Dad loved the paper route. It was more than a job to him, it was a declaration. Each morning he traveled those couple hundred miles, each bundle of papers he opened, each newspaper he folded and inserted into the newspaper tube was an identity-affirming and existentially profound declaration of independence that went something like this:
"You're not the boss of me."
And to be sure, no one was the boss of my father, not even himself if we're going for total accuracy, which I think is the point.
My father had too many people in his life vying for position of boss. His father was his first boss. That arrangement lasted 16 years. My father left his father's house in protest at the age of 16 and never returned as a boy; he walked out the door a 16 year old boy and entered a world that required him to be a man. A world that requires a boy to be a man can be a place so hostile, so cruel that only a fool would enter it too early. My father was no fool, or if he was, he was the lesser of fools. Even the hostility of an unforgiving world was an improvement from life with his father.
As a young boy, my father asked his father a simple and innocent question about God and religion. The response was harsh and abusive. With hate in his eyes, my grandfather looked down on his young son with a piercing glare and said, "There is no God; I AM YOUR GOD." Now, I believe there is an honest way to arrive at the conclusion that there is not God. It's a false conclusion, but I believe you can get there honestly. On the other hand, there isn't any honest way to arrive at the conclusion that you yourself are God. There is something besides honesty driving that self-assessment.
When you are at a young age and your father declares himself to be God and insists on abusing you so harshly and frequently that you launch from home prematurely, there is this chance, methinks, that there might be some authority issues on the horizon.
How does a boy whose father has made a divine self-declaration prove the untruth of the claim? Such claims cannot be ignored or brushed off by a son like others from the outside can. A boy becomes a man by way of the man he calls father. Although my father knew that his father was not God, he didn't have enough proof to be convincing. When your father lies to you, it's hard to be convinced that he is lying unless he allows himself to be convinced that he is wrong. My grandfather was never wrong.
One way for a son to prove that his father is not God is to replace him as God. It is the way of the Sith. I think my dad had moments when he tried to believe that he was God and not his father, but my dad had at least sense enough to realize he did have some failings which disqualfied him from Deity status.
Another way for a son to prove his father is not God is to make a daily declaration that what is a lie really is a lie. It is the daily discarding of the lie and daily hope that there is truth - hope enough in truth to look for it. This declaration needs to be consistent, ritualized, and affirming that there is truth beyond oneself.
And when you think about it, doesn't that define worship? Isn't worship the discarding of that which is not God in the hopeful search for that which is? Isn't worship a declaration to everything not God that, "You're not the boss of me," in hopes that there is something worthy of being my boss?
Most people practice this ritual inside the walls of a church. My dad did it on the dirt roads of Lakeville, Minnesota - delivery in the daily news.