The most memorable parts of our weekly visits to church were slight readings from the Gospels. During my teenage years, I performed alter boy service, which formed in me a distaste for liturgy. It did give me opportunity to sit in front during sermons and gospel readings. Additionally, from this vantage point I could keep an eye on all the attractive young women in the congregation. I was put off by Paul’s church message that denied us accessibility to natural physical attractions. There was an undercurrent hinting church authorities were not living up to these teachings. Later it became apparent that other religious bodies also had difficulties living up to these principles. On the other hand, I was taken by Jesus’ message that affirmed the value of a materially poor life style. His message also contained elements that turned from worldly authorities, but also offered a strong moral code. Core to his teachings was the message that we, “Do unto others as we would want them to do unto ourselves.” Unfortunately, church sermons, immense wealth, and treatment received during school exposed hypocrisy. This rooted in me skepticism and strong urge to find a society that exhibited a way to life embodying elements of Jesus’ point.
By the time, I graduated from High School, I developed a similar skeptical attitude about worldly governments, mostly our own. This was enhanced by the shooting death during my senior year of John F. Kennedy and subsequent unsubstantial investigation and lingering doubt about government and media veracity. During the early summer of 1964, I was sailing on a maiden cruise of a wooden sailboat my dad built. On board were four people--my dad, new owner, sail maker, and I. As we cruised out into the Gulf of Mexico, I relaxed on deck, while the men sat in the cockpit having pleasant conversation. A topic sprang up that gathered my attention. The sail maker announced, “ Our country is going to be at war within a year.” He based his idea on the increase he received for orders of military canvas goods, similar to what occurred before WWII and our Korean incursion. At that point, I could not see any situation that demanded a war response. However, within two months the Gulf of Tonkin incident was sprung upon us. My skepticism about worldly governments only increased my desire to seek and find that kingdom Jesus spoke of as “not of this world.”
During the later 1960’s while embroiled in the Viet Nam incursion, our own country was in turmoil, cities burning, people clamoring for social redress, and an overall dissatisfaction with our institution’s ability to take corrective measures. It almost seemed that any attempts to right matters only aggravated the problems. It seemed the only solace occurred in the alternative underground society that flourished on social fringes. This sub culture was termed hippie. Hippies embodied many of the principles found in varied spiritual teachings, including those of Jesus. Their culture was characterized in media for its drug use, open sexual conduct, and glaring lack of obedience to worldly authorities. In the meantime, it provided the best example of folks carrying out the principles contained in the Golden Rule. It very much felt like what can be imagined as early Christian life, attendant with persecutions. The most appealing characteristic of the counter culture was its openness. Yes, it had failures and moral lapses, but they were not denied and dealt with in a refreshing transparent manner.
By 1970, the counter culture came under assault to try and bring it into line with dominant culture. This attack was carried out at first as a financial battle. There had sprung up a preponderance of free stores, where counterculture elements distributed goods and services gratis. There was also a sharing of talents often without charge or at least for barter. This economic system fell prey to capitalism. Intentionally developed market forces created, “Hip Capitalism.” All of a sudden, the underground culture had market value. Coincidental with this, inflation was making it necessary to come up with increasing revenues just to obtain basic necessities. No longer could free culture stand next to inflationary forces. Around this time a back to the land movement began. Largely this could be interpreted as an attempt to further get away from main stream economy. By the mid 1970’s the underground culture was largely absorbed into the mainstream and small pockets of that free spirit movement were becoming scarce.
It is thus likely, my journey was prejudiced with a goal of trying to seek the remnants of such communities. And my eyes may have been using glasses that tended to make the world I viewed seen in such light. Taken as such, unknown to me, my task may have been to record the demise of the last of the Christians. That slant is with me today, as I believe I am witness to the apocalyptic vision that has held and increased during my life time. No matter the congregation, talk about prophecies of world’s ending, be it “The Apocalypse of John” or stories from other cultures have dominated conversation. Today it has spread further than spiritual communities and appears in scientific and economic communities.
This little sojourn into my psycho-social-spiritual formation provides a hint at the slant I present while reporting my travels during a time I believe begins the unraveling of the our world. I provide this so that as I pour out my stories, the reader may have a glimpse into the significance they hold for me.