Sunday, May 25, 2008

Pentecostal to Pagan, Online Ordination, and Weddings

A few days ago one of my best friends celebrated his first wedding anniversary. It's significant to me in that I was the minister who performed the ceremony. Yep, I'm ordained, but not how you might think. It's through an organization called The Universal Life Church, who pretty much ordains anyone who asks. It also made me think about the seemingly chaotic beliefs I hold and how I got here. For a few years now I've defined myself as a “Philosophically Pagan Universalist with Wiccan influences,” which manages to confuse the shit out of people. How did I get here?

Our tale begins in the mid to late 1980's. This was back when both Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggert had been caught in elicit sexual affairs and many televangelists were getting exposed or investigated for financial fraud and otherwise being shown to not really practice what they preached. My sophomore year of high school I started dating a girl who dragged me to church every Sunday, but I really didn't see all that much difference in the way she acted than myself. We both smoked, drank, listened to “evil” heavy metal music, so the church thing, to me was just total bullshit. I was in my junior year at Terry Sanford Senior High school that I finally met a genuine Christian, even though at first I thought he was just as full of shit as the others I had met or seen on TV. So, I accepted his invitation to go to church with him (mind you, after months of him not taking my bait when I tried rag him for his 'faith' – he turned out to really have faith). So, February 1, 1989 (I only remember the date because I wrote in the back of the little green Gideon's New Testament I had at the time) I became a Christian, accepting Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior. I had faith for about two years, helped at church, volunteered for stuff, went through about three youth pastors and finally got fed up with the whole thing (I could go into a whole lot of detail about how the last youth pastor I had during that time pissed me off and how the folks who kept offering to help me with the bus ministry always managed to never have the time, but that'd take to long).

Fast forward a few years to my early twenties. I had spent a few years discovering the wonderful world of strip clubs and even 'dated' a lesbian for awhile (I say 'dated' tongue-in-cheek; she was a good friend and we had lots of fun going to the strip clubs together). In a way, she was my initial introduction to Paganism as well. She said she was a Pagan, but I had not really heard of that, other than biblical references and knowing, from the dictionary, that it meant belief in multiple deities. Until I had met Carmen, I didn't know people still engaged in such religious practices in the U.S. I don't really remember what caused me to decide to go back to church and to “rededicate my life to Christ” but around 1995ish I ended up back at Northwood Temple and in 1996, at the age of 23, enrolled at Emmanuel College to major in Biblical Studies with aspirations of becoming a full time minister. I even received a Minister's License from the North Carolina Conference of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church the summer before I began my junior year, and served as interim youth pastor at Stanley Pentecostal Holiness Church in Stanley, NC the summer before my senior year to fulfill my internship requirements. So, you see, I wasn't just a Christian, I was one of them thar holiness-right-wing-ultra-conservative-bible-thumpin'-faith-healin-tongue-speakin' types of Christians (also referred to as “Holy Rollers”). You know, the ones who are probably a minority within the whole of Christianity, but who have the biggest mouths when it comes to speaking up on what they consider to be social ills and how evil and ungodly the country is becoming. In other words, the type of Christian that typically becomes a televangelist or at least tends to support them (ironic, eh?).

At the beginning of 2000 I was getting ready to begin my second semester of my senior year, knowing that I was going to have to go back and almost completely redo the first semester as I had managed to get mostly D's in my classes. This meant that they wouldn't count as I had to have at least a C in each one since they were now all related to my major course of study. So, with my roommate getting married and moving out, causing me to have to move in with one of my managers from the grocery store I was working at, I started getting behind again only a week into the semester. The combination of working 30+ hours a week while taking 17 credit hours worth of classes is why I did so bad the fall semester, so I withdrew, with the intent of going back in the fall of 2000 and just completely redoing the entire Senior year. Well, it never happened. I ended up back in North Carolina later that year, actually around the time the fall semester would've already been underway. By the time I got back home, I had spent months carousing at strip clubs with my new roommate and his buddies and discovered that, hey, I liked strip clubs and R-rated movies and the occasional beer. But when I got back to NC, I really did try to leave that behind and actively sought positions with churches who were looking for youth pastors and/or church education directors. I resigned from the IPHC because I had pretty much decided they were to conservative for me but I still wanted to be in the ministry so I began looking for alternative ways of being licensed or ordained. That's when I discovered the Universal Life Church, which offered ordination via their website to anyone willing to click their mouse on the link. Sounded odd at the time, but I figured, why not? The fact that I'm ordained has allowed me to have the pleasure of performing wedding ceremonies for my Mom, my Aunt and my buddies Jeremiah and Robert. As far as I know, they're all legal.

As far as how I became Pagan in my beliefs, well that's kind of an interesting story. A few months after I had moved back home to North Carolina, I had met up with some folks at a bar through a mutual acquaintance. We all became great friends and formed our own little gamer group that played Dungeons & Dragons on the weekends. When we were all hanging out at the local Barnes & Noble one day, one of the girls was looking through the New Age section at the books about Wicca. I made the statement (based on the fact that I was still mildly holding on to my right-wing Christian ideals) that she needed “to leave that shit alone.” I soon found myself researching it so I could argue against it. The interesting thing is, the more I read about Wicca, and Paganism in general, the more I realized how it made sense to me and how, even in the midst of my Bible-thumping preaching days, at my core, I never really had accepted that Christianity could really be the only true faith. So, there you have it. I became Pagan; I immersed myself in it, reading anything that I could. I even managed to, eventually, find mentors that I could trust. Truth be told, now I've really become more of a Universalist. My personally held belief is “All religions and both correct and incorrect simultaneously.” Basically, if GOD is really that big, and truly transcends all time and space, and the World as we know it is so diverse of culture, then how can there only be one way to reach GOD (or whatever term you wish to apply)? Religion is man made anyway. It's really nothing more than mankind's way of trying to explain things that are observably true, but that can't be adequately explained scientifically or logically. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I think religion is total bullshit. I've personally experienced things both within Pentecostal Christianity and within Pagan practices on a spiritual level to discount either as being false or to discount any metaphysical beliefs. I'm just saying, religions in and of themselves are man made. The gods didn't invent religion, people did in an effort to understand the gods, or what they perceived to be gods or events that seemed supernatural to them. Think about, people used to worship the sun and moon; now we know the sun is a star that Earth orbits, and the moon orbits Earth. But at one time, people believed that the Sun and Moon chased each other through the sky. But that's another topic for another time, perhaps.

Well, that's a bit of a look into the man who is Carlisle, aka “Purple Scorpion”. Yeah, I could be called a dilettante of sorts, but I prefer to think of myself as multi-faceted and open to new experiences, beliefs and ideas.

I believe in the fundamental Truth of all great religions of the world. I believe they are all God given and I believe they were necessary for the people to whom these religions were revealed. And I believe that if only we could all of us read the scriptures of the different faiths from the standpoint of the followers of these faiths, we should find that they were at the bottom all one and were all helpful to one another.” - M K Gandhi

~ JC

Next Week: “Roll out the Barrel - Curbside Recycling comes to Fayetteville”

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Still Burning Bright – Ray Bradbury's Classic Novel, Fahrenheit 451

Imagine a world without libraries, without books, newspapers or magazines. Now imagine that if you owned such things that you would be arrested and all your possessions burned and you'd be carted off to prison. In the early 1950's that's exactly what Ray Bradbury did; he imagined a world like that and the result was his now classic novel, Fahrenheit 451. The premise is pretty simple, in the not so distant future, people have gradually become so apathetic toward books that the government eventually outlaws them, burns all the libraries and makes it a crime to own and read books. Firemen now start fires instead of putting them out, as they are the enforcers of this law. For one Fireman, Guy Montag, everything changes when he steals a Bible from a house that he's supposed to be helping to burn and his witnessing of one woman who refuses to go to prison and burns herself alive with her library when the Firemen come to arrest her and destroy her books. He becomes an outlaw and discovers a group of underground outcasts who have dedicated hundreds of books to memory in the hopes that one day they'll be able to help get them all printed and restored again.

I won't go into a long drawn out summary of the book. I really think you should read it for yourself. I've written in the past about my own personal library and how much I enjoy reading and how much I wish I had more time, or more discipline to make time, to read. What prompted me to read Fahrenheit 451 was a pamphlet I picked up at the local Books-A-Million. The National Endowment of the Arts has a program called The Big Read and Bradbury's novel was being featured. After reading a little bit about the book, which I had heard of but had never read, I decided to read it. While I have to admit, I find Bradbury's writing style a bit choppy and abrupt, the themes he presents in dealing with censorship and the apathy so many people have toward reading and books and our dependence on technology to the point that we never seem to take time to observe the things around us is spot on. It's almost eerie how a novel originally published in 1953 so accurately captures attitudes and technological advances that we have or on the verge of now. While it's doubtful, in this day and age of mega-bookstores and, not to mention the constant whining about freedom of speech, press and religion that comes along every election year, that a future like the one presented in Fahrenheit 451 could ever come about, it's still a very thought provoking novel. It's also made me want to read more of the classics (not that I'm about to give up my fantasy and science-fiction novels – come to think of it, Bradbury is a science-fiction author, so with Fahrenheit 451 I got both sci-fi and classic literature in one; SWEET!)

Read a book. Any book – even the trashy romance novels will do. We spend so much time wasting away in front of televisions and computer monitors these days. I've found so much more joy in reading at times. The stories are more compelling, the characters more well developed, no commercials, and you don't have to have a VCR or DVR if you're going out of town because you can take the book with you. Find something you like; romance, science-fiction, fantasy, mystery, westerns, horror, biographies, history, et cetera, ad nauseum. Anyone can find something to read that will interest and inspire them. I hated to read when I was younger, now I almost prefer to read than watch the crappy reality shows on TV. So, check out your local bookstores and let's not let the future in Fahrenheit 451 ever come to pass.

~ JC

Next week: no catchy title yet, but I plan to talk a little on how I went from Pentecostal to Pagan, became a ULC minister and the weddings I've performed

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Just How Stupid Have We Become?

I've often said to my fiancée that when/if we have children I think we should home school them. Why? Because I take note of how ignorant the kids of today seem to be of simple facts, or at least things I would think would be considered simple facts. I have customers almost everyday who need help with their electronic devices, mainly because they won't read the instructions and try to figure it out for themselves. No one thinks for themselves anymore. They want the answers handed to them or for someone to do it for them. We talk, now, about how kids graduate high school without some of the most basic skills. I have a friend who teaches civics and history on the high school level, and I remember him talking about how all the school board cares about is the students passing the End of Grade Tests. He showed me, once, some of the quizzes that he had given while doing his student teaching, and I was amazed at how stupid some of the answers were.

But as much as the generation coming behind me scares the shit out of me because they so obviously don't care or don't know how to think, or are so quick to believe a single person/group without trying to examine all the facts for themselves, I wonder about my own generation. I stumbled upon what was a End of Grade Exam from 1895 for the 8th Grade. I'm college educated. There was quite a bit of stuff on this exam that I didn't even know what it was talking about, let alone being able to answer it. Have we really been dumbed down that much in the last 100+ years of American public education? We already have forgotten how to speak and write proper English and “text speak” is even creeping into college term papers instead of whole sentences. Take a look at the 8th Grade Final Exam below and see how well you can do. Afterwards, think about how your great-grandparents or perhaps even your grandparents may have mentioned how they never finished school beyond the 8th or 9th grade. Still think you're more educated than them? You're probably not. Thanks to our public school system, we've all become stupid.

8th Grade Final Exam: Salina, KS - 1895

Grammar (Time, one hour)

1. Give nine rules for the use of capital letters.

2. Name the parts of speech and define those that have no modifications.

3. Define verse, stanza and paragraph

4. What are the principal parts of a verb? Give principal parts of "lie," "play," and "run."

5. Define case; illustrate each case.

6 What is punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of punctuation.

7 - 10. Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you understand the practical use of the rules of grammar.

Arithmetic (Time,1 hour 15 minutes)

1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.

2. A wagon box is 2 ft. Deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. Wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?

3. If a load of wheat weighs 3,942 lbs., what is it worth at 50cts/bushel, deducting 1,050 lbs. For tare?

4. District No 33 has a valuation of $35,000. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at $50 per month, and have $104 for incidentals?

5. Find the cost of 6,720 lbs. Coal at $6.00 per ton.

6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent.

7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft. Long at $20 per meter?

8. Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent.

9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance of which is 640 rods?

10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt

U.S. History (Time, 45 minutes)

1. Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided

2. Give an account of the discovery of America by Columbus

3. Relate the causes and results of the Revolutionary War.

4. Show the territorial growth of the United States

5. Tell what you can of the history of Kansas .

6. Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.

7. Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton , Bell , Lincoln , Penn, and Howe?

8. Name event s connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, 1865.

Orthography (Time, one hour)

1. What is meant by the following: alphabet, phonetic, orthography, etymology, syllabication

2. What are elementary sounds? How classified?

3. What are the following, and give examples of each: trigraph, subvocals, diphthong, cognate letters, linguals

4. Give four substitutes for caret 'u.'

5. Give two rules for spelling words with final 'e.' Name two exceptions under each rule.

6. Give two uses of silent letters in spelling. Illustrate each.

7. Define the following prefixes and use in connection with a word: bi, dis-mis, pre, semi, post, non, inter, mono, sup.

8. Mark diacritically and divide into syllables the following, and name the sign that indicates the sound: card, ball, mercy, sir, odd, cell, rise, blood, fare, last.

9. Use the following correctly in sentences: cite, site, sight, fane, fain, feign, vane , vain, vein, raze, raise, rays.

10. Write 10 words frequently mispronounced and indicate pronunciation by use of diacritical marks and by syllabication.

Geography (Time, one hour)

1 What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?

2. How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas?

3. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?

4. Describe the mountains of North America

5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia, Odessa, Denver, Manitoba, Hecla, Yukon, St. Helena, Juan Fernandez, Aspinwall and Orinoco .

6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S.

7. Name all the republics of Europe and give the capital of each.

8. Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?

9. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers.

10. Describe the movements of the earth. Give the inclination of the earth.

So, how did you do? Frankly, regarding the section on Orthography, I don't even know what the hell that is! Isn't it amazing that we live in the “information age” with the Internet and World Wide Web at our finger tips, and yet we know less rather than more?


Next week: “Still Burning Bright – Ray Bradbury's Classic Novel Fahrenheit 451

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Carlisle's Bucket List

In 2007, a film came out staring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman called The Bucket List. The basic premise of the film was that the two main characters, one of whom is an eccentric millionaire, have both been diagnosed with terminal diseases and have a very short time left to live. So, together they create a “bucket list” - a list of all the things they'd like to do before they “kick the bucket.” It seems to have inspired others to create their own “bucket list” of things to do before they “shuffle of the mortal coil,” “become worm food,” “croak,” “meet their maker,” etc. What put me in mind of this was my buddy Jimmy, author of the blog Jabberwocky Asylum, who recently posted a list entitled “Before you Die!!” which is his list of ten random things everyone should do at least once in their lifetime.

So, here's mine – at least for now. I'm sure it'll get added to, subtracted from, edited and possibly even have a few things checked off (I hope) before I head off to Summerland especially since I'm not dying (that I know of). Oh, and I should mention that they're in no particular order.

  • visit Stonehenge

  • make a pilgrimage to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

  • visit a foreign country (Canada counts)

  • attend a NHL Stanley Cup playoff game (I've been to a NHL regular season game, just not a playoff game)

  • shoot Par for an entire round of golf

  • play golf on a course that's been played on either the PGA or LPGA Tour

  • play golf at Augusta National in Augusta, GA (where they play The Masters every year)

  • play golf with Tiger Woods or Natalie Gulbis (maybe one of them can teach me how not to slice my drives)

  • write a novel/book

  • have something I've written published

  • get Duff Goldman to make me a cake (preferably my wedding and/or groom's cake)

  • have a party (wedding?) catered by an Iron Chef (my favorites are Mario Batali and Michael Symon)

  • have a party catered by Robert Irvine (even though he lied on his resumé, he's still a freakin' awesome chef)

  • attend a Broadway play/musical on actual Broadway in New York City

  • be in Times Square on a New Year's Eve

  • go to DisneyLand (in Anaheim, CA) or DisneyWorld (in Orlando, FL)

  • appear in a movie (even as an extra would be cool)

  • win a sweepstakes or lottery (at least enough to pay off my debts but enough to do some of the other stuff on this list would be even better)

  • play in an officially sanctioned Magic: The Gathering® tournament

  • get married (we've been engaged for almost 5 years; maybe we'll get married before I die)

  • Collect and read all the books in the Magic: The Gathering® series of novels [in progress – to date I have collected 31 of them, and read two]

  • Take a tour of the White House

  • Visit and tour The Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC

These are just some of the things I've thought of while working on this week's blog entry. Feel free to share some of your “bucket list” items.

~ JC

Upcoming topics: Curbside Recycling Comes to Fayetteville, book review(s), movie review(s), and whatever other weird shit my mind thinks up.