29 November 2020
Organized Religion, much like Organized Education, and I never got along. Not for lack of trying, or underexposure to the Man-Made Church, did I fail to accept the doctrine-driven “faith” of my childhood. I was, in fact, exposed to so much churching (twice on Sunday, Wednesday night prayer meeting, adult choir practices on Friday night of my much older sisters) that I had to take a lonnnnng break from brick-and-mortar sermons and singing to find out what the holy rollers were all about. And to find God.
Reading the entire work, Pensées, in the French, by Blaise Pascal, when I was seventeen started me on my spiritual journey. That journey has not ended, and it ought not end. As I said to a high school pallie: I was raised Baptist, so I end up a searcher.
In my own defense, I believe that I was always on a mission of seeking, not search-and-destroy in those cesspool temples of mammon. Too many parishioners believed the condescending words of a minister brother of mine, as he’d crowed from his pulpit, “As Baptists we know we are all going to Heaven.” That self-righteous pompous proclamation is symbolic of every time that I walked out of a Church.
And the times were many.
When my children were very young, kindergarten and toddler-age, I knew that I had to begin their religious instruction, but a very huge part of me balked at inculcating “faith” in the way that I’d had to learn about it. I nonetheless made some very valiant attempts at attending churches in the Suburbs of the 1990s in northern northern California.
The Sign-in-Sheet was the first alarmist sign for me, someone whose sense of privacy felt automatically invaded. Dear Husband informed me that the required writing down of my name, address, and phone number was so that The Minister coud get in touch with me.
“I’m here to get in touch with God, not for the Minister to dial-for-dollars.”
The scenario was always the same: the hippie-dippie-trippie college students whom I experienced during my childhood had aged into their perverted Preacher selves. The first go at going-to-church was to attend a hundred-year-old First Methodist Church in Roseville. That Hippie-Dippie-Trippie minister had absconded with $10,000 of the Methodist Church funds. Then, one Sunday, he announced from the pulpit that a Miracle had occurred!
An ancient parishioner, who had long ago moved out of this little town (to Arizona) had bequeathed all of her Roseville Phone Company Stock to The Church. That Ledger Sheet was wiped clean! (For a while.)
Mr. Grabby-at-the-Offering-Plate was thereby saved — not from Hell — but from expulsion by the Board of Directors, a line-up of hardliner old-timers who certainly welcomed my family and I, The Faithful Firebrand, into their historic church. That church was historic in terms of chronological legacy, but this long-haired peace-freak minister was bringing new meaning to “historic”.
The corrupt fiscal situation was not unlike Captain Renaud in the 1942 Hollywood classic film, Casablanca:
“I’ve often speculated why you don’t return to America. Did you abscond with the church funds? Run off with a senator’s wife? I like to think you killed a man. It’s the Romantic in me.”
The Romantic in me headed to another church, a Methodist one, since, as that hippie-wolf in minister-robe informed me, upon learning that I was raised Baptist: Methodists are Baptists who sing. He wasn’t far off on that one.
This next church was not local. We had to drive two towns over to get to it, and I have to say that my first and only attendance there was dramatic. The minister was a tall, skinny, snot-nosed man who struck me straight-off, in a memory sense, as the real-life version of the fictional Reverend Dimmesdale of The Scarlet Letter. My memory can be very mnemonic, especially the creative part of it; and so I silently asked My Muse to give me, or rather this pontifical embalmer, a break. My Muse, however, had her way.
When the Reverend launched into his sermon, I listened quietly. He was going off on a tear about non-Christians not getting into Heaven. A very polite and tender-voiced East Indian raised his hand. (This Q&A from Parishioner in Nave to Minister in Sanctuary was new to me. During my many years of church attendance in New Jersey, the Parishioners sang on cue, and the Minister did all the talking.)
This Hindu man was wearing his turban. He very humbly asked if he would go to Hell because of his religion. The Reverend Dimmesdale flat-out told him, “Yes.”
Mr. High-and-Mighty-Mortician was then asked by a woman about children, infants in particular, those who are born and then die, and the stillborns as well.
Yup, they’re going straight to hell. The Pearly Gates only accept the true-believer Methodist old enough to state his or her case to the Almighty.
This woman was shocked. The Minister then truly doubled-down on his bet, the pari that Pascal laid on the faith table in Pensées.
“When you think about it, is there anyone more selfish than a child?”
At that point, I stood up. I did not raise my hand, cause I’d raised my temper.
Everyone in the nave stared at me. I firmly and furiously informed Mr. Minister:
“Until my son was born, I wasn’t sure there was a God. And then when my daughter was born, I was not only sure of it, I was sure that ministers like you are going to hell.”
I then took the hands of my very young and impressionable children and walked out of that church. Dear Husband brought up the rear.
Because I had been spiritually black-mailed into providing my Contact Information, this ordained minister called my residence. Dear Husband answered the phone. I only heard his side of the telephone conversation, because I do not snoop on my Spouse (or on my houseguests).
“Yes, she feels very passionate about these things.”
“I understand you did not mean to offend her.”
“I will relay to her that you regret how things turned out.”
Although I certainly didn’t regret a moment of my mother-bear fury. Adieu to you! (À Dieu literally means “to God”.)
The remorseful message then ended. I am not sure if that self-centered misanthrope at the podium learned his lesson to never get between a Mother Bear and her Cub. Some personalities are as resistant as Teflon to the lessons of life, and of God.
At that time, my wonderful next-door-neighbor was a very devout Roman Catholic of long-standing. An Irish woman born and raised in the Church, she informed that I was teaching my children to walk out of a church, not to go into one. Her husband was the one who pointed out: “Those churches ought to be walked out on.”
I then went the Warehouse Ministry route, a trend that was over-taking the Suburbs of California. Somehow, singing in a religious Big-Box Store, a Costco with an artificial soul (much like their shiny aluminum Christmas trees), didn’t do it for me.
Next on the list were The Presbyterians, which was a huge concession on my part since a brother-in-law hippie became a Presbyterian Minister in the 1970s as a way to avoid the draft. He actually took to the sea, and went on a boat, Campus Afloat, to escape Uncle Sam. This abject hypocrite became a Presbyterian Man of the Cloth because that sect generously allows imbibing alcoholic beverages, especially wine. This guy, however, preferred pot and pills to booze.
I went to the early morning Traditional Service, as opposed to the later Modern Service for people who needed to sleep in late. All that I recall of that lecture-event was the Minister attempting to come to terms with Living In An Upside-Down World. The politics of personal destruction were giving him the Willies.
A newer Methodist Church was attempted, in another town. This one was headed up by a woman who believed that God is a Woman. Not that I argued the concept of God as all-embracing and all-encompassing of any and every sex, but this Feminist Parson had clearly confused the Politics with the Personal with the Spiritual. Frankly, she was a basket-case. Many years later, when my Dear Friend told me of her next-door-neighbor, the Witch who headed the Coven, I immediately remembered Miss Female Sexist Shepherd leading a very weird flock.
And so I began to home-church my children, sometime during the mid-1990s. I home-church to this very day.
During the past spring and summer, I read about the onslaught of lawsuits of California ministers against the Pompous Pompadour Governor, an intolerant stiff-neck who is too reminiscent of that prissy Methodist minister who obviously hated children. It’s all about the Power, no matter where the Hypocrite sits, or where the Two-Faced Charlatan soapboxes, or where the Faux-Moralist-Hag nags. And what more powerful domination can there be over anyone than through their Immortal Soul? Especially by the Soul-less who long ago sold their God-given souls to politics, mammon, drugs, Charbonnet and creepy sex?
A Governor nowadays is an Atheist Preacher. And the parishioners are fleeing those Secular Tabernacles in droves!
This past Easter, I said to Dear Husband:
“It’s about time those shepherds of their flocks found God to be superior to the Nanny State.”
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition. The humbly faithful among us are coming in on a wing and prayer. The Power Pagans can’t find a prayer in the Bible.