Too Intellectual to Love
This is the dead land This is cactus land Here the stone images Are raised, here they receive The supplication of a dead man’s hand Under the twinkle of a fading star. Is it like this In death’s other kingdom Waking alone At the hour when we are Trembling with tenderness Lips that would kiss Form prayers to broken stone.
The Hollow Men — T.S Eliot
The spring of 2003 was a magical time for me. I was living at the height of a conviction that I was called — at all costs — to confront evil and wrong ideas with powerful eternal truths. I was about to graduate a major state university with a degree in Philosophy of Religion and was quite comfortable atop my religious high-horse built for war. From those lofty intellectual heights I could survey the lesser kingdoms of secular humanism, Buddhism, New Age pantheism, animism and all other inferior “isms”. And, like all good warriors for Christ, I was ready to decimate every wrong thought and belief with divine authority effective and powerful for the tearing down of strongholds.
One Friday night I went out on a raid looking for vulnerable agnostics or maybe a talkative new-ager to “minister” to. What I found this night was a massacre in the making. I stumbled upon a large group of smelly hippies gathered in Old Town Square. They had congregated around the charichture artists selling charcoal portraits of Jimmy Hendrix, Jerry Garcia and various other depictions of Grateful Dead concerts they had attended. As I passed the impromptu drum-circle, weed-slurred dialogue caught my attention. I tuned in and heard spiritual topics of oneness and unity being slowly discussed… very, very slowly. My night just got interesting.
I was warmly received when I joined the circle and nobody seemed to mind I didn’t smell like petchule. I quickly discovered many of these free-loving folks were members of a community called The Rainbow Family. They had gathered from across North America in the federal forrest land 30 miles north of my home town for one of their many annual “Gatherings” . This gathering was, to my untrained ears, about sex, drugs and drum circles. But a small crew had escaped to the city to resupply and were now discussing spiritual matters.
I listened quietly to the different ideas being shared about oneness, emptiness, the circle of love, unity and wholeness. When I said I was “listening” what I mean is: I was quietly deconstructing each new spiritual insight offered and categorizing it using my vast mental rolodex of world religious concepts. After 20 minutes of this I was ready to debunk everyone who dared open their mouth. I was fixing to drop the hammer and lead the heathens to Jesus, when, just as I began to speak, a drunk, toothless Native-American man stumbled into the circle. This gentleman sat down next to me reeking of cheap vodka and introduced himself — we’ll call him Qaletaqa. Qaletaqa, however, didn’t wait as long as me to address the circle of spiritualists.
After only a minute or two he felt he needed to contribute two cents. Flashing his three remaining teeth, Qaletaqa began to cuss his way through a testimony of Jesus. He told everyone that it wasn’t “oneness” but a relationship with F*****g Jesus that would make the difference. He told them how F*****g Jesus loved them all and wanted them to be happy. He told them that religious people didn’t have it all right but F*****g Jesus was still real. Every time he used the word Jesus it was preceded by the f-word. I was mortified! I had been upstaged by an irreverent addict who clearly did not have the rhetorical skills necessary to turn the hearts of these deprived souls.
But, in the midst of this most unusual evangelistic presentation, I could feel the spirit of the group begin to shift. I started asking the Lord if He wanted me to say anything — a spiritual practice I highly recommend and rarely followed in those days. I remember feeling like I was supposed to stay quiet and listen. As I did I watched something amazing happen. As Qaltaqa testified about F*****g Jesus, the group began to embrace Him. They heard a very simple gospel message of God loves you and you can know Him by knowing His Son Jesus. There was openness to these very raw and simple ideas and the group consciousness was elevated. I don’t remember most everything that was shared that night, but, after Qaletaqa had radically shifted the topic to Jesus, I do remember how I felt. I felt connected. Connected to my fellow men who were all seeking a life and hope beyond themselves. Connected to a vast array of different ideas about God; a connection which was somehow held together in a shared experience of unpretentious dialogue amongst equals. Connected to Jesus who I think had been honored by sincere hearts. Thank God I didn’t open my mouth and ruin it all.
After an hour more I had enough and stood to leave the circle. When I did every person stood to bid me farewell with an awkwardly long hug. I had just sat silently for 90 min while horrifically inaccurate theological ideas were shared; but, as I stood there hugging hippies, I could feel self-righteousness melting away. These men loved me with a love and openness I didn’t yet posses. If they only knew what I had come there to do! I walked in to the circle on a religious charger for war, but left humbly riding on an ass — my foolish dumb ass.
As I mounted my bicycle to ride home tears began to stream down my face. Everything I’d heard that evening was “wrong” and “irreverent” and I hadn’t corrected any of it! But I felt loved, strangely known and deeply connected to something much larger than my petty ideas and worthless Philosophy degree. This feeling didn’t make sense to me. I’ll always remember the loving words my heavenly Father spoke to me as I peddled home: “Never get so intellectual you forget to love.”
…to be continued.
Originally published at adamschindler.com on August 20, 2014.