MANIFESTO: The Moderately Mad Preacher Liberation Front (with apologizes and gratitude to Wendell Berry)

I came to know God through people,
(How else does one come to know God?
We are not born with a knowledge of the divine.)

Methodist people,
taught me their vision of God,
a God of America, Jesus, and Jesse Helms,
but under the steeple,
where they confirmed,
and a Bible they gave,
I started to read
and my stomach churned.
This was not a God
In whom I
naturally believed.
But this was in the past
And was I told I must,
Keep calm and carry on,
context was everything.

After all,
in whom did I trust?
In Jesus Christ and his righteousness.
We weren’t literalists,
or fundamentalist nuts
.
But it was there,
in the text.
It bothered,
I was scared.
I didn’t know how to answer
For a God who didn’t care
about
Amalekites
chattel slavery
or human rights.
Israel’s God, the Canaanite Sky God,
El, Elohim, El-Shaddai,
The God of Horeb, Sinai
Smoke, Thunder,
Promises and Death,
Restoration and Renewal
,
Silence and questions,
Religion taken for granted,
Accepted at the value
Of God’s unseen face.


Twenty-plus years later,
I can’t keep up the pace.
I’m on running fumes, Maverick.
My answers are contrived,
sometimes nonexistent,
often delayed and hesitant.
My family doesn’t want to go to church,
with those think themselves exempt
who say they love their neighbors but still show contempt.

Who are my neighbors,
that came to know God,
who read single verses,
and became irate?
Who told them this was okay?
Sinners in the hands of angry teachers,
and they came to know,
the same God?
No!
The God I thought I knew?
None of us do.
We are all making it up
as we go along.

Tell no one, or we’re all through.

The Levitical priests in the 8th century BCE
who carved words
for illiterate shepherds who to read
They, too, were wrong:
To ban loving relationships between people of same gender,
To tell me that I can’t order my shrimp extremely tender,
To prevent me from ordering a sweater with a blend of polyester.
But the next chapter tells me to love my neighbor.
The Book of Leviticus says all four,
Why do we pick one to enforce and another to ignore?
Is it just to be mean?
Despite humanity’s many valedictions,
United Methodists have never learned to live
among the Bible’s most common contradictions.
That reality has killed us.
Now I am alone
standing in the pulpit,
staring at the pew,
where my wife and daughters once sat,
wondering how long it will be,
before I, too, will leave?


Will I have a home in a broken UMC?
Will it be worth it to remain?
I know what they say,
just when I’m almost out of pain,
someone offers to top me up.
And here we are again.
Despite any vote,
that goes for or against, up or down, left or right
we’ll all have to pay.
When will I stop preaching sermons that I hope will not offend,
or be misconstrued
but encourage us to face scriptural contradictions with faith, not fear,
and examine the injustices printed in our “perfect” Book,
“condoned” by our God, hiding within?
Will I ever stop feeling like a fraud,
giving weekly lip service to the God
so many of my sisters and brothers came to know and will not shake?
No one wants to hear the other side of the story.
I am fighting a losing battle.
I know when I’m licked.
I’m pretty well close to done.
I’ll call a one-man, one-vote, disaffiliation conference.
Then we’ll see.
Tick-tock, tick-tock.

–Richard Bryant

E-Flat Major (A Poem)

Photo by Steve Johnson on Pexels.com

No matter what time of day
I still hear the notes
I cannot play
without the pain
Of the ruler
coming down
upon my knuckles,
the Thumping sound
sharp aches
hurting pride
no matter how
hard I try
I still hold
E flat major
in my soul.
My fingers move
as far as they can,
and I hear the chord
in my hands.

–Richard Bryant

Stop This Crazy Thing: A Disaffiliation Prayer-Poem and Statement of Faith

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

God is (somewhere)

Jesus is (love)

Jesus is not (the guy in your stained-glass window)

Faith is (hard)

Belief is (harder than faith)

God is not (a problem to be solved)

Faith is not (an either/or proposition)

Belief is not (perfect)

Scripture is (words)

Prayer is (more listening, less speaking)

Scripture is not (words taken out of context)

Prayer is not (a list of demands)

We are on our religious high horses.

We are not who we think we are.

Christianity is flawed.

Christianity is not what Jesus intended.

The Bible is a collection of history, poetry, myths, stories, and songs.

The Bible is not one book.

Fundamentalism is alienating those seeking Christian communities.

Fundamentalism is not what Jesus intended.

Selective Biblical literalism has been used to justify slavery, the oppression of women, and genocide.

Selective Biblical literalism is not Biblical.

Scriptural authority is a phrase most often used by authoritarians.

Scriptural authority is not a phrase that fosters honest dialogue.

These polarities ARE tearing us, me, and congregations APART.

Before, I am LAID upon the ALTAR of DENOMINATIONAL DISARRAY

Before I DISAFFILIATE from my SOUL, I ask,

I paraphrase the words of George Jetson,

“Stop THIS CRAZY thing.”

–Richard Bryant

My Lost Snoopy Sock (A Poem)

I’ve found my lost Snoopy sock,

It wasn’t permanently lost,

Nor was it where I thought,

It appeared this morning,

In plain sight,

When I put on my shirt,

Hiding in my sleeve,

Out it popped in my hand,

I held my sock,

Right there, untorn,

In a lovely ball, reborn

For only me to see.

I’m as happy

As I can be.

–Richard Bryant

The Evolution of Ho, Ho, Ho (A Poem)

He he,
He haw,
Miss MinnHEPearl.
No.
He hi,
Hi he,
Ho hi,
Hi ho,
Ho he,
He ho,
Ho, ho, hi
‘ve got the world on a string,
sitting on a reindeer,
Hi, ho, hum,
Ho, hum, he,
Ho, hi, ho,
Hi, ho, hi, ho,
it’s off to gift we go,
no. No. NO.
Ho, ho, ho?
Yes, we go, go go.

–Richard Bryant

Publicity Photos

I’m just saying,
those publicity photos on the wall,
will not do at all,
I’m just saying,
the 80’s called,
they want their stringy hair back,
the late 70’s called,
those faux dusters still look slack,
the misspelled names department phoned,
the wampum, hawgs, and dawgs have all gone home,
I’m just saying,
these goatees will not do,
the bad facial hair department called you,
you might want to take these down too,
I’m just saying,
the next time they call,
tell them you’re already on the 21st-century ball.

–Richard Bryant

 

*image courtesy Trip Advisor

The Late Modern Produce Machine

 

Bienvenue to the
produce machine.
I am broke do tell,
even today,
because I can’t spell:
zookene,
maters,
bale peprs,
taters,
hallo peno peprs,
or
them small blak things,
I confuse with large flies,
that look something like,
Little gray paes with black eyes.

–Richard Bryant

Riding a Smith Corona

These Keys Are Not Black. Feel Free to Grasp the Irony.

Riding a Smith Corona

I am riding words up and down,
the Holy Street called Walker;
sitting atop the shiny Black Keys,
of my only Smith Corona,
until I’m brought low,
and make the turn,
unable to shift and go,
living in lower case,
words seem so wearisome,
uneven and misaligned.
is this a poetic outcome?

–Richard Bryant