I am one of the people lucky enough to be friends with Casey Cease, founding pastor and teacher at Christ Community Church in Magnolia, conveniently nicknamed “C3.” I have come to believe that this is intentional, because this morning, the world exploded with our agreement. I’m going to be his laming fliberal theologian and he’s going to be my “not.” After hearing him preach, I cannot truly say where he is on the theological scale, because he doesn’t take in one kind of criticism and doesn’t reach out for one kind of knowledge. I’ve told him about St. James, and want to brainstorm with him some more because see, here’s what Casey does for a living. He starts churches. The agreement we made is not to start a church, but to let each other bounce ideas off of someone with whom they have been “in the shit,” to use the vernacular.
We both grew up United Methodist, and met at Clements High School. He was at First United Methodist in Sugar Land while my dad was at Christ UMC. We were both in band and choir (a trumpet player and a drummer walk into a church….. the jokes write themselves), and having had that particular choir director will bond us for life, I assure you wholeheartedly. The summer before I came into Casey’s life (the summer between HSPVA and Clements), there was an accident. People talked about it at school. Anne was dead. I arrived on day one of this enormous, auspicious first day of school, and my empathy bonded me to him. He doesn’t know this, but now he will. My mirror neurons went off for you and Sean. I prayed for you every day. It was an accident. I prayed that you could take it in and hear “it’s not your fault.” I prayed that the grace of God would find you and you would realize just how amazing you are.
Casey, today was the fulfillment of my prayers and those of many others. When Steph came over to sit by me at the beginning of the service, she was surprised that I was bawling like a baby. I know an anointment when I see one, bitch. Whatever it is that they call “it” in terms of preaching, you have it. Also, in my head, you are still 15. It was like, “MY BABY!” I especially love that you are ADHD because I can track with you from beginning to end as you unpack The Word and it falls into endless pieces that come together as a tapestry in the end. I loved when you talked about how you love your sins. We all do, don’t we?
Speeding. Cigarettes. Drugs, Alcohol, Shopping we LOVE OUR SINS, DON’T WE?
Light will save us all. The choice is whether to turn toward it. It’s the foundation of every letter in the New Testament. Casey preached on the letters of First James and First John, and after the service, I tied in this piece of John the Gnostic for Casey as we were walking out, because it had bounced into my brain while he was speaking. In the Gospel of John, we’ve learned that even God the Father is aware of this fact: those that live in darkness live in darkness because they choose it. They don’t turn toward light. They hunker down in a cave-like fashion and pretend that the patterns they have are okay but that is not the point of being a Christian and they fucking know it because change is hard, but they cannot even.
It’s amazing how long and arduous change is for adults, because the older they get, they’re less flexible. They’ve just learned a heuristic for life. To say it’s wrong is to go against everything they believe. I came to the point in my life where I had to change. I’m not a Conservative, so I have no idea how you people do it…. but here is my testimony.
I loved the dark for so long that when light was shone upon me and I saw the face of Christ in human form, I ran like a motherfucker. It was too scary to be right with God, because being right with God required change. I am ADHD, bitch. Most of the time, it’s not that I won’t change. It’s that I am hard-wired not to remember where I put my keys, much less remembering behavioral patterns from one day to the next. I can only look at my behavior by writing it down and looking in retrospect, and thus began my ministry. The reason I point to this entry is that it’s really the first sermon. The aha! moment I needed to really start thinking of myself in terms of a writer and theologian more than any other thing in my life. Two things. First, I realized that I was every bit as fucking talented as Susan and my dad. Second, THERE ARE PEOPLE HURTING FROM CHURCHES THAT LIVE IN DARKNESS. I MUST SAVE THEM! Have you been paying attention? MY JESUS!
You want darkness?
My friend Jerry told me that after we’d left one particular church, the board voted on something like a million dollar building fund and neighed giving the kids at the church Easter baskets.
You can kill a church in a single weekend if one family has paid for everything.
If you are not an open and affirming church, you are saying to gay people “sure, we’ll take your money, but you’ll never REALLY be a part of us…. but thanks.”
But this is about me. It’s my testimony. I might as well use it, because it’s going to be the only one you’ll ever get…. at least this year, anyway.
When I was in Fifth Grade, I was given the John Wesley Award at my church for being the most outstanding youth member or something like that. I can’t remember what it was for, only that my dad came up with it and I was completely fucking embarrassed when I won. I didn’t know if I was really that much like Christ, or whether I was the preacher’s kid. I never really attended another youth group after that… mostly because an older woman had gotten my attention and fuck them, that’s how. They were so juvenile to me. My “girlfriend’s girlfriend” is a weed dealer, bitch. I thought everything was boring until 11th grade. We were finally at a church large enough where I really could be anonymous. I was in the closet, I had a male best friend, and if I ever won an award, it would be in front of 70 kids and not 10. Much bigger pool of applicants.
Things were really great until I actually did get a crush in the youth group (like everyone does). The problem with that is she was Canadian and conservative (not Meag…. for starters, she is not and never has been a Methodist, at least not to my knowledge- if you actually went to high school with me, not (nut?)0 Meag, eh. The other one.). I don’t remember her name. Since she was Canadian I called her “preparatory Meagan.” Meag is going to die, Casey. DIE! Did you know I dated her in high school? Bet you didn’t. JEALOUS?????? You fucking should be, bitch.
I curse a lot, and for that I apologize. It is an homage to Jesus, in it’s own weird way. The Jesus that walks with me is just like me and the archetype for every hacker known to God and man. Jesus sits next to me with his laptop in companionable silence. We do brunch. It’s also to illustrate how different Jesus is from John the Baptist. His cousin and yet, his theological opposite. I think the most important question next to Beatles or Stones is Jesus or John? In a sense, you cannot follow both. Either you’re a part of the masses or you’re not. Either you’re a monk or a community organizer. I have respect for the monastic lifestyle and encourage all people who can afford it to do it for a year to get after it. Invite yourself into your own silence, and then GTFO. If you live life in a vacuum, you will begin with the theological mind of a child. You do, anyway, but here’s what you miss. It’s supposed to be a curve in the middle. There have been times in my life where I thought I was an Atheist and I was mistaken, but they are still my brothers.
I’m sure the question in all of you is “what changed your mind?”
One blog entry and two years in which I fell in love with my therapist and had to work my way backward. And by therapist I mean not so much. That’s just what I call it because she’s a straight girl and I’m not and have to be reminded and smacked with newspaper occasionally to maintain training. My wife did not care that she did not love me. My wife only cared about my attention. To that end, she did a wonderful job of making room and rebelling against it. She knew how hard I was trying to change myself so that I could be in love with my wife and love my “therapist” in the way that all friends should. Agape is ever present and Eros is my Achilles Heel, the thing I keep working on every single day. To remain faithful and keep my fidelity to Dana as long as I need to…. not for her. For me. Now that the absolute shock has worn off, I am off to the desert with Moses and I have murdered that soldier in cold blood. I am in the Garden of Gethsemane with Jesus, blood dripping from my own forehead. I am a snake-bitten Israelite in need of the motherfucking Tiffany Talk.
For me, the liberation in the darkness is being freed from all sexual attention, both given and received. I was so out of control with my life that I needed a home base from which to start. Things that would combine to make a True North when all I had was wibbly wobbly timey wimey and The Doctor cannot go back and change his own timeline, capiche? My saving grace was the ritual. The Book, the bread, and the cup. The window was closing fast and I let it. It was too much pain to let either of them in again….. or at least not until my days in the desert were over.
And that is where I am right now. In the desert. Waiting to be crucified. Wondering what eschatology I’ll come up with to explain this one. How do you sum up “I was saved from sin when a curse became a blessing?” You can’t. That’s a soundbite. That’s five seconds on the 11:00 news.
The book is so much better.