Letters from Ely - Drive time

by Duane Behrens

As usual, I’d left the leaving for far too late. In order to honor previously-made work commitments, I would now have to compress 35 hours of driving into a 48 hour period. <BR><BR>Crossing into Nebraska at 2 a.m., fighting sleep and tiring of the compact disks I had with me, I turned on the radio. At this hour and in this state, the only available choices were country music or evangelical fire-and-brimstone. I listened to country music for a while, long enough to confirm that heartbreak, hard times and drinkin’ were still the driving economic force in that genre. <BR><BR>Tiring of this, I pushed the “Seek” button and landed on an evangelical station. An emotional preacher was telling an apparently large auditorium audience about the many horrors of social liberalism, women’s rights, workers’ unions, Muslims and other racial or religious minorities. In short, it was a half-hour hate fest. Oddly, it was also filled with numerous references to the “sacred state of Israel” and Israel’s absolute right to exist - and how it was America’s duty as commanded by God to defend that right by “cleansing” Iraq and other neighboring nations of all opponents, whom he loosely placed into the general category of “terrorists.” <BR><BR>(Even at 2:20 a.m., it made me wonder . . . is this why we’re over there, then? And when did the Southern Baptists - an historically WASP-ish, exclusionary group - suddenly decide to align itself with the Jewish state?) <BR><BR>Eventually, the preacher closed his sermon with the assertion that each and every one of us were by nature evil sinners. Naturally then, our only possible recourse was to repent immediately, accept the Lord Jesus Christ as our personal lord and savior, and join him in his crusade to punish any and all who do not look, think and act exactly like him or (apparently) Ariel Sharon. <BR><BR>Then he thoughtfully provided a toll-free phone number to put us in touch with a waiting staff of God’s helpers, and he directed each of us to call in with our pledge of $20 or $50 or $200 to help him carry out “God’s work.” He targeted his fundraising efforts toward “. . . those of you who are sitting alone right now, wondering if God has abandoned you. Maybe your friends have preceded you in joining the Lord, or your kids and grandkids don’t call you like they should. You need a friend and you need to PICK up that phone right now and call in your pledge - to begin your new life of healing and fellowship in the name of JEEzuz-ah!”<BR><BR>Now I was awake, thinking about this country we all call home. It is a nation in which the IRS has threatened to rescind the non-profit status of any church daring to speak out against U.S. military policy in the Middle East, even while guaranteeing tax-free status to political extremists and scam artists posing as “evangelists.” <BR><BR>I thought of the word “pornography” and wondered how the mere reference to a body part qualifies a program as “pornographic” under FCC rules while hate speech and the theft of elderly women’s Social Security checks (“in the name of JEEzuz-ah!”) does not. I thought of the many wonderful Christian men and women I’ve known, the good works they’d done, and how different these people were to the preacher I was listening to now. <BR><BR>I turned the radio off and dug into the glove box for some cigarettes I’d stashed there months ago. I lit one up, flipped on the dome light and dug into the CD box looking for anything I hadn’t listened to yet. I found Credence Clearwater’s “Who’ll Stop the Rain,” and played it twice, paying attention to the lyrics this time. Clare Torry - a guest vocalist on Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon - was next, singing something called “The Great Gig in the Sky.” Finally, I listened to the Boston Symphony’s performance of Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings.” <BR><BR>Spiritual healing is where you find it, or perhaps as you make it. Calmer now and tired, I came to a wayside rest, pulled over and stopped the car. I opened the roof, looked at the stars for awhile, then leaned back and closed my eyes. <BR><BR>Dinner at home tomorrow.