Sunday, November 13, 2005

I go to an incredibly white church. Actually, I stopped going to church when I was sixteen because everyone there was either a hypocrite or an ass or both. Even as a little kid, back when Reagan was still fucking up our country, I knew everyone there was full of it. I'd go to Sunday school (which confusingly took place Monday afternoons) and some idiot teacher would be reading us some feel-good lesson from "The New Illustrated Politically Correct Catechism For Kids," something like maybe how Jesus is your best buddy and when all the kids at school make fun of you for sucking at kickball, Jesus will be there — well, not technically "there", there, like that doo-doohead Corey who's still laughing at you for running like a girl — but there in this abstract, celestial sense that there's no way a grade-school kid is gonna understand. I was the kid who felt like something was amiss, and out of nowhere, I'd bring up issues like the problem of evil or Biblical authorship — not to be a jerk but because I genuinely couldn't understand this crazy-ass religion with these questions unanswered. I tended to get dirty looks and occassional scoldings for my troubles.

Mom claims she "made a promise to God" that she'd keep taking me to Sunday school till I was pretty much old enough to get a driver's permit. Lucky Jews: turn thirteen, you get to have a big party at the Hilton with the Chicken Dance and the Electric Slide, and you're an adult. I probably got a few Hallmark cards for first communion, but I don't believe I got shit for my confirmation. Not so much as a "Congratulations, God thinks you're a grown-up" from the archbishop. While I'm ranting, I'll mention that I wasn't even going to go through with the confirmation thing, except that every time I brought up the idea of giving up the church or running off to join the Hare Krishnas or something, Grandma would remind me, "What if you meet a nice Catholic girl, but she won't marry you unless you're confirmed?" I now realize that would be probably be a sign that this hypothetical girl and I are less than compatible.

Basically, the whole confirmation process was mindless and condescending, although in a more modern, holistic way than the good old-fashioned "memorize a book" catechisms of yore. Like, we had to go camping for God, which was like a three day long orgy of Chicken Soup for the Soul with a soundtrack provided by Creed. (Was Creed popular back then? Maybe it was Jars of Clay. Sooooo much better.) Of course I wasn't invited to the orgy part of the trip (read: party in the girls' dorm), just sitting on carpet squares listening for hours to these kids who thought they found God talk about how wonderful their lives were. Oh yeah, and one time the "peer counselors" or whatever blindfolded us and tied us up in the back of Jennifer Savage's shed. Really. It was supposed to be some sort of faith-building exercise, like afterwards we were gonna talk about God or something, but it really came off as this retarded hazing for Jesus. So yeah, I'm skeptical.

But Grandma likes going to church, because she's old and stopped using her brain years ago, and Mom had to go to a funeral in Queens, so I did my good deed for the year and brought Grandma. Grandma likes it when I take her to church, ostensibly because she likes spending time with me, but in reality because Mom is absolutely incapable of getting her to church on time. This, of course, means she'll be going to hell.

I always knew there was something weird about my (former) church, but I never really put my finger until I spotted a black family there a few years ago. They really stand out. The thing about these WASP-y churches — or I guess, in my case, WASC-y churches — is that no one seems to know what the hell they're doing there. It's all very pseudo-spiritual at best, and perfunctory at worst. You go to, say, a Baptist church and there's the whole community up and dancing, clapping their hands, spontaneously receiving the Holy Spirit. Whitey don't do that. We white folk kinda treat church like school: You sit down and shut up and tolerate it because you get to chat with your friends once the day's over. Of course, I don't have any friends at church, because everyone I know there is way too S&M for me. (I'm still bitter about that whole being tied up thing.)

This is what drives me nuts whenever I do go to church: that implication that the Church community itself equals God. Maybe it works for some people, getting together with their church-buddies and worshipping makes them happier and healthier. But it does not mean they're any closer to God. God's probably not all that impressed with my agnosticism, but I doubt he's any more impressed with the people who treat church like a meeting of the Optimists' Club. Okay, the priest read to us from Matthew 25:14-30, which is the parable of the guy who gives his servants money to invest and one loser servant goes off and buries his charge. Disturbingly prescient, given this whole rant I'm having. Somehow, a story about God bestowing His spiritual munificence on those with faith and withholding it from the non-believers got morphed in the sermon into a story about regretting the things you haven't done. It's a good lesson, I guess, but how super-puerile is it? Seriously, I'm gonna regret not getting laid before I die, but I don't think that's supposed to be found in the Good News.