bonar crump

bonar crump
husband - father - reader - runner - picker - grinner - lover - sinner

Monday, January 30, 2012

Lady and the Tramp meets Shawshank

When I was in fifth grade I had two dogs. One was a house dog, Foxy. The other was a dog that slept in my room at night but roamed the streets during the day, Butch. I don’t remember much about Foxy except that she had the most annoying habit of rolling over on her back to elicit a belly-rub anytime you made the slightest move downward to pet her. But Butch was altogether a different kind of dog.

I remember my stepdad trying everything he could think of to keep Butch from jumping the six-foot privacy fence. Ultimately, we conceded victory to Butch when it became evident that he would risk grave bodily injury to maintain access to the outside world. Eventually, we discovered that his daily escapes were due to a medium sized wheelbarrow with a bent tubular handle that hung from the fence. Butch may have only been 10—12” tall at the shoulders, but he could leap up to the back of that wheelbarrow for a boosted final jump which would send him over the fence without any sweat.

Foxy thought she had it made. Free food, clean water, climate-controlled environment, no responsibilities, no one teaching her tricks—just a dog living like a princess whose only interaction with the harsh realities of the outside world were requisite potty breaks each day. This dog’s idea of heaven would have been to be carried around all day by a woman in a shoulder bag living off of liver flavored treats and Perrier. As I said before, she was my dog in that I fed and watered her, but she wasn’t my kind of dog.

Butch had a sort of swagger about him. He was a “man about town”, a rogue, a rapscallion, and an all-around street hustler. Butch was gonna do what Butch was gonna do. He was his own man, so to speak.

Butch was a stray that I’d come across at my stepdad’s business. I was allowed to bring him home with the admonition that, “he’s your responsibility.” I was very excited because Foxy just wasn’t turning out to be much of a fifth grade boy’s idea of a companion. I wanted a dog that would be my buddy. I wanted an “Old Yeller” kind of boy/dog relationship. I really wanted a dog that was hell-bent on pleasing me—Butch was NOT that dog.

If I forgot to feed him, Butch would take a dump under my bed—Seriously. When I tried to control him via a leash or commands or grabbing him aggressively Butch would calmly and confidently lie down and refuse to acknowledge my presence or commands. In his mind, I needed the training—not him. And mostly he was right.

It took about a year for me to give up on the notion of training or altering Butch’s behavior in any meaningful way. Once I allowed him the room to establish the boundaries of our relationship things between Butch and I changed dramatically for the better. Butch had a lot to offer me as a 10 year old in need of a best friend, but first we had to establish a set of ground rules for the relationship based on respect instead of control. After that, we had the kind of storybook boy/dog connection that made “Old Yeller” pale in comparison.

Butch would walk me to school every day and then peel off to roam the neighborhood until recess when he’d reappear at a different door on the other side of the school to play with me and my friends no matter what we were doing. You would never have known who Butch belonged to because it was as if he belonged to all of us. When we went back inside he’d disappear again only to turn up at the first door in time for school to be out so that he could escort me home again.

Then we’d head over to Jimmy’s to play basketball or over to Richie’s for a neighborhood game of football in their lush yard or maybe down the alley behind Mr. Simmon’s yard to steal enormous purple plums that hung from the tree in his back yard over the fence. As long as we were being active or headed someplace on foot or on our bikes, Butch was there in the mix (I’m getting a strong Norman Rockwell image of a plate my grandmother used to have hanging on her wall right now).

However, if we weren’t in motion or actively engaging in some type of activity, Butch became quickly bored with us and would wander off. For instance, he’d tag along when we rode our bikes out to the lake, but he’d disappear if we started hunting under rocks in the stream for crawdads or fishing at the dock. Butch was a dude on the go!

Butch was an amazing animal that had no owner. He loved everybody equally (except the town dog catcher who became so defeated by Butch that he never ever got out of his truck when he spotted Butch running loose). Butch belonged to the neighborhood. Everyone played with him. Everyone left scraps out for him. Everyone playfully called to him as he crossed their yard. What I later realized was that Butch didn’t simply roam about aimlessly—he patrolled.

Actually, Butch was guarding me and my friends whenever we were out and about. If we were stationery and he knew we would be there for a while he’d continue on his patrol of the area within earshot of us so that whenever I whistled he’d come hustling back to escort us to our next location. And while we were in school or indoors, Butch was patrolling the neighborhood.

It was years and years later before I began to put the pieces together. There were no other stray dogs or cats in our neighborhood. The time that Mr. Simmons came out the back gate and decided to chase all of us away for eating his plums Butch stood his ground guarding over our escape and threatened to bite that old man (that was the only time I ever saw him bear his teeth at a person). One time I got in a fight at school during recess and instead of biting the other kid—which is what I was hoping he’d do—Butch stood about three feet away from us incessantly barking as loud as he could until we stopped from utter distraction.

He was always within whistling distance because he was standing guard and I never realized it at all.

Butch was a foreshadowing of my spiritual life.

He was teaching me something that would help me understand elements of my faith later in life.

Foxy was as tame as you can get. One day outside the yard and she’d have been road kill eaten by buzzards and pooped out on tree branches somewhere.

Butch wasn’t exactly domesticated. He insisted on a relationship which focused on mutual respect. And in return for your respect he gave you love and loyalty.

I grew up in a variety of denominational and non-denom churches that all taught me how to be a Foxy. Stay safe, eat your treats, roll over on your back submissively, and don’t ever take a dump under the bed.

I was a child. Of course I thought these folks knew what they were talking about. The church was my yard. The church was my home. The people in the church were my family. The teaching was all the nutrients I needed. Even the fence surrounding the yard was there as a loving safeguard to keep me from wandering into the street.

In the early parts of my adulthood I began to feel the Butch in me grow. I wanted to check out the neighborhood. I wanted to meet new people. I wanted to investigate some of those interesting smells that wafted through the air from time to time. I just wanted to see for myself why these folks went to such great lengths to train me not to leave this yard. I told myself that it must really be a dangerous and dirty place out there.

Guess what happened when I started jumping the fence and asking questions and peeking out of the closed blinds—I saw some pretty amazing stuff that my church family had never told me about. I guess they were trying to protect me and all, but this yard had become way too small for me. Yes, there were streets to cross and traffic to avoid. Conversely, there were children playing football and parades and people happy to leave table scraps out for you out of pure niceness.

None of this meant that I didn’t love my family anymore, but things became difficult at home. I was proving to be uncontrollable. I was becoming known as a rebel. I was being talked about and scorned for my “reckless” behavior. I was being ignored when I came home because I didn’t seem as much of a part of the family anymore when compared to the Foxies in our home.

Compliance becomes compulsory at the point that expectations of the home are valued more than the simple elegance of freedom. Once I realized that freedom would not and could not be tolerated, I bolted. Fuck you guys! I’d rather live as a feral dog than have to watch you rub Foxy’s belly one more time while staring at me with that look of disappointment. And, yes, that’s a new word I learned over on 4th street. FUCK all y’all!

Check this out.

A ten year old black kid 8 blocks away saw me down the street one day and set out a bowl of water at the base of the front steps for me to drink. Another time a gay couple offered me some bread crust at the park. I even found that the local tavern set out a small portion of table scraps for me every day when they threw out the nightly leftovers.

Here’s what I learned—if you’re going to be spiritually healthy you’ve got to be true to who you are. If your idea of heaven is living in the confines of someone’s handbag then get after it. If not, then don’t let others determine how much backyard time you get each day. And if you’re like me, don’t EVER forget that Love Loyalty & Respect ALL go together. They do not exist separate from one another. What that means is that we’re all different types of dogs, but we all need the same things to be spiritually healthy and to grow into the fullness of who God wants us to become—Love Loyalty & Respect (LL&R). Without these, you will be spiritually retarded throughout your entire life.

There are a lot of edifying fascinating inspiring dynamic things going on outside of the fence. There are folks your families have never met that can offer insights and wisdom.  There are other folks that don’t even have fences around their yards.

None of this means that we have to reject our families or their yard. But you need to be aware that the family may reject you. If your freedom to explore and live out a richly dynamic existence is valuable enough to you that you are willing to risk rejection by your family then you need to have the courage to be true to yourself. Being true to yourself in this kind of a situation is what a “calling” is all about.

It takes prayer. It takes an ear for God’s voice. It takes an awareness and understanding of your surroundings. And most importantly, it takes an understanding that an expectation to receive LL&R is just as important as the willingness to give LL&R.

Don’t be a fully domesticated pet to ANYONE in exchange for food and shelter without the demands of mutual LL&R. If you do then you have no value. If you do then you have no purpose. If you do then you will perpetuate the kind of home that keeps dogs on chains, gates locked, and animals living in kennels just because that’s the only life you’ve ever experienced yourself.

“Guess it comes down to a simple choice really. Get busy living or get busy dying.”
-The Shawshank Redemption

Friday, January 27, 2012

Ugly Brides make for Ugly Children

Let me start off by saying that I am NOT a theologian nor do I want to be one. I am not one to argue biblical translations or inerrancy. I do NOT view Christian scripture as a contract whereby all parties must accept it as holy writ to be enacted as law or to rule over us. I firmly believe in a living God that is perfectly capable of communicating with humanity in diverse and creative ways IN ADDITION to the written and heavily translated words of the Holy Bible. Getting antsy yet?

I DO believe that the scripture I’ve studied and made a part of my life for the last 35 years (the Protestant Bible, usually NIV although I discovered The Message version several years ago and prefer it most of the time) has been a foundational piece to my development and existence. Having said that—I feel compelled to confess that I do NOT worship the Bible and am quite sure that without its existence I would be the same believer in God that I am today. To me, the Bible is not the cornerstone of my faith—Jesus is.

I mash up metaphors like a child squishing together different colors of play-doh. Sometime I mash them all up so brutally that the individual colors disappear and the result is a brown ball of logic which resembles a philosophical turd. I know this about myself. I will never be cured and have no hopes of growing out of this “phase”. It is part of what makes me impatient with predictable movies, transparent poetry, and redactive biblical teaching. If I’m an expert on anything, it is this—I know a mixed metaphor when I see one.

"If we can hit that bullseye then the rest of the dominoes will fall like a house of cards... Checkmate." – Futurama character Zapp Brannigan

God as Father = metaphor
Jesus as Son = metaphor
Church as Bride = metaphor
Christians as Children = metaphor

Each metaphor standing alone serves as a useful tool to express or explain a complex relationship. All of them mixed up into a single thread of logic become a philosophical, spiritual, and relational turd. With that said, I shift my attention to the Church as Bride of Christ metaphor because it seems to be the only one in this particular grouping that proves to be more counterproductive than the rest due, in part, to the fact that it is biblically inferred but never directly defined in scripture.[1]

The reason I’ve decided to reject the Bride of Christ metaphor is because of the way that it is used not because of the validity of the claim. The validity of the claim I will leave to the theologians.

As long as there is criticism of mainstream Christian religion there will be a cry of, “how dare you defame the Bride of Christ!” As long as there is criticism of institutional Christianity there will be shouts of, “we must protect the Bride of Christ at all costs!” And as long as there are challenges to the rules, expectations, loyalty, and grace of traditional modes of Christianity there will be placards that read, “Save the Bride—keep her pure!”

It’s a very useful slogan/belief when calling our brothers to arms in defense of values and beliefs that have traditionally served us well. It’s also very useful as a fence to keep sheep from straying into other pastures. Because as soon as we convince each other that the holy Bride of Christ is the most important thing in all of God’s creation and we put on our t-shirt that designates us as a member of the holy Bride of Christ then by way of deduction we define ourselves as God’s favored/chosen group. Once you’re a part of God’s chosen group then you don’t want to go rogue and challenge too much of the status quo. Otherwise, you might wind up on the “outside” looking in wondering all the while when the Child of God metaphor is going to kick in.

Wait! I though you said I was a Child of God which means God is my Father. Then you told me that accepting God’s Son (Jesus) as my Lord and Savior made me part of the Bride of Christ. Now you’re gonna tell me that we’re all supposed to marry the Son of our Father which should encourage us to remain pure (unmolested by culture)? Pure? It all sounds pretty incestuous to me—where’s the door?

If you’ve been around Christian teaching for more than a couple years you’re not bothered by the brown color which develops from mashing all of this up. As a matter of fact, you’re quite turned off by my flippant way of making a point above. But if you’re not use to drinking the doctrinal kool-aid like the rest of us, you tend to think that Christians are some of the most screwed up, demented, cognitively delusional people in the world. And I think that in many ways we are. But the delusion isn’t our God—it’s our perception of God and the funky little box that we package him in called religion.

If the very means by which we teach people about God creates a barrier between them and understanding or believing in God then don’t you think Screwtape props his feet up on his desk, places his hands behind his head, and takes a joyful little sigh of gratitude?

I think it’s time to rethink some of our beliefs. I think that laziness has led us to accept whatever the religious machine is producing. I think that thinking for ourselves and being intellectually honest by way of applying our individual life experiences and logic are ways of opening up a line of communication with God allowing us to experience the totality of a benevolent loving creator outside the confines of an institutionally sanctioned package.

I think it’s time to believe in God with our hearts and by doings so diminish the noise in our heads that leads us to create our own packages for our little Gods to live in. It’s called embracing our spirituality and trusting God’s presence (or Holy Spirit) in our hearts.

Scary—a bit.
Rewarding—beyond belief!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

PAC - Parent Adult Child

There’s something very important I’m beginning to understand about myself that defines my relationship with God and Christianity. It affects the way I relate to the world around me and the way that I visualize myself in that world. I would not say that it encompasses all of who I am or all of who I strive to be, but this new revelation about how I’m wired is beginning to answer a lot of questions that I’ve had for most of my life. My hope has always been that by understanding more of the WHY I am the way that I am I can understand the WHO I am as a husband, father, son, brother, and friend. Likewise, the thought is always that understanding the WHO I am will lead to a greater understanding of the WHAT I have to offer to those around me and the WHEN it all needs to take place.

Psychologically, I’ve been an “adult” since the age of about 11. Now, I’m not going to go into all the reasons behind why I think I missed out on much of my potential adolescence or childhood because I don’t think those reasons are the point of what I’m trying to get at. Besides, in some sectors of the world the expectations of 13 – 15 year old boys is to begin taking on the responsibilities of men and I’m not about to approach whether or not these types of cultural expectations of the universal male population are either good or bad—healthy or destructive.

At about 9 years old, my nurturing as a child figure in our household ceased and was replaced with the reality that I would soon begin to have to start taking care of myself more and more. Many of us, both men and women, have travelled this road. Again, the reasons why are varied, but the outcome is similar—we had to grow up way faster than many of those around us whether we wanted to or not. It just is what it is. It’s called survival.

Here’s the point—when you spend the first 9 years of your life being a child, the next 2 years of your life transitioning to adult, and everything thereafter as a functioning adult you DO NOT relate well to the Child ego state.

Child ("archaeopsyche"): a state in which people behave, feel and think similarly to how they did in childhood. For example, a person who receives a poor evaluation at work may respond by looking at the floor, and crying or pouting, as they used to when scolded as a child. Conversely, a person who receives a good evaluation may respond with a broad smile and a joyful gesture of thanks. The Child is the source of emotions, creation, recreation, spontaneity and intimacy.

Likewise, when you haven’t been parented (raised and nurtured) since you skipped into double digits you fail to possess a solidpoint of reference for the Parent ego state.

Parent ("exteropsyche"): a state in which people behave, feel, and think in response to an unconscious mimicking of how their parents (or other parental figures) acted, or how they interpreted their parent's actions. For example, a person may shout at someone out of frustration because they learned from an influential figure in childhood the lesson that this seemed to be a way of relating that worked.

When you spend 9 – 11 years as a child and the next 30 + as an adult you tend to understand only one of the three ego states well—the Adult one.

Adult ("neopsyche"): a state of the ego which is most like a computer processing information and making predictions absent of major emotions that could affect its operation. Learning to strengthen the Adult is a goal of Transactional Analysis. While a person is in the Adult ego state, he/she is directed towards an objective appraisal of reality.

Yeah, I know, it’s all a bunch of psycho-babble used to explain the ways we humans interact with one another. But something occurred to me recently—this type of analysis explains a great deal about how I relate to God and why I do not jive with contemporary forms of mainstream Christianity as expressed through organized religion. Simply put, a light bulb went on over my head and I continue to discover deeper explanations about what makes me function the way that I do.

Plain and simple, I relate to God as Adult to Adult. I view Jesus as a physical representation of God (Jn 14:7). Therefore, I relate to the concept, presence, and embodiment of my enigmatic creator as one adult to another adult just as his disciples related to Jesus. This explains a great deal about why the congregational brick and mortar design of “church” causes me to sit there in my pew or chair and stare without comprehension at someone teaching from a Parent ego to a group of people consensually receiving said teaching using their Child ego state. Likewise, the religious role of God as Father (presuming a Parent ego) to us as His children (presuming a Child ego) does nothing for my personal expression of Adult to Adult relationship with my enigmatic creator.

Look, I understand how the Parent ego works as I am a loving father. I understand how the Child ego works as I’ve spent many times flat on my face crying out to God for an escape or rescue. But I don’t live there. I have chosen not to consistently function outside of my very comfortable and well-established Adult ego for a multitude of reasons—one of which is that I don’t understand how I’m supposed to be Adult everywhere else in my life and, yet, participate as Child when I’m encountering God in a church-type setting. It doesn’t make any sense to me.

I’m an Adult that does not apologize for enjoying alcohol. I’m an Adult that does not apologize for using foul language when it is appropriate (and, yes, it IS appropriate from time to time). I’m an Adult who thoroughly loves the company of what most would consider “unbelievers” by the standards of religious Christianity over the company of church-fed Christians any day of the week and twice on Sundays. I’m an Adult that talks to God the same way that I talk to my Stepdad—like the true friend, confidant, mentor, and loyal brother that he is. No, my stepdad is not my biological brother—sheesh!

How do you think this type of relationship works when you walk into a congregational setting in a mainstream church of today? Let me tell you, unless you’re ready to flex a great deal and pretend to be someone else it not only creates a great deal of frustration for your pastors and others in the crowd but it ultimately leads to confusion, animosity, and a final rejection by the very people who profess to have your best interests at heart. It just doesn’t work.

So here is how this hypothesis works—I believe that many of us are rejecting the Parental role of religion in our lives because we don’t want to have to separate our spiritual self from our physical self anymore. I believe that the only way to effectively function within the religiously defined role of mainstream Christianity is to accept the role of Child and uphold the institutional “church” as the acting Parent in lieu of an absentee God—Creator—Father.

Next up, I get into the dynamics of God (Father) – Jesus (Son) – Church (Bride) – Us (God’s children) as it relates to rules, expectations, loyalty, and grace. Wow, I hope I’m up for that one.

How am I doing so far? Believe me, it gets deeper still. You might have to choose between the Red pill and the Blue pill if you travel this road with me much further. A proper pint or a glass of wine might be in order to wash that pill down.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Gas pump christianity

I’d like to have a clear and concise explanation ready for friends and family that wonder why I don’t attend church any longer. I’d like to explain that it’s not all about being wounded by church-folk. I’d like to explain that it’s not about my rebellious streak. I’d like to explain that it’s not some kind of narcissistic bent toward self-fulfillment and a rejection of sacrifice. I’d like to explain that it’s not about rejecting the tenets of Christianity. I’d like to explain that it’s not about rejecting Jesus.

I’d like to explain that it IS about a rejection of idolatry.

The more I’ve prayed—studied—discussed the more I’ve come to understand that God is power, truth, and love. Power, Truth, and Love—where these things are present God is involved.

Maybe I’m always in the wrong place at the wrong time, but the vast majority of what I’ve experienced in 20 years of serving in a variety of Christian church congregations has been suspiciously absent of power, truth, or love. And when I’ve voiced this concern I’ve inevitably been written off and ignored by fellow Christians and labeled as one of “weak faith.”

Okay, so if my faith is weak, what faith are we talking about? My faith in the sovereignty of God is strong. My faith in the sacrifice and teaching of Jesus Christ is strong. My faith in the value of community is strong. My faith in the expression of love via service, kindness, respect, and loyalty is strong. However, I have no faith in the belief system we’ve constructed—zero—zilch—null—nada.

The set of beliefs and practices we’ve all come to know as Christianity are just that – a set of beliefs. Our belief systems are NOT God. They attempt to explain and promote God, but they are NOT God.

The Christianity that I reject is the one that worships the belief system. The Christianity that I embrace is the one that promotes a real relationship with an enigmatic creator as expressed through the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This real relationship is NOT expressed through church attendance, tithing, and/or Bible study. That is not to say that these things are bad or void of value, but they are NOT how I experience relationship with my enigmatic creator.

Idolatry—to honor or revere anything in place of God.

By my definition to honor or revere Christianity, scripture, values, beliefs, etc. constitutes idolatry the same as those nutty Jews that created a golden calf to worship while Moses was up top receiving the commandments from God. Is it really that far-fetched to consider the possibility that the absence of power and imminent decline of mainstream Christianity in America could be due to our worship of Christianity (religion) in place of a real relationship with God?

Congregational expressions of faith in a brick and mortar church building can be a gas pump where we fuel up. But what we’re after is the fuel—the power—the truth—the love. The problem is that the most ardent defenders of religious Christianity are those that honor and revere the pump instead of the fuel it delivers. I’ve found a pond of fuel in a field and I’ve sold everything I own in order to buy that field (Matt 13:44).

I’d like to have a clear and concise explanation ready for friends and family that wonder why I don’t attend church any longer. I’d like to be able to explain that I’ve sifted through my beliefs and pinpointed the things that show signs of power, truth, and love. I’d like to be able to explain that these are the only beliefs that I honor or revere, but I refuse to honor or revere them in place of an enigmatic creator. I’d like to be understood and accepted even though my perspective is challenging, dynamic, and fluid.

I’d like to be able to articulate what it means to me to follow Christ as opposed to selling Christianity. But I’ve become keenly aware that my inability to communicate these experiences via a nice neat package shows signs of the very enigmatic creator that I profess to follow.

I’ve discovered that gas pump Christians never travel far from their gas station even when the pump has run dry.  I pity them. I truly do.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Wind of Change

The atmosphere surrounding contemporary modes of Western Christianity is like a fogbank of uncertainty and criticism. We are antsy about the decline of mainstream Christianity. Tradition tells us that certain fundamentals are necessary to uphold the integrity of our beliefs. Fundamentalists champion the beliefs that they rely on as the “rock” upon which their house is built. In contrast, challengers of the fundamentals come off as relativists bearing homemade signs that read “OCCUPY THE CHURCH”. The lines have been drawn. Weapons have been chosen. The conflict is real.

Does any of it really matter? I don’t know—maybe not. But the sense that I get from meeting with laity and clergy ages 45 and under is that traditional means of Christianity are proving less and less relevant to their personal lives and to the world around us, in general. Is it fair to simply dismiss this perception as the lazy misguided apathy of an “occupy” generation anxious to engage life from a relativistic perspective? Can we afford to write off these folks who have become more and more accepting of homosexual lifestyles and impressed by secular movements of social change?

Righteous indignation—acting in accord with divine or moral law. What happens when each group professes contradictory divine or moral law? Does the advantage always go to the traditional sect of belief based on seniority?

Revolution—a fundamental change in power or organizational structures that takes place in a relatively short period of time. Is traditional Christianity in the throes of a revolution? I would suggest that the shift in power has already taken place. I think that deep in the heart of each Christian, whether we want to acknowledge it or not, is the sense that mainstream, mainline, main street Christianity is floundering about like a kite searching for wind.  The power is gone. The power has shifted somewhere else. And if we’re completely honest with ourselves we have to acknowledge that our source of power is not bound by traditions, fundamentals, beliefs, or any of the comfortable ideas we’ve decorated our spiritual spaces with.

It’s all about conflict—conflict management—conflict negotiation—and ultimately conflict resolution—in turn followed by the next conflict. The challenge to my readers is to embrace the conflicts we’re faced with instead of isolating ourselves from them. Let us boldly embrace the ideas we are challenged by without fear of being infected by that which defies traditional fundamental values. Truth always wins out in the end. Because where there is truth there is power—and where there is power there will be wind to not only sustain the kite but enough wind to make the kite capable of yanking us into the heavens.