I’m back from eleven days at the coast, which I had planned as a time of concentration upon things of the spirit. It turned out to be not that…not at all.
Somehow I expected the same kind of perfect weather with which I had been gifted last August; in fact, I took for granted that the weather would be a non-worry. Having lived in Oregon for 28 years now, I should have known better. We had rain, fog, thunderstorms, wind and chill. Weather issues absorbed a lot of our energies. We battled the summer “breeze” in camp (it turns out we chose the two least sheltered sites in the entire campground…probably WHY they were empty when we got there!) We fled inland for lunches and outdoor time that could be enjoyed without donning layers of hoodies and coats. Nearly all the outdoor activities we had planned—from marathon croquet matches to nightly campfires—were scotched by the weather.
Conditions were perfect for huddling inside and getting in a lot of reading. That proved to be an ill-fated endeavor as well, since the two books I brought with me turned out to be more sources of frustration than enlightenment. The Steven Farmer book, from which I had previously decided I would extract what nuggets of wisdom I could despite its problems, degraded in later chapters into a collection of obviously under researched and unscholarly rules and observations that the writer apparently pulled out of his own…head. I’m all for charting one’s own spiritual path, but when I choose reading material on the subject, I’m more in mind of seeking a consensus of current followers or a history of a particular practice—NOT one man’s recounting of what worked for him packaged as a “how to” manual. And a poorly edited and ungrammatical one at that. I finally had to put the book aside, as it proved too much of an insult to my intelligence.
The other book I brought along was Jimmy Carter’s 2005 offering: Our Endangered Values. This is a decently researched treatise on the lamentable (in Carter’s view) shift to fundamentalism within mainstream Protestant sects, and their subsequent increasing political activism, brought to fruition by a distinctly unholy (and, in Carter’s view, also unconstitutional) alliance with the Republican Party. Carter uses his own beloved Southern Baptist Convention as his chief example of what he believes to be an un-Christian shift toward absolutism, fundamentalism, biblical cherry-picking and, in the end, outright rejection of the policies and example of Christ himself, within American Christianity.
This book was published smack-dab in the middle of the Bush Administration, seven years ago. One would think that the exit of Bush and his cronies, plus nearly four years of a subsequent Democratic administration, would have rendered Mr. Carter’s observations at least somewhat dated and non-topical. The sad fact is that the book deals with forces that have continued to rise, and cause strife and deadlock in our government today. It is, if anything, even more relevant than when it was published seven years ago. Reading it has made me feel alternately disgruntled, outraged, and helpless. Not the kinds of emotions in which I had thought to dwell during my period of planned spiritual refreshment.
Which just goes to prove that not all teaching is welcome or easily received. Another lesson from the Universe, no doubt…presented at a time when I am more able to deal with the challenge than I was a year ago. For which I am thankful, if, at the same time, a tad depressed.