That’s Me in the Corner: Prologue

courtesy of morguefile.com

courtesy of morguefile.com

“Look, as sentient meat, however illusory our identities are, we craft those identities by making value judgments: everybody judges, all the time. Now, you got a problem with that… You’re livin’ wrong.” –Detective Rust Cohle form T.V.’s: True Detective

I recently-ish received a text from a friend (I think) that read: “I just can’t figure out why you’d uproot your family and move to Kaua’i”. That was the gist. You know me, I don’t do research and I don’t remember quotes. I remember the general feel. I’m a wordsmith; I don’t need exact quotes. My answer to the text was dismissive as I felt that was the tone of the text-volley. But as I studied on it, I found it to be a good question. Not that the text was a question or even good. But it led me to a good place of introspection. The text would’ve been better if it had read: “Why would a person, of seemingly sound intellect and pure intention, uproot his family and move to a small island under the auspices of helping to start a church community only to return six months later with no allegiance to that church or any church whatsoever?” Now that’s a good fucking question. But that’s just one man’s biased opinion. And there’s a good answer. That may also be one man’s biased opinion. I can sleep with that.

This series is called: “That’s Me in the Corner”. It is in reference to the R.E.M. song titled: “Losing My Religion”.

There are those among you who may have a knee-jerk reaction to the term: “religion”. I get it. I know I’ve said in conversation: “It’s not a religion, it’s a relationship”. I hope that is true for you. It turns out it isn’t for me. Were it a relationship, personal to me and my dear savior Jesus Christ, there would be no reason for me to be reprimanded for suggesting that–for example: the story of Noah wasn’t an historical narrative or for positing the idea that maybe Christianity isn’t the exclusive route to reconciliation with God, the God of the Bible. If there are people who feel obligated to hold me to a specific narrative concerning my rapport with one of my friends, in this case Jesus. I have a hard time parsing the distinction between a religion and a relationship. Maybe that’s just my ignorance. I trust you’ll forgive me.

But I’ve gotten ahead of myself.

I’ll never forget my first interaction with the Evangelical Christian Church (I’m sorry if it annoys you, but I am going to err on the side of caution concerning capitalization in this post. I don’t mind offending with my ideas, but I’ll be goddamned if I’m gonna offend with semantics. Whether or not I’m goddamned for my ideas is an issue for another post. I will not be the author of that post.). My mother had involved herself with a para-church (a para-church is sub-set of the church proper which operates under its own rules…but that leash has its limits) organization called: Aglow. She invited one of her friends from this club to our house when I was tweenish. Her friend was a Spanish-Catholic woman named: Dora…I shit you no (which is Spanish for: not). Dora traversed our house in a tambourine-jangling holy-water-sprinkling one-woman parade-boogie. It was a cleansing. She even blessed my ZZ Top El Loco poster which featured no less than 100 pounds of weed in the foreground. My brother Ryan and I found this hilarious. It was a cleansing that I was glad my dad didn’t witness. Who needed that shit-storm?

My dad had his own ideas about how I’d relate to the babe in the manger. There was a stint when we had to go to an Evangelical-Free church (there is no reality where-in I could understand the distinction nor explain what Evangelical Free actually means…my best effort: boring as fuck) on account of the fact that his boss went there, and–I imagine–my dad felt guilty for one reason or another…at any rate: we had to go. The only upside: cinnamon rolls and hot cocoa at the Manchester Inn. Yes, that Manchester Inn. At that church I was forced to go to a Sunday Skool Klass. I remember having a sense of separation anxiety that I cannot, in my present state, justify and which seems laughable at this stage of my life. I can remember not wanting to go because one of the “students” was the first bully that I encountered against whom I gathered the courage to sucker-punch one day at recess. He was a dick to me…then I made him cry in front of our entire class. So that was awkward. One day, out of the clear blue sky (in the interest of full discloser on the ambiance tip, the sky was probably gray and precipitous), my dad decided that my Guns and Roses poster was “satanic” so he tore it down. The poster was a cross with the death’s head depiction of each of the band’s members lined up in crux fashion. You know, the cover art for the album: “Welcome to the Jungle”. This concludes my dad’s influence over me, spiritually speaking.

I’ve had my own forays into the faith. This is a prologue. The dirt is yet to come. I have nothing against anyone who felt it important to introduce me to Jesus, or encourage me into a deeper understanding of the gospel. I have also felt that compulsion. I still do, if I’m being honest. Which I rarely am. Leastwise, not compulsively. We’ll get to that…

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Bakery

It is morning, in a bakery, somewhere in Las Vegas.  In the air, all of the smells one would expect from a bakery…on the menu, an exit strategy.

They say that “sex sells” but they never say why it sells…none of us do.  Sex sells because we love to objectify people.  This love is not born of a hatred for humanity per-se.  We love it because it is easy.  It’s a hard reality to face that we all have a tendency to objectify people.  We are fascinated with the concept of “objects selling objects”, maybe not so much when it is spelled out like this (it sounds crazy when articulated like this), but there is an unsettling precedent in American (or Western if you like) culture of being sold things by people we treat like things.  Recently, my Pastor, name a Jefro, challenged us as a congregation to see past the habit of treating others as objects, and digging deep to find their humanity, a place where love could triumph.  His proposal was to help support a ministry called The Cupcake Girls, the name of the ministry possesses the power to invoke innuendo, but not all is  as it seems…is it?  Or is it?  The answer is no.

The Cupcake Girls is an outreach ministry in Las Vegas, whose chief concern, in terms of those unreached by the gospel message, is women involved in the sex-trade industry…an insidiously innocuous term if ever there was one.  The reaching is accomplished through cupcakes.  The Cupcake Girls bring the cupcakes to the clubs and brothels for the girls employed there to enjoy…no strings…no bait and switch…just cupcakes and a chance for relationships to happen.  So far they are involved with 17 strip clubs and 5 brothels across Las Vegas and throughout Nevada.  They do this ministry with one of the most astonishingly low budgets I’ve ever encountered, in terms of dollars spent per people affected.  That was my pitch…you wanna help?  Go to the site (it was those red letters you read a few lines prior).  There you will learn that cupcakes are just the beginning; they also help the girls with a myriad of other things like experiencing a family environment through Christmas parties, and having spa days which allow the girls employed by the clubs and brothels to see themselves as people who deserve to be treated like people, not objects.

You see these girls aren’t just objectified by men who look at them as objects of exploitation, they’re also objectified by men and women who see them as objects to disdain, objects that deserve their judgment, as objects who need their pity…they are none of these things, they’re not things at all; they’re people.  My point is that these girls are stripped of their humanity by the nature of the work they perform.  Their vocation creates a stigma that many never see through and there they die a slow and lonely death.  This stigma can be made obsolete with a tweak of our attitudes, we can diffuse its power.

Why would we want to do that?  I guess because Jesus did.  Annoying savior ain’t he?  Whats even more annoying than his example, is the obligation to try to emulate it, especially when seen through the way he treated Mary Magdalene.  He didn’t treat her as a sexual article, as had most of the men she’d encountered.  Nor did he treat her as a taboo to be avoided at all cost, as the church had.  He simply invited her to be his friend, and that they were, and still are as far as I know.  This is not a call to married men to go out and begin friendships with sex-trade workers, there is no doubt of the propensity toward disaster that scenario would create.  Men could, however, support their wives in the building of such relationships.  Families could work together to create opportunities for interaction in healthy familial situations through dinners or Sunday brunches.  Women of the church could end the policy of “financial embargo” with concern to so-called “Sexspresso” stands, and take the opportunity to stop in and start a relationship with the people working there.  In short the church could begin to love the people who are involved in a trade which society (the churched and the unchurched)  finds convenient to forget is staffed by people.  A radical premise right?  My favorite kind.

I wonder.  What do we think as we pass by the espresso stands, strip clubs, as we see pictures, or hear of sites that sell sex at the expense of their employees humanity?  Do these thoughts honor the God you say you worship?  I know mine rarely do.  That can change.

Lastly a hypothetical.  There is a girl she has been wrapped up in the sex industry for seventeen years, it has been a long rabbit hole the end of which seems unattainable to this girl, having been disappointed time and time again in a vocation that is known for, and thrives upon disappointment.  She needs to get out…but how?  She imagines her resume and she almost laughs, it would be funny if life wasn’t so desperate at this point.  If only she had a job that looked good on paper.  This is one of the possibilities that can happen in a world where strippers are treated like people…chances are taken and lives are changed.  These ideas are not my own, like I said these were challenges that my Pastor offered to us, as a community, during a Sunday meeting.  I thought I would convey these ideas to people who read my blog who hadn’t the benefit of hearing Jefro’s message (more info about Seaside’s [the church I attend] involvement here).  These are ideas that could change lives; everyone’s life involved.

Dear diary, a funny thing happened on the way to the bakery this morning…redemption.