In the mid 1960s, we lived in a Filipino village on the island of Oahu. Mama and Daddy were always loathe to live on base. I think they wanted the separation between their family life and Dad’s work. Our house was in a cul-de-sac. Behind it was a banana field and a chicken coop, which my brother and I considered our fort. There was one other “white” family living in that same cul-de-sac, the Naylor family out of North Carolina. The Naylors and our parents had met in Germany and were good friends. Our entire social life revolved around the beach and the Naylors, who also had three children close in age to us three kids.
The Naylor kids were the first audience I ever had. We would play preacher – I always got that role for some reason. I think my brother didn’t want it, and since I was the only one attending church with any regularity it just fell to me. We would gather in the Naylor’s garage or our carport and I would “preach” from a small New Testament. None of my sermons from that time have stayed with me, the faith I had at that time seems a distant memory these days, but I’m sure that it must have included a lot of John 3:16 and the use of the word “Hell,” always a favorite among Evangelicals.
To say that my preaching didn’t have a lasting effect on any of us children would be an understatement. More than one got involved in the drug scene – it was the 60s after all. I met up with a couple of the Naylor kids when I was working at the FayObserver. All I can say is that it isn’t always a good thing to look up people from your past. There’s a reason why God moves us through seasons of friendships. Very rarely has encountering someone from my youth as an adult turned out well.
And that works both ways. I have little doubt that many of those who knew me as a young girl or a young mom walk away from me now shaking their heads and declaring, “Well, damn, that girl went astray.”
It was while living in that Filipino village that I began to wonder if perhaps I was “different” than all the other kids. I’m sure being the only tow-headed girl in the entire Helemano Elementary School fed into these suspicions of mine. While speaking to Sister Tater last night, I told her it was during that time in my life that I became convinced that I was the only real person (real as in Velveteen Rabbit way) and that my entire family and all the other people in the village were aliens. My mother was an alien. My siblings, aliens. My father, definitely an alien of military rank. I remember where I was the exact moment the thought first came to me. I’d was walking home from the corner market.
Realizing that you are the only real person in a world full of aliens is a very scary thing, especially for a young girl. I was seven or eight at the time. And the thing that makes it really frightening is that you can’t tell anybody. It’s not like you can go home and announce to your alien mother than you are wise to their plan to destroy the last surviving human on earth. And close as I was to my sister, she was an alien, too. She was already programmed to follow whatever instructions came from our alien parents. I knew she couldn’t be trusted. Nobody could. I would have to bear the cross of being the last surviving human for the rest of my life.
By the time I got home from the store, I was sick to my stomach, full of the fear and anxiety that would haunt me for decades to come. I went into my closet and shut the door. I was in total darkness, except for the kittens I had found and hidden there for a week or so before my alien mother heard them crying one afternoon and had an alien melt-down over my kitten contraband. I don’t know whatever happened to those kittens. Aliens and dog-lovers like my mother don’t seem to have much affection for felines. As far as I know my alien mother probably beamed them somewhere off in space.
That my family were all aliens made perfect sense to me, given that my brother’s favorite TV shows were Lost in Space and Star Trek. What else would you expect aliens to watch? ET wasn’t out yet. Drew Barrymore hadn’t even been born yet.
The conversation about aliens with Sister Tater last night was prompted in part by an off-hand remark I made about Rep. Paul Gosar making a death threat upon the life of Rep. Alexander Ocasio Cortez.
Sister Tater thinks people need to turn away from Satan. They need more Jesus.
There was a time in my life when I might have agreed with Sister Tater, but that was before a bunch of the people like Rep. Gosar, who regard themselves as Jesus people, began to say and do really hateful and scary things.
The idea of suggesting that people who already consider themselves as Jesus people need more Jesus is like telling an alien they need more WD-40 if they want to become a real human.
It makes no sense.
I don’t know what to do with people who gather by the hundreds on Dealey Square in Texas to await the return of JFK Jr. to come back from the dead so that he can declare Trump as the real president. Many of them claim to be the real Jesus people and Trump the only God-anointed leader.
Social Media makes it easy just to make fun of people like that. To call them whackos, or nut jobs, or delusional, and belittle them.
Maybe it’s because of my short-lived experience as a the only human in an alien world, I worry about those people. I know a little bit about delusions and how convincing they can be. How easy it is to believe you are the only one who truly cares about making the world a better place, and how you must have been chosen by some higher power for such a purpose. If you fail in this mission, all of humanity will perish.
Me and the Lord, we are on a mission from God made for an unforgettable movie scene, but as a politically-motivated religious mandate, it’s pretty doggone scary.
As I told Sister Tater, I am beginning to worry that aliens have taken over a bunch of the humans again. I read today that while the bulk of the people left Dealey Square disappointed that JFK Jr. hadn’t shown up, many of them got word that he was going to be at the Rolling Stones concert instead and now they are convinced that Keith Richards is really JFK Jr. and that Elvis is still alive.
If it weren’t for Ruby Ridge, and Waco, and Jonestown, and Heaven’s Gate, Rajneeshpuram, and Nxivm, the idea of people gathering by the dozens to sit in lawn chairs waving Trump and Kennedy flags might be laughable. If not for what history has already taught us about the dangers of such delusions.
But we mock them at our own peril and that of our children.
At a recent gathering at Northwest Nazarene College in Idaho, where extremists and Evangelicals gathered to hear Turning Point Founder Charlie Kirk, one attendee raised troubling questions:
“We are living under corporate and medical fascism. This is tyranny. When do we get to use the guns?” he asked with all seriousness. “That’s not a joke. I mean literally where is the line? How many elections are they going to steal before we kill these people?”
And the people cheered.
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of Christian Bend (Mercer University Press).