Decontextualize

Decontextualize: (v) to remove from a context

Water.

What do we use it for?

  • We drink it.
  • We swim in it.
  • We clean with it.

Very simple.

This is the context for water.

So the young prophet shows up at the river and he wants to use the water to baptize people. Why?

Because it’s something we drink, we swim in it and it cleans us.

The context is clear.  Water is a symbol of life, joy and cleanliness.

What a great way to communicate a transition in our beings. Take us into the water, let us promise good things, let us believe better things. Then splash us beneath the deep and rise us up—cleansed.

Could anything be more beautiful than that?

Does it matter how the water is used?

Does the top of my head have to get wet?

How about my hip bones?

Is it less significant if my kneecaps remain dry?

Since we understand the context of water bringing life, joy and cleanliness, why must we decontextualize by insisting the style in which we enact this ritual is more important than the expression itself?

How shall we take our communion?

Should we use wine or grape juice?

How can we take the symbolism of the body and blood of Christ and trivialize it down to grocery store concerns?

Are you saved?

How do you know?

Did you confess?

Did you come to it on your own?

Did you do it in church?

Did you do it in public?

Do any of these things matter?

Is it necessary to take the context of something beautiful and change it to a complexity and make it nearly inaccessible?

How do you know when you’ve found something pure?

That’s easy.

When no one needs to explain it to you.

 

Confound

Confound: (v) to cause surprise or confusion

Sometimes people wonder why I have chosen to be a person of faith.

It isn’t because I enjoy church music. I can snooze through an excellent Bach Prelude just like the next person.

It isn’t because I like praise and worship services. Looking at young people playing instruments, staring up at the sky with ecstatic gleams on their faces invitesfunny wisdom on words that begin with a C
cynicism into my tender heart.

I don’t favor prayer, Bible study or even consider a communion service to be particularly moving.

I’ve always been a great admirer of common sense, delivered with great humor and a background of intelligent reasoning.

Jesus, in describing his message, said it was a discourse which could be appreciated by those with a childlike perception, and therefore ends up confounding the wise.

Smart people think things need to be complicated. Education leads them to believe the more verbose they are, the greater the possibility of demonstrating the depth of their intellect.

When a reasonable simplicity is presented, which has great a great understanding of human nature and the functions of Planet Earth, it does confound the wise.

And honest to God–or Jesus–that always tickles my spirit.

 

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Communion

Communion: (n) the service of Christian worship at which bread and wine are consecrated and shared.

I get the same sensation when I go to Red Lobster with a friend and he or she insists, with a giggle, as the cheddar bay biscuits arrive, and they gleefully take one from the basket, that, “This is what Red Lobster is all about!”

I nod (knowing that soon I will probably nod off.)

Red Lobster is not about the cheddar bay biscuits. It’s about the seafood.

Just like baseball games are not about the peanuts and the Cracker Jacks. There’s a ball, a bat and a game.

And marriage is not about starting a family. It’s really about how much you enjoy having sex with this one person and hope you can keep it up for the rest of your life while you have a family.

I find myself going to church from time to time–reluctantly.

I don’t like that about me. It seems jaded. In this season of agnosticism it smacks of the predictable.

But you see, in church there’s just too much emphasis on the cheddar bay biscuits, the Cracker Jacks and the family.

Many of them center their whole agenda around communion–a symbolistic representation of the blood and body of Jesus Christ, which he gave for the sins of mankind.

It’s disconcerting to me.

First there’s the thought that I am such a piece of shit that God had to kill His own kid to try to make up for my buffoonery.

Then there’s the notion that a dynamic spirit which walked in the flesh among us for thirty-three years only gained significance in the last few hours that he hung, as an alleged criminal, on a cross.

What an insult to all things loving and eternal.

Yet if you lodge an objection, somehow or another you become apostate–which, if you don’t know what that means, is the religious system’s way of telling you that you don’t belong.

The truth of the matter is, I admire the hell out of Jesus.

Long before he bled, he led me into an understanding of how we might begin to see God’s will done on Earth as it is in heaven.

 

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Boon

Boon: (n) a thing that is helpful or beneficial.

In the pursuit of progress, it is paramount that we learn what is so important to the human race that we dare not surrender it.Dictionary B

I completely agree that putting leeches on human skin to suck out the bad blood of disease was a horrible idea.

Turning Africans into slaves to work plantations without wages or a retirement plan was sinister.

But we must understand, there are certain attributes of virtue which cannot be compromised simply because they seem tedious.

In the past thirty years, love has been translated from an action into a sentiment.

This has been very subtle.

We have allowed our entertainers, our politicians and even our religionists to convince us that love is a high-sounding ideal, but most of the time beyond our grasp. Therefore, we are encouraged to settle for lesser representations, like friendliness, giving to the poor, or even lust.

There is only one boon to the human race.

There is only one condition that creates the oil of gladness that lubricates us for bumping up against one another.

It is love.

We cannot give up on it.

Matter of fact, our mission is to define it in such realistic ways that we just naturally pursue it.

Without this, we begin to believe that individuality is holy–instead of the communion of souls in gentle compromise.

 

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Bacon

Bacon: (n) cured meat from the back of a pig.Dictionary B

Bacon is the religion of the fast food industry:

  • It is the communion which is needfully placed on the menu of every item.
  • It is the salvation for pink-slime hamburgers which would be rejected by the masses if standing alone.
  • It is the heaven we seek in pursuit of artery clogging and eternal life.

I have never seen a time in my life when bacon is so important to everyone. It’s the flavor, the crunch, the aftertaste, the texture, the sweetness, the saltiness and the fact that eating it is considered to be naughty that draws us deep into the hind quarters of the pig, for pleasure.

I am not immune.

It’s just that at my age, and being a male, I must opt for turkey bacon and convince myself that it resembles the “pig-out” product.

Of course, it does not.

Turkey bacon can perhaps slightly fool the taste buds, but when you pull it from the skillet or the microwave, there is that ever-present fragrance … of Thanksgiving morning.

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Anglican

dictionary with letter A

Anglican: (adj) relating to or denoting the Church of England or any Church in communion with it.

If my only job were to teach and promote atheism, I would choose, as a platform for my presentation, to just share pieces of church history.

In no time at all, the most ardent believer, based upon the information I shared, would shake his or her head, turn his or her back and walk away from the “stinky pew.”

Why? Because faith is meant to be a leap, not a step.

When men like Martin Luther, John Knox and John Wesley decided to depart from the Catholic Church, they eventually got around to holding committee meetings about who they would become, and ended up keeping much of the religious ceremony, traditions and superstitions of the Mother Church from which they allegedly wanted to orphan themselves from.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the Anglican Church, which, when it came to America by boat, became the Episcopals. With its founder, Henry VIII (an unlikely theologian) it continued to take on the heavy burdens and abstract practices of the Church of Rome, while loosening the belt on the underbelly of less important issues.

It is the problem with the religious system–at least in the Christian faith.

Even though we have a movement which dubs itself Protestant, there really isn’t a lot of protesting going on. What actually occurred in the Reformation was a reaction instead of a revolution.

Rather than returning to the teachings of Jesus, which would have expanded the vision of the Christian movement to include all cultures and all people, the Protestants basically embraced the teachings of the Apostle Paul, while sprinkling in portions of Catholicism.

Therefore, Christianity is the most “choiceless” option of spirituality available. This is why many of our young people end up dashing among Buddhism, Muslim, Judaism and agnosticism. Even the denominations that are much more relaxed in their approach, like the Pentecostals, still maintain the seeds of the Vatican, with communion, offerings, trappings and ritual.

The Anglicans essentially left the church of Rome because their King, at the time, wanted a divorce. There’s nothing spiritual about it, and until we actually have a soulful awakening, returning us to the tenets of our founder from Nazareth, the church will continue to be a jumbled mishmash of ingredients, thrown together in a dark kitchen, baked in the oven … with the aspiration that it will end up to everyone’s taste.

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Aerie

Words from Dic(tionary)

dictionary with letter A

Aerie: (n) the nest  of a bird of prey, esp. an eagle, typically built high in a tree or on a cliff.

Am I being too needy when I say that I take great comfort in the fact that an eagle is considered to be a rather regal creature, even though it is bald like me? (Of course, lacking feathers, an attractive beak, and not to mention, the ability to fly–at that point all similarities seem to cease.)

But there is something wonderfully intriguing and even mysterious about the eagle, soaring high into the mountain, nestling itself into a home far from the jungle and the maddening crowd.

There is something here to learn: I need an aerie–not to remove myself permanently from humanity as a grumbling objection to the insanity being proffered, but rather, a place where I can escape at times and get a little higher so I can see a little clearer and gain some perspective, instead of touting how wise I am, with the evidence of how cynical I’ve become.

  • What passes for philosophy nowadays are actually jaded observations from those who have embraced sarcasm and abandoned solution.
  • What is pushed forward as government is an exclusive club of politicians, who get together to advertise favored causes, which most importantly, contradict the views of their opponents.
  • And what is passed on as communion of spirituality is either a narrow-minded God who’s pissed off with mankind or some benevolent hippie juiced up on weed, who loves everybody, no matter how miserable they are.

Fly a little higher.

Find a place of seclusion every once in a while, where you can clear your head.

In so doing, you might be surprised, like the eagle, at how God will give you new ideas … and expand your bird brain.

Acolyte

by J. R. Practix

dictionary with letter A

Acolyte: (n.) a person assisting the celebrant in a religious service or procession.

I make no judgments on traditional religious practices which I may or may not consider to be part of my lifestyle.

Yet some of the more humorous events have happened to me while watching young and old try to walk down to the front of the church and light the ceremonial candles.

We call them acolytes. They are usually young people who have been convinced they have been granted an honor by sitting through a couple of classes, hearing an over-explained description of an age-old process, which appears to be VERY simple until Sunday morning arrives and they are put in the position of being the fire-starters.

One of my favorite visions is the young acolyte wearing the ceremonial robe with a pair of dirty tennis shoes sticking out of the bottom. I won’t even go into the symbolism.

I recall being at one church and an acolyte came forward to light the candle, only to discover that his magic fire stick was not making connection with the wick. For some reason the thing would NOT ignite. So in a moment of humanity, he proclaimed for all to hear: Aw, shit.”

Laugher ensued (even though I am sure folks sought absolution later.)

I DO like it when there is a hovering grown-up presence off to the side, nervously watching the youngsters go up to light the candles, like a mother hen concerned that the chicks will not know how to receive the nourishment of the grain being thrown by the farmer, breathlessly anticipating a fiasco–nearly apoplectic.

And of course, you can’t forget the acolytes who come forward dragging their feet, completely disconnected, barely able to get through the process before collapsing, exhausted, on the front pew designated for their position.

I know that the lighting of the candles is a symbolic portrayal of “bringing in the light of Christ” to our spiritual gathering. But like most human attempts to honor divine concepts, it is always laced with inadequacy, comedy and apathy.

I am not suggesting we should train and pay acolytes who are more professional in their approach.

But in conclusion, my favorite of all the events was when one of the deacons at a church realized that the trainee acolyte was having difficulty lighting the candle. The deacon ran up to the rescue, tried to light the candle himself using the apparatus, was equally unsuccessful, and so reached into his pocket and pulled out his cigarette lighter, leaned forward to complete the job, had his cigarettes fall out of his pocket, bounce on the altar–and scatter all over the top of the prepared communion.

In the seconds that followed, you could sense the man’s horror. There were probably countless revelations about his character revealed through this single action–and speculation on whether it would be appropriate to remove one of his cigarettes from the holy goblet, nearly rendering him paralyzed.

At length he gathered up his smokes and retreated to his seat to languish in his humiliation.

Being an acolyte is another one of those rites of passage that you have as a young person, which older people tell you is very, very important–but no one ever really mentions … after their eighteenth birthday.