Thursday, July 10, 2008

Play that saxaphone, man, play it!

I grew up in the Evangelical tradition. By virtue of that fact, I have little bits of hardwiring in my brain that have been operating accordingly. It might be like a programmer trying to figure out why the computer is running a bit sluggish, only to discover that there are a few lines of FORTRAN code trying to communicate to the rest of the current operating system. The programmer is not sure how to delete or translate those lines, nor is sure he should. Right now, he is more consumed with finding out how that code got in its place. The bigger my world gets, the smaller my previous beliefs seems. And those beliefs will always be with me regardless. I can ignore them, but I can’t discard or trade them in, no matter how hard I try. My evangelical tradition taught me to be certain. We were right and everyone else was wrong. And it was our job as evangelicals to proclaim that truth at every opportunity. Why else would we be labeled “evangelical?” Evangelism was the centerpiece of party. My problem was, I just was never good at it. There was never any room for doubt. I remember one famous Oklahoma preacher who was known for his sermon on “The Wheat and the Tares.” I probably heard it a half a dozen times at camps or some kind of revival meeting. His text was taken from the words of Jesus comparing believers and non with the mixing of wheat-looking weeds growing among wheat stalks in a field. His main point was that you may look like one, but that doesn’t mean you really are one, and one way of knowing if you aren’t one is if you doubt all the time, so come down front, pray this prayer and be sure today that you are going to heaven. That pretty much sums up my Evangelical faith experience. Are you wheat or are you not? Have you prayed the prayer or have you not? Are you in or are you out? I’m now embracing that there is a whole lot more. I don’t want to be guilty of what I see in the stories of others who are coming to similar crossroads. Seems the common response is to scrap the whole thing in exchange for something a little more harmonious. But instead, I want to hang on to the tension that this past creates in me. As a musician, I know there is no music without tension. Without the force between the peg and the bridge, the guitar string lies flat. But crank the knob a few turns and the wire starts to move toward something that sounds in tune. John Coltrane was master of creating and manipulating tension in jazz, and as a result became a polarizing force among music critics and fans in the sixties. One man’s brilliance was another man’s cacophony. I fell into the later category when I first stumbled upon his music. Yet the more I understood what he was doing, the easier I could find the pleasure in the sounds of his saxophone. I would be embarrassed to try and describe how I feel as I listen and absorb his signature album, A Love Supreme. For me there exists a similar tension in the themes of Scripture, and I am currently trying to pluck the notes between heaven and hell, between free will and predestination, of Liberal and Conservative, of Evangelicalism and the rest of the world. Thanks for your encouragement to keep writing.


Barb said...

You say this beautifully. As I try to figure out all that I believe I find that I can't just chuck all that I believed before. As I read the gospels I find that Jesus teaches and lives this same tension.

Tyler Dawn said...

Awesome post, although I must say that reading the bit about the wheat and the tares was painful, excrutiatingly so. Been there are done that, and now no safety net except for God, no certainty left to save me from falling.... ;)

And heck, if it wasn't for the tension, I wouldn't seek Him out at all. So bring it on, baby!

co_heir said...

I came out of the same kind of evangelicalism that taught that doubting anything was a sin. I'm still trying to figure out how all the notes fit the song of my life.