A few weeks ago, I posted a video of one of my favorite show choir performances. It was North Central High School (Indianapolis) show choir’s “Like A Prayer.” I am not a Madonna fan, but I love the exciting rhythm and melody of that particular song. When I first saw this show choir perform this number, costumed in monk’s robes with fantastic choreography by a Ball State University Singers’ friend, Brent Holland, I was thrilled. I found it to be very creative, energetic, and fun.

So, I posted the video on here.

A day or so later I received a comment from a lady whom I do not even know. She blasted the video out of the water – it was sacrilegious. Had the message come from a family member or friend, I may have let it slide, but since this was an unknown, uninvited individual, in my typical, sharp tongued response, I responded. The following day she wrote, “I hope you burn in hell.”

Well, I guess she will only know her wish has come true once she checks me off the list when I arrive.

Last week, while walking through Chicago, we were waiting on a corner stop light to change, and a car cut in front of another car, upsetting the driver who was cut off. The woman who was cut off began screaming obscenities out her window, flipping off the offender, and as she pulled away on the back of her car was the metallic “fish symbol” and a bumper sticker that read, “God is my co-pilot.” There was also another bumper sticker with the name and address of what I am assuming was where she attended church. In the back seat, were three children, one in an infant seat.

So where does one begin to comment on such an observation?

Well, my first thought was, “If God is your co-pilot, was he crawling under the dash from embarrassment?” After all, she had strung together a line of profanity that would have made the nastiest sailor blush.

Oh, and why is it only people can “cuss like a sailor”? I have known several air force friends here in Dayton who cuss, but we never say, “he cusses like an air force captain!” Or if you ever knew my neighbor in Elwood (Nick), who, with a pipe clenched between his teeth could mutter a string to make George Carlin (RIP) proud…

Last Tuesday, my good friend, Christi, and I were chatting after her children’s lessons. I met Christi and her family when I was director of music at Normandy United Methodist Church in 1996. Christi was not in the music program itself, but I directed her husband and children in several shows.

Christi is not at all about making physical impressions, but you can believe she will make an inspiring impression.

Christi would never go on to someone’s blog and write rude, distasteful comments concerning something with which she disagreed. In fact, she would find something positive to say.

I have many friends of many religious faiths – Christian, Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, Latter Day Saints, Christian Science, and Baha’i. I have several wonderful friends who belong to no religious order, yet they possess all the wonderful qualities of those who do practice organized religion.

Tuesday evening, we were discussing how some individuals claim Christianity, but yet, are some of the most cruel hearted, and vicious people out there. Christi said, rather matter of fact, but with a degree of true sadness, “Sometimes, Christians can be some of the meanest people…”

I have seen this over and over.

I once was director of music at a church where the pastoral staff was involved in inappropriate behaviors of all natures – sexual affairs, lying, manipulative, shifting of funds, and other pathetic behaviors that were far from Christ-like behaviors – or appropriate behaviors in general. Yet, church councils, and a majority of the parishioners simply turned their heads to the inappropriate behaviors.

I can remember growing up in church and observing people during church. Since our family frequently joined other church families for various gatherings, I also observed an entirely different side – one that was disturbing.

At age 12, I chose not to join the Methodist church through confirmation. One Sunday morning, we arrived at church later than usual, and the congregation was in an uproar. The evening before, Carol Burnette and Company had an episode with “Eunice & Mamma” and our congregation believed Ms. Burnette’s program was making fun of religion. We had watched it, and I remember my grandmother stating she saw nothing wrong with the episode. The gentleman in front of us said that his family would never watch the Carol Burnette Show ever again. I turned and asked if we could still watch the program, and the gentleman turned and commanded, “You better not!”

Hmmm…

I sat there, stewing. I was furious that someone else told me I could not do something. Mother, and my grandparents – who were a also a tremendous influence in my life – not only provided, but encouraged me to adopt a strong sense of studying my options, or choices. Never would they have said, “You cannot watch Carol Burnette!” Never did they say, “You should not listen to your 8-Track tape of Jesus Christ, Superstar or Godspell.” And when I played the roles of Jesus and Joseph, I don’t believe anyone was offended, and in some ways, those productions could be considered blasphemous.

When it came time to go to confirmation that night, my grandfather, who could have gotten very sour over my decision to not continue with confirmation, asked why. I explained my reasons. Rather than getting all pissy, as he could so easily do, he smiled and said, “I understand completely. I only ask this – if you never ever decide to join a church as a member, or even attend church, I do hope you will always walk with God.”

And 32 years later, I am still walking with God. I cannot buy into any particular doctrine, especially when certain religions believe their way is the only way. In college, I heard campus ministers claim, over and over, that if you did not believe in Christ you would burn in hell. I never heard any of my Buddhist, or Jewish friends say, “If you don’t believe in our God, you will be consumed by the flames of hell.”

About two years ago, I was asked to give a sermon on Lincoln since that particular Sunday fell on President Lincoln’s birthday. The whole point was, “Was Lincoln a Christian?” In all the evidence on Lincoln, it is generally believed he did not buy into any particular religion, and stated that he would join the church with the words carved over the altar, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy mind, heart, soul and strength.” My final conclusion was that Lincoln “may not have been a technical Christian,” as indicated by his wife, but rather, “Lincoln was most certainly Christ-like.” (And I am still grateful to my friend, Jeff Carter for guiding me to that conclusion!)

Disciple means “to teach.” A derivative is “discipline.” We discuss this in the pre-adoptive training classes when I teach the discipline unit. When I think of Christ, I think of this tremendous human being who brought light into the dark lives of many. Where the Old Testament seemed to promote so many “don’t’s” – Christ was all about the “do’s” in life – do love one another, do love God, do help one another, do help those less fortunate…”  If there were any “dont’s” in his message it was “don’t discriminate.”

Christi punched this particular item around last Tuesday. Christ did not discriminate. The fellow loved everyone. He dined with those who were ostracized by political or religious establishments, he touched those others abandoned, and there did not seem to be any one not worthy of receiving his love and attention. Christ was not mean. Even when persecuted, he was still loving and forgiving.

We attended one church, and although I do not buy into the doctrine, I do love the familiar hymns, the sense of community, and the values that help support what I teach my own sons. My youngest son is at the age where some teenagers question – which is fine. In our house, if you question something, you must seek answers, or research your question. You must support your reasons for questioning. However, we both agreed that we wanted to take a sabbatical from organized religion. He belongs to a wonderful youth group that is all about spirituality, not doctrine, and he is expressly interested in this component – as am I.

Our decision happened to fall when we were incredibly busy with percussion ensemble season, show choir contests, and my own illness. For a while, people from church would send emails stating they missed us. Then the emails changed to “where are you?” There are a few who will send messages, or jokes, but for the most part, we have been written off. One person, with whom I continued to send jokes, responded a few weeks ago with “since you cannot come to church please don’t send me any future emails.”

Hmmm….

I did not entertain that email as “mean,” but it did open up some other avenues for thought. It seemed to touch upon a sense of possessiveness I had not really observed before, but now looking back, all the churches with which I have been involved have had an air of possessiveness. The goal seems to be on building membership, tithing and apportionment’s for the denominational hierarchy, and claiming lost sheep in the name of Christ. When my childhood church was irked over Carol Burnette, there was even a possessive mind set of controlling what we watched on television. When in college, I received a letter from my home church stating I should sign a petition and avoid seeing The Last Temptation of Christ. When I did not respond, I received a telephone call in my dorm room – from the same person who told me I was not to watch Carol Burnette! For those who know me well, imagine my reaction!

I saw The Last Temptation of Christ. What is more, I saw it with the pastor of the Lutheran Church where I was director of music! He and I both agreed it was art, and that should a person be shaken in their faith from seeing the movie, their faith may not have been on the right track.

Later when I saw the gentleman from church, I told him of my experience watching the movie I was to boycott… he shook his head and walked away. Nearly twenty years later, he was still avoiding me at my grandfather’s funeral.

I had one Christian friend who admonished me because I allow my son to watch Family Guy!

Hell, I watch it, too. This same friend loves The Simpsons – though milder than Family Guy, it still contains some eye openers. I assured my friend that before I watched Family Guy, I never missed a program with Jimmy Swaggart… she had nothing else to say.  Of course, this same person indicated I could not be a good Christian because I supported Hilary Clinton for the Democratic candidate for president.

I don’t consider this particular person “mean,” just misguided by her religious instruction – but not her faith.

I also had a friend shame me because I like Rosie O’Donnell. I was coached that I should not like her because she is Lesbian, and because she is so outspoken.

Lesbian? Wasn’t Danny Thomas one? [insert chuckle, here].

And outspoken?

A lot of people are… Rev. Jesse Jackson is outspoken – and wasn’t he a bit un-Christian this week with his comments about Obama??? Isn’t JJ a Christian? Rev. Al Sharpton is outspoken. But this friend could not believe I supported Rosie!

Well, Rosie adopts kids, I adopt kids. Rosie is big with adoption, I am big with adoption. Rosie does a lot of great things that do not receive press recognition. Good for her! Now, this friend who does not like Rosie is always certain her works for the hungry/homeless, her contributions at church, her contributions at her children’s school always receives recognition. In programs for Victoria, Schuster Center, or other area arts related products, her name is always listed as a contributer. Rosie receives recognition, too, but there are a number of things she does that go unnoticed.

Bravo!

Besides… who I prefer as politicians, or celebrities is still my choice, and well, my business.

What I shared with Christi the other evening was my growing concern for this “shoot to kill” attitude with some Christians. If a person is not Christian, they are often considered “evil.” In this current election, religion played way too much a part of the concerns. I truly do not care the denomination to which a politician belongs. Throughout our history, we have had a variety of denominations living in the White House, or serving in other arenas in our government. And I am sure we have had leaders claiming a denomination without even practicing.

In 1960, my great-grandfather changed his political affiliation because the Democratic party nominated a Catholic! Was my great-grandfather mean? Hell no! Virgil Barmes was one of the most loving, adorable people in the world. During the Depression, he worked for a granary that was owned by a Catholic, and the owner was firing non-Catholics to hire fellow Catholics.

For me, what is important is that the individual has some sort of spiritual base, or center. Many are hopping on the band wagon regarding Obama’s current or past religious affiliations. If it was true that he did not use a Christian Bible while being sworn in, why does it matter? When a person is being sworn in to political office, they are taking an oath to uphold our constitution – federal, state, county, community.

Besides, how many politicians have placed their hand on The Bible, and turned out to be some of the biggest liars and crooks in public office?

There was one Republican candidate I really liked – Mit Romney, I believe – who was a member of The Latter Day Saints (Mormons). I cannot begin to tell you how many friends commented on his religious affiliation. When I asked about his politics, very few could tell me any more about him. They were so focused on the fact that he was Mormon! I found this more disturbing than sad.

Christi’s comment just seemed to hang with me these past few days, and I simply jotted down some of my thoughts, experiences and observations. I am sure my comments on this page will be crucified by some as blasphemous, condemning me to hell, etc.. That’s fine. But I bet I will be able to tell to which faith they belong!

I believe, even more, in my theory of “The God Wheel.” I always think of a bicycle wheel… God is the hub and God is directly connected to use via the spokes. However, we are connected to one another by the rim which also connects us all back to the God source! Before some swing a cross, I am not saying we are God, but I do believe – my personal belief – that we are all a part of God and God is a part of us – an interconnectedness!

God isn’t my co-pilot. God drives through me.

I am sure if the lady who was so alarmed by my video posting of the show choir reads this post, she will have a priest perform an exorcism!

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