Where Is My Three-Piece Powder Blue Suit?

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.

However there are those times in my life when I feel uninspired and mentally stagant. The times where I find myself stopping in mid-conversation and going, “I think my brain just took a dump.” These are the times that I decide studying and experiencing as many religions at once is the only cure.
This recent episode of restlessness landed me at a Southern Baptist Church.
And boy, was it glorious.

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.

The sermon ended and Mr. Simpson and I grabbed lunch. He said to me over tacos that he hopes I open my heart up to God. I told him I wasn’t making any promises. Later that evening I thought about what Mr. Simpson said that the sermon we attended. Though I walked away feeling exactly the same as I had before in regards to God and religion, there was one thing I became sure of and that is the undeniable power of the human spirit.
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  • Reply Benny May 10, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    It's common knowledge that people are capable of terrible things when they believe in religion… but they're capable of awesome things, too!
    It's kind of like the Bill Hicks standup routine where he goes on about how you read about people doing acid and jumping off a bridge in the news, but you never read about a guy doing acid and discovering that we're all connected. (Bill Hicks obviously said it better.)
    With religion, I feel like we have a culture where you only hear the negative side and one where you only hear the positive side, and both of us are kind of afraid of each other.
    Last time I got that caught up in a religious ceremony, the rabbi started preaching about blowing up the Dome of the Rock within thirty minutes of me really feeling it. So I'm a little jaded. But man. That stuff is underrated.

  • Reply rae May 10, 2010 at 6:15 pm

    I stopped at this line:

    "This recent episode of restlessness landed me at a Southern Baptist Church."

    …and just laughed. Because no matter how the rest of the post went, I knew it was going to be amazing.

  • Reply Angie May 10, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    I've always wanted to go to a church like that!!!

  • Reply Hipstercrite May 10, 2010 at 7:03 pm

    @Benny- What's the Dome of the Rock?

    @Rae- Hahaha….it WAS amazing to experience.

    @Angie- Are there no Baptist churches up in your neck of the woods? 😉

  • Reply Allie May 10, 2010 at 9:32 pm

    I've always wanted to go to church! I'm also Jewish, but my dad is pretty much a super-Jew so I don't know how thrilled he'd be to find that I attended a church service. I did visit the Vatican once, though. It was incredible!
    For me, religion is both fascinating and frightening. It's cool to learn about all the different customs, but when I think about the beliefs for too long I get too worried about the future of America

  • Reply S.I.F. May 10, 2010 at 9:59 pm

    I am fascinated by all religions as well, and by what drives certain people's faith… Beautiful post!

  • Reply Sarah May 11, 2010 at 12:44 am

    Beautiful! While not at all religious myself, I've always wanted to attend a sermon like that.

  • Reply Miss Morgan May 11, 2010 at 4:53 am

    Wow, this post is amazing, I could feel the energy…it gave me goosebumps. I really wanna check out a Southern Baptist church now!

  • Reply Adgirl May 11, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    I am fascinated by religion. I studies English at Oxford and got to explore it in the works of famous authors. I remember when I was taking American Literature and I wrote an essay on the religion in a novel (Dos Pasos?) and my tutor turned to me and said "why have you written about religion in your essay there is no religion in this novel!" And I said – "Yes precisely – isn't it fascinating!!"
    There are days when I'd love to go to a church like the one you went to. Well done for staying open minded.

  • Reply Brad Whittington May 11, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    FYI for those who pick a Baptist church at random in hopes of reproducing this experience – Baptist churches run the gamut from the wild ride experienced by Hipstercrite to mind-numbingly dull services run by prestige-obsessed socialites, so choose carefully.

    Picking a church is like picking a bar to hang out in on a regular basis. YMMV.

  • Reply Hannah Miet May 11, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    Are we the same person?

  • Reply Colleen May 14, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    Remember: there's a difference between faith and organized religion. Organized religion is often scary, and I say that from the perspective of a devout Catholic who fears for her soul when she misses mass because she's stuck in the airport due to a flight delay. But faith can be a really beautiful experience, and it doesn't matter what you call yourself to experience comfort through faith. Sounds like you got a little taste of that at the Southern Baptist church, and I love it!

  • Reply Diny123 May 17, 2010 at 7:12 pm

    GOd uses us all in some way- I was thrilled to see someone other than family actually follow my blog- I had to look into yours- Your sense of self and your voice is a strong one-I love your humor and colorful way with a phrase. I always wanted to know more about Jewish things so thats kewl- and yes "AMEN" and pass the ketchup. Di

  • Reply Christina In Wonderland May 20, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    I was raised in the bible belt. That whole bible thumping ideology and stuff. Methodist hating Southern Baptists and all… But anyway, that's kind of why I choose to not acknowledge organized religion. In my experience, they're all mostly hypocrites. They make a big fuss in church but at the end of the day, they're not more holy or righteous than my sinful ass. :/

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