Children Of July (MRR # 335 - April 2011)
You might have noticed it’s been a couple of months since I contributed a column to this magazine. I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching and have discovered a few truths about myself that I think I’d been avoiding, to the point that I debated whether or not I should really continue writing this column; whether or not I really have a place here. But I’ve discussed it with Layla and Mariam, and they’ve assured me that MRR is a place for diverse views and opinions, and that they welcome all sorts of opinions.
I’ve mentioned in this column before that I grew up in a Protestant household, and I went to church regularly as a child. I was a member of an after-school Bible study group called Scripture Union, and have read the Good Book cover to cover. In fact, even as I grew disillusioned with organized religion as a teenager (primarily due to the ugliness of religious sectarianism in the west of Scotland) I still have always turned to the Bible for support during difficult times. As I became a punk rocker and involved in the class struggle I soon learned to keep this part of my life a secret, as religion was extremely unpopular amongst the punks, but I consoled myself with the realization that who was Jesus, if not the first punk?
More recently, I have branched out; towards the latter half of 2010 I was having something of a crisis of spirituality. A lot of evil is said and done in the name of Christianity. I had a hard time reconciling the Jesus I thought I knew with so many of the acts done in his name. In something of a tailspin, I reached out desperately for solace. First, I studied the Torah and the Koran. Then, I attended introductions to Zen Buddhism and practiced yoga. I read the Bhagavad Gita, the sacred text followed by the Hare Krishnas. I devoured books on Rastafarianism. With each chapter, with each class, I was slowly realizing something that, deep down, I knew all along: at their core, all religions share pretty similar tenets, but each has seen their message distorted along the way to serve the needs of some human leader. Religion is not the problem: hierarchy, leadership, human frailty. The scales had fallen from my eyes.
My calling, then, seems to be to create a world religion that distills the natural goodness from the existing religions, but which has no hierarchy, no difference between the oldest sage and the freshest acolyte. Since the beginning of the year I have been holding daily prayer meetings with similarly-minded people I have met here in San Francisco: disillusioned Christians, alienated Muslims, angst-ridden Buddhists, and assorted soup-kitchen celebrities. We have been sharing ideas, thoughts, and fears. Fear is probably our biggest enemy, but the very depth of our fear tells us we have stumbled upon something righteous and holy. Something essential: something that will finally change the world for the better. We call our group The Children Of July, for reasons that will become clear later.
Anyone with any experience of working in cooperatives will tell you how difficult it is to run any kind of organization without a hierarchy. For the purposes of keeping things moving efficiently, the group unanimously voted to appoint myself as temporary ‘coordinator’, or de facto leader. Everyone involved has accepted my assurance that I will step down as soon as we feel we have a sufficiently strong grassroots organization.
The reasons I was chosen so unanimously are somewhat important to the story of the genesis of the Children of July. While the group started with around twenty members, the less committed among us fell away as the pressures of daily prayer meetings became too demanding; eventually we were left with a hard core of seven members. As I learned about the world’s major religions, I discovered that the number seven is significant not just in the Bible, where it appears many times over (Seven days of creation, seven days of famine, seven spirits of God mentioned in Revelation, the seven deadly sins, etc) but also in Hinduism (seven Chakras), Islam (e.g, seven levels of heaven and hell) and Judaism (the seven branches of the Menorah to give but one example). This felt especially significant to me, as I was born on the seventh day in the seventh month (July). In fact, I was born in 1970, so I turned seven years old on the seventh day of the seventh month of the year 1977. Therefore, the number seven has always carried a little extra weight for me. The more I read the holy scriptures of the world’s religions, the more I realized why: I was put on Earth to unite the people of the world under one umbrella of peace and love. I say that not as any kind of religious guru: I am just a regular guy. I’m not the second coming of anything. But I feel this as my calling and I can no longer fight the urge to share this with as many people as possible, starting with you, the readers of Maximumrocknroll. I hope that over the coming months I can use my column to disseminate some of the findings that come out of our regular prayer meetings, and to encourage readers to form their own chapters of the Children Of July.
So far, we have tried to distill the basics of what we believe to be the foundation of the future one world religion. We have come up with some basic tenets, but they are not commandments in the traditional sense. Being part of the Children Of July is a choice, and once you’ve made that choice, following the tenets is almost self-fulfilling. In fact, our tenets are more like group affirmations, with which we begin every prayer meeting.
1. We will honor our Mother and our Father.
By now, there can be no doubt as to the existence of some kind of deity, who for the sake of argument we will call God, or the Holy Father. However, we also feel strongly that there is a living, breathing force at the heart of all life on the planet; for now, we will call that force Mother Earth. This is central to the belief system of the Children Of July: we are all children of the Holy Father and Mother Earth. Everything we do must honor them. For two long, humans on this planet have disrespected our Mother, and as such have enraged our Father. War, famine, ‘climate change’, disease: these are our punishments for continuously mistreating our Mother. We feel that this can go on no longer. The first step in changing the planet is to adopt a completely vegetarian diet. All members of the Children of July are encouraged to follow this path.
2. We will drink the wine.
Unlike more orthodox religions, we see nothing inherently wrong with enjoying pleasureable foods and substances, as long as they don’t infringe on the first tenet. Growing up in Scotland, I was introduced to a particular brand of wine made by Benedictine monks at Buckfast Abbey in Devon. Acolytes of The Children of July find that sharing the wine leads to a more convivial atmosphere at the prayer meeting and will be an important factor in the future unification of all world religions. A word of caution, though: over-indulgence in the wine led to some heated arguments at early meetings and may be one reason our numbers have been so greatly reduced.
3. We will spread the word.
It took me a while, but eventually I figured it out: From the earliest Gospel singers, to the most conscious Reggae musicians, to the Bad Brains, by far the most intense music is made by those who are answering the call of a higher power. Each member of the Children of July has vowed to start a band as a way to get the message across, and we ultimately envisage COJ bands and musicians of all genres and types in each city and town across the world, spreading the word and unifying the people scene by scene, until we are all living in peace.
4. We will love each other.
It sounds so simple, yet we make it so complicated. Just love each other. Learn to forgive. Drink the wine (See no. 2). It feels good. The number seven crops up again here. As I said, there are seven core members of the Children of July. The possibilities, the miracles that can be achieved when seven people just love each other will blow your mind. I encourage anyone who is interested in anything I have to say, to go out and start their own chapter. Find six more like-minded people and watch the sparks fly.
5. We will actively seek the seventh son of the seventh son.
As I said earlier, the number seven is significant. While I have written a lot about peace and love, the truth is the world is at war, and unfortunately, no one is listening to you or me. What the masses respond to (besides TV talent shows) is a miracle. We intend to do all we can to bring one about. As we grow a grassroots network, especially one built on love and peace such as we are, I have no doubt that couplings will arise and families will naturally develop. We feel it is beneficial that male acolytes father as many children as possible, with the express intention that ultimately one lucky female acolyte will carry the miracle baby, the seventh son of a seventh son. The arrival of such a child will cast shame on those who continue to wage war and disrespect our Mother Earth. While it contradicts many Western codes of decency and morality, in order to maximize the chance of this happening, we have agreed that each male acolyte may keep up to seven wives.
This may sound as if we are emphasizing procreation over recreational or homosexual lovemaking: on the contrary. See tenet 4: We will love each other. If we can do it in groups of seven, all the better.
So those are our first five tenets. I have to admit, it is difficult for me to share this with the public so soon, but I feel that it’s time. I hope that at least some of you can appreciate what we are trying to do; with any luck, you’ll be inspired to get in touch and start your own chapter. I would like to host a gathering of all world chapters of the Children Of July here in San Francisco, if not this year, then hopefully in July 2012. See you there?