Both Sides Now – –

Not the original sign but similar!

This is a long blog. It’s been on my mind awhile now, but until I passed the church sign on the backhill roads of Coalfields Appalachia, it hadn’t coalesced.

The sign said: Neither the elephant nor the donkey will save you. Look to the Lamb.

Not a suitable place to take a picture or I’d have gotten one, but the freight truck behind me was not inclined to wait, and since they have difficult jobs these days, I didn’t push the issue – or my brakes.

But I kinda teared up when I saw the sign, because it showed insight not easily captured in something smaller than even a Tweet. Tweets aren’t much associated with insight these days, anyway.

I’m a member of a group of old friends, all now pushing the grandparent years, who in our youth were part of Youth With a Mission. We all went to the School of Evangelism together, and if that doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about our unifying factors, can’t help you.

In the intervening years, some have changed their minds about Christianity, and some about elements of Christianity. What’s interesting is how little space there is in the group, how little grace or dignity, for those who believe in Jesus but not all of his messengers.

Several members of the group are fierce about Communism and its nebulous evil ghost twin Socialism. The global pandemic is a backdrop by which Satan will achieve his aim of bringing about a socialist government, and from there we go straight to Antichrist, do not pass go, do not collect $200 in prepaid medical care.

A smaller but completely overlapping subset believe that Democrats, when we die, get put in a laundry chute and sucked straight into Hell. Democrats can’t be Christians, or at least remain both for long. We get a month or so of grace after conversion and then if we haven’t figured it out, we’re living in deception. Every time one of my friends says “A lot of us are praying for you, Wendy,” I fight the urge to point out that it doesn’t sound like they’re praying for God’s guidance for me, it sounds like a need for affirmation: because I pray and because I think this, you must think this, too, or you are wrong, because I can’t be the one who is wrong. So I get extra God points for pointing out you are wrong.

When I was in high school, we had a few men who blatantly said at Bible study that, because they walked in the Light and prayed every day for God to guide their steps, they knew what they believed about politics, medicine, theology, and whether or not Christians could smoke and drink was correct. Therefore, those who didn’t believe like them were incorrect and needed to be prayed for. If they didn’t repent, they needed to be put out of the church fellowship.

I was not yet old enough to have a driver’s license at the time, but instinctively understood even then to stay away from these men and their sweet, silent, staring wives. I quit that Bible study, and kept a close eye on the difference between “Jesus said” and “this is what I decided Jesus meant” for the next 40 years or so.

And so the day came that I saw the church sign—elephant, donkey, lamb—and cried. Not because of the long-haul trucker riding my Prius’s intimidated little bumper, but because someone knew that truth lies not with either side, but in Jesus guiding us. The Bible is a good guide but it can be used in the same way as statistics: take away the context and wiggle things into a specific reference frame, and you can justify just about anything. My friend Friedgaard, a Bible-reading Hitler Youth, taught me that.

I don’t think Democrats have the lockdown on how God wants the world to run, believing we care more about the widows and orphans than those nasty self-enriching, duped Republicans. Evil is easily done by regulations that insist on safety nets for the poor and then push that funding into policy and regulation rather than provision; the rich can enrich themselves under the guise of social justice and it ain’t pretty. I fight it every day in my day job.

Republicans tend to center their moral superiority on a pro-life stance, but it manifests as pro-birth. Abortion is an easy issue for engendering blood-cleansing moral outrage; If you want to be pro-life, care about not spreading COVID-19 to elderly neighbors, and about small children separated from their parents because they tried to save them from drug cartel violence. Don’t huff about a baby you can’t even see yet, and judge the mama as “the very low” in life, and then vote to take away her ability to get free healthcare for gestational diabetes.

It also becomes easy to accuse those of us who no longer want to play the polarization-for-God-points game as following in the foot-in-mouth steps of President Trump when he famously said there were good people on both sides of a white supremacy rally. No, that’s not what we are talking about.

Neither party has a lock on how to live a Godly life. But in the dark times that are coming, I suspect each will continue trying to prove it does, without noticing that the very anger and violence generating such rejection and dehumanization of those who don’t think like us (who don’t BELIEVE THE TRUTH) is the antipathy of what God says to value. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” “Do to others as you want them to do to you.”  “For God so loved the world…”

I’m not riding an elephant or a donkey; I am prayerfully and with careful steps trying to follow a Lamb. Perhaps to some very difficult places in the coming years, because this divide isn’t going away.


Filed under between books, Life reflections, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

Two to Tango

Jack’s Wednesday guest post makes it on time for a change – –

A belated tip of the hat to my long suffering wife after our recent twenty third anniversary –

We are complete opposites – I’m a lazy bugger and she’s a workaholic!

When we first met she was a community storyteller, a swimming instructor and a strawberry picker. She had had a degree in journalism and another in German and had just completed her Masters in Education. She headed off to St Johns in Newfoundland to start her PhD in Folklore.

When that was to the thesis stage she joined me in Scotland and we married. Off she went again and started a very successful non-profit storytelling co-operative, was appointed to the board of the Scottish national storytelling forum, the board of the US National Storytelling Network and the traditional arts committee of the Scottish parliament. Shortly after to Lancashire in England where she worked for two years with refugees and asylum seekers and learned Arabic!

During all of this she was writing. Academic papers and then the first book which was a collection of newspaper columns published by Lingham House. We moved to Big Stone Gap and opened a bookstore so the next book was a memoir about that and a best seller for a big New York publisher. Since then there have been two more books and another three are in the pipeline!

But then she got another Masters Degree – in Public Health, and is now the Director of GMEC which encourages and helps newly qualified medical professionals to set up shop in Appalachia.

But enter Covid 19!

So, for the last few months she’s been sourcing PPE all over the world and getting it to clinics, medical centers and hospitals throughout SW Virginia – while finishing three books!

Just now and then she has a wee lull in her timetable and she can’t abide that, so it’s time to reorganize the cupboards or the backyard – – – or can stuff!

Did I mention the cat rescue or the chickens?

I can never keep up, but it’s been a wonderful twenty three years –

Here’s to the next twenty three!


Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, folklore and ethnography, home improvements, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, small town USA, VA, Wendy Welch