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Friday, July 13, 2012

pesudo gonzo experiences - revised edition

During my year in school i rewrote my blog post about my times at the bible school, and thought it would be a good idea to post the revised edition because i believe it is exponentially better.  so here it is, enjoy:

Experiences as a pseudo Gonzo reporter from the heart of the Protestant establishment
July 30th 2011- Day 1
After driving for almost 7 hours I decided to head towards the Rocky Mountain National Forest where I could to spend another pleasant night of bliss and solitude in my tent. Only after deciding on a destination had I noticed, maybe for the first time since getting into Colorado, how the dark jagged rock conveyed a message of ruthlessness and cruelty while still having a tender appeal. Millions of years had brought this single speck of the vast Rocky Mountains to its present state, but that same rock seemed so numb and disregarding of the human history and its attempts to conquer a mountain that has, and always will be, unwilling to be subjugated to such an unworthy force. How these rocks were a force to be reckoned with I found out shortly when I discovered that the forest road was inaccessible. It was not designed for my little Nissan Sentra to pass through. Somewhat frustrated and extremely hungry, I started driving around looking for a place to put my tent up for the night. I wasn’t at all looking forward to my usual dinner for one of bland Ramen noodles and Texturized Vegetable Protein, which is as plain, tasteless, and dull as it sounds. But I had become accustomed to my late night travel diet of the past two months. Since I had started this trip, I set myself a budget of 5 dollars a day, and it was enough to satisfy my hunger, though it was nourishment without any significant taste.
I drove around for a while looking for a nice person to ask if I could just set up my tent in their backyard for the night. Coming from Israel less than a year ago, I had learned by now how these Americans have issues with private property and trespassing, and I did not want to get shot during the night. I drove up a hill where I saw some lights, and a sign saying Bible School and Camp. Clint,  strikingly blonde, possessing younger features and an old man’s expression, introduced himself to me with a pleasant smile. His clean cut figure of noticeably pressed jeans and a freshly trimmed beard was encircled by a hoard of teenage disciples bearing the same appearance. It seemed not only a contrast, but an emphasis of how out of place my neglected long-hair and obvious derelict appearance appeared in such a clean cut surrounding. He asked me what I was looking for and I explained that I was looking for the National Forest. When I think of it now, I’m surprised that the contrast of appearance, although being acknowledged by both sides , didn’t get in the way of a flourishing conversation.  I guess that between being Jewish, and from Israel and my random or divine arrival (depending on your personal point of view) at a bible school, I can now understand how only several minutes into the conversation I was offered dinner. “Free dinner” I said half to myself, but apparently out loud “, I can never say no to that.”
Clint, my newly acquainted host, came out apologetically with a plate of lukewarm Bratwurst sausages, mildly overdone, and some cold, runny mashed potatoes on the side. The mere sight of the plate had excited my rumbling bowls, demanding that I finally conform to its delayed requests. Although I knew in my mind, that the cold and liquid texture of the mashed potatoes was not how they were supposed to be served, my intestines made no such distinctions. Both my mind and my body were truly grateful for real meat and a wholesome dinner, I expressed my joy by flashing a shy smile between bites of the tepid sausage, devouring everything on my plate.
While seated on the small stool, randomly placed for me outside the kitchen, an array of eager and perplexed smiles were shot in my way from the young disciples.  In what seemed to me an attempt to keep me engaged, Clint introduced me to Drew, a young minister at the school.  His subtle flamboyance,  and prominent masculine jaw seemed to contrast the calm and inviting demeanor with which he approached our conversation.  Within minutes of explaining Christianity to a non-believer such as myself, he had compared homosexuality with stealing, and proclaimed  both a sin. I attempted to nod silently and hide the rage I felt inside for expressing such an outrageous opinion so overtly. But I was his guest, and I felt it would be slightly impolite to express my gratitude for dinner with uncontrollable fury. But most of all, I was still hoping to be fed some more.  During the conversation I was gradually able to put aside the shocking comparison and engaged the unknown and curious topic of Christian theology. I debated the obviously biased information I was receiving from Drew, on two different levels. The first volley was the array of questions and answers I was conducting with Drew. This was on a superficial level. At the same time I was also maintaining a completely contradictory debate with myself. I Doubted every single word Drew spoke and reconstructed it to appease my sacrilegious attitude, which I had assembled for the past 27 years of my life. Later, while taking a shower in the room they put me in, I decided to turn this experience into a game. I named it “My secret investigations as a pseudo Gonzo reporter from the heart of the protestant establishment.”.  As a self proclaimed reporter, from that point on I was obliged to further engage my hosts,  a difficult task that was eased by my genuine interest in the topic.
 Drew, a self proclaimed messenger of God, “had been given God’s gift to teach and speak” and the conversation continued without even a pause. When I asked about the Mormons I had recently visited in Salt Lake City he explained to me that “Those quacks aren’t really Christian.  They think of themselves as becoming God through God’s work. Those Psychos.” I was disinclined to explain to him that the notion of Jesus existing in you, thus creating the holy trinity, which he had been explaining to me for the past 45 minutes, sounded as insane as becoming a God.  However the Gonzo edict prevented me from speaking my mind . The code of Gonzo Journalism which I was only vaguely familiar with, is to get involved and to become part of the group which you are studying and to report from within. Drew told me about the men’s convention going on this weekend and invited me to stay for the weekend. Assuming a positive answer, he added that there would be coffee and cake at the morning lecture, and, if I wanted, he could get me a bed. As I have already mentioned, I took him up on that offer. I wasn’t sure if they were trying to evangelize me, well actually, of course they were.  But I was sure they did not understand with whom they were dealing. So tomorrow I think I will have more to report on. But I must get some rest in order to further prepare for a new day of intellectual battles that will take place apparently only in my own mind. Which is exactly how I like them.
Until tomorrow,
I. N. Trigue. (My new gonzo name)

July 31st 2011 – Day 2
The lecture started on the second day explaining to us how we are all fallen and sinful beings by nature and about bringing Christ into our lives. While reminding myself of my job as a pseudo- Gonzo journalist, I tried to ask only tactful, intelligent questions, so as to not give away my secret mission. I joined the group for morning coffee and cake after the service. Although my stomach was still somewhat aching from yesterday’s unexpected dinner, the temptation of a hot beverage prepared by someone other than myself was greater than my commanding innards. The cake, effortlessly mounded on a plain table seemed to be taken for granted by all participants but myself.  The sweet bite of chocolate was almost overwhelming, exploding in my mouth, pounding against, what seemed like every taste bud in existence. I tried my best to veil my excitement while I talked to the people present, telling them stories of my travels, and replying to their various questions about the place I call home, referred to by them as the Holy Land.
As I sat there, surrounded by true believers for the first time in my life (well, true believers of Jesus Christ, “our Lord and Savior”), I further pursued my investigations.  I tried to figure out the design, the master plan behind this faith that created an enslaving system for people of intelligence.  This dude, Jesus, whom they had accepted into their lives has saved them, but how does that work? Even if I were to believe that Jesus did walk among us as a man, I still believed that there had to be a design that turned this simple man’s life into a religion.  I was determined to discover the mechanism that transformed John, who was praying on his knees bedside me, into an imprisoned man of faith.  
Being unfamiliar with the theology of Christianity, I felt the need to constantly gather basic information in order to decipher the system.  “So, how is it again that Jesus atones for our sins?” I asked for the fourth time in the last two days.  I decided to take my notes in Hebrew, in case one of my convention peers decided to peep at them. “Jesus has taken upon himself all of our sins, and so to be grateful for that. We will desire to be more Christ like ourselves,” I translated them back to English in my thoughts.  The goal as I understood it, was to intrinsically create a desire to constantly better yourself. 
My mind could not keep up with the pace of what I had perceived as old wives tales, and I started desperately to look forward to dinner. Clint had informed me of the menu, and I lusted for that meal to arrive. An abundance of baby back ribs, appropriately hot and solid mashed potatoes this time, and crispy fresh salad.  Trying not to drool, I allowed my mind to wander to the lusciousness that will arrive only later . This thought alone allowed my body and mind to bear for only a few more hours what had become a burdensome and tedious day of evangelism and fairy tales.
When the day had come to an end and I finally crawled into bed, I was tired but with a full belly. I pondered if I had it in me to complete my mission, or whether I should just gather my belongings and quietly hop into my car and leave. Was the price I was paying for these scrumptious meals higher than I had expected in the first place?  Was this really a “free” meal?  Only moments before my sleep deprived eyes shut for the night, I came to the resolution that I must finish what I had started.

August 1st – Day 3
On the morning of my third day at bible camp, I started to feel numb. I was getting bored with their futile attempts to brainwash me by drilling repetitive ideas into my mind. “Accept Christ into your life, submit yourself to Christ, real control of your life can come only through acceptance of Christ,  bla bla bla.” The zeal with which I had started this mission was diminished, it ceased to be an inner battle of good and evil.  It even stopped being interesting and I just wanted it to end.  I checked my e-mail on my phone every 3 minutes. Still nothing.  My thoughts were more about the social struggle that had started in Israel only weeks ago, and less about my own redemption. Flipping through the Bible I had been handed, I started reading the Book of Daniel, thinking about an album by an Israeli artist who attempted to reinterpret the Holy Book.  I pondered on how it was not the Word, the Holy Gospel, or the Bible that makes it relevant to so many people’s lives, but rather the modern interpretations.  The artist, Meir Ariel, created an astonishing interpretation of the Book of Daniel making it relevant to modern society and to my life. Allan, the Pastor attempted similarly to preach to us on how Psalms 21:16 (or whatever random verse he chose at that moment) was relevant to his followers.  My Gonzo conclusions had started to take shape. Using up-to-date methods, you can use anything as an analogy in order to portray a message. 
My wandering thoughts returned to the latest Harry Potter movie I had just seen, and I started to imagine myself using these methods to create a Harry Potter religion.  “I’m sure that there are enough “verses” in seven volumes of Harry Potter” I thought to myself  “to be reinterpreted as messages of prophecy, salvation and redemption.” I saw myself, for a moment, standing on a podium in a great hall, with stained glass windows, and the image of Daniel Radcliff waving his wand sculptured above me. “Would Everyone please open Deathly Hallows chapter 34.” I would say to my followers, “What does Nagini, the snake, represent in your lives? Who here has battled their inner Nagini, been tempted by the forces of darkness? What allowed Harry to overcome his doubt in himself?” I would call it “The Church of Harry Potter our Modern Day Metaphorical Savior” and it would be my own little social experiment that would lose control within a matter of months, and perhaps turn into a “real” religion.
“Are you all stupid?”I wanted to yell at the people beside me. My mind ceased wandering, and returned to the people in my vicinity. I resented them more as I understood more, and turned angrier as I learned to accept the fundamental difference between us.  I regard my faith in myself as a strength, and they regard it as a weakness.
“ Would you mind if I prayed for you so that God will bring hard times on you, and you fall down on your knees, begging to accept Jesus Christ as your true savior?,” Drew asked me at the lunch table while we were chowing down on succulent steak and French fries (which I had come to accept as a standard meal by now).  I looked at Drew straight in the eye, with all the arrogance, pride and contempt I could find in a single glance and replied solemnly “You’re more than welcome to”. At that moment, at our last supper, I decided to reveal for the first time a little more of my unrevealed irreverence towards their version of Christianity. “I take my own future into my own hands, and my good deeds are mine, and mine only. I am not fallen or sinful and why should I waste my time on thoughts of after life, when people here and now in this life, need my attention, help and interest.” My blasphemous rant was cut short by Clint,   “But what do you have to lose?” he asked as the conversation slowly evolved into an interrogation. I started to enjoy myself, feeling awakened from my mind’s earlier numbness. “If you’re doing good deeds anyway, why not accept Christ into your life, and then if there is eternity you won’t burn in hell.  But if you’re wrong and there is a God, and you don’t accept him into your life, aren’t you scared of burning in hell for all eternity? That’s quite a price to pay.”  It sounded so rational, so solemn in its core belief, what do I have to lose?  It was in that instant, that I felt like leaping onto the table, painted in blue and reenacting Mel Gibson in the movie “Braveheart.” I pictured myself standing on top of a grassy, lush hill while being shot by gleaming arrows and roaring at the top of my lungs “FREEEDOOOM!”-all I have to lose is my freedom and the sovereignty over my life.  That’s not too big a price to pay, is it?  But I just smiled politely, reminding myself of my reporter decree , and said, “I’m just not ready to let go of that yet.”
As I left their property, feeling relieved that I had accomplished what I had set out to do, I thanked my hosts sincerely for their hospitality. As I got into my car to start driving into Rocky Mt. National Park, I noticed that someone had left me a copy of the New Testament on my windshield.  Only then did I fully recognize that they saw our encounter as a battle just as much as I did.  The only difference in our approaches was that they tried to save me from eternal hell, whereas I had no presumptions of that sort.  I tested my faith, and I overcame.
Singing quietly to myself “We shall overcome…,” changing it after a couple of verses to “I have overcame” since I was alone, I turned on my I-pod and played Meir Ariel, and listened to the only interpretation of the Bible I actually appreciated. 
It turned out that the meals were free.
I smiled. 

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