The Gospel According To John F
Book excerpt, interview and photos by Bob Gersztyn
Conversations With and About John Fahey is a book that will be comprised of a series of discussions with John Fahey in 1997, 1998 and 1999 and interviews with others about him after his death in 2001. The 1997 conversations were about the impact and influence of religion in our lives and its relationship to music- one of these conversions, from September 10, 1997, is including below. In 1999, there was a phone conversation about the Third Reich and in1999, there were two meetings about his then-upcoming book being published. Eight years after John passed away, I began interviewing some of the people who knew him best. At this time the book contains 14 chapters. Each chapter has an introduction to the interview explaining the context and how the person being interviewed was connected to John Fahey. The projected publication date is late 2019 as an eBook on Smashwords.
John: I guess I already told you that I attacked the Protestant Church, because you seem to know about it.
Bob: You didnít tell me that. You mentioned Gnosticism back in August. Saying that the Protestant Church was Gnostic.
John: Neo-gnostic. (Laughing) Thatís what I said. Yeah, because they rely on knowledge rather than sacraments. Thatís the main point. I donít know how serious I was, but I really let them have it, while I wrote it anyway.
Bob: Well, do you really think they are relying on knowledge? I mean any different than the Roman Catholic Church would be?
John: Well, the Roman Catholic Church is founded for the existence of an institution to baptize people and, to serve Eucharist. Those are, I mean, if you took away the Eucharist there wouldnít be any reason for it to exist. Right?
Bob: I was asking about the difference that you see between the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant Church, as it relates to the subject of knowledge.
John: Iíll tell you. The whole issue insofar as it is an issue at all. (Laughter) But the whole thing is very personal. When I was a little kid, I knew three or four little girls who were Catholics and who had this certain quality of peace about them. I donít know what else to call it except peace. And I never met anybody else, who had it. And most Catholics donít have it. Iíve never met any Protestants who had it and I donít know how to describe it. But it was as though they were very much at peace, OK? So I was kind of the protector of these little girls. This started about in the 3rd grade. And they still had it when they were teenagers. So I always thought they had something very special that you couldnít get if you were Protestant, Ďcause I never met any Protestants that had it. These girls never wanted to fight about anything, they had humility, and they werenít out for themselves. When they grew up, they werenít looking for rich husbands. You know, they were really humble, following the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. In fact, one of them I got married. (Laughter)
Bob: You got her married? How?
John: I got her married, yeah. To an older guy. One day, I was walking down the railroad and there was this kind of rough guy, you know, who I didnít know too well, but I knew him,. And he was going crazy over this girl who I was in school with. One of these girls, Helen, or maybe her name was Sandra. He asked me if I knew the girl in this house down there. I said Ďyea I know her, what do you want with her?í He was a guy much older than me. Now if it had not been a serious issue with him, he would have hit me or something. If it had been any other issue Iíd have said Ďwho the Hell are you? What do you want? Itís none of your business.í He wouldíve chased me or slapped me or something. But he didnít. He was really hung up on this girl. And I quizzed him, and quizzed him, Ďwhat do you want to do with her?í Iíve known her since, I donít know, 3rd grade and this is when I was thirteen or fourteen. And I said Ďyou never seemed like a very polite nice guy to me.í And he was a great big tough guy and little me. And heís apologizing to me and swearing up and down all he wants to do is marry her. Would I help him? So I grilled him and grilled him, Ďtil I believed him and then I guess I took him down there and we pretended we were doing something else, selling newspapers or something, but I introduced him to her. Within a couple of weeks, they were married.
Bob: How old were they? Was she your age?
John: Letís see this was, must have been in the seventh or eighth grade and he was, I think he dropped out of High School in 10th grade or 11th. I mean it wasnít like she was 14 and he was 20. It was like 14 and 18. Something like that.
Bob: I was raised a Roman Catholic and didnít become a Protestant until I was 24 years old in 1971. Since 1971, I have only attended Protestant Churches, except for occasional Catholic divergences. During these periods, Iíve seen demons and saints on both sides. I think a lot of it has to do with peopleís personalities. If you have a kind, considerate and selfless individual become either Catholic or Protestant, they will align themselves with the theological ideas that follow their natural inclinations. Whereas a rude, abrasive and self-centered person is now in alien territory, they will have to start from scratch. Then I think that there is also their potential for growth in these areas. Maybe these qualities are much like the natural attributes of an athlete. Detrich Bonhoeffer, St. Francis of Assisi or Mother Theresa could be examples.
John: I canít prove my argument. I also knew lots of Catholics who were jerks. But I never knew any Protestant girls who had this peaceful quality. Never wanted to argue or fight about anything, who treated everybody equally. Didnít play favorites with anybody. Had a lot of humility. So I canít prove it, but I believe it. The other experience was living in the Union Gospel Mission where I got preached to all the time by idiots who were fundamentalists.
Bob: Why did you even listen to them?
John: I had to. Itís involuntary you have to either go to chapel in the evening or go out. None of these people had as many credits in religion as I did. I didnít have that many, all I have is a Bachelorís in philosophy and religion and a Masters in folklore and mythology. These people had never even been to College, not one of them. So I had to sit there listening to them misinterpret the parables, like the Good Samaritan. None of them had that right.
Bob: What did they say?
John: Since they couldnít understand it, they kept inserting: Jesus is the Good Samaritan. I suppose thatís true in some exegetical sense, but it doesnít say so anywhere in that section of the Bible. In fact, Jesus asks a question Ďwho then is the neighborí and then he tells the parable. Right? Remember that?
Bob: Wasnít it the lawyer who asked Ďwho is my neighborí to which Jesus told the story?
John: That may be, but the thing is, in the Good Samaritan, the neighbor is the guy that got knocked out by the robbers. The neighbor is anybody you run into that needs help. Thatís the point of it and none of them understood that. They just talked around it and got it all mixed up, other parables too they didnít get.
Bob: What exactly would you say they said, that Jesus was the Good Samaritan, and so you would differ with them on this point?
John: No, I would agree that in a larger sense, thatís true, but as far as the message of the story goes, he didnít answer the question that Jesus asks. None of them did. They answered all kinds of other questions like they started thinking about communism and you know. But the guy didnít have the brains to answer the actual question. Not even to answer it wrong. He did not understand it when he told this parable. Or maybe itís the way you have it, but Iím pretty sure itís the way I have it. It doesnít matter- the point was none of them answered the question or even noticed that Jesus had asked one (question) which is somewhat rhetorical. Since he was going to answer it in his parable and everybody understood it, except those idiots. You donít need to go to seminary to understand the truth or the answer to that parable. Thatís an easy one. Another thing they left out was that Samaritans were looked down on by Jews, even though they were Jews. Samaritans were considered Jews, right? They had different scrolls.
Bob: Actually, the Samaritans were not Jews.
John: But they considered themselves Jews.
Bob: Right, but they were actually Goyim (non-Jews) brought in by the Assyrians.
John: Well, you make my point even stronger. At one point in the parable, this Samaritan then who isnít a Jew but who thinks he is (whatever, heís a good guy), he comes along and helps Joe Schmoe. The Jews that Jesus hung around with looked down on these Samaritans so itís like saying, a Negro came along. I thought the Samaritans considered themselves Jews but used different books. Okay, Iíll take your word for it.
Bob: I actually have a pretty good book, on New Testament History by F.F Bruce. It goes through a lot of that.
John: It would have been like Jesus said, a Buddhist came along (laughter) and he was kinder than you jerks were. So it had a sub point.
Bob: I think that the main point Jesus wanted to get across was that love transcends religious, cultural and ethnic differences.
John: Yeah, right. Of course, these people were also teaching faith, not works. Which is very convenient if youíre a member of the staff and not a client. Then, you donít have to worry about how bad you treat the client. From the clientís point of view (chuckles), we wished they had believed in works. But I donít want to get into works and faith. You were asking me what is the difference between Protestants, really, Iím talking about Fundamentalists and Catholics. Catholicism because of its political organization and its branches, and its educational policies. Paradoxically, itís always been the Catholic Church whoíd set up the most educational institutions. Which has helped prevent enthusiasm. Do you know what enthusiasm is? Itís when you take one element of Christianity and emphasize that to the exclusion of all others. What these fundamentalists do is get real emotional and start yelling and screaming and forget everything else. Thatís enthusiasm.
Bob: How does your religion or how do your religious views affect your music?
John: They donít. My religious views change from day to day. For all practical purposes, Iím an Atheist, but I have strong emotion! I have a lot of love for the Roman Catholic Church. Even though I wasnít brought up in it., I was brought up in the Episcopal. On the other hand, I was baptized a Catholic as an infant. Here again, you have the difference. Some Protestant sects insist on adult baptism, when you can make up your own mind. The whole Catholic thing with infant baptism is this; youíre not smart enough to do it yourself yet, so we will do it for you.
See the rest of our John Fahey tribute
Dean Blackwood/Revenant Byron Coley on the '90's Byron visits John Bob Gersztyn interview with Fahey
Dr. Demento interview George Winston interview Fahey interview 1997
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