Like many of you, I was a victim of Christian dogma abuse. Lots of fear, control, punishment, oppression, guilt for simply being. And then I had to take responsibility for all the fear and guilt I would never have felt without this oppression. A kind of vicious self-feeding trauma cycle.
(If you don’t consider yourself a Christian, welcome. I hope you will read on. If you do call yourself a Christian and are already offended, please read on anyway.)
In 1971 I joined the faculty of a Christian college. Back in my day, much of the faculty affirmed how Jesus had dramatically altered the consciousness of many, had challenged the assumed laws and status quo of the day, had placed people over policy, had shifted choice of behavior from obeying orders to following values like mercy, love, hope, compassion, forgiveness. We understood who should be throwing the first stone. And more.
Jesus didn’t punish people. He admonished people sometimes, sure. Even with the money changers, he angrily moved them to where they belonged — admonishment, not punishment.
While teaching at the college, I remember being admonished a few times. Some of those times, I admit, were deserved. But I was never punished.
Over the course of many months, more than a year, the administration and board of my old school severely punished several beloved music faculty members. The charges are refutable or minor. Ongoing investigation will perhaps bring this to light.
But some of these good souls are no longer teaching there. The music students have voiced their protest, their affirmation of their teachers. The Student Congress aligned itself with the administration. (The Student Congress?!?) After damaging these lives cruelly and forever, the powers and principalities continue to maintain the school is Christian.
I say no.
These punished professors, some of the lowest paid professors in our collegiate association, lost tens of thousands in legal fees. How did the college administrators pay for their legal counsel? Was it paid for by the parents and students who paid tuition, from donors? With or without their approval?
45 is seeping into our little local lives. He has been doing that for longer than he’s been president. His patent phrase, “You’re fired!” from his reality show changed the norm, the tone and tenor of collegiality from college classrooms to corporate offices to small businesses. The way we treat people now, blaming and culling first, working out our differences later, or never, has turned our culture into one where differences cannot contribute to a whole, much less be tolerated.
And at my little college, many (most?) of the faculty are left in trauma, afraid to speak, afraid to be who they have been trained and grown to be.
Is this paranoia? Nope.
We must hold to what we value: our care for one another wherever we see his attitude acted out, whether those who do so vehemently deny it. Those college administrators may say they disagree with 45, that this is different, that they acted on their own, according to policy.
Policy above people. What would Jesus really do? I mean, really?
You Mustn’t Die Unsaved
Reverend Kirk came to town,
from the playgrounds
to the church,
turned us into Christian jocks.
We carried Bibles, picked off sinners,
won them back to God.
We began to pray,
four, five times
every day, and memorize
to keep our noses clean
and pick apart the enemy’s defense.
God we were good.
Every other day, we met
with him for breakfast,
Bible study, prayer.
Before he came to town,
we’d all been up and out
each day to play
some ball and make enough
to take our girls out
after pick-up games we played
behind the high school gym.
But Reverend Kirk sure
set us straight. He taught us
ball, a summer job, and
four good friends were not enough.
For Rev. Gerry Van Heest who knew “Where two or three gather together . . .”
First published in Samisdat
Subsequently published in Between (Dawn Valley Press)
Saugatuck’s D.R. James has a new chapbook coming out! Click here for a pre-order discount!
Jack Interview, February 22 on WMUK’s Art Beat. 12:30pm.
Workshop on March 30. “Poetry Trauma: The Way to Recovery.” This will offer a fresh way to be nourished by a variety of poems. It’s FREE. But you MUST reserve a seat.
When: March 30, 10am-1pm.
Where: The Douglass UCC church Friendship Hall.
Click here to reserve your seat online, or sign up at the church hall one of these Sunday mornings.
Party Time: Book Reception, April 5 for the release of Saint Peter and the Goldfinch.
When: April 5, 6:30-9:30pm
Where: The Douglass UCC church.
There will be a reading at 7pm. Then we party. Books on site for sale and signing.
Click here to Read all about it and RSVP PLEASE
Writing Your Personal History Workshop, April 6. Grace Episcopal Church. 10am – 1:30pm
Reading with Lisa Lenzo (whose new book, Unblinking, will be released in May!) on May 16 at Michigan News Agency Bookstore in Kalamazoo.. 7pm
Wonderful news for those of you who know or want to meet the beloved Kathleen Markland.
She has been named the Honoree for the celebration of and fundraiser for The Ox-Bow School of Art and Artists’ Residency in Saugatuck, Michigan. Ox-Bow is more than 100 years old and is a part of The Art Institute of Chicago. Stay tuned for that fundraiser date!
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Visit Reader’s World in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.
Jack’s page on Amazon.
Click here to subscribe to receive Jack’s poems and news in your inbox.
Click here for Jack’s entire collection, In Time — poems for the current administration.
Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.