3rd Interlude: "Tommy & Religion"
Updated: Sep 7
"Every day people are straying away from the church and going back to God”
-- Lenny Bruce
Sorry, dear reader...my apologies once again. But before I proceed, I gotta insert this li’l nugget of personal history regarding me n’ religion during this current time period in which we find ourselves. Cuz it’s gonna come up in a bit n’ then again later on in the story, as well.
For me, by the time I left St. Joe’s Grammar School after the eighth grade and went to Alameda High School, I had become totally disenchanted with and pissed off at God. At least, the God that the nuns had taught me about. And make no mistake ‘bout it, it t’we’ren’t the priests that taught us kids ‘bout the Christian religion. Nope, it was the nuns.
Don’t know how it works with those folks in that religion now. But back in the days of the late-50’s thru the mid-‘60’s when I attended Catholic grammar school? It was those ol’ gals, the “penguins,” who had been commissioned by the Church to learn us li’l ragmuffins the right way, don’tcha know. Anyone who tells you different? Well…they just either weren’t there at that time. Or they just ain’t rememberin’ it co-rrect-ly. And you can take that check to the bank and cash it anytime you want, dear reader. Trust me on this one, k?
And teach us they did. Boy howdy.
Except the concept of the Devil, and how he constantly looks to find ways to trash our lives, never got brought up very much. We were taught that everything in one's life - the good, the bad & the ugly - all comes from God Almighty.
"Be sober, be vigilant: because your adversary the Devil, as a roaring lion,
walketh about, seeking whom he may devour."
I Peter 5:8
But as I got to ‘bout the 8th grade or so, some of this stuff just wasn’t quite trackin’ for me, logically speakin’ n’ all that. I mean, how can the same loving deity that gives a husband and wife a beautiful baby boy or girl in childbirth, turn right around and take away that very same child two weeks later in crib death? Or via some other such vile or devilish manner?
Here are some examples of what the nuns who taught us had to say about that kinda stuff:
"It's so that He can test our faith." Please. Or "So that we can learn how to better deal with life’s many tragedies." Or "He gives us challenges to overcome in order to strengthen us."
Yeah, like God Almighty really needs to load up our plates with even more grief than what normally comes down the pipe during most people’s jaunt thru this life on earth.
Gimme a break, Savonarola.
Now, the way I heard it from the nuns, God is s’posed to be our Heavenly Father, right? So, I mean, what kind of even marginally decent earthly father worth a damn would pull that kind of mean-spirited high-jinks on his own kids, just to teach them a lesson? Much less God Almighty who is portrayed in the Bible as being the “Perfect Loving Heavenly Father?”
(Hey, in the Old Testament? The old covenant between God and the Children of Israel?Whoa! In those days ya reaped what ya sowed, folks. The Messiah hadn't come yet. So, ya had better make sure that you were watchin' your six at all times. Or ya just might end up takin' an unplanned trip tp Babylon or Egypt for a few centuries. But, in the New Testament? It's a whole new kind of covenant between God and mankind. Full of God's forgiveness and mercy, the kind of which The Chosen People of Israel could only have wished for.)
In any case - and notwithstanding anything I just wrote above - that kinda Catholic school religious logic just didn’t sit right with me in late 1965. No it didn’t. Not one little bit, Pharoah. But, since I hadn’t been taught anything different than that ‘bout God from the time I was a li’l toe-headed tyke up ‘til late 8th grade, I was just simply pissed-off beyond belief.
And, so stoppin’-believin’ is exactly what I did. Stopped goin’ to church on Sunday. Or any day for that matter. Completely stopped prayin’…at all. Hey, why would I want to talk to this jerk ever again…hmm? And so I decided to open up my mind to other possibilities. Even though I had no idea whatsoever at the time what those possibilities might be.
However, unbeknownst to me in my present state of mind, I was becoming what might be referred to as “fertile ground” for new and different ideas about religion, spirituality n’ such.
“If God dropped acid, would he see people?”
-- Steven Wright
And so, it was about this time in our story that I/we discovered the “Jesus Movement,” which was sorta currently sweeping the country. In our case, later on in this story, this was to be via “The Way Biblical Research Center, Int'l,” out of New Knoxville, Ohio.
But, in the beginning (no pun intended), the two main things initially about all of this new “Jesus” stuff were:
Numero Uno - it was not Catholicism. Nor was it any of the other established and institutionalized traditional Christian Religions.
Numero Dos (and this was the big one) – in the very depths of our hearts we knew that:
God loved us as His children, we were part of His family...
...and Man, we were saved.
And we just couldn't wait to slam people over the heads with our new-found beliefs.
So - at the same time and in addition to all that - our newly-found spirituality also spawned a new direction in the lyrical content of Cookin’ Mama original tunes.
However, ya gotta remember that we were teen-agers growing up in the late 1960's within the hippie-infused environs of the SF Bay Area. Hence, the fine line between lyrical religious fervor and drug-induced lyrical psychosis rather eluded us in our present state of zealous adolescent creativity.
For example, one of our songs had these lyrics
as part of its overall message to the masses:
“And I’m goin’ up high, Yeah,
Never gonna come down,
And I’m goin’ up high, Yeah,
Jesus all around.”
Oh, yeah. That’s a beaut. How incredibly deep of us…hmm? Smoking dope n’ droppin’ acid as vehicles for finding God. Good grief! Nonetheless, in our hearts and minds we had found the truth. And we were gonna make sure that you found it too. Whether you wanted to hear it or not.
But the good news (again, no pun intended) was that before any of us had ever even heard about “The Way” or for that matter, New Knoxville, Ohio. We originally hooked up with a certain very special Christian dude.
Now Howie, besides being the catalyst for all that was to follow in regard to re-learning what Christianity was really n’ truly all about, was also a guy who was completely and totally into the Bible itself . Not just the Baltimore Catechism. He was completely loving in all ways imaginable. Totally cool n’ fun to be around. A very talented musician on multiple instruments. Had a fire-engine-red ’65 Olds-442 hot rod “short” to bomb around town in.
And, probably at least as equally important to all of us at the time,
totally into every bit as much pot n' acid as we were.
“ "With an attitude of gratitude, it’s impossible to be negative.”
-- Howie Yeremian
Howie had an upstairs apartment on Union St. in Alameda. Right smack dab in the middle of the island. It was Wednesday nights, I do believe, when he would have a weekly “fellowship” get-together meeting. And it was at these meetings where we could all pray for whatever kinds of stuff that was important to us in our own lives. As well as in the lives of our loved ones. Then, we'd listen to him give a teaching from the Bible with all of us following along with our own Bibles. And then finally, we'd ask him any questions we had about what we had just heard.
Howie had gone to Simpson Bible College and he knew more ‘bout the Bible than anyone whom I had ever known before. ‘Course, with all due respect to Howie - and I gots me a ton of respect for that ol’ boy - that t’we’ren’t really sayin’ much. Cuz I'd been raised as a Catholic.
Well, you say, how could you be "raised Catholic"
and still not know much ‘bout the Bible there, Moses?
Oh, didn’t you know? Back then it was commonly known that Catholics never studied the Bible themselves. They got experts that do that for you. They did, however, read short sections of it at Mass and such. Oftentimes out of context. But never in a thousand years would individual Catholics actually study The Good Book itself.
Hey, ya can’t honestly expect reg’lar folks to be able to do that all by their li’l lonesome selves now, can ya? I mean, if God would’ve wanted you to study the Bible, then why did He go n’ create “The Baltimore Catechism”…hmm? Or something along those lines.
Good grief. This is the kind of stuff that I had been taught for 8 years by the nuns:
The Good Sisters of the Order of Notre Dame. Hence, you see my quandary. Yeah?,
Anyway, I was likin’ this whole new “fellowship” thang we had goin' on. All the love n’ God n’ peace n’ comfort stuff. Real mellow “relax-your-head” readings from the Old Testament prophets, Psalms, Proverbs n’ Ecclesiastes, and into the Gospels and Epistles in the New Testament, and such.
But mostly - for me at least - it was just the prayin’ for each other using our own words. Rather than repeating over n’ over again the same ol’ tired words from pre-written prayers like some kinda freakin’ parrots-on-speed. This renewed approach to Christianity was a very cool scene for me to see and experience myself, dear reader. Particularly at that exact time in my young life. Truly.
However, speaking for myself here, my other ulterior motive in attending these li’l soirees was so that I could partake in the “after-fellowship” fellowship: the part where we broke out the dope. Hey, don’t get all squirrely on me now, ya hear? It was just pot n’ a li'l acid, k?…
...at least at this point. Hmmmmm.
I’ll have more to say ‘bout my brother Howie, and some other folks too, later on in this
tiny tale. But for now…well, that’s a pretty good introduction to him and our band’s
early Christian “roots.”