What does “it” mean? How I draw my conclusion
I’ve been lucky enough to have been raised in two great places in my life. I was born and lived in Pennsylvania for the first 10 years, and Georgia for the last 17 (and counting). For me to begin this, I had to think of my first real Christian experience, and it is a sad one. Being subjected to so many different cultures in my early life, allowed me to see things from outside the box, and with resources we have today, I’m allowed to effectively research into my spiritual being. To understand me, I guess we have to do a brief history of Josh – A few months ago, I was hanging out with one of my oldest and dearest friends, who gave me a brief history of myself of his understanding of how I ended up where I am today. It took me back for a second, and really ate at me. Since I have moved to the south, I didn’t realize I had been so enigmatic. If I can’t be honest with somebody I trust so much, how can I be honest with myself?
I was a child of turmoil, I was adopted by my father when I was 1 ½ years old, my actual father was a drunk. My (adopted) father was around the age of 54 when I was adopted, and he was the youngest of at least 4 (that I know of). He was a great man. At the age of 5, my parents divorced, and joint custody was had. I don’t like to think of the stress at the time, but for being such a young age, I remember being quizzed all the time with questions like, “Who do you want to live with” – “When you visit, how long do you want to stay?”, the list goes on, but those were the two that really stick out. I don’t how it came to it, but it worked out that on the week days, I would stay with my mom, and during weekends and summer, I was at home with my dad.
I’m not sure how old I was, but as I remember, my father had sold our home once the divorce was settled, my mom moved to the town across the river, my dad bought a house downtown from one of his sons or you could say, one of my half-brothers. My father would visit his sisters, my Aunts, with his new found time (he had also just retired) And, his oldest, June, was a devote Pentecostal Christian.
Aunt June was widowed, long before I remember or more than likely before I was even was born. At this time, I was just starting School and was enrolled at Monessen Catholic School. I was young, and didn’t really understand why she sang “And he walks with me…” amongst other popular hymns. All I really remember is going to her trailer (she was living in a camper on her sons land in the middle of nowhere) and eating stale raisins. Soon, at the end of the school year, I remember visiting her and my dad told me in easier words than this, that her health was on the decline, she was sick. My father then had her move in with him, so he could look after his sister. This is very admirable in my book.
We did have a tradition when I came home to my dads house; he would take me to the store and get me an ice cream or a candy bar, whatever little kid Josh wanted really. This night in particular, was strange. I remember asking my Aunt June if she was Catholic. I didn’t know the difference. She was old, becoming senile, plus was a strict old lady. “Children should be seen, not heard” kind of strict. This night though, she laughed at what I said and smiled. I’ll never forget it. “One day, you will figure this out”. I couldn’t have been more than 8, but her words still echo in my head. The next night, we went for the candy bar, I came home to show her I picked something different, she wasn’t breathing, she was dead. This was my first funeral, I was confused by what was going on, I only went to the viewing, shortly before my mom ushered me off. It’s kind of hazy from that point on, but from an early age, I started forming my concepts of God, death, and mortality.
You ask your parents questions about God when you’re young, and depending on their religion (we were Episcopalian), you will get slightly different answers. Being a kid, I didn’t think much of it, just playing was really the important thing. This was my case until the very next year, my fathers 2nd sister, Mae, who I was also the closest to, passed away, suddenly. Once again, I was faced with questions and everybody was so busy at the time, I’m not sure if I got any good answers. My father took me to say my goodbyes and as I remember, I couldn’t cry. I wanted to, but I couldn’t. I was happy that my favorite aunt was with God. At this point, Friday Mass was an important part of my life, I was in Catholic School. The Father (his name escapes me), would answer everybody in the schools questions during the mass, if they had any after the lesson for the day. As I recall, I had questions every Friday.
This next part is probably the saddest part of my brief history of me, at least to me. The following summer, my mom had a career change. She went from working in the ER, to traveling selling Rubber Band guns. This due to her new boyfriend she had, it is what he did. When school let out, I was faced with a decision. Travel the nation with my mother to different various Expos, and Fairs, Shows, or hang out with my dad all summer. I chose to stay with my dad and friends. I’m glad I did for several reasons. One, he took me to 9 different amusement parks around the country, and we stayed in really cool hotels while we did. We traveled together, and I loved my father, not for what he did, but what he was doing. Just us, giving me sage advice, teaching me dirty limericks, just talking. His only interest was me being happy. It was great, it actually brings a tear to my eye as I type to even think about it. Near the end of the summer, dad wasn’t feeling well. I do believe we were at Gi-o-go Lake in Michigan. We cut the trip short, and we went home. It is kind of 50/50 with the next part. They never told me he was dying. Even at a young age, and with my experience with death, I think I would have made more with the time we had. By the end of the next summer, he had passed away. It took me a long time to get over this. I never was put in counseling, though it was offered, I became a recluse, when I did go out to a friends house, I couldn’t hold it together.
During this time, my mom had met a man in her travels named Dale. He was a Southern Pentecostal Preacher. He had taken to the road to do woodwork and spread the word of God. She was in love, at first he was great to me. This is when the decision was made, for my best interest, for my moms that we needed to move. My mom had taken me and put in public school mid-third grade at this point, I was at the end of my fourth grade year. It is another grey area of memory of the time after his death and to the day of the move, but it all seems to come back together there. It was decided that I would be put in home school using the Christian PACE program. My mother and new step-father had made friends with Mike and Shala White, from Ohio. Mike was a Pentecostal Preacher, and they had released several Gospel Albums, donating 30% of proceeds to the church (something like that). Their children were in this program, so it was good enough for these well off people, it was good enough for me. For nearly the next year and half, we bounced all around the country and then some, all 4 corners. It was in Roanoke Virginia I took to reading the bible daily, I was 11. Soon after, I was “Saved” from the fires of hell. This is when the first pane of glass broke. My mother had started hitting the bottle again, she was getting tired of never having a home to go to. I was tired of making friends for a week or two, then starting all over again. This affected me for a while. I started losing it, really. Finally, my mom settled on where she wanted to live, Georgia. She fell in love with the area around Perry. After we got done with the Georgia National fair that year (95) we moved to Brooklet, Ga. My Step-father had “Adopted Parents” living there, so we lived in our camper on their land for about 2 months. Just to let you know, living in a spacious camper is cool when you’re traveling around the country, but when you’re in one spot for a set period of time, not so cool. My mom was losing it herself. We soon went back to Perry, and they enrolled me in a school that used the PACE program in Byron. I wasn’t learning anything apparently, so they put me in a Christian school in Warner Robbins very close to the base. I won’t lie, I had no idea what was going on, I failed everything but reading and bible verse. By this time, we had moved to Kathleen and my mom took a job at Houston County Hospital. My step-father wasn’t doing anything but trying out new churches, disagreeing with something said and leaving. Not making money. My mom still had my inheritance to go by, and a job. He was making her miserable with the constant bible study, and me too at this point. She had another bout with the bottle, but this time, it was my fault, so Dale said. His reasons: I didn’t listen to what I was told, I watched too much TV, I had bad friends, my grades were bad. I didn’t want to listen to him anymore, true. So, I got up from the table and went to my room, where he then physically dragged me back to the table, opened up Psalms and ripped out the page, wadded it, put it in my mouth and said, “Chew, we will get the bible in you one way or another”. I wasn’t cool with this, at all. Would you be? My mom wasn’t cool with, at all, would you be? Needless to say, there was much drama over this moment. He was kicked out, he slept in his camper down the road somewhere, my mom put in Bonaire Elementary where I exceeded and excelled in my studies, and then he came back. She took a job at Upson Regional Medical Center. This is where most of you get to know me. During the transition, my Uncle Kevin, came down to help with the move. I love my Uncle to this day, he woke me up. “Josh, what do you want to do when you grow-up?” My answer: “Nothing, Jesus will return and I will be with him” He shook his head with a real serious look on his face. “What if he doesn’t come back?” I realized suddenly, I had been so wrapped up in do-righting that I wasn’t doing that important things 12 year olds do, dream. Something I left out, soon as Dale was married to my mom, he threw out all my video games, my toys except what I could hide. He got tired of me looking at my photo books, and burned them. My memories. We moved to Thomaston about two weeks later.
Once we arrived, I was in school the very next day, it was a different experience. Everybody was a little bit more reserved, social cliques’ had long been formed and I was just the new kid. But, I was lucky this day. Everybody excepted me and was curious. I wasn’t too open with details, just looked for the future.
When we had moved, I was used to living in big, pretty homes. Besides living in a camper for a year and a half, every home I had lived in was in a nice neighborhood, good people. We moved to a country house with a cemetery in the back yard. The house was cool though, spite it’s appearance. Thomaston has an awesome archive office for the record. There, we were to find out, our home was a little more than 150 years old. It had served as a hospital in the Civil War, a home for the Parish, a funeral home, and since 1970, a regular homestead. The basement, which was to be my room, was creepy. It had a big brick furnace we had to pay people to move. It was a crematorium. The cemetery at one point had held a small church, but tragically burnt down in the 80’s. It’s foundation is still there today. Weird stuff happened in the house, a lot. But, back to the story.
One day, my mother decided she was going to go buy something big, not sure what, but I know the aftermath. My stepfather had been “improving” the house, and most of my mothers money from my father was gone. No explanation. They had problems. During this time, my step-father had opened a wood working shop in Warm Springs, Ga. It was awesome, I did enjoy my time there. The money he had used to start the businesses account had disappeared, claiming wood had gone up in price, or something. This ended in their divorce. My mom got everything of course, including the bills. She was in a dark place, and so was I. I was confused. This is when I met Josh Bailey. His parents were very kind to me. His mother asked me one day how I got here from Pennsylvania, she was the first person I ever truly poured my heart to. I am still thankful for her and her husband today. My mom went through some tough times while I was in 7th and 8th grade. I always had the option to move back to PA with my aunt, but I couldn’t leave my mother like that. By 10th Grade, Josh had moved to Hartwell and I lost sight of being a “good kid”. I was the pamphlet. I did well in school, kept my grades on tract, I also had found peace in playing my Euphonium. I practiced at least 3 hours a day. You do that, you get good. It wasn’t long before I was being recognized for my skill. I ate it up, I won’t lie. I enjoyed band, but if I wasn’t playing video games or playing my horn, I was experimenting as kids do I suppose. . .Lots of experimenting with foreign substances.
In college, I had lost sight of spirituality totally for my first semester, I was at a party school, and that’s what I did, party. Grades were …”Eh” at the time. I was signing up for classes for spring, and one caught my eye. I was always interested in Doomagedon, and here was a class, “Apocalyptic Studies” that met every Thursday 7-11. Didn’t interfere with anything I was doing, so, why not?
In this class, I learned the connections all societies and religions have with each other. They believe it all will end one way or another. Thing is, Muslim and Christian religions have so much in common, it is almost scary. Never knew it, I thought Muslims were all extremist at this point. I learned the Hindu speak of world events like beginnings and ends like the world was changing clothes. Albeit, it was only one semester, this is really where my thoughts started taking their ultimate shape. When your 19, your impressionable, easily. Maybe not everybody, but I was. The next year, I spent the year expanding my consciousness, through internal and external means. When you experience a transcendental experience with a group a people, it’s different, every time. I went from living in a location with one or two mainstream religions to a college with 20k people with at least 5k different opinions other than Mainstream Christianity. It was different. I loved it.
After college, my wife and I moved to her hometown where I took the first job that came to me. A real small town, large county, ~20k people. More Churches per mile than I ever seen. And, I honestly have been a lot of places, but this took me back when I counted at least 12 in a straight mile. Funniest part, they were all about the same, Baptist, Southern Baptist, Church of God, Charismatic Baptist church of God, all variations. I have said it before that I have no problem with believing in God. But these people around here, were and are ignorant. Not all, obviously, but most I encountered. At least I have had the chance to experience different ways of worship in totally different Geographic settings. I am open to the fact, there are other religions, and I have no right to say they are wrong, nor do you. My beef went from trying to find myself spiritually, (mind you that at this point I had little feet asking me such spiritual questions) to watching with dismay how politicians would pull strings, how the church would try to center itself in local government. How “Brother Bob” delivered the Sunday sermon for the last 2 years. Without seminary this would be like me studying Stephen Hawking for the last 2 years and proclaiming myself as an expert in astrophysics. I found myself in college really enjoying physics. The simple laws can make so much sense. Energy can’t be destroyed, it only changes forms. Right? I would be worried about “Brother Bob” teaching me spiritual guidance rather than me showing you an astrophysics proof, at least we can check that by going over the proof. Of course there are always special circumstances…
What does this have to do with Spirituality? Everything. After much thought, I’m ready to get into it. This has been very difficult to write, I don’t like wearing my heart on my sleeve, let alone, lay my history out like that with my beliefs. Number 1 thing I have come to the conclusion of, we as a human species, don’t give ourselves enough credit. An example: Your in a car accident. You hit a truck backing out of a driveway, total accident. You may or not have been in this situation before, it happens so quickly. The next thing you know you’re in the hospital, blood is being poured into via IV. People say, “Thank God.” That is right I guess. But, I think the first person you should thank would be the doctor who made sure you didn’t have an amputation for the arm you mangled. His experience saved you. So, if you want to thank God, you got to thank science as well.
Another problem, I never had before in my life until I moved here, when asked what religion I was, I said Episcopalian. They asked the history, was happy to give it. Then the person scoffed at me and said, “too bad, hell will burn”. Ignorance. So, I guess my struggle is mainly against ignorance. Christianity is a branch off of Catholicism. I read the doctrines about the Baptist sect some saying it is young as 400 years old where as others would argue it is as old the Teachings themselves.
People are willing to die for their faith, there is nothing wrong with that, it is absolutely commendable. But, the bibles teachings are mainly about social norms of the day. Thank goodness these changed. Male on Male homosexuality is condemned, but it says nothing about women. The Argument could simply be a Man on Man applies to woman as well, but how can you live by absolute word, but not worry about the loophole in that very sentence? Another thing would be the fact that you can pick and choose which teaching you want to live by, rather than the whole book. If the laws of the old testament are abolished by Jesus dying for your sins, what would be the point to have them in the book at all? Stuff like, not wearing blended fabrics, eating pork, etc. etc. I’m not trying to poke fun, but if you DON’T sin, Jesus will have died in vain, at least that is the way it seems. I have a hard time trying to believe an outdated textbook saying the womans rights movement is trouble ahead, let alone a book that has been translated at least 100 times. Why would I have a problem with this – example time.
English: Every good deed deserves the utmost respect.
Sweedish: Varje god gärning förtjänar stor respekt.
Sweedish back to English: Every good deed deserves great respect.
This was done by computer, with a simple language, simple sentance. Even though it is a random sentence I typed in there (Every good deed deserves the utmost respect) it came out slightly different. So when translating something over and over again from dead languages none- the- less, things are not going to be exactly right. On top of it, why were the other books left out of the bible? This is one thing I will not waver on. There is always a hidden agenda, the times may change, so might the agenda itself, but the books were left out for one reason or another, which is probably to advance somebody or some movement, or a number of other reasons, I seriously doubt God had any word in it. If you are reading this, you have more than likely watched history channel “Council of Arimithia” – And I love the excuse, if it doesn’t line up with what you believe, WITCH CRAFT or Anti-Christ or Devil, insert your negative energy or evil being of choice. Any insight to religion other than what you are taught at church is evil. WHY? You learn in high school Christopher Columbus found America. In college you learn he didn’t, he found what is to believe the Bahamas or the Virgin Islands. Depends on where you look. History books are inaccurate, and it is only by questioning them we discover more truth. Or at least we hope.
Something else that has been eeking me about Southern Christians, why should God be in politics? You argue that they are one in the same, if he is part of their decision process things will be better. Another thing we learn from history: Every time he is involved, things get crazy, messed up, you end up with endless wars, witch hunts, persecution. Think about it on a local level and take it to the larger one, here, if you announce to the public you were an atheist, you gets countless visits from preachers and pupil, you get labeled and branded a heretic pretty much. Local families end up kicking people out for coming out with their beliefs. It’s sad, I don’t know this from first hand experience (I did grow up in a strict religious household, but in my later years as a teen I was told my soul is my concern, nobody elses). Isn’t it funny, with the Birth of the Tea Party, suddenly conservative politicians are super Christians, when you really never heard about that when they are totally bashing their opponents when originally running for office. That seems like pandering to me.
Another thing that eeks me is why people claim to do good deeds. I was brought up with strict manners. Always be polite, please, thank you, yes ma’am, no sir, manners. Be polite, go out of your way for others, help when you can. They “trespass” more than once, to the null with them. Basically, kill with kindness and if that fails, kick some ass. Never had to use it to be honest, which is cool. I was really lucky in those akward years in high school, I had GREAT friends, no enemies, nobody ever really had a beef with me, even got a girlfriend or a few. But, people only would go out and help others when the church would make it an event. We should help each other no matter what. We are a species, almost hive minded in the regard’s that we are emotion driven. Only the coldest person or the hardest person would be an exception to that. We are. I hate to use this as a reference, but it’s true. We are fear driven as a species, as a community, and as a nation. If you fear something, you will sacrifice anything and all to guarantee the safety of those you love, what you protect. Ring a bell? So, how is fearing “terrorist” and different than fearing hell? What are you willing to sacrifice to “stay safe”. Like there is really such a thing. I’m glad I’m breathing right now, and my children and wife as well. Are you willing to sacrifice your freedom for safety, or are you willing to follow one particular set of guidelines to make sure your soul stays safe no matter the consequences? There are no guarantees. When I think of God in a Government I think of this: “Strength through Unity, Unity through Faith”. And if you know where that is from, you would understand that things didn’t work out in that fictional setting. I know it’s a very weak example, and a fictional movie – but where will be in 25, 50 years. If it works, great! It will be the first time in history pretty much. If it doesn’t, it will be the worst times, and it will be us, our children and children’s children stuck in the mess.
I’m jumping around, erratically, and I’m really sorry for that by the way, it is not easy to write all this at once. I have a little bit of an ADD, so just stick with me a little longer. The best way I can describe myself when it comes to my belief is humanist. I believe we are much older (as I stated before) than we think. Our species has started over at least 3 times from square one and each time, an entire new belief system, refined, better. We have gone from no gods, to many gods to one God. It’s kind of a cycle. Those who dismiss evolution, I think they are crazy. We see it in our own history. If God is a grand architect, wouldn’t the first thing he would do is allow are systems to survive and adapt to the ever changing-living world he created? I’m not saying we evolved from Monkeys, but I am saying we evolved in our own genome. Our species is amazing. Maybe I’m just simple in that respect, to think we are amazing. Just look at the complicated nervous system we have compared to a jelly fish. It’s wonderful!
Finally, what I think is going to happen when we die. We all think of our mortality at one point or another. Heck, I was fascinated since the age of 6. I understand your views and they are wonderful, I just can’t share them with you the way you see it. (This is the part that will make people jump at meJ)
This is subject to change with my age as somebody who is very close to being my mother pointed out.
Our bodies put out incredible amounts of heat, when heat is made that is called work, and work is called energy. What happens when we die? Does it just shut off, somebody turns off the furnace? Think about your powerful subconscious, you don’t know what’s going on with it, but you know it’s working, it’s the compass you follow. Physics: energy doesn’t stop, it just changes forms. When we die, is it possible we leave the vessel we are in to be part of a bigger conscious? Are you just a memory? Or does your tormented soul get judged and sentenced like it is traditionally believed? I have a hard time believing that indigenous tribes of the wilderness who never have seen a white man (that is lack for better terms, sorry :s) will spend an eternity in hell or purgatory. It’s like being punished for breathing. Picture this: a law passed 150 years ago in a town – if you wave on a Wednesday afternoon while the sun is on your left shoulder, it is fineable to $10. So you get pulled over and get this preposterous ticket for a law you never even dreamed happened. The cop that pulled you over you knew from childhood and you two never got along, so he follows through and sends you on your way. You get to court and the officer is there, you talk to the judge and he says, “Ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law”. You really picture spirituality is like that? Fire and Brimstone for eternity.
This is all I feel that I can write for now, and I will post it. I’m not trying to make or keep friends here; just trying to lay it out there, and I would like peaceful talks about it. Tell me where you think I went wrong. I know it sounds like a few bad apples ruined the bunch for me growing-up, but I hold no grudges, honestly. Even now that you know this about me, I will still be as nice as welcoming to you as was 10 years ago. Please, thank you, and happy day –and all that good jazz.
Afterthought: We should be good to each other no matter what the belief is held by a person or a group of persons. I do know that the saying is if each good deed is stairway to heaven, you couldn’t do enough. I think that is terrible. The world isn’t in the shape it is in today because any one reason, I think it is in the shape it is in because we forgot how to love one another. It is easier to hate and say bad things about people for their differences rather than love and try to understand one another.