Friday, February 02, 2007

Things about me, part I (The Fundamentalist Years)

One of my favorite blogs and one of my longtime stop off points when I’m cruising about the blogosphere, is Delfina’s fine blog, Living on Less. One of the things that make me want to take the time to read her writing is her transparency and ability to cut through so much of the surface BS that most Americans assign importance to. She also manages to come off human and not elitist and I think this has to do with her ability to just be herself when she writes and not create some alter ego for the net.

Recently, she shared five things about herself, after being “tagged” by Durrutti, from Love and Rage. Called a meme, these types of posts are not uncommon on various blogs. Being a sucker for people’s stories and with an insatiable urge to understand what makes interesting people tick, I eagerly read her post, finding out at the very end that she had “tagged” me to share my own items of interest that most people probably don’t know about, at least people that I have a casual relationship with.

Normally, I’m not a huge fan of these types of things, but because of the respect I have for her, I decided, albeit belatedly, to take her charge to heart and work up five things about myself that I’d be willing to share with readers.

Partly because I want to be different, partly because I want to drag this out and get maximum mileage out of it and partly because I’m suffering from my annual winter cold that inevitably leads to the “walking pneumonia” and then, eventually, “the boogie-woogie blues,” my energy level is at its lowest ebb. This week, I’ve been relegated to basically dragging myself out of bed, willing myself through a particularly busy week (involving two presentations to employer groups, including one in Farmington, yesterday that I had to leave the house for at 5:30 am), so while my desire to blog has been there, the energy and follow-through to carry it out has been absent. BTW, anyone with any good homeopathic, naturopathic, or old mother's remedies for colds and dealing with congestions, I'm open to advice.

Since she tagged me last week, on Wednesday (my birthday, coincidentally) and I didn’t begin feeling ill until Tuesday night, while at a nighttime meeting in Skowhegan of all places, you can blame me for procrastinating, which has me feeling oh so sheepish that more than a week has passed on this.

Without any further ado, here are the first of five things that I hope to roll out over the next few days that I’m sure readers can hardly wait to read. Drum roll please….

#1. I once attended Bible College in Indiana:

In 1982, my wife and I packed up our belongings in the back of a U-Haul and headed to Crown Point, Indiana, where I would enroll at Hyles-Anderson College in the fall.

Hyles-Anderson, a fundamentalist school, with a strong Baptist orientation, was where I’d spend nearly 2 ½ years trying to follow the straight and narrow ways of the cult-like teachings and messianic ravings of Jack Hyles, before figuring out that maybe the worldview of he and his deluded followers weren’t as “Christ-like” as I had been led to believe by others, 1,500 miles to the east.

In what would be an eye-opening and really, life-changing experience for two young 20-somethings, our time in northwest Indiana provided my wife and I with an urban experience that we never would have gained back in rural Maine. While I think both of us look back on that time, nearly 25 years ago and shake our heads, wondering how we could have been so “narrow” in our thinking at the time, it also provided some formative experiences for both of us over the five plus years we were there that helped shape the people that we are now.

For me, having grown up in the whitest of the white places in the U.S., being one of only a handful of whites working at an Indiana correctional facility (Westville Correctional Center) allowed me to have an awareness of what minorities experience daily back here in Maine and elsewhere. I still cringe when I think back of how naïve I was and how patient most of these new African-American co-workers were with me, when they could have been much less supportive of a hayseed from Maine. Some even took me under their wings and taught me the ropes. How the heck do you think I learned about BBQ, chitlins and grits? It sure wasn’t growing up in Lisbon Falls, chummy.

The interesting thing about the whole experience in northwest Indiana (which was about 45 miles from Chicago) is that it gave me an entirely different perspective on the U.S. While the country has become increasingly homogenized, there are still distinctive regional differences and I’m glad I got to experience my time in this part of the country.

While I went to Indiana to get closer to God, ironically, the entire experience left me doubting his existence and I’d have to say that while I came back to Maine a lapsed Xian, I eventually began calling myself an agnostic and developed the term “post-Xian” to describe my religious state. I did make one brief foray back towards organized religion a few years ago, but like many organizational structures heavy on authority, it wasn’t a good fit and I ultimately began butting heads with those in power. This time, it was over the war in Iraq and after a number of unpleasant confrontations with both the leaders of the church and the folks in my small group Bible study, I just decided to forego the organized religious path for good. My revolutionary take on the gospels and my non-literal reading of most scripture makes me a pariah in most conservative congregations. Certainly, there are more liberal churches dotting the landscape and my wife and I have actually visited some, but at least in this area, there is something lacking for my taste—too sedate and respectful of the status quo, I think.

So, back in Maine, a practicing post-Xian, I find my life pregnant with meaning. I didn’t have calamity visit me, as Jack Hyles used to insist would happen, if we ever “left the path of God.” In fact, I’ve discovered the late Brother Hyles (as students referred to him), or “Bubba” Hyles, as I began calling him after I left the school, had his own share of “skeletons” dancing in his own closet. Like so many “men of God,” he fell off his high moral horse and yet, the mega church he presided over, as well as the school he founded continues on, as if nothing ever happened, with his former followers turning a blind eye to the same indiscretions that they would criticize in “lesser” mortals. In fact, when I look down the lineup of supreme potentates now in charge, most were there while I was a student, which in light of what I know about Hyles, speaks volumes about who they are.

Well, that’s revelation #1—I’m not even sure what I’ll roll out for my next four, but definitely stay tuned.


Uncle Lester said...

Just happened upon your blog. I'm a Bible college grad too. Circleville Bible College, class of 1984. It was a holiness BC. I'm working on a blog/blog entry about my bible college experience. Not exactly a positive epistle; and the outcome of your experience is interestingly similar to mine.

A guy named ... Lynn

Jim said...

I'm sure our experiences are legion.

Anonymous said...

par of your problem is that you are still practicing a religion. I grew up at FBC and graduated from Hammond Baptist, and I guarantee that you couldnt or wouldnt get me into a church of any typr for anything unless it was a wedding or a funieral and it better be an extremely close freind for me to go even then, I havent been to church period in over 20 years and Im not gonna start anytime soon. Leave the joke of God and religion behind and your life will be much better for it--belive me.