Mentors I Tried to Forget and Am Now Glad I Didn't
Mar 16, 2009 by Don Payne | 1 Comments
Mentors come in many shapes and styles; some we would rather forget because things didn't work out that well, we never "hit it off," or perhaps what we learned from them was by negative example. Another category just occurred to me; mentors whose influence has been tainted in our memories because we no longer affiliate ourselves with some things for which they stood. Then somehow we realize that that we are all a mixed bag really, and that we have much for which to thank those mentors even though we might be in a "different place."
In regard to that last category of mentors I need to come out of the closet. I was raised in and my faith groomed in one of the most extreme forms of American fundamentalism that exists. This was a rather loose network of independent Baptists who considered Southern Baptists a bunch of liberal compromisers (if that helps you locate us on any kind of spectrum). My father was a pastor in that movement and, ironically, he was actually a key influence in my moving away from that in some sense. He had a level-headedness and sanity about him that put a lot of the extremes and goofiness in perspective. I have spent the better part of the past thirty years processing, rejecting, and in some cases reacting against that heritage while trying to retain a healthy grip on what was essentially good and right. Still, I must admit that reaction has often trumped retention as far as my attitude. I don't think I'm alone.
To this day I bear my share of internal scars and hang-ups that in one way or another trace back to that heritage. I have consciously sought to dissociate myself from that from fear of enduring theological and social disgrace. Now I realize that at age 51 I'm a big boy at last (or should be) and can afford to publicly own and give thanks for the mentors in that movement who gave me great gifts in one way or another - regardless of any other disagreements I might have with them (after all, they could turn out to be right on some of these issues and I may be the one who looks silly at the judgment; stranger things have happened, you know!).
That's enough for right now. In coming blog entries, I'm going to profile and thank some of my fundamentalist mentors.