alskuefhaih
asoiefh

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The forbidden "promised land"

-
-

Our street might as well have been the River Jordan.

In my small town growing up our church anchored one corner, and another church the corner opposite, both large, dominant brick structures. Nothing about this arrangement seemed strange to me since it was all I knew.

Our house was the parsonage for the Baptist church, with a porch the size of a ship’s stateroom. When rainstorms battered the neighborhood and filled the air with the scent of wet dust and worms, preventing us from riding bikes, swirling hula hoops or roller skating, we sat on the porch furniture inherited from Grandma Olive and happily witnessed the deluge. We felt the spray on our skin as if we were skimming the surface of the Atlantic from the deck of a vessel cutting through the waves.

Rain flooded the street’s gutters between our house and church and the house and church across the street: the Methodist church and parsonage. Occasionally true to our Baptist belief that immersion is better than sprinkling, and that our feet needed washing, we jumped in and splashed in the rushing water.

But never did we venture into the Methodist church. I played Combat with the neighborhood kids all around its periphery, hiding in the alcoves, which were perfectly suited for our play as American soldiers against German Nazis. This was a couple of decades after the end of WWII, but we had a TV show that all of us loved called “Combat” with Vic Morrow as Sgt. Saunders and Rick Jason as Lt. Hanley. In my memory these soldiers are calm and peaceful purveyors of the gospel of goodness and light.

Besides being the setting for the enemy we searched and shot to peaces in combat play, the Methodist church was where they conducted dances in the basement. Now dancing was forbidden in our Baptist circles as sinful (in spite of scriptures about David dancing before the Lord). After football games I stood in the high school gym under the sparkling ball and watched my friends dance. I never went to the junior-senior prom, though my football player boyfriend asked me. I didn’t even consider consulting my parents, though I longed to go. We must be separate, holy.

Surely the God of the Methodists was more understanding and fun-loving than the God of the Baptists. Dances in a church basement must be safe, wholesome and bright, not tawdry like the close body-pressing in dark, smoky jazz clubs of my mother’s pre-Christian past. There must be a world where dancing (and card playing and saxophones and sex) was a natural and delicious response to the human urge to move, to feel the body’s presence in the air, like the fragrance a rose emits naturally, with no effort, and without any particular end. I had no way to understand the possible harmony of God and dance.

After my parents died my sister and I crossed the Atlantic for two weeks in Paris in 1997. One night we wound down a stair into a subterranean jazz club near the Luxembourg, drank gin and tonics, and listened to an American singer croon standards with a soft jazz ensemble. We were adults now with no parents to protect us from unholy endeavors. Among the tables and chairs with barely enough room for bodies there was no room for a dance floor, but I assure you, we were dancing, in paradise. God was everywhere.




-
-

77 comments:

The Solitary Walker said...

Oh, so beautifully written. A portion of your past has come alive for me. I remember the thrill of those jazz days too - in a little music club in Mainzstrasse, Frankfurt, when I was around 20 years old. A thrill more potent for having been earlier denied.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Robert. You and I have similar backgrounds, and in many ways we embody similar sensibilities now. It's nice to share the journey with you.

elizabeth said...

Such a beautiful written memoir!
Love the playing in puddles. Brought back lots of memories for me. So sad you missed out on dancing.
I'm sure God thinks dancing is fun.
We had a REAL gun turret from WW2 to play in in England -- but they had taken away the gun.
Our morning dog walk was to the BOMBHOLE --where a bomb had dropped in the park and was now a little pond with bullrushes.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Elizabeth. I am glad they removed the gun from the turret where you played. And there is something so lovely about a little pond with bullrushes filling the hole where a bomb fell. S i g h

erin said...

The truest expression of a people is in its dance and in its music. Bodies never lie. ~Agnes de Mille

or

Dancing: the vertical expression of a horizontal desire legalized by music. ~George Bernard Shaw

i can't imagine, ruth, you not dancing.)))

this reminds me, too, of how intrinsically different we all are. can one person ever truly imagine the roots of another? and so i should always sit back and marvel at what has grown.

xo
erin

Ruth said...

Oh, erin, those quotes. Why did no one say those words to me early in my life?

But as Robert says, it is a thrill more potent for having been earlier denied.

I feel deeply what you said about understanding the roots of another. If I sit and listen to a person tell their story even one hour, it is very difficult to judge them.

Brendan said...

When it comes to religion, there's always moderates and Nazis, where the former take their faith in stride and the latter, out of some warp of psyche or other wounding, rally to the extreme. I've been both places, raised Presbyterian (and you know, with preacher for a dad like you), hollering on the holy roller of Pentacostalism after my dad came out of the closet, left my mom and the church & my mother went crazy devout. The world, in her wounded eyes, was a fallen, terrible place ... i had to grow out of that, to find my way back to Eden. Fine write.

Ruth said...

Brendan, I'm convinced now, after years of protracted turmoil, that my churchy past is a good thing, in spite of how it missed the mark of paradise. I find the elements now to be essential in the reinvention of this daily house, as I do yours. Why do humans find riches even in ruins? Ahh, how we flock like vestal virgins to colisseums and amphitheaters to begin a new show. Thanks for reading, my friend.

Shari Sunday said...

My mother was Presbyterian and my father Methodist. I was not clear on the differences though I remember them disagreeing on "predestination". I went to a pretty Methodist church and remember fondly MYF (Methodist Youth Fellowship) where I did go partly because of the boys and the parties. I don't remember many dances, but I remember those evening church services being tied up with a fascination with the opposite sex. I realized later that I did truly get some spiritual experiences as well.
That was a beautiful old parsonage you lived in but I see that it came with a lot of baggage - good and bad.

Everyday Goddess said...

I love how you describe your evolving into a freer place.

Keep on dancing!

missing moments said...

What a lovely memory post. I am always amused at the diversity of religious beliefs and habits.

Grandmother said...

In my Catholic high school we had weekly dances so we could learn to be young ladies and gentlemen together but, when dancing, the nuns had us leave enough space between us "for the Holy Spirit". I loved those dances and we dropped that standard as soon as the nuns left the hall. Another standard- don't venture into protestant churches and association with protestants could lead to all manner of contamination. That one fell away too. Yes, God is everywhere. I liked this glimpse into your past.

Louise Gallagher said...

Ah Ruth. What a beautiful memory post.

I too had nuns who insisted there be room for the HOly Spirit between dancing partners. And, like 'Grandmother', it never stopped us from getting rid of that room as soon as the nuns left.

I have danced all my life -- still do. My daughters also are dancers.

Dancing moves me -- inside. Deep inside.

If you ever want to experience total freedom within, check out Gabriel Roth's work -- I have participated in 'ecstatic dance' for years and it truly, truly awakens me.

I haven't gone to a group session of ecstatic dance in quite awhile and lying in bed earlier this morning was thinking of going tomorrow evening to a group I know of -- your post affirms my need to go! thank you my friend.

Lovely, lovely post.

I am dancing with joy within, celebrating the dance with you.

And, ps, your words dance and shimmer with light always.

hedgewitch said...

Maybe God is someone who has to be met as a child to be believed. To be internalized as a reality. I was never even in a church till I was almost a teenager, and then only for a few weeks, and I felt it to be an odd sort of place, a lot like school and not any more holy. I just haven't run across his presence in this world much, but I'm glad for those who feel it in their own hearts. A beautifully written memoir, Ruth, of when we emerge as who we are and begin to think about why.

Heather said...

Dear Ruth,

Apparently, Footloose (the original) should have been released when you were a kid! :) It breaks my heart reading about you having to turn down your date to the prom, and not even being able to ask your parents! I know it's a cultural (religious) and generational issue, but it still blows my mind. As you know, I was raised in a very conservative Mormon household in the 70s and 80s, but at some point in my teens I stopped taking any of it very seriously. I'm curious, at what point in your life did you decide that the way you had been raised was not the way you wanted to live or raise your own children? I'm grateful that you raised your own children with the sense that other cultures and ways of living are not "unholy" or "sinful", but rather just different ways of expressing the wonders of this world. I will forever pictures you and your sister in that jazz club in Paris, enjoying a drink and the music. I recently discovered that an old friend from college, a man with whom I shared a house in Lansing, died two years ago from cancer. He was a joyous musician. He had a ska band at the time and they rehearsed in the basement. He went on to study ethnomusicology in graduate school and later founded an African drumming circle. I was 19 when I knew him. He opened my mind to the idea that the world was filled with all kinds of beautiful music.

JeannetteLS said...

Strong, poignant, innocent, painful, joyful. This was wonderful and beautifully enhanced with the photos. I lived in Lewisburg, PA for a couple of years, and there was a street with several churches, and one corner two denominations across from one another. I sampled, and I found some of the attitudes you expressed. For me, I could not be at home in a church that could not allow dancing.

I could not imagine growing up that way. THank you for this window into your life. It's a beautiful piece.

Allison said...

This is told without sadness or pity for the child you once were. It is so beautifully written.

I grew up in a tradition (Catholic) that saw God's presence everywhere, imbedded in reality. "You shall have life a hundred fold"

The sacred resides in ordinary moments. You have discovered that, as your poetry so powerfully shows. And I and the rest of your readers are richer for it!

Judy (kenju) said...

It is hard for children to understand the differences in religions, especially when they don't seem to make any sense to us.

You brought back a few memories; my grandmother's porch was large and welcoming and I spent many an hour there, and later on porches of our own. I have always wanted a porch- backyard decks are just not the same!

Babs-beetle said...

Mo should have been born where you lived. She loves to sit out the front of our house and watch the world go by. I prefer to 'hide' out at the back.

A lovely post by a lady that looks like she's always danced to me :)

California Girl said...

You're such a good writer Ruth.

i was also raised in the Baptist church. We weren't even supposed to go dancing but that didn't hold water with me! I remember one preacher, an interim, who truly preached hellfire & brimstone. He scared the crap out of me.

Methodists are much more open minded & reasonable.

Pat said...

So wonderfully written, Ruth. I love having a glimpse into your childhood. I could just picture sitting on your porch during a rainstorm! You described that so well!

Barb said...

Believe me when I tell you that the Methodists were just as concerned with Sin as the Baptists. And I was too much the "good girl" to stray too far from that path. (Until, of course, like you, I allowed the sacred world of ideas to intrude.)

Marcie said...

You've described your 'growing-up' and coming to the world with such exquisite clarity. I can feel..smell..hear it. And the more I read - the more I get to know you and Ginnie..and where you'all came from.
Really wonderful post!

George said...

Well, well, well, my friend. How strange it is to imagine you — baptized, holy, and proper — standing beneath the sparkling ball in the gym and watching others dance. Rest assured that, had I been there, you would have been dancing with such abandon that both the Baptist and the Methodist churches would have fallen like the walls of Jericho. I feel quite certain that "God," whatever his, her, or its nature, wants us to dance. At the risk of eternal damnation by certain folks, I might even go so far as to say that GOD IS THE DANCE in which everything moves and has its existence.

In the sidebar to my blog, you will find this quote from Theodore Roethke: "And everything comes to One, as we dance on, dance on, dance on." Quite literally, it's the only way to travel.

steven said...

it was so cool to read of this your life. both my grandads were methodist minsters. wesleyan methodists - in england - dancing, singing, well anything kind of off the centre like that was entirely unlikely in their churches. one of them was very cool. he taught me about buddhism and many other religions and he was an artist - so i credit him with much of my grounding in much that i value. the other was all about the darkness of humanity and the punishment. phew! i say celebrate life by being life. steven

bARE-eYED sUN said...

i was born and raised in new york's lower east side way before gentrification set in. in those early years my landscape was an endless parade of immigrants and their offspring, and music always music, and dancing always dancing . . .

but i gotta tell ya, my adolescence included many a dimly lit slo-mo, body-to-body basement dance party and if i remember correctly, even the good Lord might blush.

********************

thank you for your beautiful post, i enjoy it much.

:-)

..
.ero
.

Kamana said...

i so enjoy dancing... i think of it as a natural movement of the body to depict the emotions of the moment. but unfortunately i live in a culture where dancing can only take place in the privacy of my home, never in public. i think it is such a shame.

jen revved said...

This is fabulous, Ruth-- elegantly and poignantly written. Thanks so much for stopping by-- some of my more recent pieces to the Rilke posts are better than this one, I think; I was working with that image Tess posted. xxxxj

amy@ Souldipper said...

Thankfully, when you were ready, you found the key that unlocked the fetters created by mankind's fear.

Ruth said...

Shari, thanks for reading and understanding. Yes, I also found delight in the opposite sex at church functions. If attractive boys went to my church, there was a sort of ecstasy because they were considered within the realm of "date-able." This was the case with my football player boyfriend, who had recently been "saved." Problem was that he was from the Methodist church, converted to Baptist, and so his family culture allowed activities that mine didn't.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Elise! Do you know? I forget to dance, physically. But inside I rarely stop.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Reena. I wonder what the current tally of Christian denominations is, several hundred, I reckon.

Ruth said...

Mary, if I had heard this before, I don't remember it, but it is a wonderful anecdote about leaving space for the Holy Spirit!

Ruth said...

Louise, I'm glad you and Mary (Grandmother) were free to dance, and as you wished. My journey is toward freedom, and dancing is part of it. But, not having it as part of my previous life, I forget! Maybe I need something like Roth's ecstatic dance for a week to get into a routine.

Thank you for reading and for your engaged and enthusiastic response!

Ruth said...

Maybe, but I dunno, Hedge, about meeting God as a child. There's C.S. Lewis who was converted radically from atheism to the most devout Christiantiy well into adulthood. But your point is well taken, because children are more susceptible to believing what they're told, I'd say, something I think about a lot these gestating days. Thanks a bunch for reading.

Ruth said...

Dear Heather, abundant thanks for your response.

It occurred to me in a conversation with my brother Nelson (the oldest) that rebelling is being willing to leave the one you don't trust. Some kids rebel before they have the means to support their life and beliefs, and that causes big problems. But I respect it, like our brother John, who rebelled as a teenager and did as he pleased. He is the only one of eight who did, it seems.

Truly, it was not until my father died when in 1995, when I was nearly 40, that I felt free to leave the church and follow my heart and soul. I was constrained by the fear of hurting my parents all along, or maybe being hurt myself by losing favor in their eyes.

Your musician friend sounds like a beautiful person, and I'm sorry he is gone from the earth. Thank god for people like him. Thank god that now I am learning about this big world now. Nelson said to me the other day that he was unaware of culture. I cried! What a dastardly thing, to "protect" a child from culture! But I know our parents were doing the best they could.

Thanks for what you said about how we've raised Lesley and Peter. I look at them and rejoice.

Ruth said...

JeannetteLS, thank you for reading about this period of my life, and sharing something of yours. I'm grateful you understood, and still understand, your need for freedom in dancing.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Allison, for your beautiful addition of life a hundred fold. I'm grateful for this abundance you had growing up. I appreciate your kind comments.

Ruth said...

Hi, Judy. A porch is an outdoor room. A deck is more like a patio, open. I prefer porches too. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Ruth said...

Babs, I have tendencies toward both the front porch and back yard privacy, depending on how tired I am, or my mood. That you think I look like a dancer is the best compliment. :-)

Ruth said...

Thanks, California Girl.

I'm grateful that you could bust out of your Baptist confinement and dance!

Deborah said...

Ruth, I really enjoy the comments your lovely posts draw. They're often profound, revealing and instructive.
This was a tender piece, that nevertheless had some sharp edges. Sharp as in painful, wistful. You write so beautifully, pulling me into these memories so that I could almost imagine they are my own. Quite wonderful.

Ruth said...

Thanks so much, Pat! There is something about Midwest porches . . .

Ruth said...

Barb, of course you would know best, but I do find it hard to believe, based on my experience. I imagine there are differences among Methodists!

I'm glad you were able to find freedom, like me.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Marcie. I like that you get to hear Ginnie's perspective too, as we have differences as well as similarities. Thank you for your witness of our stories!

Ruth said...

George, my dear friend. Where were you when I needed you to help me not only walk along stone fences, but climb over them, even knock them down . . . dance them down? I wonder if you had been there if I would have been ready? I was so closed off. I was unable to dance, even if someone had told me to. I was unable to hear any voice of authority inside myself. I was removed from my self, my soul. Ironic isn't it, when it was my soul everyone most wanted to save? I never thought of it before, but my soul was lost.

It counts for much that I have found her in these recent days with help from you. Even though we seem to keep missing each other at the ball, I feel awfully blessed that we dance on these cyber-floors.

Ruth said...

Steven, many thanks for your delightful comment! I would be interested to hear more about your grandfathers, especially the one who taught you about Buddhism and other religions.

Oh I am so fascinated by what shapes us!

Ruth said...

Hello, bARE-eYEDsUN. I long for that childhood, surrounded by people from other places, and their dancing. I grew up with people from other cultures . . . if only we had all danced together! Thank you for your response, I'm glad you enjoyed this.

Ruth said...

Kamana, I want to learn from your thought, and let dance come naturally, out of my emotions. Thank you.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Jenné. Your body of poems sprung from the Rilke readings is wonderful.

Ruth said...

Yes, Amy. And windows and doors keep getting unlocked and opened. Much thanks to you for the vibrant wisdom you post, which helps me.

Ruth said...

Thanks a lot, Deborah. It's really terrific when readers engage with a piece, especially when close personal stories are shared by me, by them, by you.

Oliag said...

I was raised in the American Baptist Church and although my parents weren't very active in it I loved Sunday school, joined the choir, and at one time taught Sunday school. Now I don't know if it is because I blocked it out or if my church was particularly liberal but I have no memory of being taught dancing was sinful! It certainly never stopped me from dancing no matter how bad I was at it:) Even so I have still grown away from organized religion...

Ginnie said...

My best friend in high school went to that Methodist church, Ruth, and one time invited me to go to one of her mid-week teenage gatherings. I don't remember anything about it except the feeling of being in a place that seemed like the other side of the world...remote and close to forbidden.

So strange how that happened to our psyche. We really DID feel we were set apart. And when I think about missing out on dancing back then, I could cry. Maybe you and I will get to dance with David one day...David the psalmist. Wouldn't that be paradise!

Miss Jane said...

I love these posts that seem to touch everyone somehow. I love that porch! A porch to a child can be quite a magical place. I think porch culture has faded away, though. I think of "To Kill a Mockingbird" and how important the porch was to neighborhoods, to families. Scout talks about all the neighbors' houses she can see from her porch. Scout gets scolded by the older ladies from their porches. Atticus holds Scout in his arms on their porch swing and talks to her about life, etc.
Anyway, had to smile at the Baptist in you preferring immersion. I was raised Methodist, but gravitated to the Baptist church where the youth group was more active and became a holier-than-thou born-againer, and then became a agnostic snob in college and now I'm just a spiritual vagabond in search of . . . .

Nelson said...

In her response to Heather, above, Ruth said, "I know our parents were doing the best they could."

In my recent conversation with Ruth about "Baptist feet," I wrote, "Ruth, we did the best we could!. We tried. It didn't work. Our souls didn't buy it!

In the end our feet were not Baptist, but who we are today could not have been without our trying them out. Now we see the Open [cf. Rilke] and our feet are on paths unimagined but full of wonder. It seems that what we see now we see because of what we have known."

Thank you for these reminisces, Ruthie.

ds said...

You share your stories so beautifully, and draw us out as well. You know that I was raised in two traditions, one was dark & full of brimstone; the other seemingly light and joy. But I can't follow any organized religion now...Do we ever lose that fear of confronting our parents? I wasn't forbidden to dance, but there were other things.
I see you and your sister in that Parisian jazz club, and I smile. I am so happy that you are dancing now!

Vagabonde said...

Ruth your post is so beautiful but so sad. I like the sound of the porch though. Well as you know I never went to church while growing up, and none of my friends did either.

Starting at 17 years old I went to the jazz clubs on the Left Bank in Paris, as often as I could. When I was going to school in the Latin Quarter and had a car, then I would go at least every other night – it was so much fun. Most of them were New Orleans Jazz clubs like Les Caveaux de la Huchette near the Sorbonne, and we could dance – they were in cellars type places. Your culture is so very different - I did not know how strict religious people were until I came to the US. Even while going to school in England I used to go to clubs to dance, and our school had a “school dance” at least every other week. I used to love to dance with the students from India – they were so elegant and taught me the “quick step” and other dances we did not do in France. I was lucky to be the only student from France in my college – I had so many partners to dance with – would dance the whole evening. It is good that one does not get arthritic knees until one is older….

Linda said...

Ruth, When I was a teenager my father used to run a dance club in the church basement for us (United Church) and he used to invite my cousin who was a dance instructor to show us some dance steps. An obviously different interpretation of biblical scripture.

But you dear Ruth, have a gift for making words dance across a page in interesting sentences and paragraphs that paint beautiful imagery in my brain. Thank you for sharing your word dance, your gift for writing. It is brilliant and appreciated.

who said...

I wish the words God dance never got twisted into God. Damns and blocking rivers, pooling waters into lakes of unnecessary guilt instead of lakes of joy pooled specifically to be experienced. I believe honesty is closer to morality then a few of the behaviors the church lists as immoral.

I used to get mad at God when I see all the suffering that shouldn't have happened and shouldn't be happening.

No matter what or who was originally responsible for misinterpretations, I am glad that some people (like you and your family) I can say I honestly do not have to worry about whether or not you "understand"

Ruth said...

Dear Oliag ~ how wonderful! A Baptist church, that you enjoyed, and you have no idea of dance as sin! This is a beautiful thing.

Many of us have grown away from religion, it seems. Don and I were a chapter in a book about why people leave church. Oh, I just found it on amazon: Exit Interviews: Revealing Stories of Why People are Leaving the Church, by William D. Hendricks. Of course our names were changed, and I won't tell you which ones we are. ;)

Ruth said...

Oh, and here is the product description for the book mentioned in my last comment, which was published in 1993:

53,000 people leave churches every week and never come back. Curious, William Hendricks interviewed many of these people and discovered that a craving for spirituality leads many outside the established churches.

Ruth said...

Boots, would you like to view that mid-week teenage gathering again, with new eyes? I would.

Yes, strange what our psyches did, but the thing is, you my dear rerouted the synapses in your brain. You and Astrid dance every frickin' evening, which I would say is very good practice for your someday dance with Dancer David (let's not say King David, or we might get too nervous). I guess I'd better get crackin' on the practice!

Ruth said...

Thanks, Miss Jane, for reading and responding so well. I was swept away by your images from "To Kill a Mockingbird." I agree that porches were huge in my childhood. Now, the porches are still there on the old houses in certain neighborhoods, but the lifestyle is gone for the most part. Now potted flowers replace people in chairs and swings.

I would love to sit and chat with you about your churchy past! Sounds like you're with Bono, that you still haven't found what you're looking for . . . perhaps. The searching is half the fun. Wouldn't it be disappointing if suddenly someone solved all the mysteries?

Ruth said...

Thank you, Nelson. I have a feeling you and I are not yet finished talking about our Baptist feet. Just wait for the next wedding! Hmm, I wonder whose that might be . . .

Oh yes, we see the Open. So glorious, this growing freedom. Much thanks to Rilke who keeps teaching us new ways of seeing it. I also reflect on the Oct. 17 post "The Work Being Accomplished Within You" in which he writes Franz Kappus:

So don't be frightened, dear friend, if a sadness confronts you larger than any you have ever known, casting its shadow over all you do. You must think that something is happening within you, and remember that life has not forgotten you; it holds you in its hand and will not let you fall. Why would you want to exclude from your life any uneasiness, any pain, any depression, since you don't know what work they are accomplishing within you?

Truly, I have come to treasure this churchy past for the fertile ground prepared for more recent seeds!

Thank you for participating with me in this journey, dear brother-friend.

Ruth said...

Thank you, ds. I wonder if those two traditions wrought something of balance in you.

Paris is a doorway for me. Very symbolic.

Ruth said...

Vagabonde, thank you for reading, and for sharing more of your past. I have riches from you here and elsewhere of your history of such a different experience from mine. I wish I could follow you around in those places, just watching. I almost can't find a place in me that would begin to know how to be like you there. Observing would be enough.

Ruth said...

Dear Linda, thank you for such kind appreciation of what I do.

What you describe in your father's dance club, in the church basement, even with a dance instructor, sounds mind-bogglingly helpful. In fact, I'd kinda like to go there now . . .

Ruth said...

Dusty, thank you.

What an opening sentence! I was feeling something like that throughout this write. "God" and "God." Ending with the sentence I did, God was everywhere . . . I could have just as easily and truly written: God was nowhere and meant something of the same thing! Which is that the God of church was nowhere, the God of spirituality was everywhere.

Lifetimes of exploration help us see something of the light. Thank you for participating with me in my journey. I really enjoy having you along.

Teresa Evangeline said...

I grew up in the Baptist Church, but am grateful my parents didn't hold fast to the no dancing rule. We danced pretty wild and fairly often.

I'm reminded of a joke Glen Campbell told on Johnny Carson many years ago: "Do you know why Baptists don't make love standing up?" Answer: "People might think they're dancing."

I Love your closing sentence.

Loring Wirbel said...

A poem in its own right, beginning and end, and dancing is indeed everywhere. I can assure you, we Congregationalists (then, in Grand Ledge) and Methodists (now, Colorado), were whispering at the doors of Baptists and evangelicals, wondering how those folks got so gol-durned weird.

When that Southern Baptist consultant for Rick Perry made his comment about Mormons being non-Christians, I finally came to the conclusion that in the 21st century, there is no such thing as heresy, and maybe even sin is ill-defined, because there is no human with the authority to create a litmus test. Who cares if the pope declares Nestorians to be heretical? Who cares if the Southern Baptists call the Mormons non-Christians? Who cares what ayatollahs think about Sufis or any kind of Sunni? Where there is no religious authority, there is no heresy.

Oh, and my old house on W. Jefferson St.? Sounds like it is abandoned and may have been foreclosed upon. So sad.

Ruth said...

Teresa Evangeline, so lovely, wild and fairly often.

I just adore the Glen Campbell line!!! It reminds me of the joke when St. Peter is showing someone new around heaven, and when they get to one door that is closed he says, "shhh." The new guy says, "why?" St. Peter says, "because the Baptists are in there, and they think they're the only ones here."

Thank you.

Ruth said...

Hi, Loring!

Gol-durned weird, yes!! Why didn't you shake me loose, into some sense! :-)

I love your paragraph about heresy! No fences, please!

But oh, your old house??? How can this be? Things have truly tanked if this can happen. :(

Montag said...

Story with a lot of turns and surprise: unlike Thomas Hardy's heroines, you and your sister seek to be closer to the madding crowd...

Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate; but thou shalt be called Hephzibah and thy land Beulah; for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married.

and

O Beulah land, sweet Beulah land!
As on thy highest mount I stand,
I look away across the sea
Where mansions are prepared for me...

and you find your mansions in the past and in the near "term" also.

Stratoz said...

thanks for sharing your story. Do you know the difference between a Methodist and an Episcopalian? The Episcopalian will say hello inside the liquor store.

I think a Baptist told that at a gathering of the three local churches during Lent.

I am so glad I left the church as a teen so I could re-enter when I was ready as an adult.

Have you ever been to a Jazz Vespers? They can be quite cool.

ellen abbott said...

Enjoyed your stroll down memory lane. I don't have much use for religion even though we went to church regularly until I was about 14. I've never understood those religions that equated fun and feeling good with sin. Wouldn't it make more sense to equate that joyous feeling with the divine?

Jeanie said...

I love it so much when you write about your life, your family, your time in France. This is a beautifully composed piece. As one who finds such joy in dancing, I can see the conflict -- it can be a happy, joyous thing and really, I don't much think God minds! One of the things I have always loved about your posts is that you had your conservative background (yet sounds like lots of fun was there, too!) and evolved as your experiences broadened, but you still so value and cherish the roots. I love that. Beautiful work, this post.