If this post were a movie, it would start with a prologue, a provactive scene that makes you wonder what the hell happened before it.
How about this:
INTERIOR. DAYTIME. MASTER BATHROOM
"Daddy, I don't want to be a Christian."
It was Sunday, exactly five months after my father died, and I found myself in a church for the first time since . . . I wanna say two years ago. Ironically, it was the exact same church, a real coincidence for a heathen like me.
My mother-in-law, and a room full of others, became deacons on Sunday and we were there to support her. And by "we," I mean my brother-in-law AND my mom (and of course my daughters and wife).
We arrived late (shocker) and sat damn near the back (bonus!). When we came in the choir was just quieting down and the shouting was just about to start.
Now, while I am intellectually curious about religion and Christianity, I find church to be pretty fucking boring. I mean not at first, but c'mon after two hours, even sex gets tedious. And normally, I'm the only heathen in the place so I have to keep my smart-ass remarks to myself or risk embarassing my wife as she does her best to fit in. But Sunday was different.
First off, I was sitting next to my mother, who despite an entire childhood in church, is as Christian as a bag of nickels. She provided a constant streams of jokes as we looked at the church clothes (does Jesus WANT women to dress like shit?), the minister's insistence on sounding like a balloon losing air whenever he used a word ending in "s." ("rest" becomes "resssssssssss," "pass" becomes "passssss," "ass" becomes "assssssss" not that he said that but thinking about it just makes me laugh). So, all in all, a good time as we did very little to hide the fact that we were only there to pass judgment and laugh.
However, what was different was that my wife was seemingly . . . .with me. Normally, I percieve her to be a bit embarrassed. She's the big sister who has to bring her little brother to the party when she knows all he's going to do is make an ass of himself and probably piss on the couch. But Sunday was different, she seemed detached from church in a way I had never seen. Comforting to me, it was slightly sad that she had let go of any possibility of feeling at home in a church. Naturally, I blame myself as does my mother-in-law -- I assume. But in my personal narrative, SHE is the one who likes, if not tolerates, church, while I am the one who shuns it like the latest Soulja Boy song.
Here's how I know. My favorite/most feared part of every church visit is the call for new members. You know, when the minister asks if anyone wants to come to Jesus in front of a room of strangers. Even in my limited church going, I have never actually seen someone take up the offer. Anyway, I ALWAYS feel like the minister is talking directly to me. And I nurse this fantasy that I will somehow be singled out by the minister who will call me down to the pulpit where I deliver a heathen manifesto with the same heartfelt fervor as Linus' speech at the end of "A Charlie Brown Christmas."
So when the minister asked everyone to turn to someone and ask them if they could walk with them to the pulpit to accept Jesus, I just KNEW someone would turn to ask me. But such was not the case. The woman in front of us, stereotypically large, turned to my wife and asked "can I walk with you?" I froze. My wife graciously took her hand and gave her the foreigener smile, the one that says "I don't really know what you said, but I'm willing to play along." The woman repeated her question "can I walk with you?" To which my wife answered, "Oh, no that's OK," and pulled her hand away. The woman, not knowing how to take rejection, smiled politelty and turned back around.
Wow, right? Granted, my wife is not one for public displays of, well anything, but her refusal to accept Jesus as her savior was significant. Naturally, I was both jealous and relived that the woman had not turned to me. I don't have enough words for the scenario I had cooked up had the woman actually turned to me. Suffice to say, it would have been mortifyingf to all parties involved.
So, fast forward to this morning. I ask my oldest daughter what she thought of church to which she answered. "It was nice but . . . "
"But what?" I ask.
"But there was one thing I didn't like. They were too loud."
"I see." I restrained my glee.
"Daddy, I don't want to be a Christian."
Shock gave way to one question.
"Why not honey?"
"Mommy said that you said you don't want to be a Christian, so neither do I."
Warms the heart, no? And yet . . .
"Honey, daddy's 35 years old and has had a lot of time to think about these things. You're only eight, so you may change your mind."
BOOM! Didn't think I'd say that did you? Well I did. And it's the truth. While I'm in no hurry to make my children card-carrying Christians, I'm not ready to snatch away any hope of it either. They are simply too young to know any better. Besides, so much of Christianity is a fairy tale, I don't see the harm in letting them believe, if only for a little while longer.