Religion and I are like a baby and a cat sitting in a room together. They both have a general interest in one another, but stay clear in case the meeting might go awry and the risk of someone losing an eye seems possible.
I’m technically Jewish, though moreso in spirit than in practice. My extent of being a Jew is limited to sometimes introducing myself to people with the added addendum as almost a preemptive excuse for what they’re about to deal with. Much like how my father obnoxiously wears the badge of ADHD when meeting new people.
“Hi, my name is Karl. Nice to meet you. If my line of eyesight slowly drifts from you while you’re speaking and then I interject with a random comment about a squirrel running behind you, don’t mind it, I just have ADHD.”
Mine would go something like,
“Hi, my name is Lauren. If you get to know me long enough, I might ultimately pull some guilt trips on you, or go into long rambling tangents about myself that I think are romantic in a Woody Allen-esque way. I may talk with my hands to an annoying degree and I give you permission to hold my hands still. I also give you permission to tell me if I’m talking too much about myself. That probably has more to do with me being an only child than be Jewish though. By the way, what is your name again?”
My Grandmother was raised in an Orthodox Jewish household which turned her off from the religion all together and she raised my mother agnostic who in turn raised me agnostic. My mother and I have both feel jipped in this scenario and have individually tried reclaiming our Jewish heritage as much as possible. Mom mostly talking about reclaiming it and me attending various friends’ Seders and getting heartburn.
Since my religious upbringing is as gray as the skies of Scranton, Pennsylvania, I typically just go about my day, not really thinking about religion at all, but occassionaly waking up in a cold sweat realizing that I have nothing comforting to think about for the afterlife.
Attending a Southern Baptist church has been an ambition of mine for many years. Having grown up in Upstate New York, our churches are grand, cold, stiff, and chock full of even colder and stiffer white people. As a high schooler I had dreams of traveling through the deep South in a ’55 Thunderbird, dressed as a 1950’s evangelist, and dropping in on backwoods churches and swampy diners.
I often catch my neighbor, Mr. Simpson, sitting on his front stoop with his Bible. He is a God-fearing man, but rarely brings up the topic in our conversations. He had mentioned a church that he attends on the Eastside, but hadn’t been to lately. I asked if we could maybe go together which he in turn took as a sign from God to get his ass into Church. It’s the only time in my life that someone felt that God spoke through me. If God actually did, I wish it instilled a tingling sensation or something like it.
Sunday came and I got dressed in my Sunday finest, making sure not to put on any American Apparel. I picked up Mr. Simpson and we drove east until we reached a monstrous chapel sitting out on the hillside. As we walked up to the church, I could see the windows vibrating in their panes. The mumbled thunder of singing and clapping permeated through the cracks in the door . I held my breath and as I opened the door, it was as if someone put a pair of headphones on my head and pressed the on button. A wave of energy rushed over me and carried me to the closest seat, where I sat, wide-eyed and awe-struck for the next two hours.
If there was ever a moment that I wish I wasn’t me, it was during that sermon. If there was ever a moment that I wish I had a hat with a bow that touched the sky or a three piece powder blue suit it was during that sermon. If there was ever a time I wish that I got down on my knees and cried and cried until someone had to pick me up it was during that sermon. The sheer girth of emotion running through that church was almost enough to make me a believer on the spot. I wanted to stand up and sing and wave my hands in the air and wipe the steady flow of tears from eyes and sing, “Thank ya Jee-zus!” over and over, but I was too mesmerized to do any of that. Instead I listened to every word, watched every gesture, and took in the overwhelming certainty and love the churchgoers had for their God. In a way, I was envious.