"He wears his faith
but as the fashion
of his hat"
Much Ado About Nothing
Act I, Scene i
We drove from Toronto, Ontario to Orlando, Florida over the last 30 hours. With a few stops, a lot of music, singing, video watching and driving through so much rain that it felt like we were swimming through the road, we have arrived - physically exhausted but emotionally buzzed.
A road trip with eight kids ranging from 8 – 18 years of age for 1500 miles is an adventure in itself. So many little people confined in a confined cabin for such a period is bound to create something special. The miraculous thing on this road trip was that no one got physically sick, grumpy or angry at each other. We all hit the usual bouts of tiredness, but this was more due to stationary fatigue and waves of sleep washing over us rather than anyone getting on any else's nerves.
The radio stations gradually lost their rap and rock edge, country and western wafted in as approached the nerve center of Nashville, the sales people promoting cars were replaced by sales people pushing the bible. This peaked and then as we shifted from northern to southern Floriday, we returned to the consumer palaces, devoid of the stark symbols of christiandom.
We experienced the shift from KerryLand (Michigan) to the 50/50 state of Ohio (which held the whole country in the balance in the 2004 election) through the heart of BushLand to Florida which again was the state in the 50/50 in 1990. We tasted, smelt and felt the polarization of America. The polarization that no one wants to talk about. The polarization in the U.S. that is nothing more than a microcosm of what is occurring across the planet in every nation. The silent tension between the religious fundamentalists and consumer modernists. The same scenario is being played out in India, Israel, Korea, Iraq or the USA - these are are all variations on a theme.
The constant news reports about Iraq and Muslims taking their rage against Danish cartoons to the streets only serve to overshadow the very real divide that exists in these “united” state of america.
The kids were shocked at the stark contrast between the north, middle and south. If children can sense these changes, it makes me wonder why we adults can't pay any attention to it? The polarization in the US is more than political parties and election results. This polarization is the vital debate that is not occurring, buried for fear of what it might reveal. Buried and therefore locked in denial and a continuing divergence.
We experienced a collective jaw drop as we drove by the 62 foot sculpture of Jesus in Monroe, Ohio. It cost quarter a million dollars, to save lives - no doubt. After all the orphans in San Paola certainly don’t need that much to survive, so the money was clearly spent the way Christ would have intended. So welcoming were the arms of the Savior that I nearly crashed the car and took my little brood with me to the promised land to meet him in person.
As we ploughed through Tennessee, the “buckle” of the bible belt, the kids pointed out that some of these massive crucifix's were erected next to sex shops and trucker strip bars. The massive crosses, that reach 50 - 80 feet into the air are lit with beams of light so strong that they are firmly in view day and night. Their intense, pure alabaster tone contrasts with the cheap klutzy, multi colored lights of the palaces of sin that often sit at their feet.
Were these crosses erected as an affront to the sex trade or did the sex shops rise out of the roots of these crosses as a counter balance, a reaction or challenge to to their stark purity? The polarity of these two images was constant throughout the bible belt, we did not see it in Michigan or southern Florida. Is this an accident?
These stark contradictions exist elsewhere, but they are not as visible to the naked eye in the rest of America because the seedy parts of town are always conveniently and neatly packaged separately and conveniently from the churchy parts of town.
As we tracked through the bible belt, we were taken aback by the massive and constant signs for “We Bare All” and “SPA – Showers For Truck Drivers (where presumably bible belts could be rapidly removed) these invitations to the flesh stood proudly next to “Bible Outlet -75% off - Next Exit”. Such were the wicked temptations on our path to meet Mickey and his money minting mates.
Perhaps these hypocrisies in America are not as visible to the natives as the contradictions of the Islamic world. Perhaps it is visible but it is easier to conceal the confusion by using the flaws in other cultures as a way of avoiding addressing the absence of character in our own. Taking on the task of cleaning up the world avoids the nasty business of tending to the mess in our own back yard.
The kids were alarmed at these very stark contradictions, but why should they concern themselves with these polarities? We are all so busy rushing by these glaring contradictions each consumed with our own petty cares, we consume the news which tells us that the Islamist's want to destroy our way of life - and we draw comfort from this and bury ourselves in self righteous "in-dig-nation" - not asking what exactly this 'way of life' actually is. That perhaps is not one way of life but many contradictions.
Fashioning the world in new ideals that do not exist in our own lives affords us the luxury of avoiding deeper questions and confronting the terrifying possibility that perhaps we mirror the same savage contradictions that we criticize and mock our enemies for? That our way of life is not so grand, pure and unified as we like to think it is? That we do not talk to each other about things that matter, that we are prisoners of spiritual materialism.
We are so deeply buried in denial, rushing to avoid the obvious, why on earth would we embrace our enemy or turn the other cheek and hold the higher moral ground as the Lord Jesus told us to? Why would we follow his path rather than fashion mammoth idols to distract us from the truth?