I traveled the country in a rusted van preaching at churches with monuments that guarded elegant foyers and colleges that displayed a minimum of three crosses next to the entrance. The van’s light brown color scheme was congratulated by a collision of honkey white and angry red on the extended top. The inside was a 70s aquarium of everything blue and waves beneath seagulls. On the longer drives, I’d find myself imagining the old man I bought it from on a boat. His midwestern scowl sank into a forgotten past as the flat land drifted behind him. When I purchased the van the old man muttered regret and remission over his wife as the title was signed over. I got quite the deal, and it came with a floating oval Tele keychain–which is why I always dropped my keys in small town church fountains.
I never studied another preacher’s style. I found them to be boring, trite–only a few steps away from a book report. The mechanics of their performance was closer to a lecture a father gives to a child, filled with stories to distract from the harsh glare that began the talk, than of someone who has conversations with the Almighty.
I wanted to be George Carlin; a modern philosopher using jokes to soften the blow that the game was rigged by the powerful and the stupid.
A young kid was placed in front of a TV as his mother went out to minister her Jesus to people who believed in another Jesus. Specials and clip montages were never missed, until his mother saw what he watched. He was warned that Carlin was in the service of the Devil’s desire. All the kid saw was a man in search of understanding.
I saw a pastor make a video collage for a youth group after 9-11. Footage of the planes decimating the towers to toxic ash was spliced with pictures of Jesus on the cross feeling pretty bad about dying. The pastor said God uses these disasters to bring more to Him. I walked out of the editing room and never spoke with him again.
I believed God’s will was evident in all situations; you just needed to ask him for permission to understand. When I was sixteen that translated into praying over which restaurant to go to. Would God use me to share the gospel truth to a waitress? I’d think. Would there be a lone customer staring at the remains of his bread bowl salad that needed to hear of God’s love?
When I was freshly twenty, asking God’s will meant wondering if a decent conversation with a girl meant we were to be married one day. Most people I know who grasped the same persisting thoughts are now happily divorced.
I believed that God was in control of everything, like fucking EVERYTHING, but for each birthday this not only seemed to grow more highly improbable but also highly dysfunctional. The concept that God is high above the universe using his super powers as destiny maker means a lot had to be shuffled and people displaced for jazz to be invented in New Orleans in 1817.
Allowances were made for people to be taken from their homes and classed as tradable products. Generations became ghosts to their native lands. This all needed to happen so enslaved people from varied regions would gather in Congo Square to play music. Deep South traditions were coalesced with Caribbean sounds; a new form of music was heralded.
Jazz went on to inspire and influence every form of music and musician including Lil’ Wayne. So when Lil’ Wayne auto tunes, “Don’t fuck up with Wayne/ ‘Cause when it Waynes it pours,” God wanted that to happen. God created an enduring suffering knowing it would lead to one of raps biggest what-in-the-fuck lines.
I believed the search for God was a search for truth–wanting to know how this world worked and what was needed to be at peace with our existence.
A room full of pastors and leaders of faith debate the future positions of churches they preside over. One pastor breaks the static of arguments to shout, Gay people won’t donate when you say homosexuality isn’t a sin. There’s nothing to gain, but a loss of funding. He threw his fists on the table. Moments like that convince someone that truth is not in God’s self-interest, at least to those who have conversations with the Almighty.