The Garden of Misunderstood and Medieval

My wife and I just returned from our biennial trip to Amish country: buggies, black hats and horse manure. We needed some time away from the 21st century so we spent two days in the heart of the 15th century. Well, not exactly- we drove there. I am always struck by the ‘fear’ of electricity in the Amish.  What exactly is it about  electricity that some preacher long ago condemned? Interestingly, they use battery-operated lights and many use cell phones.  Apparently it is the cord, the snake-like electrical cord that scares the Hell out of them.

At the B&B, the hosts, with the constant sound of clip-clop in the background, spoke of a funeral down the road earlier this year during which there was a quarter mile of buggies in-line waiting to turn into the home of the survivors.  The host explained that there was no talking at all- only the family sitting on long benches shaking hands as the guests passed by.  Silence. Sombre. Morbid.
It struck me that the stoicism of their entire life was repeated at death. Was the reward in the next life? Do the Amish hope, like many Christians, that the ‘next life’ would be better than the one they left? For the Amish, would that mean driving a car and turning on a light switch? Milk and honey flowing down roads paved in gold? Did they sacrifice enough during their lives to ‘earn’ such a blessing after death?

Did Jesus’s death on the cross thoroughly ‘wash away’ their sins? Was he the proper scapegoat for all of mankind? Was the Deity thoroughly and completely satisfied with his Son’s agony and death? Was his anger sated?

I’m reminded of that tragic short story, The Lottery, by Shirley Jackson.

My current Kindle book is, Saving Jesus from the Church: How to Stop Worshiping Christ and Start Following Jesus, by Rev. Robin R, Meyers. This is my Nth book on this subject and my wife often chides me, ‘Haven’t you read enough of that type of book?’ She prefers fiction; so do I.

Meyers, like Bishop Spong, detests the literalism of fundamentalists. I use the word detests although they do not, perhaps because I do. I’ve never cared much for charlatans and shysters which is why I am perhaps obsessive about religious quacks. And the best example of religious quackery is bang-off In the beginning- the myth of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Good and Evil.  Of this, Meyers says:

Original sin is a theology of entrapment, not liberation; it is a “recent” theological exception, not the rule; it is an interruption, a detour, an artificial formula, not the timeless flow of creation spirituality that preceded it and will succeed it. Long before the church created a sickness for which it alone had the cure, mystics, poets, and wise ones all agreed on this: we are not apart from nature, and nature is not our enemy. We are part of an insurgency of life whose arc is long and whose future is mysterious. We did drop from the sky to do battle with our fallen nature; rather, we have crawled up out of the sea to work the garden, to protect our young, and to contemplate the gifts and obligations of higher consciousness. What does it mean to be human, to ask questions, to solve problems, to make art, and ultimately to discover the most sublime gift of all—love?

But no; the fundamentalist-literalists would have their followers ‘believe’ some mind-skewing tale of an apple and a snake, temptation, nakedness and shame and enduring sin. That baby born yesterday has a stained soul that needs ritual purification lest it remain an evil one. Metaphor be damned.

Meyer warns us of the literalistic presentation of the deadly false dichotomy: ‘a closed loop of original sin and exclusive salvation through Jesus.’ And who alone offers the way out?  The church, of course. “We cannot help what we are, but to be saved  from this inherited doom will require someone else’s sacrifice. Thus every human is in a state of total spiritual dependence. We are lost at birth, with only one hope of being found, so salvation is a closed system, a cosmic bargain initiated to save the helpless from being hopeless.”

A perfect scenario for adults who never grew up. Who see things in black and white, no gray. You are either lost or found, fallen or saved. With us or with the terrorists. We’re not, as Meyers puts it,  binary thinkers with on-off switches in the brain. ‘Dualism is deadly, however—whether in biblical studies, human relationships, or foreign policy. The tendency of human beings to see life as a simple choice between opposing and irreconcilable states is, at best, falsely comforting. At worst, it is apocalyptic.

My friend UptheFLag wrote a comment yesterday about the red states of the South as well as the red Mountain states: that they are already ‘decided’ politically because they are all fundy states. On-off switches; fundamentalist biblical reactionaries. No gray, no purple.

Has the Unites States become a set of  ‘opposing and irreconcilable states?’ If so, are we doomed if not apocalyptic?

And how much of this rests on biblical metaphors taken literally? Garden of good and evil.  Blood atonement. Original sin. Helpless and hopeless creatures.


6 thoughts on “The Garden of Misunderstood and Medieval

  1. While there are some young up and coming fundie kids, so long as we can keep the right wing nut jobs from polluting genuine education, we have a hope of not being overrun in this country by ill-educated idiots who believe stupid things for no better reason than someone they trusted told them so.

    Hooray for fact checking, critical thinking, and challenging what we are told!!!!! THAT rather than fundamentalist bastardized religion will be our real-life real-time salvation.

  2. Hello Muddy,
    I would like to pass on that we have large Mennonite communities here around Dover DE area. They too dress very plainly; women must wear a little cap-type head covering as it is worn in obedience to scripture in I Corinthians 11. Married men have beards, and many still ride in the black painted horse drawn buggies. You can see several tied up at the malls, Sam’s and Wal-Mart’s in the area while they do their shopping. Others will drive up in cars but still have the distinctive dress and appearances that readily identifies themselves. It depends on the viewpoint of the Bishop of each group is what decides this and the rest must follow. The view of the Bishops can vary between one group to the other.

    At the beginning of the Anabaptist movement in 1525, all Mennonite groups were united. This group was first known as Anabaptists (rather than Mennonites) because of their belief in adult baptism. At one time the Mennonites and Amish were one group and after the being persecuted for hundreds of years the Mennonites finally found safety in the State Church of Switzerland. In 1693, a young Swiss Mennonite elder who felt that the church was “losing its purity,” left the Mennonite Church and began his own group. His name was Jacob Amman and his followers were known as “Amish.” This was one of the main reasons that caused the first big split, which eventually developed the Amish religion.

    The Mennonites along with the Amish do not believe in Zippers. (I guess too many moving parts around critical, sensitive, and vital areas of one’s body.) All of the clothes are buttoned up. I am told that Mennonites wear ‘Plain’ cloths, not for religious reasons but for cultural. The Bishop of each group creates the rules that others willingly follow. Some orders may decide that cars are OK, but others may decide nothing more sophisticated than a button may be used.

    The Mennonites do a lot of building construction and woodworking but do not accept any money directly. You pay their church because that way it stays non-taxable.

    Their education is not much past the 8th grade but with a lot of Bible studying and they have many Religious based schools where the children attend. Bottom line, anything more than what is needed to construct a building or do woodworking and farming, is about all they really know. The children and young adults cannot function in the current modern world as we see it today.

  3. OFF TOPIC: Watched another movie recommended on this blog and/or related blogs (THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED). Like the others, it was great. For whatever reasons, I never seemed to watch movies “outside my box.” Thank you all for enriching my knowledge.

  4. M_R and other contributors…Help me with this…How do we tie
    the anti-abortion position of the GOP into Christianity and
    fundamentalism? How do we debunk the “right to life” beliefs of
    the religious ones as it pertains to abortion?

    1. I have been reading, as you know, several books lately by Christian ministers [Spong and others] who link the politics on the right with their strict interpretations of the Bible, rather on the life of Jesus as example to us of how to live our lives. My current Kindle book is ‘Saving Jesus from the Church.’ Yes, THAT is the title and it means exactly what it says.

      The current right-wing of the GOP are hand-in-glove with the fundamental church in the U.S. They ‘believe’ as the ‘holy’ priests and Levites of Jesus’s time in strict adherence to the laws- laws which place women as 2nd class and the poor as outcasts. In this mindset, there were those who ‘deserved’ their positions and those who ‘deserved’ the disdain of society.

      Sounds like today’s GOP, doesn’t it?

      1. Of course…But what arguments do we use to thwart that mindset?
        It’s easy to say that it is a war on women, but they just dismiss
        it as politics from the Dems. How do we “use religion” against them in the area of abortion specifically? We can call the “bible-
        thumpers,” but that only encourages them it seems. What are the aarguments to put them down?

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