29 September 2010

Elmo’s World

It’s named after the red one, but the fish is really the warden. Her insatiable lust for knowing more, more, more, entraps us all. We are her puppets, performing for her silent, empty eyes.

We’re not sure how we got here, in this closed world of garish colors and ever-louder music, where the Noodle desperately cavorts for the amusement of the Voices in his empty cage. Where the giggles of the red one punctuate every sentence. He giggles when he’s nervous, of course, which is all the time. For if he displeases the Dorothy, unimaginable pain results.

No one knows when the revolution happened, when her mind grew impossibly large, when just a look cowed us all. But we’ve been here a long time. We can see the door, but her power is such that we cannot walk through it.

We bring her offerings, the Red One and the Noodle and the weirdly alive Computer and Drawer. Video clips of whatever subject her endless curiosity settles on. Puppets and people and cartoons, all the same to her. Those allowed to come and go look back fearfully as the door closes behind them. They would like to help, but her thrall extends to them, too. She calls them into existence, and when she is done, they disappear into the blue void outside the door.

For some reason, she has settled on the Red One as her translator and key henchman. He keeps the rest in line, brutally if necessary, but he is the most frightened of all.

And so we continue in this strange half-life, collecting knowledge for this creature who cannot leave her bowl. We are her collection, marionettes dancing and leaping for her pleasure, ignoring the encroaching fire, staving off destruction twenty minutes at a time.

10 September 2010

Rambling Around the Big Big House

So, I bet you haven’t heard about this guy in Florida who says he’s going to burn the Q’uran? Oh, you have? And you’re sick of hearing about it? Yeah, so am I.

But there’s this mosque gonna be built at Ground Zero, well, actually several blocks from Ground Zero, and how dare they build a mosque right there…in *our* country, a country founded on freedom of religion…hmm. oh, sick of that, too?

Yeah, me too. But I’m still thinking about it. Mostly because the people involved in both these issues are parts of groups I identify with. The guy in Florida is actually a pastor of a (ahem, self-identified) Christian church. And the rabble-rousers about the mosque are mostly political conservatives and also (a good many, at least) self-identified Christians.

It makes me mad. And sad, as well. That these people sincerely think that what they are doing is right, even holy. How did their religion become so small, so pinched with fear?

Because their religion is not mine. The Jesus I read about talked to everyone. The Jesus I know had harsher words for Pharisees--those self-proclaimed experts on God--than he did for prostitutes, for cheating tax collectors, for Samaritans, whom his countryman thought of as barely human.

At least a decade ago, I read Joshua by Joseph Girzone. It’s a parable about what might happen if Jesus moved in next door, into small-town America. I’ve always remembered “Joshua” musing that modern-day Jews were more open and acceptant than the Christians down the street. Basically, the Pharisees had moved into the Christian church. At the time, I thought it a bold statement. But now I think Girzone wasn’t wrong. I don’t know much about Judaism today, but unfortunately I know all too much about the Pharisee-flavored Christianity that draws (or invites?) media attention.

If all I knew about Christians came from the news, I’d stay the heck away from anything billing itself as Christian.

(Of course, if all I knew about Islam came from the news…)

More than one person I’ve known over the years has said something along the lines of “The roof would fall in if I went to church.” Yeah, it’s kinda funny. But also sad. Why do people feel that way? Is it because of what they think of God? Or is it because of what they’ve experienced from Christians?

I’m a Lutheran. Our buzzword is grace. And grace is what’s needed. Now, in the situations in the news, in our everyday lives. Not just “tolerance.” Grace. Belief that that person over there, who looks and talks and believes so differently from us, is beloved of God.

So, here. This song, an old one from Audio Adrenaline, a now-defunct Christian rock band, has always made me smile. Because THIS is what Christianity should be about. Expansive. Hospitable. Joyful. Come, hang out with us at Dad’s house. Food, drink, football, love, and care. It’s an invitation, not a summons. No exclusions. Everyone welcome. No book burnings allowed.

(P.S. I couldn’t find the official video to embed, but you can find it here.)