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For many years, this writer has been alluding to having been raised by a sect of Christian Fundamentalists. Most of the time, the context has been apologetic, or in the form of some excuse for alarming or curious reactions to life events. Almost assuming others are looking on with cocked eye or raised eyebrow, I have felt the need to explain why it is that I respond differently to just about everything.
Enter the coronavirus pandemic.
At first sign, I was sure we were in for a radical change in our social and professional landscape. Most thought me purely reactionary, alarmist, then sensationalist. Some laughed, handing me their version of a tin foil hat.
All this proved true but, by the time such reality was manifesting, my prophetic cries were muffled by dictae from the voices of hastily appointed if frequently shifting actual authority.
What ultimately ensued is still affecting everyone, today; yet, the ones out front sounding the call are still pushed aside in favor of some vaguely gathered general consensus by those firmly planted in the middle of the collective scope of reference.
You won’t find me among these. Why?
Because I was raised by a sect of Christian Fundamentalists.
What distinguishes me, and those of my ilk?
First, we view the world through firmly entrenched dependence on the black and white lens. It’s in our cells; we can’t – without excruciating, conscious effort – escape it. We see things from an all or nothing perspective; one is either saved or lost, bound or free, right or wrong.
And, this informs our judgments. When things happen outside of our deliberate action, we must immediately evaluate according to a moral paradigm. “Whatsoever things are true….honest….of good report……” Is there truth, inherent? Is there candor? Is the source trustworthy? Are the instructions clear, and appropriate? And, based on all of the above, what should our course of action then be?
But, it doesn’t end there.
Like most students of the Scriptures, we dig. Deeply. We read, and listen, and consider. We check references. We constantly ask of these: where is your evidence? From whom do you derive your data? No alleged, or self imposed, authority bends our knee. Having been taught to believe that the devil appears as an angel of light, we peel back face value to find what may be hiding behind.
Once we have made all of the determinations outlined above, we are compelled to act. And, act we do, but in a manner which some might term beyond earnest.
It’s called zeal. We don’t just decide, for ourselves. We stand, on the proverbial corner, and preach.
That comes from having been told to do so. “Go ye, into all the world, and preach the gospel to every tongue, people, nation…..” To us, there are no limits to either our scope or sphere of influence. We must tell it, on the mountain, to all.
So, the next time you find yourself recoiling at yet another declaration on social media which doesn’t quite align with that which you and your milieu have come to accept as true, stop. Look. Lean in. Take a moment, or more, and really investigate what is being presented. And, if it’s coming from me or somebody else so inclined, you might find yourself enduring a shift. Don’t let that frighten you. Many call this growth, and most celebrate its worth.
When you do, you may notice a certain kind of clarity of purpose forming. And, this will drive your action toward decisions which bring an even deeper peace. You will have developed a plan for living which no longer depends on following what just seems like an acceptable path presented by those with either the loudest or most pervasive voices; rather, you will have carved one for yourself, from the inside out, and nobody will be able to take that from you.
We in the Plymouth Brethren were taught that this source was the Spirit of God, and the gift given: discernment. I can’t prove the presence of such a Spirit. I have no hard data, on that. What I do have is a driving force, that comes from the center of my cellular nuclei, which moves me to both think, look, listen, read, compare, contrast, verify, contemplate, and then act. And, for that, I make no apology at all.
Quote footnotes: “How Shall We Then Live?” – Francis Schaeffer; “Go ye into all the world…” Mark 16:15; “Whatsoever things are true…..” Philippians 4:8.
© 10/1/21 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, whose story it is, and whose name appears above this line. No copying, in part or whole, including translation and screen shot, permitted without signed written permission of the author. Sharing permitted by blog link, exclusively. Thank you for representing the higher standard.
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In an age when diversity is celebrated, and all implicit or similarity bias is being expunged, individual identity faces a mandate: who am I, and where do I belong?
Even as we pursue that definition, we should be ready to accept that each living human has a story which is distinct, not requiring any classification. As a new friend reminds, can we not just be the best “me” we can be? Can we dispense with seeking alliances?
Alliance assumes a need for protection; feeling a need for protection acknowledges the presence of threat. But, wherein does threat present, if every story is recognized and accepted as unique?
If the focus shifts to a recognition of individual value, whence would any group need to band together? Would the BLM movement no longer be required to raise awareness? Would other movements, for other marginalized groups, cease their relevance as well? Banding together, while the need to do so seems immediate, is a far cry from bonding. Motivated by a need to protect one’s own, banding can provoke animosity and enmity, yielding more hostility and strife; by contrast, healthy bonding fosters nourishment, sustaining life. Could we not bond with one another, irrespective of classification by race or ethnicity?
There is an expressed fear, for example, among some members of the Jewish American community – a fear that anti-Semitism will be revealed among those they call friends. Why? Because of a need to feel intact, safe from suppression? Such fear is not unique to the Jewish population; sectarian Christians, for example, experience similar reactions in countries where religious intolerance prevails. Such fear pervades all ethnic groups, races, and religious subgroups when they differ in representation from those in close proximity or when those from outside of their group express bias or prejudice.
Being confronted recently by accusations of anti-Semitism, I was brought into discussion intended to enlighten and educate me. The outcome of the exchange led me to question many things.
To what extent do we derive inherent personal value from our heritage? Should we?
My paternal history is Italian. While I can claim some genetic connection with its rich artistic contribution to world culture, I am also forced to acknowledge the thieving Roman conquerors and even Napoleon, whose progeny in Southern Italy is undeniable. On the maternal side, William the Conqueror emerges in the family line; who was he but yet another marauding narcissist, overtaking all of central England, erecting castles in his wake and siring those who would colonize Africa and India, enslaving millions.
Taken in totality, my “heritage” leaves little to celebrate.
So, whence “identity”?
Accentuating the positive, as the old song intones, I find that elements worthy of distinguishing us can be found in culture. What of the food, the clothing and other textiles, the furnishings and various decor, from every people and part of the planet? What of the art forms – the song, dance, sculpture, design, architecture, and drama? How many different ways can we, as individuals, embody that which binds us historically?
As individuals, we can represent these cultural aspects of our heritage without desiring or seeking any recognition for their relative value. No aesthetic feature is superior to another; neither should any group be.
Every child needs to feel valued; every adult deserves to feel valuable. Each of us is a part of the grand history of humanity. Can we move away from fear and threat, and toward universal acceptance of every feature we contribute to the picture of earth’s people?
This realization was a revelation to me – a revelation of which we can all now be a part. Maybe its insights will lead us toward Renaissance, rather than revolution – and, that, one identity at a time.
© 1/21/2021 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. Sharing permitted via blog link, exclusively. Thank you for respecting original written material.