Friday, August 7, 2015

The Saga of Reverend Roy

Roy felt the burn for his lord Jesus as a young boy.  Brought up in an evangelical Christian church, Roy took advantage of ample opportunities to electrify the congregation with his youthful fiery orations of salvation through Jesus Christ.  Before he graduated High School, Roy won a full scholarship to the most prestigious bible college in the country.  Roy truly felt that his lord Jesus was guiding his life.  He graduated at the top of his class and was quickly ordained.  Roy was ready to convert the Heathen where ever he found him.  His first encounter did not take long.  

Soon after his ordination and just before his first church posting, Reverend Roy stumbled over a group of folks gathered around a fire at a state park.  What first caught his eye was the large animal horn that was being passed around the gathering; it appeared to have something in it that the people were drinking.  Very strange and not Christian, Roy thought.  He decided to linger in the trees and continue to observe.  Could be Heathens in need of salvation was the thought that pounded inside his head.  

Roy heard words like - Wodan, Thor, Frigga, and ancestors.  Added to those were some boasts that sounded more to Roy like pledges or oaths.  But no words about his Jesus.  These were Heathens, Roy thought, and must be saved!  Being somewhat socially backward, Roy never had the chance to crash a party, a wedding, or any event where he was not invited.  But there is a first time for all things.  

Roy stumbled out of the trees and demanded that they immediately stop their activity for the sake of their immortal souls.  Fortunately for the Heathens, the Sumbel was over just as Roy made his outburst.  Seeing that he was being ignored, Roy stomped over to the man who was intently watching him; he was the man who led the activity that made Roy increasingly antagonistic.  Roy did not expect this Heathen to be so articulate.  

The Heathen leader would neither debate nor argue with Roy in any fashion.  This enraged Roy all the more.  His professors at his bible college alma mater taught him that Heathens were ignorant and would easily convert to the superiority of Christianity.  The parting words of the Heathen leader to Roy was that he should purchase James C. Russell's The Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity, A Sociohistorical Approach to Religious Transformation.  Roy never heard of this book, neither did his "professors."  But he did buy it.  

And he read less than fifty pages.  Blasphemy, Roy screamed out loud.  How can something like this, something not bible based be allowed in print?  Roy's formal education did not bother with real history, science, and sociology; if it was not biblical, it was false.  For what ever his reason, Roy packed this book, along with his worn bible and other personal belongings in preparation for his first posting:  missionary work in Africa.  

Based on his ignorance, Roy believed that he would save many souls for his lord Jesus.  Once again, he relied on what he was taught; what he was taught his entire life is what he believed.  And, belief based on fallacies and innuendo is like believing that the world is flat.  At his youthful age, Reverend Roy was grossly disappointed.

The African tribesmen were offered medicine and basic education for themselves and their children in exchange for baptism.  They underwent baptism but as soon as the medicine and education was delivered and administered, the church was empty.  Roy was frustrated about this.  His fellow missionaries, those with a lot of time in Africa, tried to explain.  They told Roy that the Africans practiced their ancient folk religion. A folkish religion, they tried to tell to Roy, is world accepting and one that finds security and stability in the family, clan, and tribe along with the Gods adherent to that group. His fellow missionaries told Roy that since there was no great social upheaval in their lives, even though they did not have any sort of economy, Christianity was a hard sell.  For Christianity to be really successful, they said, there had to be tremendous political, economic, and social upheaval, similar to that in southern Europe when the Roman Empire began falling apart.   The lead missionary finally stepped up and told Roy that Christianity was world rejecting because it puts its emphasis on a hazy kind of afterlife reward while giving up the present, something that the practitioners of a folk religion cannot agree with; their worldview is such that there is no separation between all of creation and that life is important, all in life is good.  For the first time in his life, Roy wanted to get drunk, but because of his religious belief, he would not drink the fermented juice of the grape.  At least not yet.  The next morning he put in for a transfer.  In a few days, his request was granted; he was going to Japan.

Japan was even more a disaster for Roy; thinking that he would have a fresh start, he soon discovered how wrong he was.  Japan's Christian population stood at one half of one percent.   The Japanese, Roy found out, were quite happy with their folk religion.  And they had a robust economy that provided their citizens with everything.  This was worse, Roy thought, then Africa; there was no trade off of medicine and education for baptism - the Japanese had all of that in abundance.  A fellow missionary repeated what he had heard in Africa and added that people who follow a folk religion put the group, the family, clan, and tribe ahead of individual desires.  The idea of individual salvation, another foreign idea, was not part of their world accepting world view.  The Reverend Roy was on overload; he has come face to face with the real world.  Within days, Roy suffered a major nervous breakdown and after initial treatment in Japan, was sent home for rest and recuperation.

To say that Roy was depressed was an understatement; he was below crushed.  He managed to get himself out of bed and went to a liquor store where he bought a bottle of cheap fermented red.  When home, he promptly guzzled it all and soon puked.  Now Roy knew, you do not drink alcohol to drown your sorrows, even though its tastes good.  After cleaning up his mess, Roy opened up the book that the Heathen had recommended to him, which was the one that he had dragged along with him to Africa and Japan.

He started from the beginning, re-reading the first fifty pages that he initially declared as blasphemy.  In light of his experiences in Africa and Japan, the book now made sense, but all the while Roy wondered how could what he was taught, what he believed in could be so wrong.  Roy was reading real history, not made up stuff to keep people in fear and subjugation.  He was confused, but not conflicted.  He decided to look for the Heathen who recommended the book.

Roy found the man in the same park at the same place but the number of participants around the fire sharing the horn had doubled.  The right reverend took a time check and realized that it was only a few months over a year that he was here for the first time.  The Heathen recognized Roy and asked him to join in the gathering.  At first Roy was apprehensive but he thought after Africa and Japan, what could go wrong; to his pleasant  surprise, nothing did.

When Sumbel was over, Roy and the Heathen had a long conversation; it was the first of many.  The man explained to Roy all that he could about Asatru, the modern word used to describe the ancient northern European folkway/religion.  And the reading list was exhaustive; Asatru, Roy found out, was a religion with homework.  Roy just breathed all of it in and could not get enough, so much so that he gave up the shackles of Christianity and warmly embraced Asatru.  Although Roy took quite a bit of abuse from his former Christian brethren, he was at peace.  He knew that he was finally home.

                                                     Copyright @2015 Terry Unger      



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