I finished reading a biography of Ann Lee (1736 -1784), Mother of the Shakers yesterday morning while some guy in Starbucks tried to convince my son Doven to be Born Again in Jesus. I had a tall Earl Gray while we waited on a business associate to show up for us to attend a meeting.
An illiterate woman Ann Lee believed that as a woman that she was the 2nd coming of Christ. The premise was that since a woman, Eve, had brought humanity into a life of sin that it made sense to balance things out to bring humanity back into Paradise through the manifestation of God in the likes of a woman. It was at root this millennialist belief that all was to be made good in short order of a return to Paradise that the early Shakers rationalized that as sex is only justified for purpose of procreation and since there was not going to be any more need for an earthly existence there was therefore no need for sex, and thus they were celibate.
Not only that, but they actively separated husbands and wives and children when they were brought into the family of God under Mother Ann. This caused a problem when a husband who did not convert, but his wife did and ran off with the children and refused any connubial bliss to her husband who, in those times, thought pretty much of the wife as property to do with as they desired to be serviced. We need to keep in mind they did not have the Internet and Netflix back then. It was for this denial of service that they encouraged, plus their shaking themselves and dancing, they were very prolific dancers, and throwing themselves on the ground and acting out like crazed epileptics that the locals usually got pissed and did not want to have them around.
Oh, yeah, they were also highly suspicious characters as they were Brits that ran around acting crazy in New England during the American Revolution. This was way before the advent of flag burners.
Doven, unlike with me, has not needed to learn to hide the titles of his books in public. He was reading Christopher Hitchen's book God is Not Great. It lay there face up out on the little table at Starbucks. I had read it previously and said to myself, Doven would like this book. He has an interest in the politics of religious movements.
He kept asking the Born Againer if the Good Book had been writ and meddled with and translated several times over how anyone could trust that it was the actual Word of God? The Born Againer would not let Doven get in a word edgewise he was so intent to bring Joy and the everlasting loss of spiritual thirst into his life. Salvation shoved down the throat? He used the -- as you grow older and witness life you will mature into Christ -- line. Eventually, when the time was right, the Born Againer brought out a really thick book that did not look like any black bound Bible we had ever seen. Frankly, it looked like a medical textbook. It turned out to be a Bible transposed to common English/American language (Ohioan dialect?). An example itself of the sort of muddle Doven had been trying to get across. News FLASH - knowing Jesus in your heart does not replace lost brain cells.
Doven tried to bring up the discrepancies in the Book of Job. That was way over the Born Againer’s head. My response, if I had been affronted, would be to the extent that I had been born once and did not see any reason to blaspheme with a repeat of what promise I already had got. I mean, does God really want us to keep asking over and over? Or, I could have told him about the cosmologic premise that we are all actually a wet fart of God. God was tired, sat on the couch, blloooop, and there we are with nothing much to do in our little snug Eden of polyester stuffing but complain bitterly over the global warming.
My cell phone rang, our associate had arrived and we ran out into the rain on the sidewalk to escape the fervid grips of the Starbuck’s preacher.
On the subway up from Penn Station to the meeting I had to put up with another preacherly type who proclaimed for all of us assembled and captivated that he had found God through crack. I was not quite sure how to tell him that we all don’t need such dramatic issues to bring us to a state of contentment with our inner lives. Nor did I want to get on to share with him any of my personal torments lest by the time I got finished to share testimony with him he be of a mind to consign me to the care of his Satan side. For a small instant I felt like to shout out and shake and wave my hands and dance with my legs thrown up high on the train and scream, “Praise Jesus! Praise Jesus!” Then I thought that possibly these professionals know their bounds in public and that my amateur theatrics of ecstatic rapture may be misinterpreted by authority. Or I could fall down and get hurt.
The one thing I have learned is that if I suggest to Doven he read a book it won't happen. That is ok fine by me so I recommend and loan books to his wife and she does read them --- and she tells him about what is said in the books. He reads his own books, just not ones that I recommend. It has to do somewhat with his being raised in a house with too many books in it. The vicarious distance that he places between a book and me and me and a book and him is sort of how I deal with the neighbors with my wife (don't get any funny ideas here) who gets to know everyone then tells me stories about them. I come to feel that I know people that I have never met. So I was happy when I saw that Doven’s wife had bought the Hitchen’s for him without my involvement whatsoever. So it was cool for him to tell me about the book yesterday morning after the Born Again event. It is perfectly ok for him to tell me what I should read, that works. I did not tell him at first that I had already read Hitchen’s book. When I did, when we were back out onto the sidewalk and clear of the proselytizer, he thought he should stop telling me. In sort of the theory that one should not repeat the plot of a movie while they were in the midst of viewing it. I told him the truth that I can't remember the finer points of the book and it will give us something to talk about.What we had been talking about previous to attempts at our conversion was to make a bumper sticker that would say, "Jesus is My Ass Clown." It will go right next to my NRA is Freedom's Front Line or the one that says, "Got Crabs?" It was brought to my attention that I might start to hear threats from above like "Got a vagina?" (I assume to the tune if Inda godda vagina sung by Madonna?)
The black helicopters usually say other things to me than that. But I would not put it past them that I suddenly hear, "Bend over and pray!"
The chances of my getting a bumper sticker like that are fairly slim as usually there is some sort of mysterious intervention that gets in the way of fulfillment... blasphemus interuptus?
The way I see it the insane preacher that chewed me out for someone else having writ FUCK in the dust on the window of my first car must have not been in very good contact with the upstairs otherwise he would have known that I had not done it. Up to then I really liked the old guy and I wanted to grow up to be just like him.
One of the books Doven reads without my encouragement is the King James Bible. His mother reads that too. I have read a whole lot of it over the years, but I so much more enjoy what they both tell me about it.
One time I was in jail and I had five Bibles. Whenever the preacher showed up all the other inmates would send him to go talk to me because obviously I was read in these weighty matters. I actually read Crime and Punishment and the Tibetan Book of the Dead while I was there, but my cell mates could not relate to that phenomenon at all. They did like when I faked up to tell their fortunes with the Tarot cards. Everyone was going to be out of jail very shortly and their girl friends and wives, both would see the Light and stop cheating on them.
When I got home yesterday I found my mother had sent me an envelope in the mail. In it was a cartoon clipped out of a newspaper. A father and son are sitting in a room with shelves of books. The line, “When I’m gone, son, I’d like you to take all these books back to the library.”