Jerry DeWitt was resurrected by relationships and received a book deal (Hope After Faith) the day his house was to be auctioned. Last year I talked to to Jerry several times hoping to do an interview and was stymied by circumstance. What struck me about him was first his sincerity. The second was the depth of his persistence. Though still sliding into debt myself I was ready to send hime money straight from the wallet. Losing job, family, and community is either sheer madness or insistence towards integrity, or maybe both.
In this video of his Easter Sunday Morning talk DeWitt speaks of how we all can rise from difficult times to better times without magic. He speaks of the individuality of effort. Some offend, some bring love to the relationship. roughly, “An ounce of love is stronger than any resurrection.” He adds:
“Take the entire Bible, multiply it by a million, and it does not carry the weight of one single smile.”
He has the audience rise and ordinates them all as ministers of loving atheism. DeWitt is a preacher. It is not an act. As he gets more comfortable with his new community he shines more. When I see how the audience responds to him it is clear that many people are hungry for great speakers, great motivators, great characters of integrity that inspire to go along with them.
Some see him as parodying the preacher but I do not. This is the real DeWitt. Perhaps it is the substituting of DarWIN for Amen; “Can I get a DarWIN.” to punctuate the intensity of his remarks, which includes the audience as much as the standing and shaking of neighbor’s hands. Perhaps it is the style of the talk. Thunderous, deep, and impassioned–unreasonable. Immersed in the intimate alienation of print, text, and screen we humans still yearn for a great talk that moves us with reason and passion.
This puts me in an odd place. Speaking to the heart is gibberish but ubiquitous. Substituting one religion for another, irreligion, is still religion. What is true, in spite of the vernacular, are social institutions have certain things in common. Further, while some of us are grateful not to have to listen to a sermon others not only miss them but cheer them on when they witness them, morphed into something more palatable.
Those who have left religion understand the many double entendres and find comfort in both the embracement and mocking of them. It becomes a bridge from the comfort to the adventure. Perhaps it is a sensibility reflecting how one left one’s religion. Did you leave because of anger, fear, and bad circumstances in which case even the smell of a church organ angers or did you leave by way of reason and regret by which you still miss the familiarity of the spectacle?
DeWItt will be delivering what is claimed as Louisiana’s first secular sermon.
In the south we have a long standing tradition of culture and family and food. Our ancestors relied on various forms of super-naturalism to cope with everyday aspects of life. The United States has had various periods of semi-enlightenment, but they’ve all given way to the community built within religious constraints.
Our mission is to gather community while promoting a foundation of hope, trust, and love thus bridging tolerance through common secular values. We will bring the excitement into the hearts of freethinkers without exposing them to any supernatural aspects. We can provide all of the music, merriment, and ministry to our passionate growing secular crowd and still have it devoid of supernatural praise.
Think about those days when you went to church. How the preacher spoke passionately, so passionately that it resonated within your heart. At times it would often seem like he was speaking directly to you. No matter what his train of thought was, when he gave you the message you found a personal meaning. Think of how uplifting it was to not only hear, but feel the words.
We are not asking you to commit yourself to a church, or an idea, or even an ideology. We just wish that you come and join us and help us rejoice in simply being. You may find that this is something that helps you to analyze normal day to day activities that cause stress and deal with them in a secular way. This can be the answer to the lack of community within the secular movement.
We are glad you made it this far and look forward to seeing you on Sunday for Louisiana’s first completely secular service.
When I first heard Jerry this idea of a secular service immediately came to me as right for him. I wonder though. I guess it’s like therapy in education, restorative justice, where in some ways it doesn’t make sense but in others it is important to do it.
Jim Newman, bright and well