Sunday, October 09, 2005

Don't You Wanna Go with Me to God's New City?

I'm sitting here watching a gospel concert, The Crabb Family Live at Brooklyn Tabernacle, on the Total Living Network. Thursday, I was watching the CBN News with Pat Robertson, and this came on afterwards. I decided to save it on my DVR for later.

I'm not particularly a fan of gospel music, nor of bluegrass, and I'm certainly not a Christian. There's no particular political message to the program, so I didn't foresee using it in my blog.

Why on the goddesses' green Earth did I watch it?

Well, it would be glib of me to say that it's because Jason Crabb is really hot and I'd like to sleep with him make him say "wow!" in a little bit different key, but that's only part of the truth. It's not even because I think Adam is cuter than Aaron even though they're identical twins. (It's not even because they're going from Phoenix, Azirona, to Phenix City, Abalama, for concerts on consecutive days.) It is because — and I say this without irony — I feel the Spirit moving through them and their music. I come from, let's just say, a rather different theological perspective from the Crabb Family singers, but all the same their music inspires me and fills me with the Universal Spirit of All Creation. No, I'm not kidding.

Let's take a couple of samples from their lyrics:

Greater Is He

I took the challenge when I said I would stand.
I knew it wouldn't be an easy thing, cause it messed up Satan's plan.
God gives me daily strength to stand in victory.
Though the powers of Hell may come my way,
Greater is He in me.

Greater, Greater, Greater is He in me.
I'm singing, I'm shouting, I'm happy and I'm free.
I'm a soldier in an army that never has known defeat.
Greater, Greater, Greater is he
[sic] in me. [Satan made you forget the capital H?]
It would be easy for me to pick at the details: the only army that has never known defeat is God's army in Heaven, because every army on earth, absolutely and without exception, has known defeat. In particular, the United States Army has known defeat — in innumerable battles and at least two whole wars, and yes, I mean Vietnam and Iraq. The song also reflects what I consider a simplistic interpretation of Satan as something outside of us; I believe that evil — Satan, if you want to stick a red face on it — comes from within the human spirit.

Let's focus instead on "I'm singing, I'm shouting, I'm happy and I'm free." The next song goes on (rather longer than it should, but that's what fast forward is for) about "You let the light back in." The song after that goes on about God's grace. Again, I have a drastically different view of most theological questions, but I believe in grace. It is by the grace of the Universal Spirit of All Creation ("God," for short) that there is more matter than anti-matter in the universe. It is by the grace of God that the electromagnetic force is 4,170,000 trillion trillion trillion [a.k.a., 4.17×1042] times stronger than gravity. It is by the grace of God that the path of random evolutionary mutations — even given the miracle of Life itself — managed to produce beings that are not only self-aware, but capable of contemplating the nature of God or the god of nature or even the nature of Nature.

Then there's Jason's introduction to "(We Are Standing on) Holy Ground."
Wow! [applause] An old Kentucky hillbilly — that's all we know what to say when you get something like this: wow! Wow, I am enjoying the presence of the Lord. ... One of my favorite songs written was "Holy Ground": As I walked through the door, I sensed his presence, and I knew this was the place, where His love abounds, for this is the Temple, Jehovah God abides here. I know we're in the Temple, but I wanna tell you what, I could feel the presence of the Lord when we walked in this place. [abridged slightly]
First of all, there is no faking the spirit of joy with which Jason Crabb said those first two "wows," just as there is no faking the spirit of a still-petulant cornered child that we saw in President Bush's taking "responsibility" for the sub-optimal federal response to Katrina. Beyond that, though, the reverence with which Jason speaks of being in the presence of God and of standing on holy ground, speaks to me. The difference is that I believe that the Earth is holy ground — all of it. Yes, even Jerusalem and Bethlehem and Mecca and even Salt Lake City. Consistent with that concept, I believe that God is everywhere, in and through every person, every living being, and even every inanimate object — yes, even Republicans. The only place that you do not find God is where It has been deliberately shut out — God is kind of like a vampire who can't enter your home uninvited — such as in the heart of George Walker Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Scooter Libby, Tom DeLay, Pat Robertson, or Rush Limbaugh.

Just as Bush is in denial that he's the worst President in American history, he is also in denial that he has in fact rejected Christ as his personal savior. Tell me that Bush's actions are those of a sincere Christian walking the path of Jesus of Nazareth; go ahead, I dare you. How many commandments does he have to break before you consider that he might not be doing God's will?

Jason was just talking about how everyone is worthy of God's grace. I take that as a given — whatever you get in life is a gift from the great cosmic unknowable. The fact that you are alive is not by the grace of God, it is the grace of God.

The bottom line of my belief system is that there are certain things that are beyond human capacity to know in the concrete sense in which I know that eclipses of the Sun can be predicted to the second, even centuries in advance. Yet we must have some conceptual framework for these things, so we fill in the gaps with our faith. Bill Maher has faith that there is no anthropomorphic deity with infinite knowledge and power but all the other human frailties. Fair enough. The Crabb Family (the singing group; not necessarily my cousins named Crabb) believe that there is a Heavenly Father who cares about the minutiae of their individual lives. Again, fair enough.

The ultimate blasphemy is to pretend that any human mind could ever encompass all that we refer to as God. Thus, it is intrinsically blasphemous to suggest that your understanding of God trumps someone else's. Even you nutcases who believe in astrology, or even worse Scientology®: I can't prove you're full of shit, even though I have faith that you are. Likewise, I have unshakable faith that the Catholic Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the Baptist Church, and Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell are full of shit, but I see those who seriously and sincerely walk the true path of loving thy neighbor — in the name of Christ or otherwise — as doing the work of God. Lest you think me a hypocrite, I claim to have greater understanding of religion, not greater understanding of God.

So if you go to a Crabb Family concert (such as at the Phenix City [Alabama] First Assembly at 6:00 tonight) or get the CD of Live at Brooklyn Tabernacle, tell 'em that a gay genderqueer pagan hippie faerie faggot in San Francisco sent you.