Category Archives: forgiveness

Josh Duggar Gets His

And, I Couldn’t Be Happier

Josh DuggarLike most of you, my social media feed has been filled with stories, articles, op-eds, etc. about the Josh Duggar scandal. Interestingly, almost every one has been posted by my progressive friends; the conservatives I know have been remarkably silent on the matter. Well, maybe not “remarkably”; most likely, they wish all this ugliness would just go away. And, who can blame them? It’s always tough when the people we put on pedestals turn out to be all too human.

Before I get too deep into this, let me take a minute to speak to Josh’s conservative supporters and say that your protestations that Duggar has “apologized”, that he made a “mistake”, or that he was “just a kid, himself” are missing the point. And, that point is that I don’t like the Duggars and I don’t care to hear anything that humanizes them in any way shape or form. That said, let’s get to it.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I am thrilled to see this intolerant bigot get his comeuppance. Duggar, scion of the poster family for the Quiverfull movement, took a job with the Evil Empire (the Family Research Council, not the Soviet Union) and used the platform provided by his family’s twisted claim to fame provided to warn America of the “dangers” posed to our children by people who are LGBT, positing a link between homosexuality and pedophilia (of course, I can’t find any actual proof that he did that, but other people said he did and that’s good enough for me). As progressive Christians, if there’s one thing we can’t tolerate, it’s intolerance.

Josh isn’t the only one getting their just deserts; the whole Duggar family is getting its due, also. How so? It turns out that Josh told his father what he’d done in March of 2002. Clan patriarch Jim Bob held on to that knowledge for a year, notifying authorities in March of 2003. Now, you might be wondering why a father would allow his daughters’ abuser to remain in the home with them. Maybe because young Josh made this revelation while his father was in the midst of an unsuccessful U. S. Senate campaign. And, if that’s not bad enough, when his parents did take steps to deal with this situation, they were ridiculous. Instead of notifying the police, the Duggars went to their church elders who encouraged them to send Josh to a program that consisted of “hard physical work and counseling”. It turns out the “hard physical work” was helping a family friend remodel a house and the “counseling” came from that friend who wasn’t a trained professional. In other words, Josh got off with a few months of construction work and good talking to from a family friend. And, all of this was facilitated by his father who pulled strings to keep the family reputation clean. Nothing has been said about whether Josh’s victims got any help.

Seeing these fanatics get exactly what they deserve in such an ironic way is especially sweet. I mean, seriously, these people take to the airwaves to say all manner of ugly shit about gay people and it turns out that one of their own has done all the stuff they claim gay folks want to do? Can you say “priceless”?

Do I feel bad about my unabashed glee at the Duggars’ fall from grace since it involves the trauma experienced by several young girls? Or, that, to the best of my knowledge, none of the young people got any sort of counseling to help them deal with what happened? Well, yeah; but, not enough to stop me. Oh sure, instead of ripping into these folks, as a follower of Christ, I should be extending grace. But, if I did that I wouldn’t have the satisfaction of savaging the family that is the face of conservative Christian values and where’s the fun in that?

 

Love Wins

God proved his love on the crosss
In case you’re wondering, this a Billy Graham quote.

Since I began to embrace a more progressive view of Christianity, there are times when I wish I was a devoutly conservative evangelical; a fundamentalist, even. The more I read and learn about the faith and the  man I’ve chosen to follow, the more questions I have. Some of those questions can be…, uncomfortable. And, it doesn’t get much more uncomfortable for me than Easter. If I were a fundamentalist. I could see what happened on this day 2000 years ago as something which satisfied God’s need for justice and allows me, a vile, disgusting sinner, to enter heaven when I die. But, I can’t. For several reasons.

First, because I gave up the idea of an afterlife several years ago, going to heaven when I die isn’t a thing for me anymore. I suppose there might be something more after we die, but I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about it. To be honest, I believe that if your sole reason for being a Christian is to go to heaven after you die, you cheapen the whole thing and turn it into a quid pro quo arrangement. That seems an odd way to honor (much less follow) a man who whose message was all about unconditional love.

Second, I reject the idea that people are “vile, disgusting sinners” incapable of doing good on their own. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I still think people are miserable bastards the vast majority of the time. But, it’s the end of that sentence that’s key, because it says we aren’t miserable bastards all the time. In a recent post on the subject, I said that I believed that, while people generally suck, they also have the capacity for immense good; that there is a little piece of the divine floating around in each of us which occasionally makes it way to the surface, showing us just how good we can truly be. I described it as a cross between the Quaker’s inner light and the concept  of prevenient grace.

Third, I also reject the concept that God needed blood to forgive our sins. In my eyes, this belief is limits God to an incredible degree. Think about it: on one hand,God is said to be omniscient; on the other, God is supposedly bound by human ideas of justice. That doesn’t make sense: wouldn’t a truly omniscient God be able forgive humanity’s sins with a wave of the hand? Besides, saying that God required Jesus, God’s own son, to die such a horrible, humiliating death to appease God’s sense of justice paints God as sadistic monster who rules through fear. Any such God would be completely unworthy of praise or obedience.

By now, I think you can see my dilemma. By letting go of what has become orthodox belief about the Cross, I’m left adrift and looking for a new lens through which to view things. What I’ve come up with is that the Cross isn’t about blood atonement or satisfying God’s warped sense of justice, it’s about the triumph of love over hate, fear and the powers and principalities of this world. Jesus was rejected by his friends, his neighbors, his countrymen, turned over to the powers that be and executed by a method reserved for enemies of the state. It was painful and publicly humiliating, an object lesson from Rome to people who would buck the system. As he hung on the cross, Jesus’ words about those who subjected him to this ultimate indignity weren’t based on hate or thoughts of revenge, they came from a place of love: He asked God to forgive his tormentors. I think the fact that Jesus loved his enemies even as they murdered him is much more important than any perverted ideas about blood or justice.

I know some people are going to read this and say I’ve left the fold, that I’m no longer a Christian. To those people, I say that if rejecting fear and brutality and embracing love means I’m not a Christian anymore, so be it. I never cared for their shitty version anyway.

Christian Values?

Clean and Clear, arguably the biggest name in skin care for young women, has added a new face to its #SeeTheRealMe campaign: Jazz Jennings. Now, you may be wondering “Who the hell is Jazz Jennings?” That’s easy enough to answer: Jennings is a LGBTQ activist who just happens to be a 14-year-old trans woman. She is an interesting and impressive individual, having done numerous videos about her life and has written a  children’s book about growing up transgender. And, that’s not all: The Learning Channel is working on  a show about Jazz and her family’s experiences navigating her transition. I don’t know about anyone else, but I think that’s pretty cool.

Unfortunately, conservative writer Jodi Swan doesn’t share my sentiments about all this. According to Swan, it is a “massive slap in the face…to Christian values”. She also says, “If Jazz Jennings truly believes that she is “a girl trapped in a boy’s body,” she does not deserve ridicule, but rather the psychological help and spiritual guidance that has apparently been absent in her life for a very long time. She does not belong on television screens nationwide to put progressive ideas into the minds of impressionable youth who are already struggling to find their own identities, albeit in a much more normal fashion.” In other words, people who are transgender should have the decency to keep their disgusting asses in the closet and not inflict their poisonous “lifestyle” on “normal” people. Yessiree, those are some real Christian values, Ms Swan (no,  not that Ms Swan).

Yes, Jesus spoke out against the “gays” and the “trannies” all the time. Why just look at the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew, chapter 5…, no, not that verse, how about…, well, we’ll come back to that one. In the 6th Chapter of Luke, he says…, no, that’s not what I was looking for. How about his first sermon in the synagogue in Nazareth..., dang it, that’s not it, either. I know it’s in here somewhere. Why, there’s just got to be a place where Jesus says being gay is a sin. Yeah, when someone actually finds that, how about letting me know. I’m not holding my breath until it happens, though.

Evidently, Swan thinks that if we acknowledge that people like Jazz exist, they’ll infect the “normal” kids. I’m no expert on biology, but I’m pretty sure gender dysphoria isn’t any more contagious than being an asshole who “others” innocent young people because they feel threatened by change. I’d say it’s less so, because, while I’ve never heard of a child becoming lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, etc. from being exposed to folks who are, I’ve heard of plenty who grew up to be jerks because they spent their childhood immersed in the hateful rhetoric of their families and communities (and by “communities”, I mean “churches”). I don’t know about anyone else, but as a parent, if I had to choose between my kids being “infected” by something, I’m thinking that LGBTQ beats “flaming asshole” any day of the week.

Living In The Past

936full-requiem-for-a-nun-coverIn his novel Requiem For A Nun, William Faulkner wrote “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” While Faulkner had his faults (like alcoholism and womanizing), the man could turn a phrase. This quote might have  been born out of  Faulkner’s essential southern-ness, but it applies to not-so-southern people, too. Especially in when you’re talking about abuse. I think it’s even more true when that abuse is of the religious variety.

In Friday’s I Hate That F**king List, I said “Since “edgy and controversial” is out, another hook I could use revolves around abuse. In light of recent revelations, church/religious/spiritual abuse is all the rage and, as you might remember from some posts in the last couple of weeks, it’s a topic I am well-qualified to take on. But, here’s the thing: to do so, it feels like I have to wallow in my past and be pissed off about all the crap that happened to me. I mean, let’s face it, the internet doesn’t reward a happy ending nearly as handsomely as it does anger, spite and vindictiveness. Those are things I’m trying to get away from, not embrace.”

The posts I refer to in that excerpt are My Story Pt. I-IV and Spank You Very Much. While Spank You speaks more to the physical abuse I endured, the other posts provide some needed context with the back story. And, the latter half of My Story does something else: it talks about my efforts to not “wallow in my past and be pissed off about all the crap that happened to me” and move away from “anger, spite and vindictiveness”. Because acknowledging the fact that you’ve been abused is only the beginning of the passage to wholeness.

People deal with their abuse in different ways. Some wear it like a badge, constantly shoving the fucked-up facts of their past in your face at every opportunity, while others deny it ever happened, pretending everything is all hunk-dory ((even though everyone in a five block radius can see it’s not)). I think we can all agree that neither of these situations are…, let’s say, optimal. I mean, we all know people like this and they’re not exactly fun to be around. Personally, I’ve done the denial thing and it didn’t really work for me. Now that I’ve acknowledged my past, I’m trying my damnedest not to do the former. I’ll be honest, it’s not easy.

It’s not easy because every time I talk about it, I feel like I’m “shoving the fucked-up facts of (my) past in your face at every opportunity”, even if I’m not. And, it’s hard to talk about where I am now without feeling like a smug, holier-than-thou asshole who thinks they have the answer to your problems ((especially since, on some level, I kinda actually believe that)). There’s a balancing point in there somewhere, if I could only find it.

In Romans 8:28, Paul says “That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” It would be nice if that were true, since it would mean I didn’t go through all the shit that I did for no good reason. Who knows, maybe if I can find that balancing point and help someone else work through the hell that is the aftermath of abuse, I might actually believe it.

Obsession and Forgiveness

OCD and ADHDYou may have noticed that I didn’t post here on Friday. That’s because Friday was the “day from Hell”. This week, Diana and I were are enjoying our semi-annual visit to Florida. Before we left, however, there were a few thing I needed to take care of: a) get the car serviced, b) do some math homework and take a unit exam and c) buy appliances for the house I’m renovating. That’s a full day without the added tasks of packing for a week and driving an hour and a half to her house in order to get an early start Saturday morning. Things weren’t helped by the fact that they didn’t get through with my car until lunch time and, when I went to pick it up, I was informed needed new tires.  In addition to eating up time in an already full day, there was the added (and not insignificant) expense of new tires, but I went ahead and got new ones. Call me over-cautious, but it didn’t seem prudent to embark on a 700 mile journey on tires that had wire showing. But, when all was said and done, the car was serviced, I had new tires, I’d made a 94 on my exam and I was packed and ready to go. Unfortunately, I hadn’t been able to take care of the appliances or write my usual Friday post. While I was not happy about either one of those situations, when I thought about it, the latter bothered much more than the former.

I realize that doesn’t make sense, but like many creative people I know, I have a touch of OCD. And, by “touch”, I mean “buttload”. I’m not sure if there’s a connection between creativity and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, but it sure looks that way to me. One blogger I know told me he spends 6 to 8 hours on a single blog post; it may be more, I was a little distracted when he said that (there were shiny things in the vicinity). While I could  probably use a smidgen of that kind of obsession, mine doesn’t show up that way. For me, it’s schedule. You have no idea how many mornings I have sat in front of the computer, sweating blood while trying to meet a self-imposed deadline. For some reason, I feel like I’ve let my audience down if I haven’t gotten something out by noon. Imagine what it feels like when I don’t post anything at all.

The funny thing is, I know you guys aren’t sitting around waiting for my next bit of artistic brilliance post. But, that doesn’t stop me from obsessing about it. I’m often tempted to ask forgiveness when I post a little late (or don’t post at all), but you probably don’t think there’s anything to forgive. Hell, you probably don’t even notice it as your lives are at least as full and hectic as mine. As I thought about all this over the last couple of days, I realized maybe the person I needed to ask for forgiveness was myself.

Now, I believe that God is perfectly loving and perfectly forgiving, so odds are God forgives our transgressions as soon as we commit them. We humans, on the other hand, aren’t so loving and forgiving. I will tell you now that I well and truly suck at forgiving others; I can be incredibly petty and hold a grudge like nobody’s business. Sadly, I’m even worse at forgiving myself. Take the current situation, for example; three days after the fact and I’m still beating myself up for not posting even though I have a perfectly good reason for not doing so. And, I’m doing this while on vacation! It’s barely possible I have some issues in this matter.

In an effort to begin letting go of this insanity, let me apologize to everyone for letting you down by not posting a blog entry on Friday (well, that’s not conceited at all, is it?). By starting here, maybe I can start working on forgiving myself for this imagined slight and find a little peace. Probably not, but a fellow can dream, can’t he?

God Loves Us Anyway

The gospel in seven wordsLike most of you, I’ve been watching the events unfolding in Ferguson, Mo over the past week and a half. I haven’t said much about it, in part because I didn’t know what to say. I keep hoping I’ll get up in the morning and see that tensions have de-escalated and the folks in that community have had a peaceful night. So far, that hasn’t happened; if anything, it’s gotten worse. Michael Brown has been portrayed as a thug who got what he deserved and the police have been painted as arrogant, power-hungry assholes who are just looking to fuck up some poor black kid, simply because he’s black. Meanwhile, the violence just keeps getting worse. I still don’t know what to say, but this morning, I was reminded of a story Will D. Campbell used to tell.

In 1965, a young man named Jonathan Daniels answered Dr. King’s call for students and clergy to assist in the civil rights movement. Daniels made two trips to Alabama: the first to take part in the Selma to Montgomery Marches (which turned into an extended stay) and a second where he worked tutoring children, helping people in poverty apply for aid, and registering voters. It was on this second trip that things turned ugly (as if what happened on the Edmund Pettis Bridge wasn’t ugly enough). 

In August of 1965, Daniels and a group of 29 other protesters were arrested while picketing whites-only stores in Fort Deposit, Alabama and taken to jail in Hayneville (the county seat). After several days, everyone was released without transport back to Fort Deposit. While the group waited for a ride, Daniels and 3 others went to a nearby store to get a cold drink. There, they found Tom Coleman, a special deputy, who shot Daniels in the chest with a shotgun, killing him. Coleman was charged with manslaughter but was acquitted by an all-white jury. In other words, business as usual in 1965 Alabama.

In his work with SNCC and other groups, Daniels had met and become friends with Campbell, a (white) Baptist minister who worked behind the scenes in the movement with the National Council of Churches and the Committee of Southern Churchmen. Campbell was devastated by Daniels’ murder and Coleman’s acquittal. At the home of longtime friend, P. D. East, he was railing at the injustice. In the past, East (an agnostic) and Campbell had engaged in several conversations about religion. Once, East asked Campbell to sum up the Gospel in ten words. Campbell thought for a minute and replied “We’re all bastards, but God loves us anyway”. In the midst of Campbell’s mourning, East pressed him on whether Daniels was a bastard and Will admitted that his friend was, indeed a sinner. Then, East asked if Coleman was a bastard and, again, Campbell agreed. Then, East asked “Which one of those two bastards do you think God loves the most – Jonathan or that sheriff? Now, you’re the one who always told me about how simple the gospel is. Just answer the question: Which one of those two does God love the most?” At that point, Campbell realized that Coleman was just as loved by God as Daniels was. And if he was loved, he was forgiven. And if he was forgiven, he had been reconciled. In a similar fashion, both Wilson and Brown are equally loved, forgiven and reconciled. Whether we like it or not.

In explaining his definition of the Gospel, Campbell said “…what it all means is so damn simple: We are bastards, but God loves us anyway. We’re forgiven, and if we can somehow manage to get hold of that fact, we can find the power to go and do likewise.” True words, Pastor Will. But sometimes, that fact is a little harder to get hold of than others.

Who Should Be First?

red and blueI’ll let you in on a little secret: I’m a closet optimist. Actually, “apocalopimist” is proabably a better fit. In case you’re wondering, an apocalopimist is “someone who knows it’s all going to shit, but still thinks things will turn out okay“. While that is an odd combination of optimism and cynicism, it’s a pretty good description of my thought process these days.

I wasn’t always this way, however. As a younger man,  I was a straight-up optimist;, a pretty tenacious one, too. A career in public safety, however, took care of any unrestrained optimism I might have indulged in. It did so by showing me that, as Christopher Moore said in The Stupidest Angel, “people, generally, suck”. The fact that 23 years of dealing with those sucky people (usually at their absolute worst) didn’t turn me into a complete cynic is a testament to the strength of my optimism. That vigor is getting a workout these days, though.

While I still retain some measure of optimism, more and more I feel like my friend, Suzanne Carty, who recently said “I just don’t have much hope for the human race.”  So, what’s this big challenge to my bright and shiny view of the world? The incredibly polarized society we live in, that’s what. You see, as a progressive who’s trying like hell to hang on to his redneck roots, I often feel like I’m caught in the middle of a really nasty argument.

A couple of days ago, within hours on my Facebook feed, I saw one friend refer to “NRA redneck assholes” and another post a graphic that said “We owe illegals nothing, we owe our veterans everything”. As you can see, I have friends on opposite ends of the spectrum. The thing is, both of these people have more in common with each other than those who encourage the imaginary divide that separates them.

Now, if either of my friends are reading this, they probably think I’ve lost my mind. And, on the surface, it does look that way. One of them is a genderqueer, liberal, post-Christian LGBTQ activist and the other is an evangelical Christian, conservative, biker/redneck gun nut enthusiast. At the same time, both are the product of working/middle class families, both are from (semi)rural backgrounds and both are getting their asses kicked by forces outside their control. The problem is that, like most of us, they’re all so focused on their differences, they can’t see their similarities. Until that happens, we’ll never see the Kingdom on earth.

What’s the solution to the problem? I’m no expert, but I’d say a good place to start would be to stop beating the crap out of each other and love our neighbor as ourselves. For that to happen, though, someone is going to have to extend an olive branch to their (not so) opposite number. There’s a problem here, because my LGBTQ friend has suffered a lot of persecution at the hands of people like my more conservative friend. And, my conservative friend is seeing the world change in ways that are hard for him to accept at a pace that, more than likely, scares the living shit of him. So, who should be the first to step up?

Ideally,it should be the person who’s wrong. But, how do you determine that? Sure, bullying people is wrong and should never be condoned. But, at the same time, Jesus said turn the other cheek and love your enemies. So, what’s the answer? I honestly don’t know. But, in the meantime, you fuckers are harshing my mellow and I’d really appreciate it if you’d just chill out a little.

A Change Of Heart

heart in hands

After another state’s sterling effort at executing one of their wards, the death penalty is back in the news. If you have no idea what I’m talking about here (and, you’re too lazy to click the link), Oklahoma recently executed Clayton Lockett. Unfortunately, it didn’t exactly go to plan and, by all accounts, Lockett suffered horribly for 43 minutes before finally dying of a heart attack. In light of this news, and that states are having difficulty getting the proper drugs for their lethal injection cocktails, talk of older methods of execution being revived and North Carolina’s GOP-dominated legislature repealing the Racial Justice Act, it seems like a good time to talk about my views on capital punishment

For most of my adult life, I was a staunch advocate of the death penalty. I firmly believed it was an effective deterrent to violent crime. Hey, I thought, even if it didn’t prevent anyone else from doing something heinous, the executee was most certainly deterred from any more criminal acts. Besides, I’m from the south and the idea that some folks just need killin’ is a widely accepted truth down here. Strangely, southerners are also deeply Christian and the contradiction of supporting state-sanctioned execution and claiming to follow someone who was executed by the state is lost on many of us.

For me, that changed about 6 or 7 years ago when my father recommended I read a book by Donald Spoto titled “The Hidden Jesus: A New Life“. In it, Spoto makes several controversial assertions, such as questioning the validity of the virgin birth, that Jesus was actually born in Nazereth, that there’s no evidence of the star the Magi supposedly followed, etc. Very interesting stuff, but none of it rocked me like the two following passages:

“To argue that some criminals are beyond the pale of grace and forgiveness — and therefore must be executed rather than allowed a lifetime to repent— is simply to replace God’s ultimately free, forgiving and transformative action in the hearts of human beings with one’s own presumptive and preemptive judgment.”

and

“A Christian by definition cannot support capital punishment, for he believes in and adores one who consistently condemned violence and vengeance – and who the ultimately innocent man wrongly executed.”

It was the first time I’d ever seen the dichotomy between supporting the death penalty and being a Christian laid out so starkly and I wrestled with it with for quite a while before realizing that, yes, some folks do need killin’, but that’s not my job. My job is to forgive, consistently, completely and continually.

Over time, I came to realize that Spoto was right; Christians cannot support the death penalty and remain true to their faith. Jesus left very few distinct commands for us to follow, but chief among them were these: Love each other, love your neighbor and love your enemies. If you take nothing else from this post, please understand one thing: when we execute people, we deny them the grace that we have been shown. Even worse, we deny them the opportunity even to find that grace and repent of their sins. And, there is nothing of love in that.

Progressive Redneck?

rednecks-for-obama

In the very first article for The Progressive Redneck, I said that, while I am pretty progressive, I still have a few redneck tendencies. I also said that I’d go into detail about that in another post. Well, this is that post.

This piece has been on the back burner for about a month now, percolating and coming together. The thing is, when you live in your head (as bloggers tend to do), it can be hard to see your own redneckedness. Because the redneck life is one of action, not contemplation, it took a little time to see where those tendencies might rear their head in my everyday existence. That process was not helped by the fact that I’ve only recently come to grips with my heritage, as I explained last January. It wasn’t an easy revelation to process, even if it did explain a lot. Things like my need to defend Phil Robertson and Paula Deen when my non-redneck friends voiced their opinions on those scandals or, that calling white people “cracker” most certainly is offensive, suddenly came into focus. While that explanation was great, it didn’t make it any easier to come to grips with the fact that a negative stereotype can be applied to me.

While my progressive views are plastered all over this site, my redneck tendencies might not be as evident, so here’s a few:

  •  “Okie from Muskogee” and “Fightin’ Side of Me” by Merle Haggard are two of my favorite songs; the second is a pretty good indicator that I’m not much of a pacifist. Don’t get me wrong, I believe pacifism is a good thing and it is what we should be working toward. But, I can’t deny there are also times when a little violence applied in the right place, at the right time, is the only way to halt some oppression. And, if it’s done right, it can even save lives. Not that we’ve ever done it right.
  • I believe the 2nd Amendment refers to private citizens and not the National Guard. Is it my upbringing? The place I grew up? Or, the fact that I read the Constitution differently than some folks and believe the founding fathers included the right to bear arms as a hedge against out of control government? I will say, however, that if Jefferson, Madison and company had known what kind of hardware would be available to individual citizens these days, they might’ve done things differently. Especially, when they saw some of the people who wanted that hardware.
  • Many of my progressive friends are vegetarians or vegans. When it comes that, I half-jokingly say “God put me at the top of the food chain. Who am I to argue with God?”. Notice I said “half-jokingly”, because I kinda do believe that.
  • While I believe science explains the universe, I still believe that God created it; only, instead of a few words spoken and seven days, there was a big bang and things evolved from there. I don’t, however, think my views should be taught in science class or that the Bible is any kind of science or history book. Just sayin’.

There are other things, of course, but if this list gets any longer, you’ll get bored. God knows, we don’t want that.

As you can see, progressive redneck is not really a contradiction in terms. Okay, maybe it is, but it’s who I am. Now, if I can just figure what do with that idea.

 

The Prodigal Son Part Duex

prodigalsonAt the end of Monday’s piece on The Prodigal Son, I said the story leaves us wanting more and ended with “…maybe that’s on purpose. Maybe it’s up to us to fill in those blanks and keep it alive. And, maybe I’ll do just that in a couple of days.” Well, it’s a couple of days later, so let’s see what I can do with this.

The party for the younger son (let’s call him Fred, I like that name) lasted almost a week and it was a doozy. But, like all parties, it came to an end and life settled back into its normal, everyday rhythms. And, Fred welcomed the comfort of that domestic mundanity…., at first. After a couple of months, though, he began to feel the old, familiar itch. At first, all it took was the memory of the hunger and humiliation he felt while working for that damn Gentile farmer to quell any desire to go back to his old life. But, as it always does, the memory of the bad times began to fade while that of the good times seemed to grow.

Things weren’t made any easier by his brother (Lloyd) who was a total shit about everything, as older brothers usually are. Oh, it was nothing overt; just Lloyd playing “the good son” and making sure the old man saw it. It didn’t help that Lloyd was a natural at this farming thing and Fred had a brown thumb. And, Lloyd’s easy competence made Fred’s ineptitude stand out in stark relief. The situation was slowly becoming unbearable.

One day, his father sent him to a nearby city with a load of produce from the farm. A deal had already been brokered with a trader and all Fred had to do was turn over the goods, pick up the cash and get home safe. Simple, easy and well within his capabilities. Or, so his father thought. Unfortunately, the old man didn’t realize this was the very same city where Fred had done his “riotous living”. Needless to say, it was a recipe for disaster.

Things were fine on the trip to town. In fact, Fred didn’t feel the itch all the way there. Even as he made his way past many of his old haunts, he didn’t really have the urge to stray. It wasn’t until the deal was done and he had his father’s money in hand that things went south.

It was a long trip and he didn’t get to town until the middle of the afternoon.The roads being what they were, traveling after dark was not a good idea. So, the plan was that he would spend the night in a local inn and head back first thing in the morning. After he’d found a room, he ran into a friend from his wild days and they began to reminisce. One thing led to another and the two went on a terrific bender; financed once again by Fred’s father.

When he woke up and realized what had happened, he thought, “Shit, I’ve done it again.” To ashamed to go home and let everyone know he’d lived up (down?) to their incredibly low expectations, he found a buyer for the pack animals, paid the innkeeper and went off in search of work. He thought it would be easier this time since he wasn’t in the middle of a famine, but he was wrong. He didn’t know many people in the area and the ones he did know either weren’t what you’d call business people or they remembered him as an abhorrent wastrel and wouldn’t have anything to do with him. It wasn’t long before his meager funds were gone and he was reduced to panhandling and sleeping wherever he could find a bit of shelter. It was bad, but at least he wasn’t feeding pigs.

One day, he was sitting in his preferred spot with his cup set out for alms. He was dirty, he smelled awful and he was still bloody from the beating he received a couple of days earlier when some youths robbed him. A familiar mantra ran through his head: “My life is shit and I deserve it. My father took me in after I disrespected him and wasted his money. He trusted me with the littlest bit of responsibility and what do I do? Fuck it up. Royally. There’s no way he’ll take me back again. I’m stuck in this mess and it’s all my fault.”

He was so busy beating himself up, he didn’t notice anyone was there until some coins rattled in his cup. He looked up to say thank you and saw his father standing there with tears running down his face. The old man didn’t say a word, he just reached down,  gathered his son into his arms and embraced him. It caught Fred off guard and for a minute, he reveled in the love of his father. Then, he came to his senses and pulled away saying, “No, I don’t deserve this. I did it again, Dad.” His father shook his head and said “I don’t care about that. All that matters is that I found you and you’re safe. You’re coming home with us.” He looked over his father’s shoulder and saw his brother standing there, his face also wet with tears. Overwhelmed by the knowledge that they’d been looking for him all this time, he asked “But, I stole from you. How can you still love me?” His father smiled through his tears and replied “You are my child. How can I not love you?”