Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Verily I Say Unto Thee

You have to go over to Arcologist's place and check out her song for the environment. Oh, my, yes. Can we just add a verse about the anti-logger buying GP lumber? The person getting cows out of creeks but never installing any truly sustainable alternative water sources (like ram pumps) -- because he wouldn't make money (from grants) from those?

Ah, but it was Acologist's bit on whether to become a preacher or not, her attempt to discern the call, that got me to thinking about my stories, true myths (a la MadCap) one and all.

One of my grandfathers was a Free Will Baptist preacher. There was no committee and no ordination -- you had a call or you didn't, people invited you to preach or came to where you were preaching, or they didn't. He did get registered with the county or whatever it took and did weddings. But he didn't get paid. The real truth is, little of any real value is ever paid work. But he didn't refuse donations. Most weddings, he got paid a dollar, a whole dollar. In 1968 he bought his first and only car and paid for it mostly with $1 bills that he'd put in a jar from marrying people.

He was also a carpenter and cut every board that went into the house I grew up in. He used to travel to a job (maybe as much as 20 miles away?) and stay there (with the family where he was adding on to their home most often) during the week, then they'd bring him home (because remember, he didn't own a car and he never did learn to drive). On the weekend he'd catch up with work in his big garden, and on Sunday he'd preach at Valley View.

I didn't grow up as a Free Will, and it used to scare me when I'd go to their services. Except when my Papaw was preaching because he didn't yell. He just quietly went about his life and said what he had to say.

Anyway, there was another preacher, this one paid, who once said something of value to me. It was a time of trouble in my life, and thus in my family's life (of birth, I was in my late teens at the time). He came to visit with me. He drove up as I was on my way out the door to seek the only peace I had at that time which was being with my horse. I wasn't about to give that up to make nice with him so instead of inviting him into the house for a seat on the couch and something cold to drink to wash down a fake smile, I said I was going to see my horse and he could come if he wished.

He did.

I don't know what else he said that day, but I've always remembered that Preacher Bowman spoke most eloquently to me when he came to the barn with me.


Laura said...

Thanks for the link!

So many times, just being there says more than anything else. I went along to a family meeting the other night, expecting to be giving moral support to the one laying down the law, and it turned out that the one in trouble was really grateful for my presence too. Said that kind of support might just make the difference. It seemed like such a small thing. I just hope it helps.

sheila jo said...

I'm really intrigued by this post, CG, perhaps more by what you DIDN'T say than what you DID say: the references to "paid and unpaid" preachers (Freewill Baptists), your refusal to "make nice with a fake smile," along with your remark in a previous post stating your refusal to any longer call yourself a Christian. It just makes me wonder where you've been, as your journey sounds remarkably similar to mine (on a spiritual level). I sometimes suspect I have become the world's greatest cynic concerning all things religious, or at least those things which involve organized, institutional religion. You're right. We speak far louder by demonstrating love than by telling people about our church.

the Contrary Goddess said...

Sometimes I think all spiritual journeys are similar. And sometimes I don't! I've thought about putting these quotes in my sidebar but so far haven't, but they are my two favorites about religious things:

Al Manning said, "Faith is when you believe what you know isn't true."

My corollary is, "Religion is when God tells you what someone else should do."

So, do you think that is cynical?

My midwife/sister/friend said to me the other day, "It all comes down to love." And what love is. Which is a lot of what these blogs end up discussing in the liberal/conservative/libertarian debates -- is love feeding sorry people or letting them feel their hunger? When a kid is in trouble, whether it was me or who laura visited, in the end it is only the kid who can make the steps to do better, or not.

And related but not directly, but I do think paid clergy is the beginning of all corruption.

And from that we end up with paid do-gooders and bureaucrats and all other do nothings who bog down and corrupt and exploit everything else. If it is worth doing really, it is worth doing without getting paid for it, while otherwise supporting yourself and your family.

sheila jo said...

And I say a hearty "AMEN!"

madcapmum said...

As long as a salary and the mortgage and heat/light bills have to be paid on a monstrous church, there's a certain conflict of interest in shepherding souls. What's required in that instance is wealthy souls, who then get to call the shots on the paid preacher.

It's the same in any paid job, I guess, but it's particularly unpleasant in the religious sphere. At least in Chive's construction job there's no pretence that anyone's there for anything but the money.

Eleutheros said...

The iconoclasitc 'drop out', 'back to the land', 'shun socieity (as it is)' writers Helen and Scott Nearing proposed a paradigm of dividing one's day into three four-hour periods. Four hours for what they called 'bread labor', procuring food, fuel, and shelter in a direct use economy; four hours devoted to one's profession, in Helen's case as a musician and Scott's as an economist; then four hours in service to the community.

But this is the rub, they only proposed to get paid, receive cash, for that portion of the 'bread labor' designed to get the money to pay taxes, insurance, incidentals, clothes etc. In their case they tapped maple trees and raised blueberries for their cash needs. For the other two segments of their work the did NOT expect to be paid. That's how a true calling fits in.

If the clergy followed this paradigm, there would be no manipulation by the committee, no urge for unions, none of the skulduggery that has dogged religions ever since the idea of professional clergy reared it's dubious head.

the Contrary Goddess said...

to MadCap I would say that there is a fundamental difference in "paid clergy" (and social workers and bureaucrats and teachers and coordinators and interveners and you get the idea)-- he is doing and offering FOR SALE something pretty concrete. Eleu evidently sells instruments. Concrete. Shoot, even get hired to play music for 2 hours, concrete.

But getting paid to shepherd souls, alas, as you said, conflict of interests raises its head immediately. Any "profession" that has job security by its own failure (teacher, social worker) is subject to this.

Naw, let us pay only success, and then only in direct use. As Eleu cites, Scott and Helen were paid for their goods, but no one would have paid them for their social effectiveness because they were singular failures at that! People who like to hear other people talk rather than doing anything themselves (protestors, coordinators, interveners, grant mongers, fellow communists) did pay them however, and they were wealthy to begin (and end) with, so they aren't great examples in some ways.

madcapmum said...

I'm not very familiar with the Nearings (only what Gene Logsdon wrote about them). Are you saying that they rode the circuit preaching self-sufficiency and became wealthy doing it?

Eleutheros said...

'Paid for their goods' in the case of the Nearings would be paid for maple syrup and quarts of blueberries. At least on the spreadsheet, that's how they paid the running expenses of their "Forrest Farm". There's a great deal more to the story, but not germane to the present thread. What they DIDN'T get paid for was their "work" in socialism and economics. They did that for, as it were, free.

And as for as the notion of providing something condrete (like maple syrup, blueberries, and what I do for cash) it's strictly a 'take it or leave it' transaction. There's a tangible, concrete thing involved and it doesn't involve coersion or force as things are when they are paid for by taxes and tax decuctible contributions.

the Contrary Goddess said...

madcap, no, that's not what I'm saying. Primarily, they got paid for spouting Communist ideals, not back to the land ones, and mostly that "pay" would have been travelling expenses (I surmise). Kinda ironic that.

But they were both very wealthy from childhood, travelled extensively, etc. On paper they paid for garden seeds, et al. with money they earned from concrete endeavors, but their land was all paid for from their wealth (Scott prided himself that he didn't sell his for a "profit", but Helen did which they don't really mention), and their last house especially was built not locally at all and built as a result of their great personal wealth. Also, Helen mostly wintered in Florida, not Maine, so feeding themselves in Maine was only a part of the year endeavor, etc.

BTW, the four season's harvest guy bought land from them, Elliot Coleman.

I've found them very interesting and enlightening to study, but I don't think they were at all what they presented themselves to be. In so many ways.

madcapmum said...

Ohhh. That's a song sung to a rather different tune, isn't it? Still, I should see what I can find about them in the library.

the Contrary Goddess said...

Well, their own book, The Good Life is a place to start. But it was reading that over and over through the years that began to point out the inconsistencies. So beyond that perhaps most interesting are the books on their deaths (and I can't think of the author at the moment) -- the one about Scott's real death is almost poetic and quite beautiful, called Free Radical. And one called Meanwhile, Next Door to the Good Life, by an ex-neighbor, provides some interesting observations about them and Coleman.

But it may only be hard-core Nearingites like me that find all that so interesting.

Joe Tornatore said...

what did he say that stuck with you?

the Contrary Goddess said...

who Joe? Nearing? If him, nothing I don't think, not directly. They were an example for us, with some of the same ideals if for different reasons. It is one of those things where you learn as much from differences as anything -- like they decided not to have kids (he actually did have children with a first wife although he was pretty estranged from them much of his life), not to have animals, to be vegetarians (but not vegans) -- things that we came to different conclusions about. We wouldn't build an uninsulated rock house even in our milder climate. I like making bread and we both enjoy cooking, things Helen abhored evidently.

Ah, but we do have this video of him, and he is cutting up brush with a handsaw, and he says he's having a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon in the sun, getting some exercise, and doing something useful too. That sticks. And also in that video, he is fixing a dam and says, "The water will say hahahahahaha." And I can say from experience, yes, water does say that.

the Contrary Goddess said...

My favorite Nearing quote (you knew I had one, it just took awhile to come up with it!):

“I have many doubts, many doubts, no certainties, many expectations and a lot of confidence in the possibility during this lifespan of making some sort of contribution to the expansion of our expanding universe. Now, that contribution may only consist of turning this brush into topsoil and adding it to the topsoil here instead of standing this way and watching it wash down the Penobscott River.”