7:59 AM – Chicken Dinner eats his bed. Insert teeth. Pull. And doggie-bed innards scatter on his chin and in the air. It’s a gruesome display. But I’m determined to teach this little bugger to be dainty. To treat his bed lovingly, not abusively. Pug-dogs are a rough breed. Their innate doggie-bed gentleness amputated at the snout. We’ll restore it unto Chicken Dinner yet. We’re all about restoration up in here.
“When I think of You all I wanna do is share the Good News.” – Plankeye
We met on Thursdays during homeroom. We had a faculty sponsor and a full-administrative board. During my junior year, I was not a board member. My senior year I was voted to the presidential position. And I took my position seriously.
Our meetings were fairly simple : a board member usually called the congregation together with prayer and then announced the speaker for the day. I liked attention, spot-lights, so I usually began every meeting, called on a person to pray, and then introduced the speaker. Devotions ran a simple ten to twelve minutes, topics ranging from testimonies to favorite Bible verses, and from stories of victory on youth group mission trips to recent conversions from the sickest hard-crimes imaginable. After the devotional, and if time allotted, we took prayer requests, each week reminding the congregation that this was not a time for gossip – however, since we were the good kids not attending the big parties, we secretly hoped for some kind of report on who danced on what at whose house or who drank how much of what until they did OMIGOSH to that person. Prayer requests generally remained benign – illnesses, family finances and jobs, missionaries from somebody’s church, recent experiences of divine doubt during biology class, etc. – and then we benedicted and adjourned. At the end of each meeting, I liked to remind my fellow members of B.A.S.I.C. that we were Brothers And Sisters In Christ and “you might be the only Jesus many of your classmates will see today”.
Then I went to journalism class and smoked Marlboros in Xon Post’s car while making up masturbation songs to the tune of “Rubber Duckie, you’re the one” from Sesame Street. Xon was a good friend. He had low expectations of me.
We did good things in B.A.S.I.C. We encouraged each other and gave a space to people who needed a space to feel loved. We sold brownies and cupcakes. We had pizza parties. We organized See You At The Pole rallies on days that were not nationally sanctioned See You At The Pole days. We had parties that were alternatives to the parties we prayed we would not fall victim to in our weakness and curiosity. We were silly but we were earnest. And although I look back laughing at the various expressions of our zeal, I know we truly wanted to do and to be good.
And I met people in B.A.S.I.C. who were “the real deal.” Their devotion exceeded the attention span of a Ray Boltz vocal track. Their hunger for scripture and knowledge spanned deeper than quotability. Their hope for transformation – both in themselves and in people they loved – could have been contagious if I’d spent more time with them, if I’d listened to them more than I ran my gluttonous mouth. But such people frightened me – that, or they revealed the great hoax in me, which was something I was not prepared yet to address. I was phenomenally young and unwise, but also loud and convincingly well-spoken on stage, so I was deemed the natural leader.
Also, I had survived cancer by age 15. In a small town that ran local church services on television – such as the church I attended and often spoke from the pulpit – my cancer survival was a big deal. In fact, I made it the biggest deal. And my cancer survival won me many leadership roles and many audiences in many places – even a spot on tour with our local Christian rap group, Heaven’z Possee – before I understood, before any of us understood, what so much exposure and access entailed.
Looking back, I understand now that we were a culture of the outside, untuned to Christ’s transformative calling and demands for the inside.
Honestly, it would be too easy for me to rip on that season, even to rip on Christian culture and that weird youth group energy that often exalted the wrong things or the wrong people. Those targets are too big, and they have been for too long. The truth is that there was some good and there was some bad in who we were and what we did. There were certainly things said and done that progressed my person, my worldview, even my faith, just as there were things said and done that I’ve had to work hard over many years with God and good people and both the picking up and laying down of bottles to heal. And I’m sure at times we pleased God greatly, and other times we tickled Satan to rare peels of lava-gurgled laughter, as if our zealous self-exalting silliness were a plucked albatross feather twittered on his unholy ribcage. We were wildly hopeful and wildly naive, and something in both of those states of being strikes me as beautiful . . . . if I let it.