Sunday, June 19, 2011

Ghostland

Friday night I was at an annual end-of-the-school-year music festival. The origins of the festival, some ten years ago, was a conglomeration of Christian entities, youth groups and etc. I don't know for sure what goal was envisioned by the founders . . . although I did sit on the board of one of the major current supporting organizations. Maybe it was just to enjoy all types of rock music and have fun and there is certainly nothing wrong with that.

Actually, I like that purpose much better than the ole switch-n-bait type of programs Christian groups are famous for. That's where you go around and tell a bunch of high school or college kids, "Hey dude, we're having a great party down at the rec building all the cool people will be there. We have some great bands and there's no cover charge." So then you get all the people there, expecting a good time of drinking, smoking a little dope, hoping to hook up with the opposite sex . . . but instead, they have a big surprise. The doors are locked (almost) and a youth pastor, who is obvious trying too hard to be hip takes the mic and introduces a list of Christian bands, each trying to out-do the other with intensely emotional and manipulate experiences . . . trying to get the kids to make a confession of faith in Jesus.

So none of that happens in this music festival, and that's a good thing. You wouldn't even know it was a Christian event if one of the youth leaders hadn't come up to the microphone and mention it. I was there for the simple reason that my son Tyler was playing in one of the bands.

As I looked out over the crowd of about two to three hundred people spread out on a Puget Sound beach with the beautiful San Juan Islands in the background, I started to get this eerie feeling, like it was a ghostland. Shells of people walking around like holographic projections above a very different reality.

Now, before I completely loose you with this obscure though I want to do my usual disclaimer. I am not writing to say there was something wrong with this concert program or it should have been different. I'm certainly not writing from the angle that I have my crap together and everyone else is messed up. Once again I'm writing from the perspective of a Holden Caulfield or a Solomon.

So, I look out over the crowd and dispersed among the crowd were Christian leaders from around out community. Just behind me was my old pastor. He smiled, as did I and we waved. Beneath the surface we can't stand each other. The last "meaningful" conversation we had was now a year ago when he was sitting at my dinning room table in a fit of pure rage and hatred for me . . . because I was leaving his church. But we smiled. We pretend to forgive each other or to act like there is peace, when I know there is not. I still feel deeply hurt. I know that he hates me, but getting him to admit it would be impossible as he lives far up the holographic scale.

Then that brings me to myself. There I stand as a proud father and Christian husband, who in his secret places sometimes feels damned depressed, confused and uncertain about anything. Sometimes I harbor anger (like what I just mentioned) and the list personal failures goes on to infinity.

Then I look behind me. There's Bob. Strong Christian man and elder in the big Church of God. He and I served on the board of the youth organization. We had a bizarre turn in our relationship a few years ago. When it came time to set up the youth organization's annual fund raising dinner, he said that he was friends, or at least had contact, with a famous Washington state sports hero (and known for being a Christian) and he could invite him to speak. We agreed. Over the subsequent months Bob gave frequent reports of meeting with the sports hero and how excited he was to be coming. Then the night of the banquet came. The sports hero wasn't there. The director called him (or his agent). Oddly, they said they had never heard of Bob or our organization. I didn't want this to rest because I was confused. At the next board meeting I asked Bob what happened. He mumbled something about famous people aren't very reliable, especially when they are football players. That didn't satisfy me. My wife wanted me to hush and I did.

Strangely, I had the opportunity to meet the sports hero's girlfriend a few months later. I brought up the situation. She, of course, didn't know anything about it but she assured me that if her boyfriend had committed to speak, which he often does, that he would not have stood the people up. She pointed out that he is just not that arrogant. Yet, we live in this land of mist and mirages without ever knowing what the hell is going on.

Then I see a staff couple of another Christian group. For reasons that I have no clue about, even though I've spoken to them many times, they always pretend not to know me. I've seen them avoid me in the coffee shop like the plague . . . and I have no idea why. Then, one day, they acted like I was their long-lost best friend. But within a week of that wonderful encounter, I get a letter asking for financial support. So what is that all about? Since I didn't give, they are back in their avoiding me mode and pretending they don't know me.

As I look at the list of bands, I see a pattern. Like my son's band, they each have some odd connection to the church, although, without exception, they have all left Christianity.

In my son's case, he met most of his fellow band-members in youth group. They are in their twenties now. The band leader and I have had very honest conversations. He is clearly an agnostic with some pantheistic influence. He still plays "Christian" when he needs to. I think my son is in a similar place, although he is far more hesitant to talk about it with his dad.

So I stand and look out across ghostland, my son's band is playing one of their most popular songs. I think that Mike, the lead singer wrote it. I've read the lyrics and discussed them with him. It is clearly a Caulfied type of perspective on Christianity . . . we are all phonies. The song says that no one in the Church could give answers to why his brother suffers, no one gave honest answers about any real question, so he doesn't believe any of it any more.

But the music was rock and typical of rock, you can't hear the vocals well enough (or at least us middle-agers can't) to understand what they are saying. But it was surreal. Here was this anti-Church song being rocked out across the Puget Sound waters and the Church people (who only made up about 10% of the audience) smiling with the beat.

Sometimes I just want to scream. I want to say . . . "Doesn't anyone hear what they are saying? They deserve a discussion! These are real thoughts from real kids and no one gives an answer." We all think we must have peace at all cost, even if below the surface the pastor hates me, I despise him in spite of my best intentions, everyone is playing games with each other. Weird things are happening and no one ever gets below the surface. It is a ghostland. Holographic images of smiling people, me included, superimposed on the Fall.


2 comments:

Anna A said...

MJ,

You might want to check out InternetMonk. A certain agent, with whom we both had odd experiences with, is sharing some of the stuff that he has been going through.

About this very timely posting, I need to spend some thought about it. I just got home from a local minor league baseball game. The company bought tickets for whomever wanted to go, so I went again. It was hard because i was placed on the very edge of the group, and I didn't bring family or friends with me. Nor am I a social butterfly to go around and talk to everyone. I hope that I remember my experiences and don't repeat the experiment next year.

Anna

jmj said...

I read his story. I feel sorry for the guy and feel his pain. I had to work sears once,after I had finished Grad school, but I was in my 20s. It would be much harder now.

Sorry about the game . . . especially a baseball game. I think I would have brought a good book:>)