Wednesday, March 18, 2009

That's Entertainment! (Why Southerners are so entertaining)

I have been reading the blog of a Southern lady novelist who was raised by fundamentalists and is now married with two children and an evil cat.

Her name is Joshilyn Jackson (pronounced JOSS-i-lyn - the "h" is silent), and she is hilarious - and I just realized I cannot think of someone I have enjoyed more because of shared experiences.

In the South we are taught two things:
1) Fear God - or your daddy will put that fear into you,
2) Obey Momma - or your daddy will put that obedience into you.

I also have been reviewing all my biographical notes on Elvis Presley, possibly one of the greatest entertainers of the 20th century. Like Elvis, I was born and raised in North Mississippi. This is a culture that is socially oppressed due to a legalistic understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ - and so really kicking out carnal sin feels too much like a death sentence.

Therefore there are only a few legitimate areas to cut loose and getting into the entertainment field is one of them. You get to use your social performance skills, your ability to put on the right face and a stupendously broken heart coupled with a clear knowledge of Jesus to blast out into the world.

The world doesn't have a chance when you combo those four things. You're too creative to fit in a conservative community, your too well-read in the Bible to think you can get away with murder (e.g "Alright - maybe the Feds won't catch yew, but God will J.D.! You hearin' me, boy?") and you have stuffed so much into your emotional bag it is about to burst.

When you see unfailing politeness and a willingness to bow before all authorities and a desire to please people, you got yourself a bona-fide gold mine.

That's what happened between Elvis and "Col." Tom Parker, his manager. I even think the rage and anger Elvis showed later (and his drug use) was his personal disappointment he had been led to a place he did not want to be.

He'd lost his momma, his wife and, with his own lifestyle, his God.

No Southern boy can survive that. On his last day on Earth, he sang two gospel hymns and was reading a book The Scientific Search for the Face of Jesus.

If Elvis was really looking for the face of Jesus, I think he got his wish at the end. I think he wanted to be loved like we all do, but went after it the wrong way.

I know I have used my looks, my jokes, my performances to be appreciated, like many entertainers. We grew up around hard working conservative men, angry men who sighed a lot and were very serious that you would not be without things to do. I still remember to this day the sheer fear my brother (eight years my senior) could instill in me by saying my name. He never said it when he was happy.

Sadly, I became a child who only expected the right answer, not a loving answer. I grew terrifically unsympathetic to alcoholics, angry men and the argumentative. It has taken two decades to realize how much I do not like them. How many times I have been forced to stand still as they spew vitriol as the festering boil of their isolation and pain has been accidentaly lanced only to cover me with shame.

But thankfully, I now see the loving answer IS the right answer. Previously, I thought that when a theologian backed down from a blunt question, he was being cowardly. The big question: "If God is so good and powerful and loving, why is there so much evil in the world?" is a fave.

The answer to this question is a question: "What have you experienced of evil?"

After an hour of listening you MIGHT be able to ask. "Now - what have you experienced of God?"

If they say "Nothing" then you can safely say, "So you know more about evil than God. True?"

Then - "Would you like to know Him in a deep personal way - through Jesus?"

You see, we can entertain and play to the crowds and help them forget how much it hurts by sharing some of our pain, our outrage, our foolishness. But in the end we are really looking for the face of Jesus. Someone who doesn't need to be entertained or have his anger ameliorated by your humor or self-abasement.

We may sing a lot about Jesus - Elvis did and was highly honored for it - but until you sing TO Him, you will never find peace.

You can only sing TO someone you love, by the way. That you know personally.

If you are searching, pray this prayer if you will:

"Jesus, I want to know you in a personal way. I am hurting, and I need you. Please save me. Thank you. Amen."

When you step out of the limelight, Jesus steps in. Oh, BTW, when Elvis was called by his fans "the King", he corrected them directly.

"No baby, I'm not the King. I'm just an entertainer. Jesus is the King!"

Amen to that, Elvis.


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