The Controversial New Post
September 13, 2011

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This is the part where I write an apparently shocking statement, preferably about God or religion. And this is the part where I try to explain how it’s really not all that shocking unless you’re really narrow-minded.

At about this time, I begin to experience a bit of writer’s remorse about what I just wrote, or the image I posted at the top of the page, and start to back-peddle so as not to totally alienate any or all potential audiences. And then I wrestle with thoughts of how one must risk alienating one audience in order to appeal to another, because that’s just how writing goes.

And here, well, this is where I get honest. I really try to do that, but I have a habit of endlessly questioning my motives, and want to make sure I’m not just being “honest” just so you’ll perceive me as more “authentic” than someone else you could be reading. You may think a habit of examining motives is honorable, but for me it borders on compulsion. So maybe that sort of trumps the whole honorable thing. Not sure who determines that.

Anyway, I was going to complete a post I started months ago about the origins of the pledge of allegiance to the Bible, which I grew up reciting in my Christian school, along with the pledge of allegiance to both the American and Christian flags.

I was going to call out how the guy who wrote the Bible pledge  included it in his creation of the original manual for Vacation Bible Schools for the Southern Baptists, back  in the 1920s. I would point out how he dedicated his words specifically to the “…white children of the South,” and mentioned how proud Southern Baptists are of their pure “Anglo-Saxon blood.” And that he explained in his preface how white children’s souls were going downhill, but that the spiritual conditions are “far worse among the negro children.”

I would say how I was shocked but not surprised to see for my own eyes actual proof of how racism mingled with religion, proving yet again the pattern of hypocrisy in Christendom. And I could state how some little children may have been, through no choice of their own, indoctrinated into that hypocrisy. Left to carry on the “honorable” traditions of those forebears who protected the purity of the Chosen culture that pledged allegiance to God’s Holy Word.

While all that may be true, of course, it makes no difference.

It makes no difference if I can regularly display proof after proof of the problems with religion. It makes no difference if the religious can provide proof after proof of the problems with doubt and disbelief. It makes no difference if any of us can justify our angst toward the other.

It makes no difference because it does not make us different.

Religious scholar Dallas Willard — a Southern Baptist, by the way — once wrote that, “We talk about leading a different kind of life, but we also have ready explanations for not being really different.” I’ll take inspiration from wherever I can get it, and that rings true for me.

Through the last several years, I’ve been learning that, for me, “being really different” does not happen through me trying to change others. Like I’ve repeated before, in the words of St. Michael, it starts with the Man in the Mirror. While we can inspire others toward positive change, we cannot change others. We can only change ourselves.

I don’t think I always need to be changing. Often, we interpret the need for change as saying that we are not good enough as we are. I am, as a person, good just as I am, but I think I can be better in certain situations, in my interactions with others, for example. Or trying to be less selfish as a husband. Or not wringing my dog’s neck when he pees on the carpet. That does not mean I must perpetually see myself as “almost there.” It just means that growth is usually good.

At this point in time, growth, for me, is in learning to be more true to myself. Learning who I really am, deep inside. Learning what I really want out of life, not what I think I should want. And for me that means making my own pledge of allegiance. Not to just another philosophy or system, and not even to some goal. Rather, it means constantly being honest with myself and others. Because when I’m not honest, I’m not at peace. With that in mind, I think my pledge could be best summed up in the words of the Temper Trap song, “Fader,” which mentions in one line:

“…I pledge myself allegiance to a better night’s sleep at home.”

So in the midst of all the provocative writing or imagery, the “authenticity,” the personality, the branding, the voice…whatever… in between the lines, my aim in the words I offer to you here — at least in this post — is to simply help me sleep better. To be more at peace. And that’s my wish for you.

Not attention-getting controversy. Not point-proving. Not trying to change others. Not fashionable philosophy. But honesty, and peace.

* Original image credit/link here.

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