I looked long and hard (silly phrase, that) for a section of text that doesn't contain any naughty words (it's YA) because I know a lot of you let your kids read my blog. (And thank you for that. Inspiring the next generation of bloggers and amassing legions of young followers is one of this blog's goals. Also, everyone knows you can't take over the Webosphere without easily-led youngers willing to do the dirty work.) The following excerpt is the closest I came. ("Crap" and "ticked" are actually different words in the manuscript. No points for guessing which ones.)
Feeling guilty that Mom was forced to defend me, I rolled out of bed and staggered to the bathroom. Mom had helpfully removed my church clothes from my duffel bag, ironed them, and hung them on the brass hook on the back of the bathroom door. It’s amazing what that lady can accomplish before I even get out of bed. As I showered for church, I recalled my brief and fractured personal history with organized religion.
My parents, either because they wanted to give me a proper upbringing or because Grandma shamed them into it, took me to church when I was quite young. I don’t recall anything from the earliest years, my baptism included, but I do remember Sunday School. It was held in a small room across the hallway from the minister’s office. Our teacher was a man, probably in his forties, who went by “Mr. D” because he must have felt his last name was too difficult for his young acolytes to pronounce. Mr. D was not a gifted educator. I think his heart was in the right place, but he rarely deviated in his lessons and became quite flustered when asked to do so.
There were six of us, all under ten years of age, and on most Sundays we sat on colorful wooden chairs around a small table and waited patiently while Mr. D passed around paper pamphlets called “Hangin’ with the Lord.” Inside, we would read biblical stories that had been updated for the day's modern youth.
Instead of Cain and Abel, we read about Dylan and Tanner and how one day they went to church with their parents. During the offering, Dylan, having no money, placed his favorite toy in the collection plate, but Tanner gave only a ratty old stuffed animal that he never played with anymore. To make a familiar story short, God got really ticked at Tanner and told him to try again, but instead of taking this criticism like a man, he took his anger out on Dylan and beat the crap out of him. (I remember how this had commanded my attention as an eight year old. No one ever talked about child on child violence at school unless it was to warn us against it.) God was displeased with Tanner, so he kicked him out of his house and he became a homeless beggar.
After these lessons, Mr. D would then read the actual Bible version, which was full of confusing phrases like, “And Adam knew his wife again.” I asked him what that meant once and he acted like he didn’t hear me. He further stymied my other queries regarding this and other stories and so I was forced to take them to my father.
“I don’t get that whole Cain and Abel story,” I recall saying.
“Why was God happy about getting a lamb, but mad about getting vegetables?”
“I don’t remember,” Dad said. There was a football game on TV at the time.
“God seems sort of picky.”
“He is,” Dad said.
“You know how you always tell me to smile and say thank you when I get a present, even if I don’t like it?”
“Well, if God would've done that, then Cain probably wouldn’t have killed Abel.”
“You think it’s God’s fault.”
“I doubt it, He’s God.”
“And then later, it says that Cain was afraid of being killed, but the only people that were alive at that time were his parents. It says so right in the Bible.”
“There were other people,” Dad said, his eyes still on the TV.
“No, there weren't. There was Adam and Eve and they gave birth to Cain and Abel, so when Cain killed Abel there were only the three of them left on Earth. Why would he think someone would kill him?”
“Maybe he thought his parents would kill him,” Dad suggested.
Dad turned to me, his face serious. “They screwed up in the Garden of Eden, didn’t they? If it weren't for them, there wouldn’t have been any sin at all. I wouldn’t have trusted them either.”
“It doesn’t make sense,” I said.
“It’s not supposed to, it’s the Bible. You’re just supposed to read it and do what it says.”
“That’s stupid,” I mumbled.
I soon realized that the more I questioned what they were teaching me at church, the less frequently we attended, so I started grilling my dad every Sunday afternoon. Since this usually took place while a game was on, Dad was in no mood for it. His answers were frequently short, dismissive, and often just plain absurd.
A RANDOM SAMPLING:
“Dad, how did Noah get two of every creature on the ark? And wouldn’t the foxes have eaten the sheep?”
“He was like Dr. Dolittle. He could speak to the animals and they listened to him. Plus, I think he tranquilized some of them.”
“So, God destroyed two whole cities because the people were doing bad things?”
“But there must have been some good people in those cities.”
“There must have been at least a few babies or really small children.”
“Couldn’t God have found a way to kill only the bad people?”
“Sure He could have, but maybe He wanted to send a message.”
“Don’t do bad things, and if you see other people doing bad things, make them stop.”
“Did it work?”
“For a while.”
“God seems mean.”
“He certainly had a vengeful streak.”
“He mellows out in the New Testament.”
“This baptism stuff doesn’t make sense, Dad.”
“Well, say you’re one year old and you haven’t been baptized, but your neighbor is also one and he has been baptized. If a hurricane comes and kills both of you, then your neighbor will go to heaven but you'll go to…you-know-where.”
“I don’t think so.”
“Isn’t that what the Bible says?”
“I don’t remember.”
“It must. That’s why it’s such a big deal to get baptized.”
“Maybe. You’re baptized you know, so don’t worry about it.”
“But it’s not fair. I mean, what about little babies that die? They must all go to you-know-where.”
“I don’t think so.”
“They must. You-know-where is full of crying babies and bad people.”
“No, it’s not. Just bad people. God wouldn’t send babies there.”
“Yes, he would. It says so.”
“Eh, I disagree with that one.”
“You can’t disagree, it’s in the Bible.”
“Well, I think they got that one wrong.”