Who Shall I Be Today?

I intend to be brutally honest about myself in this post. My intent is to think honestly and out loud about significant and harmful shortcomings in my personal character in a way that may be helpful for my continued personal growth and maybe, possibly, helpful to my readers’ growth as well. While I generally dislike and eschew disclaimers and trigger warnings, I’ll include my version of those now. The content of this post will very likely turn you off if you’re opposed to any form of religion or spirituality. It’s also likely to offend if you’re devoted to a particular denomination or religious sect. So while it’s not my goal to alienate readers, I go forth understanding that some (maybe most?) will dislike something in this post.

Just prior to Easter 2021 I made a belated Good Friday post in which I promised subsequent updates about resources I’ve found helpful for personal awakenings and renewals. This is the first in what I intend to be a series of reflections along these lines. If you’re following this blog from prior writing about weight loss, fitness, and competition I invite you to continue reading although what’s to come is more personal in nature.

The title of this week’s post is inspired by a Mister Rogers’ song. While it’s a whimsical children’s song, it really strikes to the essence of what I’m writing about today. Who shall I be? Who shall I be like? What shall I be like? When I pause to truly consider these questions, I find myself becoming more cognizant of who and what is influencing me. I find myself becoming more intentional and, usually, a kinder, more generous sort of human.

We humans are social creatures. Even the most anti-social of us are nevertheless deeply influenced by others. I believe that most of us, most of the time, are blithely (or miserably) oblivious about our influencers. Here’s an ugly example:

Throughout my teenaged years I was very vocal about self-identifying as an evangelical christian. I spent a bunch of time going to church and memorizing bible verses. I got into arguments with friends about whether or not mormons were ‘real christians’ and I prayed fervently for the souls of friends and family members who were not ‘believers.’

I also spent a lot of time listening to Rush Limbaugh on AM radio. At first this was because of an adult mentor who always had the radio on while we worked. I sometimes helped with manual labor for house renovation projects he always had going and Rush Limbaugh was perpetually ranting in the background. Every adult I knew and looked up to at my church youth group was also a Limbaugh fan. They, and as a result I, all subscribed to the notion that we were the stalwart remnant of a persecuted minority in America. That our belief system and way of life was under constant assault from legions of evil liberal democrats and femi-nazis.

So, with the morally corrupt rhetoric of Rush Limbaugh echoing in my ears, I became a vocal campus conservative. I read Ayn Rand and took great pride in my ability to win debates. I seized upon any tactic necessary for victory. I fought to win every battle without any consideration for whether we were even at war. I opened fire with personal ridicule, high volume rhetoric, and any other dirty trick of the trade to win a debate.

It grieves me to recall what an odious asshat I was in the name of christianity. And it pisses me off that my evangelical christian brothers and sisters of the time applauded me for it. I frequently enjoyed affirmations and accolades for “standing up for my faith” and for my willingness to show the “courage of my convictions.” I was a mean-spirited bully who spewed profanity (just none of the Seven Dirty Words so I was still a good christian). And nobody from my belief system ever asked me to consider if my attitudes and conduct were in any way consistent with the teachings of Jesus, the person our religion was supposedly based upon.

I guess I’m confessing to my unintentional adolescent discipleship to Rush Limbaugh in the interest of full disclosure and also as an example of my primary contention: we are always being shaped in the likeness of somebody. It’s simply a question of who and what. Also, for the record, I must state that Rush Limbaugh was a hateful, disgusting, evil human. America is a better place with him dead and silenced!

OK. I might have lost a few ‘christian’ readers with those last couple of paragraphs, especially if they are among the 75% of evangelical ‘christians’ that voted for Donald Trump in 2020, despite the ugly and obvious incompatibilities between what they claim they believe and what Donald Trump stood for and did.

Next, I fear I may lose some readers turned off by religion and especially those suspicious of any messages from/involving present-day American ‘christians.’ And for good reason, see above.

If you accept the premise that all humans are influenced by who and what we listen to, believe in, and follow, then I think you’ll find this stuff helpful. If you don’t accept that premise, take a look anyway as you might at least find it interesting. And then possibly helpful sometime afterwards.

John Mark Comer is an author, podcaster, and former pastor of a Portland, Oregon church. I implore you to approach his stuff with intellectual honesty and rigor whether those labels make you want to trust or distrust him. If as a professing christian you take his teaching to heart, you may very well find yourself (like me) wanting to divorce yourself from many of the trappings of current ‘christianity.’ If as a committed agnostic/atheist, you’re willing to give his stuff an honest go, you may very well find inspiration for inquiry and healthful living.

I have frequently failed to live up to the standards I am espousing here. I continue to find inspiration and purpose in revisiting these teachings. When I work intentionally at this stuff I tend to be kinder, happier, more beautiful. When I don’t, I tend to be meaner, uglier, more morose.

You can find most all of this content on various podcasting apps if you search by title. I’m providing links to the material posted in two locations, the “practing the way” website and the “bridgetown church” website.

Practicing the Way: Introduction and Overview https://practicingtheway.org/practices/practicing-the-way

Bridgetown Church: video and audio of part 1: https://bridgetown.church/teaching/practicing-the-way/practicing-the-way/

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