“I don’t believe in the Kingdom of heaven; I believe in the Republic of Heaven”
-----from the ‘Quotations of Chairman Joe’
Several years ago I was working at a facility that builds railroad cars. Working on a third shift security detail, one finds that one has a lot of time on one’s hands. Accordingly, one of my co-workers, a man named Robert, and I would frequently engage in conversations ranging across the spectrum from current events, to politics, to philosophy and religion. A devoutly religious man, Robert asked me in the course of one of the conversations: “I believe in the kingdom of heaven, so do you, don’t you?”
“No, I don’t”, I replied.
“What DO you believe in then?” he asked incredulously.
“I don’t believe in the Kingdom of Heaven, I believe in the Republic of Heaven”, said I, an answer that evoked a nervous laugh from my companion. “In the modern age how could it be otherwise?” I continued, “The idea of a kingdom violates modern sensibilities, it rings hollow in the modern ear”.
“But the Bible”, protested Robert.
“Yes, the Bible,” said I, “and whose version are we talking about?”
“The King James version”, said he.
“A book sanctioned by a king…case closed. That heaven should be described therein seems a bit self-serving don’t you think coming as it did at the dawn of the age of ‘Divine Right’. The monarch is claiming his legitimacy as divinely ordained and the confusion becomes complete. No, to the modern era in which nearly every government on the face of the earth from constitutional monarchies and authoritarian regimes to parliamentary democracies to federations call themselves ‘republics’, or ‘democratic republics’. In the modern age how could paradise be seen as otherwise?”
I was only being half facetious in my reply, for I had been given a glimpse of paradise among the ‘elect’ in parochial school; the prospect of spending ‘eternity’ with these people...
I’d rather laugh with the sinners
Than cry with the saints
The sinners are much more fun” ----Billy Joel “Only the Good Die Young”
Jimmy Carter was quite right to sever his ties with the Southern Baptist Convention over the church’s positions on women’s rights and the place of women in human society. There are other equally compelling reasons, I was to learn under the tutelage of my schoolmasters, including the war against natural history, reason and science and, at times, the contemporary historical record itself. There are a lot of counterproductive lessons taught in the American Madrasa, not the least is a sense of worthlessness (see Luther’s Small Catechism); but it was the overriding blind adherence to ‘doctrinal authority’ and the treacherous undercurrents of resulting intolerance that was most unsettling. I entered this institution a bright, wide-eyed, confident and curious young lad, with a voracious appetite for learning. I emerged from the administrations of my parochial tutors timid, withdrawn, and badly prepared for what lay ahead.
Accordingly I was assigned to the industrial arts classes upon entering the public school system, complete with courses in “General Math” instead of algebra. During my first year in the Grand Haven public school system I was given the battery of aptitude and knowledge tests known then as the ‘Iowa Tests’. Sometime late in my freshman year in high school I was called into the counselor’s office and told that they were changing my curriculum. Over the course of the next three years I would take algebra and geometry, English literature and other advanced courses but the damage had been done. The requisite background in mathematics simply wasn’t there, and there was no time to pass through the required classes in time to take calculus, physics, or chemistry. I could do what I could to get as much out of the experience as time would allow, but I decided to study history and government given that I was more prepared in those fields and wouldn’t lag so far behind.
As a sophomore in High School I found myself in Mrs. Madigan’s world history class. Timid and withdrawn I found myself singled out as Mrs. Madigan would read my exam essays (yes 75% of my exams were essays) to the class, a practice my instructors would repeat in college and graduate school. I could write, but I couldn’t speak having spent 9 long formative years doing my level best to be the ‘invisible man’. So began my journey that led me down the path of historical research and inquiry.
In order to recover the boy left behind, I found it necessary to likewise sever my ties with mother church; for I am a Camfield and a Kaye, and the sounds of the ‘farm’ beckon me. (1) Accordingly, I have left the not-so-nurturing arms of mother church for it is no place for a wide-eyed, confident and curious young lad. Nor is it a refuge for an intellectual bohemian; for the wanderer and his shadow.
1. See previous posts “November 15, 2010: Northwest of Custer, The Farm, Damn Democrats” and “November 5, 2011: Return to Custer, A Word About the Word, Pigs Breakfast”