Sunday, August 19, 2007

Monday Poetry Train #13

Since so many of my posts lately have been referencing my upbringing in a fundamentalist sect, I thought this would be an appropriate time to present this poem which I wrote while in the midst of the psychological turmoil I was thrown into when I came face to face with the dark side of my religion, my fellow believers, my family, and my self.

The extended metaphor I use in it references the destructive power of gossip. A power I saw deployed both as conscious tactic and unconscious means of social positioning among my classmates on the playgrounds and school buses, in lunchrooms and classrooms; had frequently been the victim of it even; but never recognized for what it was when it was used by members of our assemblies until after the events that forced me to question the very foundations of all of my understandings.

I was shocked I tell you, electric-socket-finger-hairdo shocked, the first time I realized that teachers and elders and their wives were using the prayer chain to spread information calculated to disempower the prayer recipient: "Brother J and Sister K need our prayers because they are having financial problems, you know J had to take the credit cards away from K." or "Please Pray for Brother P and Sister D. Brother L's son saw their little R, only 13 you know, applying lipstick on the bus last week."

I could go on and on but I'm sure you catch my drift. You may not see the deeper implications though. See, teachers, elders and deacons were not considered worthy of positions that put them in authority over any segment of the flock if they could not keep their own houses in order. Thus, an easy way to discredit a teaching from the pulpit one might not like was to discredit the teacher by implying his wife or children were out of control.

See we didn't have pastors who were hired as full time preachers. There were about sixteen assemblies of various sizes from about 20 to just over 100 regular attendees spread between Saskatchewan Canada, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, and Arizona. Each one had two to ten Brethren capable of giving a lesson from the pulpit. All of them had day jobs 'out in the world'. Each assembly held four meetings per week, not counting the Bible Conferences some of them hosted at Xmas, Easter, Memorial Day, Labor Day etc that ranged from one to four days with three two hour meetings per day. Even if there hadn't been doctrinal disputes at issue, there would have been a bit of a shortage of slots for those who aspired to teach. But it was more about controlling the message I think. And it worked pretty well for nearly sixty years.

One of the events that catapulted me out was when I recognized that a message from the pulpit had been directed at one of the other teachers with whom the speaker was having a dispute with. Something clicked in my mind then. I asked why I should trust the words of someone who was using the Word of God to manipulate opinion about a Brother. And then I wondered how I could tell the difference between what was true about God and what might just be someone's opinion about God. Not long thereafter I became convinced that most of what was spoken about God from the pulpit, the airwaves, the press, etc was nothing more than gossip about God.

Just like the Telephone game.

Telephone Giclee Print by Diane Ong for sale at

Rule of Tongue
by Joy Renee

I’ll thank you not to speak of me
For you know nothing.
Only speculate upon illusion
Then speak my name in vain
When you proclaim and postulate
And spew out views
To congregate your pews
A fellowship of shrews

I’ll thank you not to speak of me
For you hear nothing
Not fear nurtured in the ground of hate.
Then speak my name in vain
To create the cruel rules
That castigate the other--the not-you--
To confirm your chosen few
A rulership of Rue.

I’ll thank you not to speak of me
For you say nothing
True. For shame is not my game.
And you take my name in vain,
Your guilt a project incomplete
You give another to do
To escape the dues
A dictatorship accrues.

I’ll thank you if you’ll keep for me
A silence of unknowing.
Then contemplate your ground of being
Where my name nurtures like rain
The blooming of your soul--
That making all things new
True worship will imbue.

10 tell me a story:

Julia Phillips Smith 8/20/2007 6:42 AM  

As always, I love the way you use repetition and form to give the poem weight.
"A fellowship of shrews
A rulership of Rue
A dictatorship accrues.
True worship will imbue."

Wonderful, Joy Renee! I also really like that painting you've got along with the poem.

All society, not just the one you've parted with, pretty much uses gossip tactics to make others fit in. The only real freedom comes when you truly don't give a flying f*#k what anyone says about you.

Anonymous,  8/20/2007 7:00 AM  

Actually, unless one of those Brethren could read ancient Greek, you never got the word of god.
You got nothing but a shabby and incorrect Greek to Latin to English translation of the Book!

Poem is good. I liked the stanza julia mentions as well.

Anonymous,  8/20/2007 7:15 AM  

"A silence of unknowing.
Then contemplate your ground of being"

Along with the stanza mentioned above, I liked those two lines very much.

Lisa Andel 8/20/2007 7:41 AM  

I was only a Lutheran when I realized the hypocrisy of organized religion. I've taken a different path since then.

Lila Dubois 8/20/2007 12:15 PM  

Wow! This is my first visit to you're blog. How inspiring. I admire the courage and conviction it must have taken to radically alter your world view like that.

Beautiful poem!

Susan Helene Gottfried 8/20/2007 2:16 PM  

Love it, Joy Renee! Love that you're speaking as God; my Jewish background lets me believe these could be Adonai's words, all right. They fit right in the with the way I was taught to perceive the Almighty.

Very, very cool.

Ann 8/20/2007 6:41 PM  

Beautiful poem, Joy Renee. The church I grew up in the gossip was passed out with the coffee and doughnuts after church.

Rhian 8/20/2007 7:00 PM  

i've come to this one way to late in the day with too many brain cells leaking out of my ears - need to reread it in the morning when my mind is fresh. In the interim i thought these were such powerful lines:
"I’ll thank you if you’ll keep for me
A silence of unknowing.
Then contemplate your ground of being"

Sparky Duck 8/20/2007 8:45 PM  

so kinda like a back handed compliment with a sprinkle of god thrown in

Jill 8/20/2007 9:22 PM  

Gossip is a bad thing even if we can't ourself but spread our share, something!!
I like the way you are descriving it here!!

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