The Sun is at the Center of the City… February 25, 2013

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There was a time when folks were shocked to discover that the sun did not revolve around the earth. It may be central to our egomaniacal natures–to think that even powerful objects like Helios have to submit to our earthly will.
Likewise, just about the time I think I’ve become a well-rounded individual, having freshly knocked off a corner of one of my prejudices, I suddenly realize that I am still in the infant states of understanding, crawling towards comprehension.

It happened to me yesterday morning at Sun City Center. First of all, you will never meet a more delightful group of people, shepherded by an intelligent, competent woman possessing a tremendous world vision. But as I sat at my book table conversing with the departing folk, a dear lady came to my side and explained to me why she attended this particular house of worship.

“I used to go to a Baptist church because I like my worship a little more lively. But I was just never able to tolerate the indifference and even hostility they had for women. It culminated one Sunday when a young couple scheduled to sing a song for the Offertory had to be separated because–the male part of the duo was allowed to sit up on the platform and the female had to sit in the audience until it was her time to play the singing bird. I was outraged by the injustice. I was ashamed to be part of a country that still allows such backward thinking while pretending they’re pushing the world in a forward, democratic direction.”

I listened to her carefully. It struck me. I’ve always been a believer in equality between men and women, enacting it in my dealings. But I realized that the United States of America is stuck in specific timelines on various issues:

  • Racial relations–I think we’re still in the 1980’s. In other words, “people of different races should have rights-=I just don’t want to hear about it.”
  • Equality for all citizens despite individual preferences? though some folks think we’re progressing, we’re still a decade or two behind the rest of the world.
  • But on the issue of women–their rights, place and value–it might as well be 1892, with corsets and button-up shoes.

There are no equal measurements available. If a woman is organized, gregarious and commanding, she gets labeled with the “b” word (even though we feel no compulsion to not use the entire extent of the term). Women in this country have to accept the fact that they earn less money. Women are instructed that if they become assertive at all, words like “annoying,” “nagging,” “motherly” and “nasty” will impugn with character.

It just struck me that as we pursue Afghanistan, bringing the “gospel of America” to these unfortunate natives, to free them from the Taliban, we need to be careful that we do not maintain some of the tenets of the vicious enemy in our own daily discourse and interaction between the sexes.

Especially in Christianity. What would the church of Jesus of Nazareth be without Mother Mary? Mary Magdalene? Joanna and Susannah, who donated to his ministry out of their substance? Not to mention the countless women who opened their homes to the early church as sanctuaries for believers?

It is going to be very difficult for our country to overcome racial bigotry, social stigma, bullying and intolerance as long as we think it’s a comical punchline to portray women and men as natural adversaries. It is one of the few things that conservatives and liberals share in common–a standing joke that women and men are incompatible except in the bedroom.
I want to thank that dear soul who came to my table and prickled my conscience with an even greater revelation of the topsy-turvy philosophy we promote through all of our media. As long as comedians, entertainers and even last night’s Oscar presentation invoke a feminine mystique to keep women from equality, we will be a nation that fails to practice what we preach.

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

Location, location, and, oh, yes… location … January 31, 2012

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I have had the pleasure of attending a meeting of the Chamber of Commerce where inspiring speeches were given on the glories of capitalism and business, as people dismissed to pass out their cards and inform others of a booming possibility with their rendition of the American Dream.
 
I have sat at the fireside of a gathering of homeless individuals, sharing a platter of beans with two pieces of day-old white bread purchased from the Dolly Madison Store, as all those surrounding the warmth discussed their day’s activities.
 
I have been at a rock concert with screaming fans leaping to their feet, hoping the next tune would be their favorite one.
 
I have attended a family reunion where aunts and uncles barely of my acquaintance have insisted that I knew some old relative who had since passed on, as we conversed about names unfamiliar, while munching on delectable potato salad.
 
Out of curiosity, I have actually gone to political party meetings of both sides and been inundated with pamphlets, propaganda and platforms, encouraging me to make a good American stands against the opposing party’s irrelevant views.
 
Being a father of children, I have also sat through a PTA meeting, often out-numbered, lacking members of my particular gender, as speaker after speaker lamented the lack of something or other in the educational system.
 
Stupidly, I was lured into an investment party because it promised something free and ended up being a ploy to get me to take the little money I had and drop it into a hole, hoping that the crevice would spew back profits.
 
I have been in many a counseling session–mainly as the counselor–listening patiently as each party made his or her case against the other, well-organized, well-rehearsed and well-entrenched.
 
I have done these things and many others in the pursuit of discovering the best of my human family, only to realize that when we herd together, we normally want to make sure that we’re with cattle of our own kind.
 
It limits us. It retards us (if I may use the word in its correct form without being politically incorrect). It inhibits us from using the two greatest possessions we have–a mirror and a brain. Because in all those conclaves I listed, at no time at all was I asked to examine myself, nor was it necessary for me to think–because the mental agenda was provided.
 
Which brings me to last night in Clinton, Louisiana, where forty-six people emerged from the community–from different paths, walks, theologies and political persuasions. They huddled into one building to consider a message and how they measured up to its intensity. It’s called a church. And even though I will rail against a religious system which tries to turn the true church into something that blends the Chamber of Commerce with a political party meeting with overtones of a counseling session, I am a firm believer that the church is the only place where the possibility of looking in the mirror at oneself and actually tapping the brain that God has given you is plausible.
 
Oh, yes–I am not naive.  I realize that the present religious system would love to mimic the Chamber of Commerce.  Poorer congregations would like to react like the homeless, making fun of the rich. There are those “hip” congregations, which think the church is just a rock concert, cheering on Jesus and the Spirit of God. Smaller groups of church folks actually become nothing more than a family reunion, discussing the week’s activities, dead parishioners and the weather. Too many religious institutions have become the harlot for political parties, pushing a social agenda more than salvation.
 
But when it’s done right, there is nothing in our society like the church–because it asks us to look in the mirror and to use our brains.
 
How do you know if you’re in a real church or just a religious system trying to parrot the world around it? The real church has seven important ingredients:
 
1. Be prepared for the unpredictable. For after all, repetition has always been the agenda of hell.
2. Stop complaining. No one ever learns in the midst of a lament.
3. Love somebody new. If we aren’t expanding the family of man around us to include more and more people, we are shrinking the vision of God.
4. Cry until you laugh. There are people in churches still in pain after many years of suffering, who should have had a nighttime of weeping and allowed joy to come in their morning.
5. Think for yourself about yourself to improve yourself. Don’t use God’s house as a way to confirm your inadequacy.
6. Be thankful. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But thankfulness is missing from our society. It has been bumped out of the way by expectation. We need some place to go where we actually express gratitude.
7. And finally, leave changed. The Chamber of Commerce didn’t ask me to do that; nor did the homeless, the rock singer, Aunt Mabel, the Republicans and Democrats, the teacher’s conference, the investment firm or even those attending the counseling session. We all basically came into those events with one mind-set and left with a little bit more cement added. The true church is a place where we leave changed every time we are there, or we must question  the gospel which is supposed to give us the truth that makes us free.
 
Yes, it’s all about location, location, location. And if you’re looking for a place to go that will renew you and allow you to look in the mirror without fear and think instead of merely react, I recommend a good church which understands the seven things I just stated.
 
I was at one last night. It was a good time … although I did miss my beans and day-old bread.
 
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Jonathan wrote the gospel/blues anthem, Spent This Time, in 1985, in Guaymas, Mexico. Take a listen:

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To see books written by Jonathan, click the link below! You can peruse and order if you like!

http://www.janethan.com/tour_store.htm

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