> Seth Underwood Stories: Church of the Independent (est. read time- 12 min.)

Church of the Independent (est. read time- 12 min.)

“In collectivistic cultures the collective is responsible for the wrongdoing of one of its members; in individualistic cultures, it is solely the individual who is responsible.” (Triandis, Harry C. 1995, Individualism and Collectivism. Boulder: Westview Press, 78).

Can there really be such a thing as true individualism and true collectivism when humanity is social by nature and yet an individual at the same time? Are we not two realities bound together into one being?

Franklin Mcguire, a legal grad student in a Washington DC college, has finally found his calling. No more classes. No papers. No tests. No thesis this or thesis that. No more court case analysis. One Saturday night pretty much on a whim with a girl he met at the Lucky Bar in North West, he found his calling with a group he was introduced to that night. The two of them took an Uber to a warehouse near the rail yards of North East. Franklin wasn’t particularly religious despite growing up in a pretty traditionally faith oriented family that went to Church every Sunday. But this was unlike any Church he ever experienced. First it was located in North East near the rail yard in a warehouse. Second there was lively music, there was dancing, and there was drinking. It was like a rave. “How is this Church?” he thought to himself.

Then some old guy got up on the stage, the music stopped, the dancing stopped.

“Welcome. Welcome to the Church of the Independent.”

“Here we will never judge you.”

“You are totally free. Free to be yourself.”

“Free to believe in whatever, and do whatever.”

“We only ask three things of you- Time, Talent, and Treasure to help support the cause.”

“Other than that enjoy tonight’s festivities.”

With that the music, dancing and drinking continued.

And with that night, Franklin was hooked. He found his people, his way, his mission in life. He exchanged phone numbers and emails with some of the organizers.

He dropped out of his classes and began to help with the ministry efforts of the group much to the chagrin of his roommate, Cadi Maddex.

Cadi Maddex was a fellow grad student attending the same college but in the Accounting program. She could care less if Franklin was going to ruin his life with this Church nonsense. Mostly upon Franklin’s father’s advice, Cadi and Franklin had gone in together on this rent-to-own property as an investment shortly after graduating from undergraduate school. Cadi was paying her own way and Franklin’s rich father was covering for him. Cadi really liked the place and its location, the value of the property had already appreciated significantly in the short time they were there, and it was expected to go up more with some new developments going into the tiny neighborhood.

A couple of days before the January 21st Women’s March, Franklin and several of his fellow Church members came over to the apartment for a spontaneous organizational get together.

“Franklin, what is this?” Cadi asked with her hands pointing to the gaggle of half a dozen people. She had no idea who they were, and now they were sitting in the living room opening a box filled with pink pussyhats.

“We are prepping for the upcoming Women’s March. Aren’t you coming?”

“Are you kidding? I have way too much to prepare for my classes that are starting, and besides I actually have to work that day.”

“You should really come. I mean it is all about women.”

“Okay, there is way more about women then just marching down some street and wearing some piece of pink knitted headgear.”

“Oh don’t be that way. It will be a lot of fun. A whole bunch of people expressing their rights and freedoms.”

“Look I am all for freedom of speech, and you can go out in potentially freezing cold weather all you want. But for me, I am going to actually try to improve myself and continue with my studies.” And with that Cadi turned in a huff and went to her room.
Franklin returned to the men and women who were going through the box of pussyhats and other various items that were on the bottom of the box.

The day of the march Franklin and the others first gathered at the Church. Then they made their way where the main march was assembled near 3rd and 4th on Independence facing NW finally ending up somewhere along Madison NW and 3rd SW.

Franklin had an incredible day. He listened to Madonna, he wore a pink pussy hat in solidarity, and recalled his undergraduate class in Women’s Legal History and the paper he wrote on the division between the two camps of suffragists. But this time he saw no division, and only saw unity of a mass group of womanhood.

He turned to the girl he met at the bar that first night and said, “Thank-you for bringing me to this.”

Later that night, Franklin returned to the apartment and upon seeing Cadi who happened to be up binge watching some Game of Thrones, said “You should have really been at the march.”

“Shhhh.” She said trying to wave him off.

“You missed out on some really powerful speeches on women’s rights. It was total women unity.”

At which point Cadi pressed the paused button on the remote, and stood up.

“Are you kidding me?!! Not every woman was allowed to be there!”

“What do you mean?”

“The event was a Total Pro-Choice Feminist Event!”

“So, isn’t that what women want?”

“Not all women. There are some who actually want families, health care for having children with disabilities, and the ability not to be short changed by society because you just happen to be a mom.”

“What are you talking about? It wasn’t like that. It was all about women’s issues. There were lots of signs about lots of different women’s issues.”

“Except, you couldn’t go if you were against abortion. That is what the website said.”

“That is just a bunch of nonsense and fake news. I am going to bed.”

“Whatever.” Cadi said setting down, and unpausing the show.

It would be a week later or so, on a Saturday, Cadi came out of her room to go to the kitchen to get a glass of water when to her shock and amazement, there was Franklin standing in the nude as he came out of the bathroom apparently from just taking a shower.

“Hey Cadi.” He said rather casually.

“Uh, haven’t you heard of a towel or a bathrobe?!!” She said covering her eyes from his nude form which really wasn’t that half bad.

“Nah, I already used the towel to buff off in the bathroom. It is just easier this way.” As he said while he strolled to his room.

It would be a month later after a few more nude incidents, a few more random spontaneous Church gatherings from topics dealing with women’s rights for abortion, same sex bathrooms for transgenders, to some protest in front of the White House about the Tahoe stonefly. 

There was once a gathering about doing some sort of early 1900s anarchist style protest, but lucky for Cadi they couldn’t come up with how to make the C4 in the kitchen due to a lack of ingredients, funds and cooking pots. They even asked if they could borrow the cash for the supplies, to which she flatly said no. That is when things would come to a boiling point for Cadi.

“What the heck is this?!” Cadi said pointing sternly at a wooden crate filled with dirt, some lamps attached to it, and a mess of electrical extension cords running about the living room.

“Well one of the Church members went to one of the marijuana gatherings, and got some seeds. So I am going to grow some for the cause.”

“We are not growing marijuana in our apartment!”

“Oh come on Cadi. It is for a good cause.”

“Look I have put up with this Church thing for a good while now. But this is getting silly. Freedom is not about do anything you want, any time you want. It never was about that. There are rules to society, and always have been. And these rules are there for a reason, and very good reasons. These rules form the sense of responsibility we all are to have internalized. It gives each person that sense of not doing harm to oneself, and others through one’s actions. It’s called conscience, you should try it sometime.” Cadi said in a very forceful and a stern manner.

“Wow you sound like what the old man says about those who will stifle our creativity. Our freedoms. The old man says the individual is the originator of creativity and created things, and those who live by social rules are parasites. You should be responsible for your own actions through your creation of individual action. If you cause harm, then it’s your fault and no one’s else’s and no one else should be punished through some group law or attempt to curb the behavior for your fault.” Franklin said fiddling with his setup.

“Look, I have a major paper to write, and I do not have time to get into a philosophical argument on individualism versus collectivism right now. But I think this Church and old guy has you totally brainwashed.” With that Cadi quickly pivoted around as her hair spun about and she quickly walked back to her room.

As Cadi sat at her Google Chromebook she thought more about her situation with Franklin than her paper. Things had really reached a point that she couldn’t stand it anymore. She could just ignore the whole thing and stay in her room pretty much all the time, but then she is going to end up living with a crazy man when the Rent-to-Own agreement reached the point when they owned the place. She was now really regretting this decision to get into this Real Estate deal in the first place. It made so much sense originally when both of them were starting off, but now that Franklin was involved with this funk-ass Church and dropped out of college he seemed more like the parasite. She had known Franklin since undergrad when they lived in the Co-Ed Dorms on Campus. He was a totally different kind of guy then, totally into education, career, politics, and becoming a lawyer to do social justice. Now he had become what Cadi’s father would call a “A damn free-loading hippie”. Cadi grew up in a blue collar family in the Rust Belt, and her father was much older than most. But she grew up with a strong sense of traditional values and knew what this Church was spouting off was just a bunch of nonsense. It came to her that the only way out of this situation was to take a big risk and buy out Franklin’s father’s share of the agreement. This would require her to restructure her educational loans privately to see if she could leverage the debt a bit to include the property. She quickly Googled the current loan rates and did some rough math in her head concerning her own budget. It could work she figured if she really cut back on a few things here and there. If the bank gave her a half a point lower than current going rate, than even better she thought optimistically checking her credit score on Credit Karma.

It would be about a month and a half for Cadi to secure the needed funding from a loan to buy out Franklin’s father and restructure the Rent-to-Own agreement all without Franklin’s knowledge. Meanwhile Cadi pouring herself into her studies and staying in her room simply put up with Franklin’s bizarre spontaneous Church gatherings, his pot indoor farm experiment which went south on him because he couldn’t get the water pump to work right, and him walking nude about the apartment.

When the time came for Franklin to move out, Cadi basically stayed in her room that day. Franklin’s father was the one who came with a moving crew to help him move. Franklin wasn’t really depressed about the whole thing, because his father found him another place in North East DC to live, where Franklin and his Church group could meet. Only once they had finished moving everything out did Franklin’s father knock and enter Cadi’s room to give her the key back to the place. Cadi simply sat in her swivel chair at her desk and took the key from the well-dressed man’s hand. And that was it, it was done. Franklin was out of her life. And she now was going to have the place to herself finally.

After sometime, she exited her room. Looked about how much furniture was now missing, and she looked in what was Franklin’s room which was totally barren of presence.

A certain hollowness entered her. She felt the loss of Franklin looking about at the emptiness of the place. Sure he had become a big jerk with this Church stuff, but still now there was not just a physical void but also an emotional void present. She was a bit scared about the whole decision she just made. She had crunched the numbers three times and she could afford the place, but even so the emptiness of the place made her wonder if she should try to find someone to sub-let.

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