‘Childlike faith’

Rejected headline: Jesus needs a new stained-glass window

Rejected headline 2: Cheaper than a movie, and about as entertaining

Okay, so I went to church today. The walls didn’t crumble or anything — no injuries to report, anyway. 😉 We sinners — John, Shan and I — arrived late, so we sat in the back (which is most helpful when trying to leave early, too. heh).

I don’t know. I guess I was expecting to be moved or something — maybe I figured I’d leave with a, “Yes! I am saved!” kind of feeling. That didn’t quite happen.

I can’t stand the singing part of church. I really can’t. And for the record, I do not sing along. I was pissed that I had to keep standing up, sitting down, bowing my head, standing up again, etc. etc. It’s hard work, trying to blend in with all the Christians, particularly those who are raising their hands and swaying to the music. For the first 20 minutes, I was ready to impale myself on a blunt object, were one handy.

But luckily, I found no way to end my life, and when a youngish preacher-man took the stage, I was kind of intrigued. He spoke to me. He didn’t whale us over the head with (too much) scripture. He spoke to the cynics and the once-a-year attendees and the people who came because a friend asked them to. He was basically like, look, here’s what happened — take it or leave it. He hoped we would take it and maybe come back and see him again sometime, but hey, it’s all in your own time, whether or not you ever come to believe as much as he does in the word and the almighty power beyond us.

He was much better than the chick who was presenting before him. Ever see the movie “Carrie”? This was the woman who played Sissy Spacek’s mom — no shit! Had the hair, the face, the build, the wardrobe. Talked just like her too. She was in her own world — I’m not really sure she noticed the rest of us. I was waiting for “Carrie” to burst into a side door and be all telekinetic and shit and have the walls collapse onto us. Egads.

I was thinking that it would be a great business opportunity to host a motivational speaker on Sunday mornings who doesn’t talk about religion — I bet you’d get a hell of a lot more people to come out of their holes to listen to a life sermon as opposed to a religious one. I liked hearing stories about people he’s met and the crazy things his young daughters do to make him scratch his head and wonder what motivates them. I liked hearing that I’m not the only asshole who hates working for a living, that I’m not the only person who wonders why people just can’t act right and not harm others, that I’m not the only person who hurts and has needs that are simmering in the background while trying to juggle whatever is boiling over on the front burners. That was the best part of the service for me.

The worst part, of course, was the collecting of the offering. They sent around like 10 guys with tophats or some shit like that, collecting our money “in the name of Jesus” about an hour before the service even ended. I was rude and leaned over to Shan to ask, “What are we contributing to? Does Jesus need a new stained-glass window?” I mean, really. Tell it like it is and say, hey, it costs a lot to keep a church lookin’ all spiffy and new — if ya want to contribute a coupla bucks so that the entertainment remains free for the po’ and that your pews still hold your ass above the ground without cracking, throw us a fiver, fer cripes’ sake!

Ahem. Honesty probably wouldn’t be the best approach, if you’re letting me be in charge of truth in advertising!

At any rate, one of the phrases the young (okay, and let’s face it, hot) preacher-man said that stuck with me today was “childlike faith.” I suppose the context was to approach spirituality without the jadedness that we all acquire at some point in time — the, “Hey, is anybody out there really looking out for me?” wondrement. Boyfriend had a point there. I walked into that church as an agnostic, and while I left the same way, I wondered how religion really has lasted all these centuries — people really believe in this stuff, and their faith seems so unshaken — like of course there’s a heaven, and of course we will get to hobnob with the holy ghost someday.

I had no faith as a child. My great-great-aunt Annie was a nun, and after devoting a significant portion of her life to the catholic cult — I mean, church — she ended up blind and with a son who went all PTSD after serving in the Vietnam war. They lived in a converted garage in a not-so-fabulous neighborhood. Annie’s sister, my great-grandmother Anastasia, was told to never return to the catholic cult because she divorced and didn’t want to promise that she’d never remarry (and she never did remarry, sadly). Her youngest son also died as an infant. My grandmother Rose (Anastasia’s daughter) outlived the whole family and died of about 10 types of cancers, a handful of strokes and respiratory and renal failure. At some point, Rose told me that, if I was going to worship anything, I should worship money, because that’s the only thing that can fix — or at least ease — the problems we all faced. Jesus loves you and all, but the Pennsylvania Lottery pays off now.

Of course, be it known that, during her final weeks, my grandmother did start to re-think her faith, and we buried her with her Aunt Annie’s rosary. But that’s the thing I was discussing with Scott last night at Shawn’s kickass cookout — those who are closest to the grave or the electric chair seem to be the most impassioned about religion. A priest or preacher-man or whomever can give you last rites and absolve all the shit you’ve done in one sentence. And of course, I can go on for days, debating about what is, in fact, a sin and what is not. But I’ll digress before I even get started. 😉

So I never had childlike faith … at least, not in the holy gang. But I live in a time so far removed from when that stuff supposedly happened, too, that it seems infathomable. Who would nail a guy to a cross who fed a village? (Other than Saddam Hussein, I mean.) Who would fuck with god’s child? He can rule the playground, as far as I’m concerned, if he’s proving what he’s worth and using his powers for good. My childlike faith was always put into myself and my family — they were real, and if that’s what it means to have god’s presence in your life, then I can handle that, I suppose. But it’s a lot to digest in a 90-minute service in a church that’s worth about 90 times my annual income.

At any rate, the most memorable part of the service for me was when John fell asleep and Shan nudged him awake. He tried to play it off, and he pointed to the passage he was supposedly reading. The passage said something about needing to be awakened. Heh. Priceless!

We went to brunch at Mango Mike’s afterward. w00t! Praise the lord for the bounty of freshly made waffles, eggs benedict and sausage upon sausage galore that we ingested. It’s been a helluva long time since I’ve had salmon and caviar too, so that was my own little Easter miracle. Yeah, my priorities are screwed up, but it was a happy lil holiday for me. I may be in a strange land that’s far away from home, but between yesterday and today, I spent it in a wonderful way with some wonderful folks.

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