I remarked on the “strange hobby” story a while back. You can see it on the September 19 blog. Weirdness is all around us and we are getting so used to it we do not seem to notice. There is a foundation of strangeness that began a long time ago that has moved through history and religion and philosophy and had morphed into the political, religious, and moral atmosphere that we see today. It is about oddity and the strange. It involves the quality of mercy and the nature of reality and so I think it should be noted and talked about.
Some times it is important to study oddities. This presidential race is one of those times. Since when did politicians start talking in terms of being more interested in feelings, not facts? Since when has the concept of individual stories been more important that political reality and why are the stories usually strange? There have always been movements toward the odd, the quirky the downright weird, but starting just after the second World War there seemed to be a collective movement to make the weird and strange mainstream while what was mainstream became strange. The Norman Rockwell image of America was suddenly a little creepy. A mother and father and 2.6 children living on a quiet street behind a picket fence was somehow strange, and wandering from one place to flop for the night and moving on looking for the next toke was considered normal and somehow “hip”. I grew up in the “60’s” and spent time at the University of Colorado and Colorado State University in Boulder and Fort Collins respectively. I stayed on campus for music scholarships and I was dormed next to Folsom Field when the Black Panthers took over the campus. I smelled the marijuana smoke and patchouli that seemed to reek from everyone’s clothes. I wasn’t an old fuddy duddy or defender of the Establishment, but even as a young man I felt the whole thing was kind of stupid. To try and make the losers and truly strange normal seemed to me to be an exercise in futility. As a Christian I felt that the oddities that were being exalted would have to attack Christ at some point to be relevant and to be able to make the case for weirdness against the morality of Christianity. Of course the folks that look at Christianity as being only about morality are weird as well and are unwitting dupes of the truly immoral.
The Beatle’s, who loved to talk about dropping out and tuning in and doing your thing always seemed a bit phony to me because they knew everything there was to know about marketing and were quite jealous of their brand. They knew as well as the Establishment did how make a buck. At the same time they sang down the “Nowhere Man” and exalted a certain type of weirdness. The music of the time sank into a kind of occult doldrums that exploded into violence when one group of weirdos beat up and killed some other weirdos at a Rolling Stones Concert in the home of the truly weird, Altamont California.
I had traveled along and finally got out of school and got to a congregation in flyover country. I had gotten used to the good old farm and ranch way of life with it’s stodgy morality. I traveled to San Francisco with a bunch of District Presidents for a conference and I was struck again by the light and brightness of Califonia. We sat down outside in the sunshine and had a beautiful breakfast. I had never seen strawberries as huge.. There were melons and wonderful fruit and sourdough toast and one of the guys said “Let us pray”. We bowed our heads and the waitress who was bringing coffee literally screamed and ran towards us asking what was wrong. The District President for the Rocky Mountain District said, “Nothing is wrong. We are thanking God for this marvelous food and this beautiful day”. She said, “You scared me. I thought you found a bug”. I have never seen anyone do that before. That was strange”. Think about that. This was many years ago, probably in the 80″s and this nation was at that time overwhelmingly Christian. This women had never seen anyone bow their heads and pray. That was strange behavior to her. I remember one of the Pastors say “Get used to that. Remember California sets the trends and not long from now folks in Kansas might get scared if they see folks praying in public”. How right he was. Some folks want to throw you in jail if you pray in country.
So I watch the candidates and the political leaders. Mike Pence seems to me to be the most reasonable, normal, kind, polite and just plain nice person in the field and he is called weirdo and a religious nut. Joe Biden was asked to define his platform and the reason for his campaign in front of a camera all by himself and he refused. This is free time with no push back and he refuses. This is strange behavior by any standards. The rest of the field is equally weird. They use language like the old shamans. They turn words upside down to change the nature of reality and remember, that is the definition of magic. When they talk of “values” they are performing a hocus pocus act on the brains of the folks that used to be normal. It is fascinating stuff and those who study such things admit that it is going on. We have become so immune to this stuff that we actually expect people to act strange and talk weird, and then when elected move toward normalcy and ask us to forget what they said while campaigning. It used to be called lying. In the meantime the world slowly changes, and what was considered “meet, right, and salutary” as well as good and decent is scary. Men sitting at a table praying is considered odd and a bit frightening, but screaming and carrying on a mini riot that shuts down major metropolitan areas is expected. What was considered sick and demented and in need of psychological examination is today considered a politically brave act of morality.
This movement toward strangeness is nothing new and folks like G.K. Chesterton pointed it out but the move continued. It has roots in pietism and other Christian movements which is sad but can explain many things if folks are interested. So ask yourself a serious question – what do you consider strange and odd? What do you consider dangerous or subversive? Why? How does the change of word meaning act like magic? These may not be interesting questions now but they will get more interesting as time moves along. Those of us interested in the Biblical view of mercy especially need to watch and learn and then remember.