christian churches, you're not going to hear that Jesus Christ suffered or died for our sin.  Not once.  Not at all.  That's not the job, anymore.  Now it's mostly about drinking coffee, eating sugary things and singing lots of songs about how we're sacrificing an hour of our sweet, precious lives to dutifully sing songs. Standing and singing about how we are standing and singing.  Mostly things like "God, You are awesome."  All without really saying how exactly He is "awesome," nor mentioning Christ in the Christianity very much at all.
   "Let's put the Christ back in Christmas"?  For the churches I've been visiting, it might be time to start mentioning/putting Christ back in Christianity, first.
    Only a very few churches are still into delivering anything that's not straight-up comforting and smugly soporific.  There aren't too many who can afford to be clearly disinterested in getting high on worship.  That's mostly gone away. Only a very few churches are still into delivering anything of the uncomforting and usually those churches have those creepy Christian S & M congregants who really like a bit of shame, a bit of death and suffering, with their morning coffee and muffins.

    But this morning, Facebook was clogged with stuff like the picture seen above, of Canadian churches with a large-screen TV, showing the hockey game, sitting in the pulpit, instead of doing most of the usual Sunday morning service.  It's like when I want to teach high school kids to read and write, and there's (!) a volleyball game in the gym, they think they have a God-given right to go watch that instead. Like getting an education in a school is disloyal to their school's team, and will surely make it lose its game.
   And then, right in the middle of all the hockey muddle, a pastor I know posted a very slightly reproachful Facebook status, musing over what it would be like if churchgoers spent the same kind of time, concern and energy on the poor, or doing good in the world.  Like it almost certainly should be his job to do.  It's Sunday, after all.  Sunday's a big day for church-going people. Time to remind all those Christians about Jesus, or failing that, let them sing about God being awesome. So he was reminding them about doing good.  Possibly a Christian activity? While they're watching hockey.
    My first response, though, was "But people love hockey.  We don't do good by stifling love. You don't need to stifle love to do good.  There's more to it than that."
   And then the pastor's wife immediately, before church had even started, made him take the status down.  She said there was a time to "be deep" and that this wasn't it.  So he took it right down (though he did post a status revealing that he was submitting to his wife's hijacking of his stewardship over his own Facebook statuses, if not his connection to his congregation itself.)  [this part edited out, given his response to this blog. What I'd put was speculation, and that is clearly trumped by the "from the pastor's mouth" info.]
   Then the pastor's sister in-law came on to say that "there is a time" for being thought-provoking and this (the Olympics) was not it.  Another reproach for what he'd done.  More judgment/exhortation to not diss the Hockey God.  And he was called a hypocrite, because of how much he liked golf, and was using hockey, rather than golf as an example.
   I think there is a time for provoking thought, alright.  And I think the pastor hit it dead on.  Did his job.  Shone a bit of light on something people don't want to see in the spotlight.  And got shut down by his wife and his sister in law, who wanted him to be more socially convenient.  Less embarrassing.  Less thought-provoking.  Wanted to tut-tut, shush, and quietly pat until the thought stopped being provoked, and went back to sleep.  And I think he then did exactly what he was told.
   But then everyone knows I'm a pretty negative bastard.  Church has seldom done anything for me besides stab me in the back and leave me in the ditch to Jericho, for dead.  The Samaritans in my life have always, consistently been atheists.  So I'm always the outsider, not getting, not approving, not relating to church stuff.
   Imagine if Jesus of Nazareth had tried to speak up or create some kind of spectacle that would have utterly ruined everyone's lovely Passover weekend, drawing attention to him, perhaps shouting and bleeding everywhere instead?  (oh wait... he did that)

A Facebook comment on this blog:
In the parts of America I'm familiar with, when it comes to telling people what they want to hear it is the same and different. You alluded to this when you said, "Only a very few churches are still into delivering anything of the uncomforting...[a]nd usually those churches have those creepy Christian S&M congregants who really like a bit of shame, a bit of death and suffering."

Loud (American) preaching of hell, fire, and brimstone is common everywhere in the States, and especially in the south. "I love you enough to tell you the truth" is the thinking.

But it is not so different then the emasculated preachers you mentioned. In both cases the congregation hires a pastor to tell it what it wants to hear. The Apostle Paul put it like this, "For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear." (I apologize for quoting scripture. I'm an Evangelical, it is what we do.)

The irony is that liberal and conservative congregations alike, placid Canadians and loud Americans, we all do it. And at the same time, we think it is only those others who do it. We speak the truth. Scripture alone (carefully selected, one passage modifying the other in the proper order) or Scripture enlightened (by standards that are sure to change, since every generation considers itself enlightened compared to the previous, only to be considered backward by the next generation.) Either way, I am right, you are wrong, and thank God I have a preacher who will tell me as much or she is out on her ass.

and the pastor himself weighs in:
I don't think my post gave you quite enough to go on. "My wife made me take it down" should have read, "My wife "made" me take it down". She was not concerned with the social, but that I was heaping guilt on folks(no one likes that) and that I might have a greater impact if I found another way to express the same truth. I think she is wise and I stand by MY decision to take down the post.

Your post belies a strange view of women. My wife is welcome to share her opinion in the relationship. She does so kindly and I have never felt emasculated in this relationship. I highly value her counsel.

She and my sister-in-law also highlighted my hypocrisy. I wouldn't have said anything if it was golf instead of hockey. I was unworthy of my own post. Integrity demanded that I take it down.

I'll find a more effective and honest way to inspire good in the world than snipey judgmental posts.

Sunday morning reading: Hosea.  Nothing but "whores" this and "adultery" that, and "dry breasts" and "stripped bare" and stuff like that.  The Lord instructing a prophet of the Lord to repeatedly impregnate a whore/adulteress, and name the resultant children doomy, insulting names.  God being awesome?  And I'm listening to Gary's sermon, because he was chatting me on Facebook, and we were talking about our accents.  He's got a Northern Irish accent. This talk about how hard it is to have peace in the modern world, whether you're Whitney Houston, Saddam Husein, or a white-bread family trying to find peace in a good job, car, and home.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Church Thoughts

People know that I have a beef with what passes for "church" nowadays.  But what am I seeing exactly?  What would I object to at your church?  How do I think it should be?  This blog entry may help shed some light on that a bit.
   Let's start with the songs.  Try this next Sunday.  Make a "T" chart, and classify each of the songs/hymns sung, as to the primary, most repeated, most lines devoted to communicating, which one of the following (you're trying to decide which "side" it will primarily fall on, to my Brethren-raised thinking):

Us Stuff             God Stuff
singing about us singing |                                      
singing about us coming together this morning|                                                                             
us sweetly surrendering our special lives to God|                                                                               
singing about us and our feelings about God|                                                                        
singing about us and our ideas about God|                                                                    
                                                                    |singing about what God has done
                                                                               |singing about Who and What God is      
                                                                                             |singing to God (without using that to segue into
                                                                                             "Us stuff")                        

Did you mostly sing about singing?  Did you mostly sing about yourself and your thoughts and feelings?  My own preference is for singing to God.  I think God likes to be sung to.
   My dad taught me that we worship God for Who He is, and praise Him for what He has done.   How to worship?  (we claim we're worshipping...)  Read verses, talk, and sing about the essential nature of God, as much as we understand it.  Displaying knowledge.  Just saying "God's awesome!" displays zero understanding of Who it is we're worshipping.  Do we have any understanding of Who we're claiming to worship?  Are we getting to know Who He is?
   How about praise?  (we claim we're doing that too...)  Can't really praise God in any of His three persons without talking about things He's doing/has done. When I visit churches, generally they're not really doing either.  The songs may at best say "We love You, God, because You're worthy" and then continue to talk about how we feel, with crowd stuff like "We lift up our hands to You" which seem more about providing the crowd with a synchronized motion cue than with actually demonstrating any understanding and appreciation for God.  An article by a hugely successful writer of modern worship songs has more to say about this here.  
   Because of my upbringing, I expect every Sunday morning to be about the breaking of bread (the Eucharist), the apostle's doctrine, prayer and fellowship.  That's in the apostles' writings, actually.  As stuff the early Church did.  And if I feel like none of those things really happened, I tend to view the church service as a waste of my time/idolatrous.  As filling up that place that only God belongs in, with manmade church stuff instead.  As a token pretense of doing what we're supposed to, but not actually doing it at all.
    Taking those one at a time: I'm used to getting to take communion every single Sunday.  So it seems totally pointless to me for Christians to bother showing up, if that's not going to be the point, the Jesus part, the climax of the whole thing.  It's really odd to me, for Christians to go out Sunday morning, and not hear the name of Jesus Christ mentioned once, let alone the fact that he died.  To not hear that sin was ever an issue.  To not hear Hell mentioned.  Last month I heard a pastor speak about sin for forty minutes, and we all went home without Jesus ever being mentioned, or any sharing of the idea that there's anything more to Christianity than "don't sin.  God will catch you." He was preaching on the David and Bathsheba story, so Christ didn't enter into it.  Just that David got caught.  No redemption.  No Jesus.  That was weird.
   Try this, to walk an aisle in my shoes: keep an eye on the clock, and see how many minutes into church you "go" before someone says something about Jesus and/or his death.  Know that, if you were me, and you sat through the whole hour, and never once heard the death of Jesus Christ mentioned, you'd be tempted to go remove the cross from the wall, confiscate all the cross necklaces everyone was wearing, and ask people to stop calling themselves Christian.  "God fans" maybe.  But not Christians.  Because Jesus Christ wasn't even name-checked, nor did what he accomplished for the human race ever get mentioned.
   Moving on to the apostle's doctrine.  The apostle's doctrine as we have it, is in the form of our having (no doubt quite accurate) copies/translations/edits of the letters sent to the early church by the aforementioned apostles.  Letters.  What they had before emails.  We have other people's emails to look at.
   Here's something you can ask yourself, if you want to see things through my eyes: in your church group, in the course of a year, how many of these letters are read in their entirety, as letters are intended to be read?  If you've only been handed scraps, or at most merely entire chapters, then to my mind why bother with them at all?  They're letters.  You can't possibly understand the message/intent in them from snipping them up into paper dolls, cutting and pasting them until they can be made to appear to be primarily about us.  Because they're not.  And if the apostle James wrote an epistle to "the church at Lanark county," there isn't one any more.  There are hundreds.  All carefully not working together, not agreeing, and mainly sending a clear message that we Christians are NOT one, not part of any unified, single Church/Body/Bride/thing.
   And about the whole "which church do you go to?" thing: how many times in the course of a year do you find you've returned to discussions about the apostle's doctrine with people who don't even go to your church?  You know?  Other Christians in The Church, who live near you, or have connections to you, and so you naturally discuss stuff like that?
  And never mind your church, how many apostolic letters did you read, start to finish, last year?  You're a Christian, presumably, so how many letters to these other ancient Christians have you eavesdropped on?  And how many apostolic letters are there that you've never personally read in that way?  You know, to see what was being said.  Not to use them.  To know them.  I highly recommend reading an apostolic letter all in one go, unless they're really, really long.  It's an entirely different experience from hearing chunks people have torn out for their own purposes.  Most of them you can do in one go, in a few hours.  Try it.
   About reading the bible.  Try this: read a whole book of the bible.  In a comfortable translation.  With no study guide, or anyone to explain it to you.  And here's the hard part: don't try to make it about you.  Let it be itself, saying what it seems to want to say.  There are no doubt going to be things that don't appear to have a meaning which is clear to you.  There are no doubt going to be things you don't see how they have anything to do with you.  And leave those like that.  Don't reach for a guy or a book which will promise to explain everything, and apply and interpret it all up for you.  Let that stuff steep in your heart and mind as it is.  See what happens when you let it be itself, wearing its own texture and shape, rather than chewing bits of it all up and sticking some of that into the Jello mold immediately.  Try it.
   Prayer.  Does your church pray for everyone, or just old and sick people?  Do people feel free to ask for prayer for stuff that's not physical?  Stuff other than money and health?  Personal stuff?  Spiritual stuff?  If you have doubt, loneliness, anxiety, depression or something less concrete like that, are you going to get yourself prayed for?  Or will your lack of joy and satisfaction be seen as threatening to the success image of the group?  Will it be okay if God never gets you out of that wheelchair, never gives you a spouse or a baby or a job? Or will you ruin the image, the message they're selling?
   A thing I sometimes do is to offer any random Christians I meet, the following: "let us two Christians 'agree on earth' about something you think would be good in your life, for you."
  I'm surprised how many find this uncomfortably intimate. Too much fellowship, trust and openness required, it seems.
   And how about you praying to God?  Just talking?  Do you tell him your doubt, your frustration and your lack of understanding?  He knows it, of course, but it's a relationship.  In a relationship, you have to share stuff so you can remain connected properly.   If you keep in all the less flattering, hard to deal with, problematic stuff, you're "protecting" the other person by shutting him or her out.  Putting up walls.  God doesn't need that.  And He knows it all anyway, so not discussing what's bugging you is particularly dumb.
   Fellowship.  Means hanging out with peers and connecting to them, is what fellowship means.  "Fellows" are peers. What percentage of the people out at church on a given Sunday have never been in your house?  How often do you see church people outside of church, when you're not even relatives or coworkers?  How many people at your church aren't contacts in your cel, and aren't "friends" with you on Facebook?  I guess I'm fishing for the idea of friends.  Connection.  Befriending the people in your church.  Letting them in a bit.  Letting them know the real, unchurchy you.  Even if they aren't relatives or coworkers.
   Is your church such that there is enough sincere, genuine human connection to start to foster any of that "love" stuff described in the bible?  Is there a connection to various Christians which is part of your month, and not just to plan church stuff?  Let's say you're going to go have a bit of a pray now.  How many things can you ask for, in an informed way, for the various Christians who live near you, or who you have connections to?
   Let's say you took all the "church" stuff going on at your church and put a month's worth of it out on a table to look at.  Now remove all the bingo, movie nights, charity work, committee meetings, money-counting, worship team practice and all of that.  How much is left?  How much prayer, apostle's doctrine and fellowship are happening?  And how much of all that good stuff happens outside those church boundaries, with people from other churches?  If you do bible study, is it you studying the bible to experience new stuff, or is it just you presenting it to newbies, packaged up how you like it?
  Some thoughts.  Might help you see why someone like me might not be able to take your church even as seriously as you do.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Pinnochio Learns Legalism

I watched a documentary about Walt Disney today. (A girl in my creative writing course asked if we could study him, so I'm getting them something.)
  The part about the making of the movie Pinnochio really struck me.  I don't think I ever actually watched Pinnochio before I watched it just now.  Despite this, seeing all the footage of it in the documentary, I was struck by what a strong influence Pinnochio had on me as a child. Like Star Wars, the Muppets and so many other things, I never got to actually enjoy Pinnochio first-hand.  But it's not like we live in a world where it wasn't "sold" to me in the form of toys and lunchboxes and books, and by my friends. I grew up steeped in all of that stuff anyway, without ever enjoying it as it was originally intended.
   We didn't have a TV, but we had Walt Disney books, and some of them had records or cassette tapes with the songs and so on.  When watching the documentary, I realized I knew the words and the melodies to most of the Disney songs anyway.  Even Pinnochio. ("Hey, diddle dee dee!  An actor's life for me!" "When your heart is in your dream, no request is too extreme")
  Now, the man Walt Disney had a very corn-fed, conservative American view of things.  Pinnochio presented a view of the world that my parents and uncles and aunts really approved of.  In fact, I even have dim memories of them infusing my experience of the audio versions of the story with their stamp of approval, and the moral message being underlined by them as I listened.
  Even gotten across to us only in children's book form, that message was very clear. It was, as interpreted by me and my relatives, puritanism, pure and simple: the virtues of hard work, study and abstinence from pleasure; going to bed early, going to church and staying home with parents.  The evils of going out after dark, and pleasures like entertainment, theatre, beer, cards, pool halls, bars and smoking.

Pinnochio's Overt, Intended Message
Well, there is another message in Pinnochio:
   If you wish upon a star, your dreams come true. 
Geppetto kneeling down, clasping his hands and wishing to the wishing star.  As a child, this seemed to me very much like a Disneyfied representation of prayer. It still does.
   But I'd been taught about prayer a little bit differently.  I mean, the Disney message is really that, if you want something, you don't necessarily have to do something, or pursue it, or earn it.  If you wish for it (hard enough, long enough, is the subtext) and live a good life and wait, eventually you will get it.  
  Now, I'd been taught quite differently.  If I really wanted something in my heart of hearts, I knew because I'd been taught, that no doubt this was certainly my sinful heart wanting sinful things.  What my job was, usually, was clear: to sacrifice my own wishes and dreams to what God/my parents envisioned instead.  Because I could pray/wish all I wanted, but if God didn't like what I was wishing for, as hard as I wished, my dreams were never going to come true.  He wasn't about to deliver that.
   I don't believe in changing the world, or my life, through wishing, any more than I believe we do good in the world by "raising awareness," which is almost the same thing.  When I was a kid and I was reading after bedtime in my room, my mom would call upstairs "It's after your bed time..."  I'd be well aware of that, and call "I knooooow."  With no intention of changing my behaviour at all.
  To me, this Wednesday when we're supposed to wear pink t-shirts at school to "raise awareness and take a stand" about bullying and intolerance, it reminds me of that.  It's like someone told us "There's bullying and intolerance going on" and our colour-themed t-shirt response is, essentially "We knooooow!" with no loftier plan in place to actually make any change.  It's like raising awareness of AIDS, or there not being enough clean drinking water in Africa, and just wearing a t-shirt or something.  I don't think saying "We're awaaaaare!" actually counts as actively effecting change.  But that's just me.
   Every year when we have this, when kids start to comment on some kid not fitting in and complying with this display of support for difference, I always say "Ya!  He's different! Get him!" I think it raises their awareness.  At least of the fact that something odd is going on.
  I do pray, sometimes rather guardedly.  I don't try to change my life by making wishes, though.

Puppet Child
The puppet Pinnochio springs from the workshop of  Geppetto, a man with no woman in his life; an old man who always wanted a child, has not been able to have a child, and so has immersed himself into his work, looking for satisfaction there.  Geppetto makes a puppet and wishes he had a child.  He wishes the puppet was his child.  And in the world of Disney, rather like the bible, no one wishes for a child and never gets one.  Even an old man or woman can hope. I live in a very different world.
   A puppet is like a child, but it not only obeys you, it does nothing at all unless you direct it.  That's no good.  Very time-consuming and unrewarding. What Geppetto wants is a child who does everything he wants, is exactly what he wants, and grows up just as he formed him and designed him to be, but without needing to be told what to do.  Without needing to have his strings pulled.  When Geppetto decides on the name Pinnochio, he asks his cat and his fish if they like it, and they don't, so he "asks" the inanimate puppet/child he has created. Pulling on its string, Geppetto gets a nod, affirmation that his puppet/child "likes" what Geppetto himself likes.
   But then Geppetto kneels by the window and prays/wishes for his puppet to be a "real boy."  Just like my father knelt down and prayed/wished that in me, he'd get a boy who grew up to be a "real Christian."
  Geppetto doesn't get his wish immediately, but the Blue Fairy ensures that the puppet will take on a life of its own.  And so Geppetto gets a Chucky-like little sociopath with no conscience.  Apparently Disney struggled with making Pinnochio look likeable and uncreepy.  Eventually, as with the cricket, they just drew a human-being and decorated it very slightly with puppet-looking bits, and animated him to move as if made of flesh.  "The cricket," the animators say in interviews now, "is a cricket because we say it is."
   For his part, Pinnochio wants what his father wants.  He decides he wants to grow up to become a real boy, too.  To do this, he  must obey his father, and go to school, and obey his teachers.  (If there had been a church presented in the film, Pinnochio would have had to go to church and obey the priest/minister too. It being Italy, though, the church would have been Roman Catholic, and Catholicism and mainstream American cinema weren't about to work very well together in 1940.  About a decade later, the mother superior character singing "Climb Every Mountain/seduce your boss if you really think he's hot" in The Sound of Music would present a view that may or may not be very distinctly unCatholic.)
   So Pinnochio's mission is clear.  In fact, the Blue Fairy (a heavenly figure, a star come down to earth) explicitly states what Pinnochio must do in order to grow up right and be a real person: he must, despite temptation, prove that he is brave, truthful and unselfish and able to tell right from wrong by listening to his conscience. 
   Just like me.  (Except I wasn't raised to be brave.  Fearing things is at the heart of my culture.)

An Externalized, Pre-existing Conscience
Despite being made of wood, Pinnochio gets a conscience of sorts, alright.  It's a cricket named Jiminy, a person utterly separate from Pinnochio, provided by heavenly forces, which tells him not to do things he wants to do, and not to succumb to peer pressure.  Jiminy Cricket got this "conscience" job simply by leaping onto a matchbox soapbox and starting to spout off about "what's wrong with the world today." These are his qualifications. Judgmental conservatism. Rhetoric.
   Oddly, Pinnochio's "conscience" was walking around with opinions and judgments (To Geppetto's wish: "a very lovely thought, but not at all practical")  since before Pinnochio himself even existed.  It's a set of standards and expectations and outlooks that Pinnochio inherits without understanding or participating in them.  When Pinnochio asks "Why?" about the course of his life, the answer is "because."  Pinnochio says "Oh," clearly not understanding.
   Pinnochio's conscience is not internalized, and it's not about understanding, virtue, wisdom or empathy.  It's only about compliance.  There really is no positive element to it.  Pinnochio isn't going to be unselfish because he cares about someone else.  He's not going to be a giving person, so much as he is going to obey the externalized voice telling him not to do selfish things.  Important that he be truthful, so when he is caught doing wrong things, he doesn't lie, and his behaviour can be adjusted.  "Truthful" in this sense simply involves not lying when one is being questioned about wrongdoing.
   Jiminy decides to lecture Pinnochio about The World.  The World, he explains, is full of fun things that seem right, but are wrong.  Pinnochio is delighted to hear this, and says he's going to grow up to be someone who is "right."  That's his self-image and his life goal.  I was like that, too.
   But there is Temptation, Pinnochio is told.  Pinnoccio is an innocent, and he's approached by guys straight from the pages of Charles Dicken's Oliver Twist, only instead of turning Pinnochio into a pickpocket, they want him to work as an actor, in entertainment (rather like the child doing the voice of Pinnochio in Pinnochio is).  Honest John the Fox and his feline companion Gideon are right there, temptation personified.  Offering fun.  The nightlife.  Entertainment.  Smoking, beer, cards, pool, music and dancing.  Everything that strikes terror into puritan hearts.  How can church compete with all that?
  In Geppetto's world, Geppetto goes to bed when his clocks tell him it's nine o'clock, even though he's having a grand old time, ruling his little wooden kingdom with no peers in it.  Because nine o'clock is bed time.  No going out and enjoying, well, anything.
  Pinnochio's conscience Jiminy is then enraged by any noise, once it is bed-time, yelling at even the ticking clocks to be quiet.  (And they dutifully fall silent.)  Everyone needs to be quietly asleep. It's nine o'clock. Bed time.
  Strident Brethren voices are imprinted on my memory, and like something I'm possessed by, they ring out still in the back of my heart, saying things like "The World and its seductive entertainment.  These things, which are not wrong in and of themselves of course, may seem enticing. They may seem harmless.  They may seem attractive. They may seem like just a bit of fun. But they're HOW SATAN GETS YOU!  They will bring you under bondage!"  
   I don't know if anyone but me has those voices, anymore.
   Pinnochio's conscience, standing in a floral (jack in the pulpit) pulpit, teaches him that Honest John the Fox, with his offer of entertainment at the theatre is, Jiminy explicitly says, Temptation himself.
  Pinnochio is aghast, but Jiminy says "That's him."  And Pinnochio is told what to say.  He's told to say "Thanks, just the same," but that he can't go to the theatre, because he's got to go to school.
   With us, it was evening church instead.  Evening church was why we couldn't act in school plays, go on band trips, go to sports meets or even go see, say Pinnochio, at the movie theatre.  "Thanks, just the same" we were to say.  "But I've got church."

Pleasure = An Evil Trap
But of course Pinnochio goes off to the theatre  anyway.   He gets all wrapped up in the seedy world of entertainment, becoming a performer, just like the kid doing his voice.  All of the things my church didn't approve of are depicted: Smoking, drinking, pool, cards, music and dancing. 
   The second part of Pinnochio, after his first resolve to never backslide into the life again, has a similar adventure, but one with more clearly drawn lines of distinction between right and wrong.  A cockney coachman (who's made a deal with the Devil at a crossroads) offers to take boys to Pleasure Island, from which they will never return (as boys, anyway).  In my church, the word "pleasure" was a wholly evil word.  Pleasure was the bait.  (Pleasure was our life-long sacrifice to the Puritan god we worshipped.)  We didn't do pleasure.  Life wasn't about that.
   What happens with Pinnochio's friends who want to go to Pleasure Island, is they start to transform.  They miss their potential to become decent, hard-working, upstanding adults, having taken what the movie refers to as the "easy way," over what it calls "the straight and narrow," quoting scripture.  They become subhuman.  They turn into asses, donkeys, fools.
   It's like Adam and Eve all over again.  Only this time, it's not a fruit God has forbidden them to eat. It's nightlife.  Pool, cards, smoking and beer. And Pinnochio's friends reach out for it and are now fallen.  Donkeys.  Ridiculous, stubborn beasts of burden.
   This is exactly how we felt about church people who stopped going to church and enjoyed This World and its seductive pleasures.  They weren't really even the same species as we were, anymore. They'd been had.  They'd been made fools.  They were captive, enslaved.  Unlike us, freely sitting in our church, in our church clothes, beside our parents, listening as someone taught us about how to stay free like his own good self.  Christ had died to win us the Christian liberty from pleasure.
    Because Pinnochio is, our church would have taught, not actually really having a grand old time, out in the World. He's not free, you see.  He's in bondage and servitude. He gets stuck in a wooden cage from which he cannot escape, his conscience of no help to him.  He is forced to dance nightly for the entertainment of the various subhuman figures in the Dante-esque horrorshow that is the life of an entertainer. He sings "I've got no strings to hold me down," proclaiming his freedom, while actually, he's in bondage to the nefarious gypsy boss Stromboli.
    My own life was supposed to be the opposite of that.   Very obvious strings tied to every part (and I do mean every part) of myself, which supposedly made me freer than other people could hope to be.
   When modern technology was suddenly giving us the chance to actually sit in our own living rooms with our parents of an evening, and yet still somehow enjoy Worldly Entertainments, without even needing to go to a movie theatre, pool hall or video arcade, our church was all aflutter.  It had, at that point, positively no idea what to do.  The whole "staying decently at home" vs. "going out and being entertained" line of distinction had been made obsolete.
  To this day, there are still Brethren homes with iPhones, iPads, laptops and desktop computers in them, but no television.  Because televisions are, well, entertainment.  Something we're raised to be unthinkingly superstitious about.

What Pinnochio Learns
Pinnochio, like any of us who were caught, for example, watching television (some were bolder, and sneaked alcohol, or went out to a bar or concert), is asked to explain himself by the maternal Blue Fairy.  Still in his cage.   She's the only maternal figure in his life. And she waits until he's screwed up, so she looks most right, and then she makes her appearance.  And Pinnochio lies.
  What he learns then is something my parents certainly wanted me to learn: real people do work. They go to jobs and school and so on, and at night, they are at church or at home, not out entertaining themselves with the lower life forms.  
   If you instead indulge in All That Stuff, you will invariably find yourself in bondage, in servitude to said Stuff.  You find yourself a single-mother, an alcoholic, a compulsive gambler, a drug dealer, a prostitute, a convict.  And if you try to pass yourself off as a decent, proper person, discerning church people will see right through you.  And if you try to lie about it, you will never fool anyone either.  Your deceit and your attempt to maintain the reputation you are so unworthy of will be as plain as the tree on your face.  If you go out and try to join in the fun, you will get caught.  Big Mother is watching you.  Big Blue Fairy Mother.
   The only hope for Pinnochio upon his first infraction is to tell the truth, own up to his own foolish, self-indulgent disobedience, repent and resolve to never make the same mistake in future.   My church was actually very forgiving of first infractions by innocents. So long as it was the first time, and we were innocents and we knew we'd done wrong and that they'd been right in their warnings.
  But as with Pinnochio, repeated infractions were paid for by one's parents' shame.  Geppetto, Jonah-like, is trapped in the belly of a whale awaiting solitary death, entirely due to trying to put a stop to his jackass, shameful son's self-indulgences.  The beer, the cigars, the cards, the pool.  Creepily, Cleo the goldfish uses her snout to tip up two little "tombstones" in the bottom of her bowl, and Geppetto is wearing all black. (well, his red vest is coloured black, because it's dark in the belly of the whale.)
  This 1940s reversal of the prodigal son story has Pinnochio, still wearing his badges of jackass shame, heroically lower himself to his father's shamed position, and bring him out of the belly of the whale at great cost, reaching the stage of having finally learned his lesson, leaving behind things like beer, cards, cigars, and pool, and being ready to spend time where he belongs, at home with his father, going to bed by nine o'clock.
   And the externalized "conscience," now internalized and proven to be unquestionable wisdom, is given divine approval, legitimacy, a medal and is free to move on, feeling good about himself.
   I remember the first time I went to a (movie) theatre.  I remember the first time I sat in a bar and heard live music. I remember the first time I tremblingly took the stage to entertain the other people there.  I remember my first beer, my first cigar.  I remember the first time I played pool.  I was not an innocent.  And I wasn't overdoing them, so I could get full "enjoyment" out of them prior to repenting of doing them later, and regaining church approval, having had it "both ways." I did them when I was ready, when I felt okay about it, when I was about to make them a small part of my life, enjoyed in moderation, permanently and without shame.  I never "got" cards or gambling, and don't really like smoking either.  But I do occasionally drink alcohol in moderation, go to movie theatres and pool halls occasionally and have even, every decade or so, been known to dance.  And I don't think I'm doing anything wrong.  So there has been no forgiveness for me from my culture.

An afternote:
Some of my favourite secondary story characters are basically Pinnochio.  Trying to understand what it is to be human, and failing to do it quite right.  Spock and his replacement Lt. Cm. Data from Star Trek.  C3PO on Star Wars.  Castiel on Supernatural.  Frankenstein's creature.  I like how the Doctor on Doctor Who can play the entire gamut from that, to actually knowing how everyone around is "doing human" wrong.  Everyone wants to be human/a real boy, apparently.