Cascadian Spirituality

I should not have been so naïve to think a post that referenced religion would have gone by without someone reacting as if I’d just stabbed a pig. But add Facebook and the culture of narcissism and you get camps and an internet sh*tstorm. What I get though, is clarity in my own thinking and a deeper understanding of the cultural mores of Cascadia, especially as it regards matters of spirituality. The offending post:

Map Most Religious

Those sympathetic to the post, who either do not identify with a religion, or don’t OVER-identify with one, were quick to add their takes, rooting on Maine (#48) or expressing pride in this achievement, but when one commenter pointed out the relation between those religious states and rates of obesity and lower I.Q.’s, that they appeared to be connected, the holy water hit the fan. The thread was described as “bigoted, small minded elitism masquerading as liberal thought” and “irresponsible.” There was no attempt to address the correlation drawn by the previous poster, just the insults. And there is something about the thread being on MY wall that made me feel like a certain amount of decorum was required. I see it as if someone came into a conversation in which I was involved, not knowing who I was talking to (not being a friend or even an acquaintance with those around me) and just popping off. And then his friend arrived, with more courtesy, but still likening certain comments about religion in out thread to someone expressing homophobia. Problem is you can quit a religion, but you can’t quit being gay. Gay people do not try to “convert” Episcopalians to homosexuality (not without liquor anyway) or tell them they are dirty sinners who are doomed to hell if they are religious, so the analogy does not work. A suggestion that they take a page out of Buddhism and experience the joy of non-attachment was not well-received either.

Part of one of my posts was:

…We are not religious in this state and less so in Seattle. We take it as a matter of pride, for many reasons. Two are represented here on this thread. Religion has been justified to enslave Africans (as President Obama astutely pointed out), to lynch people and to terrorize Queer people. So you can see how some folks in my circles would be happy that we’re less religious here, would be drawn to a place where they would not have to deal with as many “religious types.” Those who talk about Jesus, but do not emulate him. But that does not mean we’re less spiritual here. The war in Iraq/Afghanistan and elsewhere, the so-called “war on terror” was launched by George W. Bush and his Christian advisors and called “a crusade.” Essentially a Holy War. With spiritual warfare, the battle is with one’s lower impulses, not with an artificially created “other” and not by bombing wedding parties, torturing and any number of atrocities this country and other so-called Christian countries have engaged in, usually against people of color. Count Israel’s war against Palestine as an example of a war fueled by religious differences as well as fanatical Muslim jihads. No one is asking you or anyone else to give up their faith. We do not want it thrown in our faces, and if used to justify hateful acts (as it has for centuries) we’ll call bullshit on “religious types” again and again. Carl Sandburg’s poem “To a Contemporary Bunkshooter” calls bullshit on the “fake Christians of his day, a century ago. _________ was pointing out the FACT that states with higher rates of religion also have higher rates of obesity and lower average I.Q.’s That she makes these links may seem unfair to you, but they are well-known facts and her supposition is that there is a link. You can disagree, but it’s her view and I see no need to delete her comment, nor am I offended by it, but I do not identify with a religion. If you can’t separate these kinds of criticisms from your own feeling of religion, she must be hitting a nerve and maybe you ought to consider a Buddhist notion and that being one of attachment and the extra suffering it causes. Just because she makes the link does not mean you have to accept it. I am drawn to a place that values spirituality over a high percentage of people who identify with a religion and a bumper sticker I saw out here many years ago said: “JESUS! (protect me from your followers.)”

And it just so happens that a post about my late friend Beaver Chief hits the top ten on this blog again. In segment two of the interview featured here he states that it is well-known throughout the continent and the world that Seattle and Cascadia as the last bastion of “spiritual medicine.” http://paulenelson.com/2014/03/19/seattle-cascadia-last-stronghold-for-spiritual-medicine/ It is late in the segment that he says this, but the whole interview was quite interesting to me and is likely a huge source for how I look at spiritual matters. These notions have a way of getting into my poems like 72. Moss Spruce Cedar Cathedral.

And so it goes. I’ll be sure to try to make peace with those I seem to have offended, take to heart their criticisms and, in the future, remember about the topics that are sure to touch a nerve. Now on to Sandburg. Forgive the poor linebreaks.

54. To a Contemporary Bunkshooter
YOU come along … tearing your shirt … yelling about Jesus.
    Where do you get that stuff?
    What do you know about Jesus?
Jesus had a way of talking soft and outside of a few bankers and higher-ups among the con men of Jerusalem everybody liked to have this Jesus around because he never made any fake passes and everything he said went and he helped the sick and gave the people hope.
You come along squirting words at us, shaking your fist and calling us all dam fools so fierce the froth slobbers over your lips… always blabbing we’re all going to hell straight off and you know all about it.         5
I’ve read Jesus’ words. I know what he said. You don’t throw any scare into me. I’ve got your number. I know how much you know about Jesus.
He never came near clean people or dirty people but they felt cleaner because he came along. It was your crowd of bankers and business men and lawyers hired the sluggers and murderers who put Jesus out of the running.
I say the same bunch backing you nailed the nails into the hands of this Jesus of Nazareth. He had lined up against him the same crooks and strong-arm men now lined up with you paying your way.
This Jesus was good to look at, smelled good, listened good. He threw out something fresh and beautiful from the skin of his body and the touch of his hands wherever he passed along.
You slimy bunkshooter, you put a smut on every human blossom in reach of your rotten breath belching about hell-fire and hiccupping about this Man who lived a clean life in Galilee.         10
When are you going to quit making the carpenters build emergency hospitals for women and girls driven crazy with wrecked nerves from your gibberish about Jesus—I put it to you again: Where do you get that stuff; what do you know about Jesus?
Go ahead and bust all the chairs you want to. Smash a whole wagon load of furniture at every performance. Turn sixty somersaults and stand on your nutty head. If it wasn’t for the way you scare the women and kids I’d feel sorry for you and pass the hat.
I like to watch a good four-flusher work, but not when he starts people puking and calling for the doctors.
I like a man that’s got nerve and can pull off a great original performance, but you—you’re only a bug-house peddler of second-hand gospel—you’re only shoving out a phoney imitation of the goods this Jesus wanted free as air and sunlight.
You tell people living in shanties Jesus is going to fix it up all right with them by giving them mansions in the skies after they’re dead and the worms have eaten ’em.         15
You tell $6 a week department store girls all they need is Jesus; you take a steel trust wop, dead without having lived, gray and shrunken at forty years of age, and you tell him to look at Jesus on the cross and he’ll be all right.
You tell poor people they don’t need any more money on pay day and even if it’s fierce to be out of a job, Jesus’ll fix that up all right, all right—all they gotta do is take Jesus the way you say.
I’m telling you Jesus wouldn’t stand for the stuff you’re handing out. Jesus played it different. The bankers and lawyers of Jerusalem got their sluggers and murderers to go after Jesus just because Jesus wouldn’t play their game. He didn’t sit in with the big thieves.
I don’t want a lot of gab from a bunkshooter in my religion.
I won’t take my religion from any man who never works except with his mouth and never cherishes any memory except the face of the woman on the American silver dollar.         20
I ask you to come through and show me where you’re pouring out the blood of your life.
I’ve been to this suburb of Jerusalem they call Golgotha, where they nailed Him, and I know if the story is straight it was real blood ran from His hands and the nail-holes, and it was real blood spurted in red drops where the spear of the Roman soldier rammed in between the ribs of this Jesus of Nazareth.

Map of Obesity Rates by State

States with Low I.Q.

About Splabman

SPLAB and Cascadia Poetry Festival founder Paul E Nelson wrote American Sentences (Apprentice House, 2015), Organic Poetry (VDM Verlag, Germany, 2008), a serial poem re-enacting the history of Auburn, Washington, A Time Before Slaughter (Apprentice House, 2010) and Organic in Cascadia: A Sequence of Energies (Lumme, Brazil, 2013). Founder of the Cascadia Poetry Festival, in 26 years of radio he interviewed Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, Anne Waldman, Sam Hamill, Robin Blaser, Nate Mackey, Eileen Myles, Wanda Coleman, Brenda Hillman, George Bowering, Joanne Kyger, Jerome Rothenberg & others, including many Cascadia poets. He lives in Seattle and writes at least one American Sentence every day. http://www.PaulENelson.com. Co-Editor of Make It True: Poetry From Cascadia, he is in year five of a twenty year Cascadia Bioregional Cultural Investigation. www.CascadiaPoetryFestival.org (Oct 12-15, 2017, Tacoma, WA)
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5 Responses to Cascadian Spirituality

  1. Jack Large says:

    As fine a bit of sacred cow-punching as I’m likely to come across again real soon. The “religion” of those who feel driven to defend it by spewing defensive insults is usually in such desperate need of it that no amount of defense is likely to be sufficient unto it.

  2. Paul: Interesting shstrm, BUT….

    If you wish to move beyond cliches and bigotry, and get more grounded in
    the actual religious situation here, talk w/ me–as the most expert in the religious historical demography of the PNW (Canada is a different situation)…. As someone professionally
    trained in the Sociology of Religion and Culture w/ a historical understanding, I can give a
    deeper interpretive perspective on the facts over time….

    David McCloskey

  3. Splabman says:

    “You just go on your nerve. If someone’s chasing you down the street with a knife you just run, you don’t turn around and shout, “Give it up! I was a track star for Mineola Prep.” ” – Frank O’Hara

  4. mamamystic says:

    It really was an epic Facebook thread. <3

  5. paulenelson says:

    Douglass Todd in the Vancouver Sun has an angle similar to the one I offered, with more detail on what is uniquely Cascadian. http://www.vancouversun.com/health/Douglas+Todd+laws+rooted+West+Coast+views/10812168/story.html

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