And not the cool, freaky, robotic ones from East Of West (which you should totally read, by the way, if you’re into apocalyptic fiction surrounding an alternate America and the love story between Death and the vicious, but awesome empress of China).
Father Lightning revolves around a perversion of two things: first, my grandfather, who was among the kindest men I’ve ever known – a role model for me in so many ways. And secondly, the United Church, where I grew up and eventually left, because when we did confirmation at age twelve, I decided to, uh, read the Bible.
Like, all of it.
Nothing will turn you atheist faster, believe me. Well, fast isn’t the word, I suppose. It’s a very long book, although by the time I was through with Exodus, I was well on my way. Something about the way they treated women and gay folks, and well, you know, the explicit acceptance of slavery as being totally cool.
Even at twelve, I knew that shit wasn’t right.
Anyway, I had to get away from God, and it’s taken me three decades to come back to it with a fresh look. I’m not, by any means, turning Christian. I’m not even taking up a belief in God. I am, however, seeing that some faiths aren’t as harmful as others. The United Church was among the first to accept gay marriage, women into the ministry and the message is largely of kindness. Heck, they even came out with a surprisingly accountable apology for residentials schools… in the Nineties, twenty years before the rest of Canada was forced to reckon with them.
All faiths are not equal, and not always harmful.
That said, I’m perverting both things, because I needed a vehicle to show that no matter our intentions, when we allow our beliefs to become institutionalized, they become magnets for people craving power. Greedy people. People who want to lord over others. And slowly, over time, we begin to forget why we believe what we believe and the words we use become scribbles on a floor, walked over and unread.
Our faith becomes dogmatic; our truths platitudes served up only in the service of covering up worse behaviour. They become a false shield; a way to deflect from the many crimes going on behind the front lines.
That’s what Father Lightning is. Reclaiming kindness without faith. Kindness as logic. Kindness as common sense. Kindness as what it should be – a way of life that makes the lives of everyone involved better, which makes sense.
Why anyone would choose otherwise is beyond me.
Target: 1400 words
Written: 1182 words, novel: Father Lightning