Home Again

Trip Start Jul 20, 2002
Trip End Sep 05, 2002

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Flag of United States  , Kentucky
Monday, July 29, 2002

After BotCon, we headed down Louisville way for a few days visiting my parents. I had some freelance work to do, and ellie took the time to head down to Frankfort with my mother, sistr, and grandparents to marvel at a family barn sale in which three barns and three generationsof accumulated crap was being dug out and put on sale. Grandpa Harley scored himself a trio of old shotguns while Ellie picked up everything from an antique butter churn to a peg board on which a sassy black mammy reminded you of the things you needs from the store. I, on the other hand, sat around on the back porch working on a couple articles and a design project that was supposed to be finished before I left, but thanks to the slowness of others, didn't even get started until I was already in Ft. Wayne.

Still, a nice break before the long haul out west and intot he great unknown. Caught up with old friends, went to visit my old home out in the farmlands, and visited a couple cemeteries, including the sprawling, ornate, and historical Cave Run and the far more modest Mt. Tabor Church Cemetery, the church I attended when I was little and burial place for the father of the modern feature film, D.W. Griffith.

Like most southern atheists, I have a curious relationship with God and his little whippersnapper, Jesus Christ. Obviously, the fact that I would call myself an atheist (albeit one who passionately despises debating the existence of God, unlike many atheists) means that I don't attribute too much belief in the existence of God or the notion that Jesus (in whom I do firmly believe as an historic figure, mind you) was his son, but being a Southerner who spent many a Sunday in the polished wooden pews of Centerfield United Methodist, I probably think about religion more fondly and more often than the average atheist. I reckon I'm sort of like a Jew who doesn't believe in God but still enjoys the cultural trappings and history of Judaism. We Southern atheists, as far as I can tell, fall basically into two categories, neither of which involves simply paying Christianity no mind. Either we become vehement, foaming-at-the-mouth denouncers of religion, or we become obsessed with religious archaeology and history.

I fall firmly into the latter, having long ago realized how unappealing I look with foam dripping from my mouth. For those of us who become interested in the history of religion (not just Christianity), it is perhaps some sort of function of guilt. We lack spiritual faith, and so we compensate for our lack of belief by applying ourselves to the history of faith and religion. It is as close as we can come and still be comfortable that we are firm in our atheistic beliefs while, at the same time, somehow making up for the fact that we don't actually believe in God. If it
seems a curious or even contradictory position, then what can I do except fall back on my favorite Walt Whitman quote, to paraphrase: you say I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes.

I've never really borne the grudge against religion that some people of my lack of faith seem to carry like a cross, probably because, quite frankly, most of my memories of church and religion are either pleasant or entertaining, sometimes both. Occasionally neither, but what can you do on those days but nod off and not worry about things?

When I was very young, I attended the above mentioned Mt. Tabor United Methodist. It was your typical small-town church, complete with a steeple, homey wooden interiors and that ever-lovin' lack of air conditioning which means you are always met at the front doors by hefty women in Sunday dresses who hand out those little paper fans with pictures of Jesus on them, usually waving at you with upturned palm (later, I realized, he was actually raising his hand to bless us) so that when you fanned yourself during the sermon, it was as if the very hand of Christ Himself was in there kicking up a little breeze. It was, I always thought, very sweet of him to do so, but really, it would have been easier if he'd just waved his arms around outside and dropped the sweltering July heat down by ten degrees or so.

Yes, for some reason, I imagined that every divine display of Christ's power involved him having to wave his hands around in the air, kind of like Kermit the Frog.

I remember very little of my Sundays at Church. I know I went to Sunday School, and I remember very keenly that after every sermon, the kids could all run downstairs for cookies and warm juice, sort of our own version of Communion, but much more enjoyable and sanitary. Much less divine, I suppose, unless someone is convinced that the mystery of the
transfiguration (isn't that what Catholics call it) not only works on blessed wafers, but also allows Christ to turn a Girl Scout Thin Mint and Hi-C into his body and blood as well. I guess he's Jesus, so if he wanted to make a Thin Mint divine, there wouldn't be much to stop him. They already taste divine, after all.

Near the end of each sermon, the minister would call all us kids up to the front of the church for the children's sermon. I don't remember but a single one of these, and that one I only remember because I am conceited and self-centered and always remember things that involve  me being the focus of attention. The minister was telling us all about the times Jesus helped people, fed the poor, and protected the children from those evil Romans.

"So you see," he said in conclusion, because he must have known by this time were thinking as much about cookies and juice as we were about Jesus, "Jesus loves everyone. The rich and the poor, the healthy and the sick. But most of all, he loves all the little people."

And as he said this he gestured warmly to the assembly of children before him. "Jesus loves the little people best of all."

I raised my hand slowly, and the minister smiled benignly at me.

"Yes, Keith?"

"You mean midgets?"

Such were my experiences in church.
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