I’ll start this out with a somewhat controversial statement: I am not a fan of the trigger warning. Actually, I guess it’s more accurate to say I’m conflicted about the trigger warning. I understand that hearing certain things can be very hard for someone who’s suffered trauma((been there, done that)). At the same time, I don’t believe we can have any realistic expectation of not being exposed to things that upset us. On an interesting side note, while starting something with the phrase “Trigger warning” tends break me out in an itchy rash, I started a post Facebook this morning with “Warning: this might be triggery for some folks” and it wasn’t that bad. Not sure what that says about me.
It’s also interesting that, while I don’t care for the idea behind trigger warnings, I certainly understand what it feels like to be triggered. I’d never given the idea moment’s thought until the Adrian Peterson mess a while back. As I’ve written in the past, I had…, an arduous childhood. For a long time, I kept those memories stored safely in the back of my consciousness. But, seeing those pictures of Peterson’s son brought it all back in a rush and I finally understood my unease whenever someone talked about whipping their children. And, why those posts about how society started a downhill slide when people stopped beating their kids made me so mad.
It’s funny the things that can trigger someone. It happened again last week, with the news that Andre Crouch had died. You may be wondering how a beloved musical figure like Andre Crouch could possibly trigger anything bad. Because gospel music was the soundtrack to a that aforementioned arduous childhood, that’s how. Andre Crouch, The Imperials, The Oak Ridge Boys((before they sold their souls for country music fame)) and plenty of others were played constantly in my home. I didn’t even get a break in the car because the radio was constantly tuned to WPET, the local southern gospel station. There was no escape.
While the music of Crouch and some of the others was relatively inoffensive theologically, not everything I heard in those days was. One offender that stands out is Sammy Hall. Hall, and his group the Sammy Hall Singers, were very popular in early CCM circles. I actually saw him perform once in the old War Memorial Auditorium in Greensboro when I was maybe 12 or 13 and I couldn’t tell you a single song from that performance. Not so much because it was particularly forgettable((musically, it really was, but that’s beside the point)), but because Hall gave his “testimony” as part of the show.
It was a riveting tale, filled with sex, drugs and rock and roll (Hall’s musical career began with The Birdwatchers, a garage rock band out of Miami). Oh, and the Devil makes an appearance, too! And, I mean that literally. In Hall’s story, he got high before heading home from his girlfriend’s house((I believe, don’t hold me to that)) and that opened the door for the Evil One. He claimed he lost control of his body and his foot indendently pressed the accelerator to the floor, making the car travel faster and faster. As this was happening, Satan began to materialize in the passenger seat next to him. He cried out for to God to save him and, suddenly, everything was all right. Old Scratch vanished and he regained control of himself and was able to pull over to the side of the road where he surrendered his life to Christ. Just what an impressionable kid needs to hear, isn’t it?
I’d like to say that was the only time I heard things like that, I really would. But, I’d be lying. The truth is, along with physical and mental stuff, I got a heaping helping of spiritual abuse, too. You have no idea how many sleepless nights I spent, afraid that I might be possessed by a demon at any moment. Or, how many times I was told that I was inhabited by an evil spirit of some kind (usually laziness as a result of my undiagnosed ADHD). And, in the background, there was almost always a song from Andre Crouch or some other CCM/gospel singer.
As I write this, I wonder((as I have on more than a few occasions)) why the hell I’m still a Christian. You’ve got to admit, I have good reason to tell Jesus to suck it. In my more lucid moments, I tell myself that I believe because I like the person I am when I do. And, that’s true. But, when I start dredging up these old memories, it can be hard to remember that. I’m hoping it gets easier the more I deal with all this. It does, doesn’t it? Please tell me it does.