March 05, 2005

Bud Talkinghorn: Give me that old time religion

Well, on second thought, don't. Unfortunately, our religious past is littered with bodies and incredible cruelties. I don't really want to bring back the Inquisition, the inter-sect prejudices, or heaven forbid, The Thirty Years War between Europe's Catholic south and its Protestant north--a war that per capita killed as many as the Second World War. While proponents will bring up the fact that certain Protestant faiths fought against the slave trade, they don't mention that they and the other faiths condoned it for over two hundred years. The Muslims do not get off scot free either. They ran the African interior slave trade for centuries and today, they comprise the last of the slave holding countries. The new era of world terrorism is almost entirely a construct of spiritual conflict.

Having said that, I find it hard to believe that the tenets of Christianity can be so bent out of shape that its basis can be disregarded. There is something faintly amusing about sacred hymns being turned into hootenannies. A poll from years ago might have pointed the way to this. It asked American Christians whether they belived in Heaven and Hell. Twice as many believed in Heaven as those in Hell. Talk about having your cake and eating it too. Once you toss out enough scripture and dogma you might as well call yourself a self-help group.

I once attended an old-fashioned Pentecostal church meeting with my then-girlfriend. What with the Elmer Gantryesque preacher thumping his Bible, while a full-tilt boogie band played whup-ass music to invigorate him, and the congregation talking in tongues, we were completely caught up in it all. Two hours into the service, when the preacher started to denounce "painted women in tight clothes"--my girlfriend being the only one to fit that category--we still hung in for the finale. These people weren't about to sacrifice any of their beliefs or rituals to appear hip or inclusive. Their one concession was not to hiss "harlot' at the girl as we exited the tabernacle. I recently attended a Pentecostal ceremony and it was much tamed down--not even a hint of holyrolling down the aisles--and the sedate preacher could have been an insurance salesman. It was a bit of an anti-climax, but considering the zeitgiest, predictable I suppose.

© Bud Talkinghorn


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