I was driving home from Chicago, heading toward California, when the title of this article popped into my head. My intention was to drive home in two days. This trip, according to my GPS system, should cover approximately 2100 miles, and take 36 hours. Having made this trip many times, I know that if I drive at 8 miles over the speed limit, I can make the trip in 30 hours. My goal is to drive 20 hours the first day, and then 10 hours the second day. I get up the first morning at 3:30AM and am driving in Nebucanezer (my car) by 4AM. Then I drive until midnight. On my trip out to Chicago a month ago, everything went very smoothly, and I stopped at North Platte Nebraska the first night, and made it to Chicago by 7PM the following day.
I experienced something quite different on the way back home. First, I made a stop in Lincoln, Nebraska to see and spend some time with a fallen Grail brother, B.B. who is currently residing at a rehabilitation center while recovering from a horrific automobile accident. Initially after the accident two months ago, B.B. was paralyzed and in a coma. When I saw him last Saturday, he was starting to get some movement back. His speech is still not really understandable, and his right side is fairly well shut down. While his recovery is amazing, he still has ever so far to go. It was sobering to see B.B., helpless as an infant. My memory of B.B. from before the accident was of a man very strong, very proud, and very active. Our lives can change in an instant!
I had checked the weather before heading out. I was very aware of a blizzard that would be blanketing the Midwest sometime Saturday. My goal was to drive through that area of the country before the blizzard hit and then let it pass over me and continue on the next day. If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans! As I was driving through Nebraska, heading towards Wyoming, I saw a road sign that was flashing, “Highway 80 closed at Big Springs heading into Wyoming.” Then the snow started to fall, and fewer and fewer cars were on the road. My commitment to get home by Saturday night was strong, and so I kept driving.
When I arrived at Big Springs, there was still a road that was open. It was Highway 76, which headed toward Denver. I thought that since the road was open, that if I headed south toward Denver, I could miss the blizzard, and make a bit of a detour through Denver, on to Grand Junction, and then back up to Highway 80 at Salt Lake City. This would add 6 hours to my trip, but it was doable. So off I went, for 6 hours of some of the most treacherous driving I have ever experienced.
White Out Conditions! I have never experienced true white out conditions before this trip. Basically, I was driving at about 30 miles per hour, when suddenly, it all went white. So much snow was blowing across the road, that I could see absolutely nothing. I hit my brakes and skidded for what seemed an eternity, praying I wouldn’t hit the car in front of me, slide off to the side of the road into a ditch, nor get rear ended by the car behind me. It was a long skid. For 100 miles, I drove this God forsaken road, with just a few fellow road warriors. I saw so many cars and trucks that did not make it. Cars turned upside down in the center section. 18 wheelers all bent and mangled off to the right. It was eerie, as if driving through a morgue. The white out conditions, the strewn wreckage of fellow travelers, and my visit with B.B., all served to jack up my adrenalin as I pushed forward.
At last, I broke through to some clear weather as I neared Denver. It did get a bit hairy again as I drove late at night through the mountains of Colorado. I stopped for a 3 hour nap somewhere near Grand Junction, and headed off Sunday morning at 4AM. When I drive so many hours, I develop a relationship with fatigue. There are certain things to do to keep focused: music, red bull, cold air on the face, and fond memories of my family back home at my final destination. Driving across the barren landscape of Nevada was quite a challenge as I tried to keep alert and not day dream for extended periods of time. Once I hit Reno, adrenalin again kicked in as I knew I would be home in about 4 hours. I walked through the door of my home in Sebastopol at 6:30PM on Sunday evening, 39 hours after leaving Chicago.
During a solitary trip like this, one has plenty of time to think. I thought about all the people I had met during my travels. I was blessed to have so many interactions with people of varying life experiences and belief systems. It seems most folks in this country would call themselves Christian. And as I heard them speak about God, I came to realize that Christianity, and really any organized religion, is just a clever form of slavery. I was reminded of a line from the movie, The Matrix: “You are a slave Neo!”
I titled this article, Satan Lives In A Church, not because I believe in the devil, but because so many people do believe in the devil. And if you do believe in the devil, you’d have to believe he had something to do with the creation of organized religion. How else could so many go so far towards a life of death? These are strong words, damning words, and it hurts my heart to see things so clearly. Still, there is no denying the power of the church, and its control over the masses.
The entire structure of the church is built upon beliefs. Another way to put this is…. The entire structure of the church is built upon lies. There is nothing there! I was raised to believe there is but one God, a loving God, who watches over me. My life, my current life, is a test of sorts, a test of my candidacy for a life in heaven. If I pass the test, I get to go to heaven. If I fail, I get to go to hell. So, just to be very clear, if I live my life the way I am told to live my life, I win. If I don’t, I fail. The trick to this whole system is to get folks to believe all of this is real. To believers, beliefs in God, heaven and hell are not beliefs. They are real. They are the truth. And there is no opportunity for discussion or dissension. Those who don’t believe are pagans.
Worse yet, children are born into this slavery of beliefs. Baptism gets the process rolling. Attending church every Sunday reinforces all these beliefs. More important than what a child hears in church is the simple fact that his or her parents are attending church. Children want to please their parents, and mimic their behavior. So before a child even has the capacity for discerning thought, their belief system and body of actions are in place. It is like a factory which produces revenue streams by the millions, all brilliantly packaged in a “save your soul” wrapper.
“Family religiousness is undoubtedly the most powerful predictor of adolescent and subsequent adulthood religiousness” (Michele Dillon, Sage Encyclopedia of the Sociology of Religion, 2007, p. 538).
This raises some big questions: Why do parents raise their children with a given belief system? Why is there so much fear around raising a free thinking child? What is in it for the parents when they raise a child to think and believe the same concepts? Why are parents so threatened when their children don’t believe the same things? In my own family, I have come to be called the black sheep. I do all the wrong things. I smoke. I am divorced. I don’t go to church. I am agnostic (meaning, I don’t have an opinion about God’s existence). I participate in all sorts of “bad” behavior. In short, if you believe in hell, you would have to assume I am going there.
I realize that the writing of this article is somewhat pointless.
The power of religion is so great, I don’t see how anyone nor anything can dislodge this blind obedience in beliefs. As I was driving, I was struck by how many Christian radio stations there are, especially throughout the Midwest and deep south. Clearly, people who do believe, find great comfort in listening to others who believe. It feels good to be part of a tribe, to be accepted as a member, to feel safe and unthreatened by the pagans. One radio station told me that Oprah was participating in devil teachings. One woman called in and said “Praise Jesus!” for she had turned off the Oprah show a couple of years back. Hallelujah!
Why is it so few of us are willing to look at the possibility of experiencing heaven here on earth? I happen to live in a very progressive part of California, where “the church” doesn’t seem to have such a strong foothold. It was a real eye opener for me to experience life outside of California. The church is very powerful. Its tentacles reach far and wide. Billions of people are living with belief systems that bear no resemblance to reality. And all the time, the churches get richer and stronger. The government provides the church with attractive tax breaks. Why, in America, where we are to have separation of church and state, don’t we? When you start to peel back the shiny veneer, the picture you see isn’t very pretty.
I can say based on my own experiences, that there is something so loving, so wonderful, so divine, and so precious which lives within me. Further, it not only lives within me, it is me. And it is you as well. It takes hard work to unpeel the onion until there is nothing left. It is a treacherous path through the dark side. I am delighted when men sign up for a men’s event, for it demonstrates a thirst for the infinite. It demonstrates one’s desire to unearth that which is lying dormant. When I feel that thirst, and get to spend time with men who are searching for heaven on earth, my gifts get to be used. In those instances, I can be of service. In those instances, we might just find that God lives in the spaces between us, in the spaces between our words, in the spaces between our cells, and in the space where silence lives.