“You are in a continuous cycle of renewal, where all you comprehend doesn’t stay unchanged for long.”
— Steven Redhead, Life Is a Dance
This is the first post on my revamped blog. Perhaps you’ve visited the original site at everydaydissidence.blogspot.com. If so, you’ll find that all my older posts from blogger will eventually be migrated over to this site (so no content is lost), and I’ll be adding new content as well—hopefully on a more regular basis.
The recent controversy and mystery involving the safety of the Boeing 737 Max jetliners had me thinking the other day. I’m unsure how many years it’s been happening, but if there has been one reoccurring dream in my life, it has to do with plane crashes—big plane crashes.
These nightmares of aircraft disasters are never the same. Sometimes I’m in the plane, other times I watch one go down just over the horizon and then see the bright light of the explosion just above the tree line with a big plume of smoke rising after. When I’m in the plane, there’s never any question about what is going to happen. A wing or engine becomes detached and the plane will slowly roll over into an inverted nosedive. I don’t recall ever hitting the ground in this scenario as I always seem to wake myself up.
I often wonder if these dreams are premonitions to something about my future, or are they simply a reference to my childhood—where I was always watching the planes fly over our house on their way to the Akron Municipal Airport—a little over a mile away. Often it appeared that the various overhead aircraft would barely clear the trees on Wirth Avenue (the last high point) before the airport. The Goodyear Blimp was a frequent overhead visitor in those days too.
I’m writing this now just in case I should perish in this way. Maybe someone will come across this writing and say, “See, he knew he would go this way!” Maybe I should have written this years ago. That said, it’s never felt as if my demise is certain in this particular manner either.
For the record, I first flew on a plane in 1978—traveling from Columbus to Phoenix via TWA on their 727s and 707s back in the day, with a stopover in St. Louis—and have flown numerous times since. I always get a bit nervous a few days before getting on board, but once I’m in the plane and we are taxiing hard down the runway for takeoff, there’s no sense of fear. It’s just exciting and fascinating, especially if I have a window seat.
As I return home from a short run, the vacant Christian Science building catches my eye. Though the church has been a familiar and intriguing sight, I’ve never examined it closer. It’s nothing to marvel at architecturally, so why photograph it? The empty building resides in the middle of town, surrounded by a decent neighborhood, and is actually something of an eyesore in its state of dilapidation. But standing on the curb today, I sense a form of decay that supersedes the visible ruin of this building—decay attributed to the human element that often tarnishes the euphoric properties many of us find in houses of organized religion.
The “FOR SALE” sign on the door suggests a deeper meaning, similar to a “Beach Closed” sign that leaves the reader in suspense as to why it is closed: shark attack, oil spill, approaching hurricane? So on this particular day (in light of all the bad press religion is getting as of late) I take the liberty to make a loose translation/interpretation of the sign as “Religion for Sale.”
The motivation behind the sale or abandonment of an item is often unclear or obscure to a spectator. A sale can be a simple profit-seeking activity; or perhaps interest in an item is lost if it has become run-down, used up, unfashionable, neglected or replaced by something more useful (or so it seems). I wonder if these explanations can apply to a church or even an entire religion?
I look closely at the deteriorating structure and consider the current physical state of the building; though it is only one church, I’m astounded to think that its physical appearance is representative of the modern Christian church and other organized religions. The foundation still has integrity, but everything else is in desperate need of repair. And though the architecture is sound, it has become plagued with an endless barrage of abuse from the elements over the years.
What might the peeling paint, broken signage and neglected landscaping represent in this comparison? Perhaps they are symbolic of the Jimmy Swaggerts, Jim Bakkers, Ernest Angleys and other self-proclaimed apostles-turned-money-grubbing swindlers who have decreased the value of religion. Or do they represent the tireless and bitter disputes that have led to petty wars among fellow believers around the world—caught up in the mechanics of worship rather than faith itself.
The building’s cold and empty appearance may also represent the numerous unanswered questions that have been carried around for years by believers and non-believers alike. For example, why have there been (and continue to be) so many cultures sacrificed or lost as a result of accepting Christianity? Can the various Native American cultures survive in their entirety while embracing a religion that originates from another part of the world? Can Christianity tolerate and accept a race of people whose culture is based on, and continues to believe in, a creation story that has few semblances to the Book of Genesis?
With some ambivalence, I will be attending a church service less than an hour from now and will likely continue questioning my religion, my beliefs and quite possibly even my Lord. I’m hopeful that my questioning isn’t mistaken for irreverence or disrespect.