Thursday, November 21, 2013

Brave New World

I am a child of the 60s and still sing and hum music from that era.  I really liked the music of Simon and Garfunkel when I was a kid and then enjoyed Paul Simon when he struck out on his own.  Some of you may remember a song that Paul Simon sung, perhaps in the 70s called Kodachrome.  For those too young to know what the reference in the title of the song is about, long ago in a galaxy far away, there were little boxes that one would hold in one's hand to capture a visual image.  Those were called cameras.  No, you could not talk on them or use them to find a restaurant or to find directions if you were lost.  They were simply boxes that could capture an image on a piece of film.  Film?  Oh, that was a brownish looking strip that one would put inside the box and attach to a spool and as one captures visual images (we called the "pictures") the spool would advance some of the film and the visual image of something that the box was pointed at would be captured on the film.  Long ago, perhaps back in the 20th century, the film only came in black and white (yes, that is true, howbeit funny) but someone finally devised a way in which color pictures also could be captures on film.  Somewhere in the 1970s, an ever higher quality color picture could be achieved on film by comes the song title...."Kodachrome" film, made by the Kodak company, thus the name.

Whew, all that just to introduce some lyrics from a song.  Well, I still sing Kodachrome when I am in the kitchen cooking or when I am doing chores or any other time it pops in my head.  The first verse has little to do with taking pictures but it does have to do with life today.  "When I look back on all the crap I learned in high school, it's a wonder I can think at all, but though my lack of education hasn't hurt me none, I can read the writing on the wall."  Obviously, Paul Simon's lack of education may have hurt him some as the line contains at least one double negative, but I digress.  The verse to me is a prophetic call from the 70s that is made plain in life today because there seems to be a lot of things that people either are asked to learn at some time in life or are taught that people today consider to be (pardon my French) "crap".  Values, social mores, orders of life in the world that made sense in the 60s suddenly began to slip from favor with the general population as the 70s rolled into the 80s and the 20th century soon became the 21st century.

Today, life is nothing like it was in the era when Paul Simon first sang the song.  Institutions that once were held in high esteem by the general public are questioned regularly.  People in general have claimed the freedom to think as they will and act as they will despite what authorities may have said in the past.  I work in and for an institution whose authority has been eroded to the place where one may question one's own worth or role in the institution.  Where pastors at one time had great authority over members of a church, what one says today in one's official role is taken with a grain of salt by most people.  There are topics of conversation and debate that I dare not address, either officially or either casually, except among people with whom I feel a great confidence that they think much as I do.  I am not free to give my opinion on such topics even if I can quote a scripture from Holy Writ that would back me up.  To do so, may mean losing support among people whose support is desired in the church setting.

What Paul Simon sings about is generally true.  All of us had to try to learn information when we were in high school that seemed totally useless to us.  For me, it was anything that involved math.  I was math challenged (most likely from that hit on the head with a bat that my brother gave me when I was a child, but who knows who to blame for such things?) and never could do mathematical computation beyond simple fractions.  When I got to algebra, I squeaked through with a C for which I gave much thanks for (luckily I had a coach for an algebra teacher who was much more interested in chatting with the cheerleaders in the class than teaching the subject matter) but when I got to geometry, all Hades broke loose.  Good ole Mrs. Dean, who had been at the school since it was built long ago, couldn't care less for cheerleaders or football players.  She was all business and geometry was her love.  She only said things once, we were told on the first day of her class, and she did not repeat herself.  So, math challenged me, spent a lot of time drawing cartoons on my test papers because I knew nothing about the subject matter.  I finished the class with a 37 (yes, that was my average, not just one grade on a test.)  The result of that episode in failure was that as an adult anything that has math in it immediately brings up some math anxiety in me and I really do not care about math or what it can do for society.  Luckily, I chose a profession that uses a lot of words rather than digits.

So, I understand how some things change over the decades and are influenced by past experiences.  The authority of the church is one of these things.  Once the Church spoke and people listened and tried to obey, regardless of what the Church or its leaders said.  Today, people question the authority of the Church on every subject and consider their point of view as valid as that of church leaders even if the leaders think that they have the Bible to back them up.  People may love to have a Bible to tote around or to pick up from the pew rack now and then but as a whole society really does not care what the Bible says about anything.  It is all up to individual interpretation (we thank the Reformation for that insight) so even if church dogma or doctrine is based upon the Holy book, many regard it as second in authority to their own ideas.  In the same way that I consider algebra and geometry to be remnants of the medieval age, most modern people consider Church doctrine to be relics of the ancient world.

Who can blame society in general for having lack of faith in the Church or its leaders?  After all, some churches oppress others based upon Bible passages.  Other churches teach that hatred toward others is okay and they too use the Bible as their defense.  Some churches put their pastors on trial and announce to the world that they are bad based upon their church rules which they say they base upon Bible passages.  Some churches go all the way back to the ancient church and its leaders to defend their view on social issues that did not even exist in the ancient world.  It is any wonder that many people feel they have no need for the Church and would rather spend Sundays reading the paper, grilling something good to eat, or watching sports on television.

Whatever happened to the simplicity of the Gospel based upon the Golden Rule that Jesus and most faith traditions teach?  Love God and unto others as you would have them do unto you....treat others the way you would like to be treated.  It is not a hard thing to understand.  It is as brilliant as a Kodachrome day...."give us the nice bright colors...the greens of summer, makes you think all the world is a sunny day..."  God's Love for all humankind is easy to understand, it is just implementing it in daily life that is a challenge.  Perhaps that is why the Church exists and is show that love in daily life in practical living to ALL persons.  Then, maybe when people understand that is what the Church is about, they will want to willingly be part of it.  I hope it is in my lifetime.

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