Friday, July 1, 2011

My Adventures in the Swamp

Just last week, my husband and I were taking a walk in a bird sanctuary that resembled a South American jungle! It was thick with moss and vines and huge tree roots bubbled up out of the stagnant waters. It was rather exciting, (I saw three Anhingas! And dozens of turtles.)

The adventurers we are, we went off the path (there were no signs saying we couldn’t...) Soon we found ourselves tip-toeing carefully through a terrain that was quickly becoming a full-fledged swamp.

About a half a mile away from our trail, a bizarre sight emerged. There, on the banks of the marsh, was a grouping of dozens of abandon campers and trailers that evidently had been there for a long time. They had been dreadfully weathered with rust and choked with foliage.

Uhhh... then with horror we realized they were not abandon. We saw two pairs of little eyes pop out from behind a tree. Children! A dark, elderly man, who had until this moment been camouflaged by the complex interweaving of tropical colors, sat nearby fishing. We were about to abandon the place as unwanted intruders when the native looked up and introduced himself.

He spoke English. I don’t know why that surprised me. He turned out to be very friendly, introducing himself as “man with shovel but no wife.” (I guessed that was his name.) Then he told us about living in a cave before coming here and other Astonishing Knowledge. Strange that such an educated man could live in such conditions.

The man-with-shovel-and-no-wife seemed very apologetic that the newly elected chief of their tribe, Son of Will, could not come and greet us, as he was diligently seeking wisdom in an ancient book called “The Big Beef” written to give signs about things to come.

I could tell the man was about to give us a long lecture so we made an excuse and quickly high-tailed it out of there. When we returned to the bird sanctuary trail and finally got the park ranger’s office at the entrance, we asked the woman at the information desk about the people we had encountered.

She told us that a few months back the History Channel had done a documentary and had even come to this park because it was one of the group’s branches. (I was shocked to find out this tribe had spread out and lived in almost every swamp on the planet!)

When we got home we downloaded the documentary from Itunes and couldn’t believe the interesting stuff we learned.

Believe it or not, this obscure tribe, called the Los Esdeiay Mudos, originally from the southeastern US, has grown to over 16 million worldwide; which is kind of weird because the man we met kept referring to his group as the “little tribe of leftovers.”

I had never heard of them before--as the vast majority of Americans (who keep up with such things) often confuse them with the Los Testigos del diablo or the Los Imb├ęciles found mainly in the Wasatch mountains.

This tribe began in the late 18th-century. The legend is that the Florida Seminoles banished their princess, forcing her to live in the Everglades because she claimed she was protected by a white tiger ghost. When she survived the elements decade after decade, the local tribes taught that evil magical was with her.

Later, in the 19th century a group of Christians sought her out because of a legend that she had discovered the "fountain of life" by eating some type of root found in the swamps. Indeed even doctors, who examined her, reported that she was of an unusual age, well over a hundred years old.

These Christians joined her and began to live in the Everglades, being instructed by her. Within two generations the group disappeared from all society and were said to be still living in the swamp and had become extremely superstitious of outsiders. Locals began referring to these strange people as Los Esdeiay Mudos or the "White Swamp People.”

While the documentary found that indeed their eating habits did add a few years compared to the average American lifespan, that they also allowed their children to grow up living in, playing in, being educated in the dark, humid environment of the dank bogs.

Occasionally one of the group would leave and join civilization, but in general most were so convinced that their swamp was far superior to the way the outsiders lived that they would actually try and get people to move in with them!

They had a cyclical religious celebration called "The Night of the White Vision." The princess claimed she was only a messenger, that the vision originated from an ancient scroll given to her by her white tiger (who protected her from the spirits).

On that night, they sacrifice a 14-day-old goat and two doves to the gods to appease them, for they believe that at any moment they may be punished by the gods. Then they all drink from the

“Clear Waters” which is actually from the muddy, putrid bayou.

During the documentary, a reporter asked a tall, white-haired tribesman why they didn't come out of the swamp and live in the sun and allow their children to play in pure, clean water.

At the time of the filming the leader was Chief Sleepy-Son-of-Paul who gave an alarmed expression and replied that an ancient prophecy, the princess warned and warned the tribe about, was that one day, a beast would come into the swamp, disguised as a man and force them to drink water from a deep hole in the ground that would have no taste and no color and then it would signal the end of all days for Los Esdeiay Mudos.

The princess implored them to always be faithful and drink only from the Clear Waters provided by the swamp gods, and not the deceptive waters from the traitorous beast (no matter how clear it seemed), and if they would keep the Night of the White Vision when the river ran dry, then all men of goodwill would one day become
Los Esdeiay Mudos. Mankind would live with peace in the swamp. For one day soon, the gods will destroy all other men except those that move to the swamp and live like Los Esdeiay Mudos.

The chief offered the reporter a drink of the tribe's water, the reporter with a red face, of course refused. But the chief didn't seem offended. The tribe were really nice people.....

Thursday, June 30, 2011


Cliff Goldstein: Adventist Celebrity: Writer and Editor for Adult Sabbath School Quarterly
[First in series of Adventist Celebrities and Me... because so many SDAs claim I wasn't ever really an SDA but someone on the periphery of the church.]

I love Cliff Goldstein. His program "Cliff" on The Hope Channel was the best thing on there.

A guy who worked for the General Conference, Mr. Newhart, pulled me aside when I was manning a pro-life booth at a campmeeting in Keene, Texas and insisted that I talk with Cliff Goldstein. I had no idea who either of them were, but I went.... I found Cliff dramatic, enthusiastic, entertaining and smart. His energy and worldview has always thrilled and mesmerized me.

We, my husband and I, have had several encounters-- including a dinner at Jose's Mexican restaurant in Cleburne, Texas, an Indian dinner in Fort Worth followed by dessert at La Madeline's. Once he came over our house and told a fascinating experience about watching an exorcism.

My last encounter with him wasn't wholly unexpected. After we left Adventism, we stopped by the General Conference offices in DC to see him. He sat for a second and then made a quick exit.... He seemed a little uncomfortable.

He is what makes the adage "opposites attract" true for me in a theological and political sense anyway. We have very little in common other than we both have been called "Jesuits who have infiltrated the SDA church." Other than that, we really are about as opposite as you come. He hates music.... which is beyond my comprehension and Sylvia Plath is one of his favorite poets. He's a Democrat and is pro-choice.

If I were God, Cliff would get into heaven just for the sheer joy of an eternity of trying to figure out HOW he can believe what he believes!

This clip of Cliff speaking is a perfect example, he states that as an Adventist some doctrines cross the line of tolerance and the big-tent idea.

"If evolution hasn't crossed that line, nothing has."

Really? Seriously? Evolution is what gets Cliff to finally wake up and smell the Postum percolating?

Monkey dad and mom is where Cliff draws the line? Maybe if Adventists had stood courageous for the right decades ago, Adventism and evolution wouldn't be doing some theological fencing at the moment.

For all their apocalyptic handwringing, the Investigative-Judgment-preaching, Ten-Commandment-keeping sole remnant should have seen this coming. They have silently let the culture slide (and their church too!) into chaos without letting a peep come from within the hallowed halls of the General Conference against gay marriage, the sin of homosexuality and abortion... They may have a dusty document in the fine print stating firmly (and we really mean it) that they are kinda against the slow decay of our country. But hey, that doesn't mean we have to get personally involved, after all the Lord is coming soon....

Ask yourselves Adventists, when have you attended a Revelation seminar about the evils of premarital sex or adultery or theft?

Yeah, that's what I thought.

You have been so single-minded about the Sabbath as to completely erase your church from any cultural significance. It is not us who have forgotten one commandment out of ten, it is YOU who have forgotten NINE out of ten!

Today you are dealing with the evolution crisis in your schools because you didn't join the rest of us Christians in dealing with the cultural crisis of Relativism, nihilism, abortion, homosexuality. You are a one-commandment church and you let everything else slide as less important. On that note, Cliff was aware of the problem of relativism as seen on his television show and for that he was far ahead of the rest of you.

Don't mean to sound as critical as this is coming out. All I am saying is now is the time to start focusing on ALL the commandments of Christ. The NEW TESTAMENT commandments that deal a lot more with immorality and disunity than the Sabbath.

Time to step into unity with the full Body of Christ and begin the enormous task of bringing Christ back into the culture and a true sense of what being a Christian means.

And as personal note to Cliff, I still LOVE YOU!!