Sunday, January 22, 2012

"Us" against "Them"

I just read a couple blog posts that touched on censoring our children's music, which transported me back to I think the fall of 1980.  I went to a revival type meeting with a van-load of other folks.  There was a traveling pair of pastor brothers, who gave these presentations full of parsed lyrics and reviled album covers and, ultimately, urged kids and young adults all over the Midwest to burn records and pray for our classmates who were surely worshipping the devil when they listened to the Eagles' "Hotel California", Simon & Garfunkel's love letter to heroin, "Bridge Over Troubled Water", or those really devilish bands like AC/DC, etc.  It was wild how crazed everyone got at the venue, and then on the way home how everyone was ranting about what they had to throw away when they got home and how sad they were that all our friends were going to hell...I was carried right along for much of it - a credit to the frenzied fear-mongering power of these traveling brothers, as well as my own narrow "believe folks who speak from a position of knowledge and authority" upbringing.  But somewhere toward the end of the rant, they got to my favorite band at the time - Styx.  They added Styx to the list of "must burns" for the sole reason that their name was the name of the river to hell...I consider this a huge credit to my naive, 14 or 15 year old self, that I stepped back with a "What?"  It stopped me in my tracks.  "That's all the best you can do?  Fault them for taking a mythological name for a river?"
From there, I started to see the panic in the face and voices around me, and I wondered about the brainwashing that seemed to be occurring through that revved up panic mode.  And as everyone in the van on the way home talked about getting rid of albums, I was thinking "but then you'll just go re-buy it next week when you get over your panic..." which led to the novel logical realization that these revival brothers were probably putting more money in the pockets of the bands they revived against because of all the re-purchasing likely to happen, or the free advertising they were offering those bands...I wonder now if I was right about that.

I now attend an ELCA Lutheran church, as I have since my childhood.  My husband is a "recovering Catholic".  Last week, our pastor gave a sermon about faith and his opening statement was about how some people accept faith "hook line and sinker" and others question it and want proof.  He actually made it black and white like that - as if the questioners (often the scientific or analytical types, he said) have it wrong.  And he commented how two children, raised from birth in the same home by the same parents in the same way can be on either side of this line.  My brother and I being a perfect example of this - only 2 years apart and I am now virtually agnostic since my "questioning" makes me believe that no one religion can possibly have it all right, and my brother is a complete right wing Christian conservative.  But in our youth, I was the "hook line & sinker" and he was the religion rejector.  I'd like to ask my pastor to explain that evolution to me under his black & white theory.  But I digress.

It makes me sad to know I am one of those people that my brother doesn't trust since my beliefs, as he must believe them to be (even though he doesn't ask about them nor do I offer them up since I avoid political or religious discussion when we are together), are "choices" he doesn't agree with.  And you all might have some sense for the regard in which I hold my nieces and nephews, to be kept at arms length from half of them torments me on a regular basis.  I hate that there is "us" and "them" within my very small family, but I have to acknowledge that it's there. 


  1. That's hard. My sisters and I were raised by an ultra conservative pastor who left our family because "God told him to," and we all question what man tells us God says. I'm can't believe how lucky I am that the feelings and questions I have at church, I know my sisters are also having. If you catch us in the service, making eye contact with each other, possibly with a raised eyebrow, it's guaranteed that something has been said that we just aren't too sure of. Research and talking will follow. We will never follow blindly again.

  2. Call me foolish or damned but I have learned to listen to myself and, finally, to trust myself (well, most of the time). When it comes to things of a spiritual nature, I can see so many paths as valid. I believe that different cultures and different people need and want different paths. What I don't want is for someone else to tell me what my path and what my beliefs MUST be. I think that is a conversation to be had with myself only.
    I have respect for any spiritual tradition that stresses love, tolerance, understanding for all people. When spiritual traditions become dogmatic and the followers become self righteous, then I close the door to that path.

    It is painful to know that your family isn't able to tolerate beliefs beyond the one path. I know I am very fortunate b/c , although my siblings subscribe to a wide collection of spiritual traditions, there is plenty of appreciation and respect for all approaches. My mother and two of my brothers are practicing Catholics. One of my brothers follows a sort of Hindu path out of India and I think another one would say he leans toward Buddhism. I think the rest of us are open minded believers but I can't say what it is that we believe!

    Thanks for a thoughtful post. I was just talking to my son about a book he just finished - "Under the Banner of Heaven" by Jon Krakauer - interesting study of Mormonism gone extreme. And high on my to read list is a book about fundamentalist Christian values vs secularism -- The Devil in Dover (
    It sounds fascinating.

    1. I also read Banner of Heaven in the last couple years - quite a story and a lot of detail that I had never known before about the history of the Mormon church. I really like Krakauer's writing style.

    2. I read the Banner of Heaven book several years ago and could not put it down. It was a horrible and fascinating story. And The Devil In Dover is on my to-read list.

  3. As John Lennon said, "...and no religion too".

    I am spiritual.
    I am not religious.
    Religion is the root of , not all, but definitely a sizable chunk of religion.

    The whole point is to come together more, and show more tolerance, love, acceptance in spite of differences. But most religions drive those with different views away.

    I just don't understand it. I don't.

  4. Thank you, Sarah, for continuing to put this subject out there to be perused, discussed and digested. I am a spiritual person, but do not believe I have to follow a course which includes an "organized" approach. I appreciate any view which allows everyone to follow his or her own path, and allows for tolerance of others' directions.

  5. I think it's a shame that there has to be such a division in families over things like this, though I guess a certain degree of intolerance is built-in to religion in general and even more so in certain religions or maybe in the personal make-ups of the faithful. After all, you can't be 100% right without everyone else being wrong.


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