Category Archives: Deep Questions

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The Saviour.

Every time I’d stood out on the sidewalk, as a child, in front of the Gospel Assembly Hall 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.

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BACKLASH!

Humans react. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t survive. Reacting is the way all living things respond in the face of perceived threat. Most threat manifests in the form of change, and not all change is threatening but, since it can be, we react – self-protectively – to change.

So, what does all this mean, socially?

Society has evolved a way of reacting to changes perceived as a threat, either to stability of groups or to institutions upon which specific groups are founded. If one group changes a societal norm, any associated group which suspects a threat to its own relative perceived value will react. This collective reaction is called backlash.

For their collective lifetime, American social groups have endured many such changes. Given that the social class system was imposed by its founders, and carried out by its earliest settlers, as larger swaths of its endless plains were claimed certain among those pedigreed established and maintained power. First, Caucasians dominated its continental natives; then, the wealthiest among these brought their slave class, largely African, to serve agriculture and family structure. Thusly, racism became the order of not merely the day but the entire mentality of this new society.

But, while racism against the African class by the Caucasian landowners was ubiquitous, within this insidious system there was further suppression, against publicly unacknowledged subgroups. These were identified by their sexual preference. Significantly, since the prevailing religion of the time was Christian, such variance in sexual preference was openly condemned. Being outcasts, those whose preferences did not align with the Christian creed were pushed underground to form secret societies. Given the limits of transportation, the structure of these societies was loose and local, if managed at all by word of mouth or discreet, encoded post. The idea of open backlash likely never entered the mind of any, given that being exposed would bring about certain social abolishment and even death.

A couple centuries hence, social change has heaved its mighty hand. Contrary to the nation’s founding social attitudes, much backlash has ensued. Fiery, life threatening reaction on all fronts has periodically branded the landscape, leaving a continuing wake of destructive waste and fear.

So, what of social survival? Those suppressed by racism have banded together, spoken out, acted out, and moved with collective conviction demanding equal treatment, equal rights, equal status. Those with alternate sexual identity have, as well. This reactivity is felt, in some circles, daily. Gradually, inexplicably, the tide is turning; now, those of alternate sexual preference are publicly acknowledged by an increasing majority, and those of the heretofore subjected races have achieved social recognition, social opportunity and, while much is still unresolved and conflict persists, increasing social status.

But, while the tide turns, the threat of flood is still real.

Why?

Because, in the interests of immediate gratification, backlash has become the first order of business. And backlash, being reactive, presumes threat. But, the motive being fear, backlash cannot produce a sustainable symbiosis; rather, it is inherently destructive, further weakening any hope for true reconciliation and peaceful coexistence.

Additionally, of increasing concern is an encroaching variation on public backlash: subversion. Now, the technological revolution has produced a mode of reaction which takes place beneath public political scrutiny, behind the scenes, in unacknowledged behaviors known only to those who populate its groups. Subversive backlash has embodied entire movements, even reaching the professional and economic sector. Now, power is assumed through internal social networking within a corporate structure; indeed, entire commercial enterprises are populated nearly exclusively by members of a particular social group – to the veritable exclusion of those not identified within.

This further threatens social stability. More groups exist, each with their own inherent power, but said power wielded in exclusive interest rather than inclusive. Self-selectivity abounds; the rules of engagement made clear by the prior, suppressive class, now those who “fit” are predetermined by any number of specific criteria. Is this peaceful coexistence? Hardly. Rather, those who seek their own kind are now subject to any number of self- empowered monopolists, pushing and pulling and jostling for rank according to a set of priorities which can never align and which are intrinsically resistant to collective agreement.

Such collective agreement is the essence of a stable society. Without, any subgroup can at any point rise up and confront the other. Revolution from within may serve some, but history has left a flood of casualty in droves as proof of its power to dismantle rather than sustain.

Negotiation is the higher form of conflict resolution, but such dissonance must first be acknowledged at table. Refusal to make plain intent prevents any hope of such resolution. Subversive behavior effectively subverts the possibility!

If we are to ever return to the ideal of a stable society, we must first be open, up front, and fully disclosing with one another. If we must continue to react, let us do so with pause, recognition, confession, and a purpose which seeks the kind of coexistence which is borne of genuine, mutual respect.

What’s your reaction?

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© 9/5/2020 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. No copying, in part or whole, including translation permitted without written permission by the author. Thank you for your genuine respect.

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The Preoccupied Sex.

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[*Note: this piece is rated PG.]

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In matters of gender, Billy Joel had already drawn his conclusions; Catholic girls started much too late.

The fact that she had never been Catholic and hadn’t qualified as a girl for at least forty eight years gave rise to her current contemplations.

All the junior orchestra students were already actively in high school when she’d joined their company and Ron, percussionist from the west side, had produced the first erection ever to have its effect upon her; the fact that he did so from a standing position, feet apart, bound by denim, to the right of the mounted snare was significant. She wouldn’t see a live one for another nine and a half years.

Christian Fundamentalism was all over itself about f~~king. In fact, the most venerated among their entrenched patriarchs were known to equivocate on matters of condemnation by spelling sin: “s-e-x.” In spite of rampant gossiping, slander, and generalized gluttony among its ranks its young were, from infancy, indoctrinated to revile the flesh and anything which felt of it. Subliminally led by Barbie and Ken who, though molded in malleable plastic and shaped to accommodate exterior attire bore neither nipple nor shaft, she would gradually reach her own realization – peaking at the image of a naked Christ on the cross. The Romans weren’t just bulky barbarians; they’d specialized in humiliation. Crucifixion was their preferred mode of execution precisely because it rendered the penis of their perceived subordinate fully engorged. (1)

Art and religion, by rolling definition, would romanticize this harsh reality across the centuries. She was not immune. Christ and any of his images, rendered or imagined, never aroused in her anything but pious empathy for suffering, and dutiful obeisance, and the inspiration of awe. And, none of them were any help when it came to the overtaking ruminations on coitus and its mechanical apparatus. What one cannot know becomes precisely that about which one broods incessantly. 

Mr. Kranz taught history; Mr. Connerty, earth space science. Her classmates seemed distinguishably able to separate the valued from the dispensable. She, on the other hand, spent most of her energy surveying them. Which ones were doing it? With whom? How did they manage? Why did the boy she liked so much seem to want to touch girls who weren’t even smart? The other boys found her a curiosity; a couple of them looked at her with wet, squinting eyes, one in particular, dark, with small cauliflowered ears, a body so big that his legs opened outside of the desk into the aisles. But, most of the time, she fought to remained focused on taking notes and doing the dutiful things which would earn the high grades, for which purpose she had not yet determined. Actually engaging her frontal lobe for such things as critical, let alone divergent, thinking wouldn’t be happening, anytime soon. Art, and the half semester cycle by senior year, allowed temporary respite from all this anguish; the teacher recognized her abilities early, producing all manner of human body parts, cast in plaster, for her to render. The parts located between the thighs were not among them.

By the autumn of her nineteenth year, enrolled on portfolio scholarship in the fearlessly secular SUNY College at Fredonia the universe, ever ready, had ordered a proper introduction. Darren Small’s Drawing II model was godlike in proportions, of the rarest coloration auburn and green eyed and, gently flexing and stamping his feet, appeared before her with no warning at all.

Loincloths had long since been dispensed with by the life drawing community, even in the educational setting. The man was nude, from the curls on his head to the balls (of his feet). She was enraptured, forevermore.

Curiously, however, this idealized sensibility regarding beauty of form and face didn’t translate. What she had finally seen never reached out to touch her erogenous zones. Aesthetics were stubborn like that, not having been designed to meet need. 
 
And so, she resumed in the manner to which she had become accustomed. History of Architecture, for whose Ivy League professor she would, as work-study, mount slides ; Energy and Man, the latter a by-product of the conserving 70’s, taught at night by a bearded pot belly likely housed in the hills with, she calculated, a penchant for Spam and farm animals; and, Western Civilization, required after the registrar had determined that she had enrolled as a freshman without having completed sufficient high school credits to graduate. The professor for this course was, she decided, the homeliest man she had ever seen; yet, on a bus trip with the class to the Buffalo museum, she noted his exiting alone at a gated piece of gentrification and, in the next block, the girl with the long honey hair who had always sat closest to his desk and who had brought a large historical volume to share with him getting off next, neither of them returning to the bus en route back to school.
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Her daytime lunch partner was a muscular ruddy who’d been to Hull and back on an exchange, he and she sharing the distinct title of being the only two in the entire department who could actually draw. He’d daily recount his nightly escapades with each young woman as she appeared in the Union, describing just short of what they actually did once he’d seen the fine hair all over her body. He lived in one of the old houses in town, with a girl who had big eyes and no chin and who baked cookies every day, again no word on how he might’ve done with her what he may.
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By the next semester, she’d moved off campus with three dear Fundamentalists, one of them fancying herself liberal, allowing her strapping rock climber hunk to actually spend the night one weekend and ordering a glass perfume bottle shaped like a ghost the size of a man’s thumb from Avon to “give to her mother.” Of the other two, one would regularly entertain her fiance on the living room sofa after dark, the plywood walls separating her bedroom from the sounds emitted therewith utterly useless as any barrier to unbearable and unrequited imagination.
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Perhaps it was time to take a transfer to another school.
Her portfolio deemed strong by the drawing instructor, she submitted it to one of the Big Nine and was accepted in short order for the following semester, 3rd year. A tour of the Cleveland campus and its population of costumed characters provoked images of avant garde couplings seen in late night Grade B movies, their unrated references fleeting but memorable. Had the financial aid office of that institute not already bestowed its last penny of loan monies to, as her elder brother loudly accused in person, “minorities”, she would have certainly found out whether half of this could have been true.
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Instead, she remained on hiatus for the next two years, working and saving money and maintaining her hymen as intact as it could have been, given the painful injury caused by the steel painted child’s toy on the floor outside of the infant’s playpen for which a doctor had to be consulted. During those two years, she replaced glasses with contacs, got a Farrah Fawcett cut and perm, and had her eyebrows plucked away from center. Men in the office supply store now looked back at her from the front check out to the rear station, strikingly handsome men from the rich suburb, even a prisoner and his escort. She had two dates, one with a boy who took her to a dance club and sat arguing that dancing wasn’t like sex at all, that he never even thought about sex when he was dancing though she would not dance with him or anyone.
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The other was a trip to Indianapolis, to be hosted by her elder brother’s college friend who had become a doctor. He had invited her to visit specifically for her 21st birthday, to take her virginity, and he’d said so in no obscure terms. But, as she lay beside his half clothed body, the reality of his heretofore undisclosed debauchery was overtaking as was the large raised mole in the middle of his back, and she came home still wondering about the mechanical apparatus and how the whole act was managed, knowing only that she would have to be provided with some aesthetic allure in the future were she to even reconsider.
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By the following fall, she had returned to school, the same one from which she had taken leave two years earlier. This time, her thrust would be music, with the goal a teacher’s degree. Those who can, do; those who can’t do, teach; and, those who have never been told how fend for themselves, grasping blindly in the dark.
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Music History was presented in the recital hall auditorium by an already aging professor whose materials included a stereo turntable, a multitude of long play records, a standing microphone, and the magnificent capacity within his cranium for aural detail. Again, she sat, gazing around the room at the college students who played musical instruments, all of them having sex, all of them knowing how, all of them with a clear view of their own goals for the future. Some of them even knew how to play jazz. The imagery was almost too glorious to comprehend.
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The number of hours she sat in that class, the number of masterpieces of the musical literature which passed between her ears, the number of opportunities to actually hear and reflect upon the nature of the evolution of the form and structure of music as fine art, the golden chance at actual scholarship, all squandered at the feet of unwitting nymphomania.
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Perhaps that about which she would finally know so little was what kept everyone in institutions of higher learning together for one more year.  It had certainly sharpened her powers of observation to the razor’s edge. Instead of absorbing the chronological history of civilization, or the principles of higher maths and sciences, she had become a master of human behavior, a doctor of the art of the human condition.
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Whichever the ultimate, ascribed value, by Billy Joel or any number of other commentators hers was the embodiment of a lost generation of unfulfilled women, lives sacrificed at the altar of obsession with that which had been held just beyond their reach.
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p.s. to my Christian readers: this piece is neither an indictment of Christ (God forbid), nor people of faith; it is a third person account of the effect of male dominated dogma on the life of women.
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© 7/4/2020       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 translation or transcription, permitted without express written permission by the author. To request permission, please contact: littlebarefeet@msn.com
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