Posted by: Harold Knight | 12/01/2010

“. . . a Song that Jesus Gave Me” and more Wikileaks

(A caveat: the following is directly connected to the “gloomy” piece from yesterday—explicitly at the end here. No one may see the connection, but that is proof of my assertion. Am I being purposefully obtuse? No it’s the way my mind works. My guess is if we all allowed our minds to wander just a bit—and then talked about the experience—we’d find out that everyone’s mind works this way. It ain’t brilliant, or even interesting, but it’s the stuff of which we are made. I’m not unique.)
The individual does not create his representation of God out of nothing. The specific language as well as the social context are fundamental. The individual’s emotional make-up interacts with culturally-given concepts. . . From a socialconstructivistic perspective, social and verbal legitimation are the means by which the subjective internal world becomes “objective.” The psychological conditions behind a religious experience therefore can be understood as an interplay between the person’s emotional/cognitive needs and the meta-narratives provided by religious institutions. (1)

If I had an academic background in either religion or psychology, or sociology, this might make sense to someone. Unfortunately, I have no such background, so this can be only a layman’s personal statement. But, after all, this is my personal blog, and I’m not pretending to be other than what I am.

A couple of weeks ago, I experienced complete detachment from this world. No, not that kind. I was not singing

This world is not my home, I’m just a-passin’ through,
If heaven’s not my home, then, Lord, what can I do?
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door,
And I can’t feel at home in this world any more.

—Lyrics by Albert E. Brumley, © ’52, Acclaim Music

This gospel song makes the exact point I need to make this morning. I typed the words without looking them up. They are part of both my conscious and unconscious reality. I have no idea when I learned the song. It was a favorite at Moses Merrill Baptist Camp at Fullerton, Nebraska, where we went to find Jesus every summer. (I don’t mean that to be sarcastic. We really did go there to find Jesus. Some of us did. I never did. All I found was dirt and cute boys and a couple of old out-of-tune pianos on which songs like “This World Is Not My Home” sounded really great.) Albert E. Brumley, I learned years later, was a prolific composer/lyricist of such sentimental religious music. His most famous song is “I’ll Fly Away.” (That song seems to have become part of the common musical language among certain Christians these days. I forget what movie I saw recently in which it was used as part of the score. I know it’s in the score of O Brother, Where Art Thou, but I heard it more recently. )

“This World Is Not My Home” makes the point I want to make because it is so thoroughly embedded in my psychic memory that nothing—perhaps Alzheimer’s disease or some other form of dementia that I have every familial chance of developing—can ever dislodge it. But that may not be true at all. My mother could play her entire repertoire of gospel hymns (some from memory) on the piano even at 90 years of age when her memory was almost non-existent.

When my friends who are now (and perhaps were when we were very young) part of the intelligentsia were reading Freud and Kerouac and Sartre and Joyce, I was memorizing songs with lyrics like “Jesus, Lover of My Soul” and “Wonderful Grace of Jesus” and “I Can Tell the World About This” – I could go on and on. I not only knew the words, but I could play them on the piano. And I can conjure almost any of them up from some deep place in my memory now and play them just fine. I’m prepared for the family experience of dementia.

For what we learn to believe—really believe in the dark recesses of our unconscious minds—the “specific language as well as the social context are fundamental.” I may never escape Jesus (nor do I know if I need to).

I have a song that Jesus gave me;
It was sent from heaven above.
There never was a sweeter melody,
‘Tis a melody of love:

In my heart there rings a melody,
There rings a melody with heaven’s harmony.
In my heart there rings a melody,
There rings a melody of love.
(And it’s not romantic.)
—Words and music by Elton M. Roth (1891-1951); public domain

A kid who grows up with such songs stored in his musical brain doesn’t have a chance. That is, doesn’t have a chance to experience the world without a filter. At the outset, I said that I had experienced complete detachment from this world.

That I said “complete detachment” is evidence of the filter I cannot remove. What really happened was that I experienced complete attachment to the world.

The situation is too complex to relate here (perhaps anywhere, ever). Suffice it to say that I was walking down a street in Dallas, on a clear and quiet Sunday morning, having moments before decided not to stay in church because to do so would have meant giving tacit support to a bishop who has said many uncharitable (in fact, down right loathsome) things about me in public. Well, not about me specifically, but about LGBT persons in general.

As I walked away from the church, I was acutely aware of my surroundings—that is, of the large live oak trees. Yes, it was the trees. And all of the chattering in my brain went away. I can’t explain it. I did a better job of explaining it here about a year ago (2). Enough said. Whatever happened, I can call it what I like, and that will be “religious experience.” But Jesus was not involved. Walking away from abuse perpetrated by a bishop of the church and sensing my oneness with a bunch of trees allowed me to let go of the “song that Jesus gave me.”

Psycho-analyze that all you want. Abuse. Letting go. The institution of the church. Etc. Etc. Etc. Miss the point if you like. This world IS my home. If it takes walking away from an abusive bishop to let me see that, so be it. The Bishop is not, and does not even represent, Jesus. But both are part of the filter that keeps me from complete attachment to the world.

If it takes walking away from Wikileaks and Hillary Clinton and George W. Bush and Binyamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and The Bank of America to discover that the world IS our home and that we are not bound by the filters through which we all see the world, I guess that’s what we have to do. I wish I’d found that out fifty years ago. But we learn when we learn.
(1) Wikstrom, Owe. “Depression and the Absence of God.” Studia Theologica 52.2 (1998): 130.
(2) Knight, Harold. “. . .Like a mammy bending over her baby. . .” Sumnonrabidus’s Blog. November 15, 2009. Web. 1 Dec. 2010.


%d bloggers like this: