By Sonny Scott
Civilization has its legions of unsung heroes. None had more lasting influence than the ancient shaman (or more likely, his wife) who first realized that the power of religion could be harnessed for purposes more noble than success in the hunt or a bountiful harvest. It may have been the most portentous pillow talk of the Neolithic Age.
“Say, Mr. Big Shot Priest, is that god of yours busy all the time with the problems of hunters and farmers, or does he have time for other things?”
“Of course, He does, Big Mouth Wife. Why you ask?”
“It’s that son of yours. If he’s not getting into your mead vat and getting snockered, he’s seducing the neighbor’s daughters. I can’t watch him from sun to sun. Do you think your Big Boss of the Hunt could keep an eye on him?”
And so it began. Junior was to be kept in line by telling him that God saw everything he did, disapproved of most of it, and was determined to get even. Sheer genius.
Ethical monotheism did not mean that Mom was off scot-free, of course. The bolder souls have never been intimidated by a bogeyman, whether Santa Claus or a Big-Guy-in-the-Sky. The more timid souls might buy it, and millions of us did.
I had an epiphany of sorts as a young man when I sat by a campfire and listened as some of my elders recalled the peccadilloes of their youth. To a man, they were clearly proud of their exploits (especially of the sexual variety), and were anything but repentant. The group included some stalwarts of their church – the same men whose paid spokesman had assured me that a single sin merited the wrath of the God of the Universe, while they nodded in solemn agreement. Subsequent conversations with men of “good moral character” and bona fides as community pillars confirmed my suspicions. Not one regretted “sowing his wild oats,” and admitted that his fondest recollections came from the indiscretions of youth.
I don’t know how Tim Tebow will react when he realizes that the mass of both sexes despise and ridicule an idealist, but along with the dawning of the realization that I had been a prig, grew a certain resentment. There are good reasons for youthful chastity, but only my parents attempted to make the case.
The church adopted an avoidance conditioning based on fear and superstition rather than truth and logical consistency.
Community attitudes may not be logical, but they are predictable. A boy who will be a boy takes his chances, and has a fun-filled youth. By good fortune and the grace of God, he escapes STD and the wrath of jealous boyfriends or outraged fathers, settles down, and “finds God.” He marries a good woman – who could have done better (women like “bad boys” – go figure). He becomes deacon of his church, Scout leader, and volunteer youth league coach. In time, he “sits in the gates of the city” as an esteemed elder, respected for his sagacious conduct and rectitude.
His contemporary gets it backwards. A timid priss, determined to please God and mama, he ignores the barbs of peers and does his damnedest to do right as he understands it. In middle age, he realizes that his friends have great memories of growing up while his own are a horror of guilt and alienation. Far from prizing his fidelity, his wife finds him a bore, and his acquaintances are condescending. When he strikes out in rebellion, he becomes a reprobate, an apostate, and the unkindest cut of all – an “Old Fool.”
In morality, as in comedy, timing is everything.
Sonny Scott is a Chickasaw County resident and a community columnist. Contact him firstname.lastname@example.org.