So yesterday, I went to church with my friend Lindsay. Now, I'm Jewish, but that isn't why me and church is an iffy combo. The reason is because organized religion scares the heebies out of me.
But, Lindsay asked, and breakfast was involved beforehand, so I was in.
Let me preface the following by saying that I have never read that bible, and so know next-to-nothing about Christianity. When I was little, I thought that Jesus and Santa were the same person, which still doesn't sound too wrong to me. (If not, then who the hell is Santa? What does he have to do with Jesus's birthday? Bueller?) Besides all of this, I grew up in a house in which religion was described thusly (by my mother): "Oh, Jesus was nothing but a little Jewish boy gone bad."
Anyway, this church is one of those where the pastor dresses in jeans, and there's a band, and all of these punk rockers are there to try and tell us that the Lord is cool.
So, the band starts to rock out, and all of these people raise up their arms as they sing along, swaying, with their eyes closed. I've never seen something like this in real life. To me, this was about as strange as speaking in tongues.
The songs themselves gave me, an outsider, the following impression: all human beings are slugs who should spend their whole lives trying to appease God because he knows that we're all slugs. Meanwhile, the pastor goes on to deliver his sermon, where he (rightly so) praises flowers and the Grand Canyon as glorious things. So, flower: good; human: worthless.
I'm sorry, but the God that I believe in is laughing at all of these earnest people, wondering why they're taking things so seriously, and wasting so much of their time believing that they are worthless.
And exactly how did Jesus die for our sins again? How are little babies born marked up with a sin that they have to spend the rest of their lives prostrate to? I realize that it's a big chunk of Christianity, but I don't understand it. And how many times could this house band possibly abuse the near rhyme of "cross" and "cost" as in: "he died on that cross/we'll never know the cost"?
But, what really got me about the service was what happened next. The topic of the sermon was: To Tell the Truth. OK. I can dig it. Lies are not good.
The pastor went on to tell us all that no one has battled food and weight issues as much as he has. Personally, as soon as I hear: "nobody knows the troubles I seen," I think: Drama Queen. Moving on.
If he had battled with weight and food issues, you'd think that he'd be a little compassionate. Apparently not. He went on to assure us all, a little desperately for my taste, that he's been a member of the same gym for 10 years straight, and goes 6 days a week, ahem... religiously. One day, around the time of New Years' Resolutions, he was on the treadmill, and a woman began using the one next to him.
Here he paused, and said: "Now, I want you to know that nothing I say is intended to belittle or poke fun at anyone, but...She wasn't large. She wasn't even extra large. She was in a whole notha category." (Why do all pastors sound like they're from Texas even when they're not?) Laughter from all the assorted Christians.
He went on to say that she used the treadmill for a little while, and he became concerned that she would have a heart attack, or worse, explode from her workout outfit. If that happened, he continued, he wouldn't help her, as his commitment to God can't run THAT deep. More laughter from the assorted hyenas in the pews.
After a while, she stepped down from the treadmill, and GET THIS: she had the nerve to walk down the gym as though she was the object of every man's desire.
Of course, the pastor said, this woman was simply lying to herself.
More laughter from the jackals surrounding me.
At this point, I was ready to stand up and scream at him.
To me, the biggest lie in our society is the belief that we can only look one way and be considered attractive. This is a lie that hurts millions of people every second of the day. I would venture to say that the percentage of women in our society who are truly, truly happy with their bodies and appearance must hover around 1%, with a -/+1% margin of error. The fact that this woman had the gall to feel good about herself after working out, and to, Oh My Lord, think that she's attractive, means that she has faith in herself. Walking around that gym with a sashay in her step? That's a revolution. That's not a lie.
The lie is the idea that Christianity, at its core, is about being good. I don't know about you, but whenever I have heard the term "Christianly" as in, "that's not very Christianly of you" it's reinforced my previously held concept that Christianity was about being kind in deed and thought.
Those people scattered around me in that church, cruelly laughing at a woman they'd never even met, and that pastor, telling the anecdote from his toxically ignorant point of view, they revealed my concept of Christianity as the lie that it was.
I know that sounds harsh, but I was ready to stand up and scream in that church, and the reason I didn't was that my friend had brought me as a guest.
After that incident, I kind of kept my lips tight and my head down. I barely made a whimper as the pastor gave his reasons for wanting Creationism taught in schools.
Lindsay and I met up with some of her friends after the service, and one of them, a blond woman who touted Creationism before we headed for the pews, made a nasty comment about me clearly not liking the service, as I "didn't laugh at any of the pastor's jokes." She smiled, but her eyes were dead as she said it.
I don't want to dismiss a whole religion, especially on the evidence of one morning, but I don't know. If this is Bush's America, in all it's ignorant, science-defying, stereotype pushing, sanctimonious meanness, I'm glad that I am clearheaded.