Category Archives: Deep Questions

How the Good Souls Are Taken.

After not one, but two, articles appeared in major newspapers covering so-called “White Christian Nationalists” devotion to the Trump regime, I figured that piece I’d been toying with writing had better hit the page. God’s inspiration should never be ignored, after all. Oh; and, believe me: I mean that, sincerely.

For all practical purposes, I am a voice of the “white Evangelical Christian.” My family was established into the fellowship of the Fundamentalist sect of the Plymouth Brethren by our grandfather, a street preacher who’d migrated from eastern PA to get a job building cranes and raise his children. A couple elders of “the meeting” on East Avenue in Erie met him, at the local jail, and invited him to join their assembly. Soon Henry, his wife Mae, and their four daughters Dora Mae, Betty, Frances, and Martha, would be born and raised among them, attending Sunday School, Morning Worship and Gospel Meeting – all on Lord’s Day – plus, Prayer Meeting and Bible Study on Tuesday and Friday.

Aunt Frances, the most liberal thinker among his offspring, would go radical and marry a Baptist minister. The rest raised all of us on the self-same attendance regimen and its accompanying rules for dress and decorum; head coverings for the women, seated silence for all females in the presence of their men.

Pappy, as we grandkids would come to call him, was a closet Republican who came to accept that, like the rest of the Brethren, his citizenship was in Heaven and that God would put into office whom He will – with no need for his actual vote. My parents, and our entire extended family (with the exception of the Baptists) modeled after their patriarch, listening intently to the election results on the radio but refusing to participate in the democratic process.

I accepted Jesus into my heart at age six, but registered to vote at age thirty one, in 1988, the year our grandmother’s soul left her body for the seventh Heaven. The competition for the office of President was Bush/Dukakis and I, torn between Dukakis’ education plan and Bush’s GOP platform of fiscal conservatism and social traditionalism sat, biting my nails until the polls closed – never placing my vote.

The next time being a Christian became relevant in my political world was the year 2000. For some reason, though I’d long since left the constraints of the PBs and church culture in general, I’d found myself in the convocation of our local mega-congregation, curiously named at the time “First Assembly”. Movie screens were mounted to the left and right of the sanctuary, primarily intended to present praise lyrics but, on this occasion, the projectionist was preparing a form of worship from which there would be no escape.

I don’t remember what was said from the lectern, by way of introduction. I just remember the ceiling lights dimming and strains of the Battle Hymn of the Republic wafting from speakers mounted throughout the large, wide church as an authoritative baritone underscored in narrative what we were about to experience.

This was no missionary appeal, with its opening report about life in the Caribbean or African interior. This was a film about George W Bush, designed specifically for the church congregations of all America. There were images of uniformed military, and family photos of the Bush dynasty, splayed out across a metamessage of persuasion as moving as an altar call at the City Mission. I was aghast, astonished; what was politics doing amongst the faithful? Furthermore how, two thousand years after the birth of Christ, did a piece of campaign propaganda ever find its way into the First Assembly of God?

Now, twenty one years hence, I think I know.

Now, I recall my immediate family’s open defense of the President soon to be history. I trace back further, through conversations with my beloved former student, a high ranking military officer of the US Army Air Force and born-again Christian, his ardent support of the George W. whom he actually met filling his eyes with light. Mostly, I call to mind prayer breakfasts for whose keynote speaker politicians were pinned, political rallies populated by entire church contingents, the voice of America’s morally upright finally being heard by a mainstream society clearly in precipitous decay.

Here’s the thing about “true” Christians, the ones who read the Bibles they own and who live for the Christ they call their Saviour. Once they’ve accepted the doctrines which dictate that the Truth is theirs for the delivering, they hear the mandating call to go out and preach that gospel to every tongue, people, and nation. These having spent generations separated from the World and all its fleshly lustings, some shrewd political strategist finally realized that one more call, tactically placed, couched in all the trappings of a real conviction to act, would render an entire demographic literally clamoring for a place in the palm of their hand.

Now, there would be no need for the subliminal strains of an electric organ cued by a pastor’s gentle request for bowed heads. Just a country song, sung by a Christian entertainer, and youth group car washes popped up in every church parking lot in the nation – complete with bumper stickers declaring the candidate of consensus. Just a message, insidious in its power, that the marginalized faithful were important, thrust into the spotlight of the Almighty God’s intention for His people and summoned to a service no true Christian could, in good conscience, refuse.

What nobody calculated was the incredible intractability of the true Christian. To say they are an emboldened fringe is a dangerous oversimplification; this is far beyond extremism. These are both Fundamentalist and Evangelical. This is an entire mentality of infinite scope, with eternal life its branded hallmark. Psychologists would say that theirs is not a dilemma. The path is clear; wavering is not part of their lexicon. They shall not be moved.

Somewhere between the promise of prosperity and sinless perfection, the message these march has the Kingdom of God all over it. Pandora’s box should have been left tightly closed, just like the fellowship of the Plymouth Brethren, exclusive unto itself. But, politics played its ever-greedy hand, and now we all pay the price for that unforgivable sin.

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© 1/18/2021 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for respecting authentic original stories.

littlebarefeetblog.com

The Last Call.

Two men had said “I love you” to her within five years of each other. They were both drunk.

Why she attracted only drunken love was beyond her.

Or, was it?

Drunks are smarter than the average bear, all the pundits claim. Deeper, too. Why they find themselves among the 15% who become enslaved to alcohol is also the fault of their brains; something about the amygdala and an obscure, but potent, enzyme. She thought enzymes were what made food dissolve in the stomach but, on this morning after New Year’s Eve, she was already short on sleep and in well over her head.

Her family heritage was a red flag all by itself. Paternal grandfather an alcoholic (and, womanizing wife beater); maternal grandfather a pious tee totaler, but not his father ( descendant of William the Conqueror ). The men drank; the women enabled them.

One brother had become enamored of wine and Frangelica in his senior years. The younger had admitted to a lunching phase with his construction crew decades earlier which had gotten “somewhat out of hand”. She, being the lone girl in an ultra-conservative family milieu, and duly branded by the fear of God, had vowed never to stock the stuff. But, perhaps her pheromones smelled not of musk but of barley hops; among all the men in the room, the one who walked crooked would find her, first and every time.

What of the laws of nature, specifically chemistry? Was there something in her DNA that had already charted the course of her hapless love life?

If identical twins raised apart could choose the same shampoo and winter coat, would the female descendants of alcoholics be pre-destined to couple with the addicted who sought them? And, why? Was it all merely nature in search of equilibrium?

One of the two love professors had been in her sphere for four, fractured years. By his cycling binges and tears, and the lies which drove them, she’d found herself exhausted. The other had been part of her professional world for most of its life. On a scale of compatibility, there was no contest; what really mattered was whether and what she needed on not only the first day of 2021 but the veritable rest of her granted life.

Intelligence was a requisite; clouded by poison and a predictable descent into infantilism, not so much. Charm had worn itself out, especially the inebriated variety; what good was a witty opening line at closing time? Health and vitality were increasing commodities; whence these?
“ Hey, baby; how’s your liver ? ”

She loved with immediacy, and exclusively, but committed with caution. If time hadn’t actually passed, it had nevertheless taken a cumulative toll. Being convinced, or not, of love required time; being actually nourished by love would take more than gaping need or empty promises, however familial.

Life was an open question. Love was supposed to be the answer. Perhaps time, like the lucidity which follows stupor, would illuminate.

Was she to be the woman left at last call?

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© 1/1/2021 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. No copying, in whole or part, including by translation, permitted; sharing encouraged via blog link, exclusively. Thank you for respecting original material. Cheers!

littlebarefeetblog.com

THE SAVIOUR.

The Saviour.

Every time I’d stood out on the sidewalk in front of the Gospel Assembly Hall as a child, during that short break between Morning Worship and Sunday School, watching the ladies walking to Holy Rosary in their pointed high heels and lace mantillas and thinking about them all going to Hell if they didn’t accept Jesus, I’d always felt a sharp distinction between myself and everyone who hadn’t.

For those who were raising their children to be non-denominational, sectarian Protestant such distinction was essential to the tenets of a real Christian as they defined one. It wouldn’t even matter when, at the cusp of adolescence, I questioned the validity of all of it including the existence of God; what mattered was that I had, at age 6, confessed my sins in prayer before witnesses and accepted Jesus into my heart to be my Personal Saviour. This sealed my eternal security, in spite of a latent and ever increasing lack of faith, for as long as forever could be perceived by any human.

The reason, if rational thought was to be factored into any aspect of this mystical process, for specifically confessing and accepting and acknowledging Jesus as Personal Saviour was based upon one otherwise universally Christian, core belief: original sin. People were born at enmity with their Creator, inheriting Adam and Eve’s taint, and could not win the everlasting favor of God Almighty lest they repent and fall at the feet of Jesus as he hung on Calvary’s cross. And, it wasn’t even the act of His crucifixion which would ultimately redeem us, but the fact that Jesus was none other than the only begotten, Holy, Son of God. No other living being was sinless, inherently worthy to offer up His very body as the supreme sacrifice for each of us.

Now, even though Christendom has evolved to produce as many variations on this theme as there are letters in the arabic alphabet*, one fundamental feature is universally declared: Christ’s Holiness.

Infallibility. Jesus could be our Saviour only because he was sinlessly perfect, God’s Son; no other, however bloody, however wrought, could satisfy God’s requirement for atonement. Only Christ, the perfect pearl of great price, would suffice.

Throughout my life, I have never met a Christian by any moniker who didn’t honor Christ’s infallible holiness. Debate may have raged over the Trinity (separating Seventh Day Adventists from Jehovah’s Witnesses, and The Way International from all other cults); many a scholar at Bible Study may have elegantly argued the nature of Christ’s relationship to His Father; but, none disputed He Who was without sin as the only qualified Redeemer. For every Christian, Jesus was the one and only choice to save humankind from eternal condemnation.

And so, it is from this moment in my memory that I come careening up to the present. The world spins, nations rise against nation, and America faces the singular choice which determines its redemptive future. According to God’s Holy ordinance, much about life meets with these dispensations in time; for Americans, all religion aside, the state calls every citizen to its own altar. As free as every person created by God is to choose acceptance or rejection, every member of America’s democracy holds the inalienable right to place its vote for a worthy leader. Holiness ever elusive among mere mortals each one is nevertheless free to determine which, among candidates deemed qualified to stand up to the call, is the better choice.

Given the ravages of the infectious disease which has slain hundreds of thousands in a matter of months, to me this election feels urgent. But, I appeal to everyone who has ever identified with being Christian: would you put your soul’s eternal security in the hands of a deceptive, corrupt mortal? Then, how can you hold up a man who has committed multiple documented transactional acts of usury against men and women of every persuasion? How can you in devout conscience elect one whom Christ Himself would, as he did with the money changers, throw out of the Temple?

As Christ was brought before Pontius Pilate to be tried, the people were given a choice between two who had been held. Barabbas was a known criminal; Jesus had committed no legal offense. Yet, the mob demanded that Jesus be crucified, clamoring that Barabbas be released. They, in effect, cast their public vote — choosing a known criminal.

Are you a part of this mob?

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* https://littlebarefeetblog.com/2016/11/07/evolution-and-christians-of-the-alphabetical-order/

© 9/8/2020 Ruth Ann Scanzillo.

littlebarefeetblog.com