in which mr john had to choose between Jew or Jesus, and chose none of the above.
A short story about religion, God, and a confused child: child abuse can come in many forms. This one was pretty bad.
Growing up, I was raised as a Jew. I went to Hebrew school, and my mother took me to the temple. She spoke often of her relations who remained in Poland and died in the Holocaust. I knew a fair bit of Hebrew and peppered Yiddish into my conversations.
My adoptive father was Catholic. This wasn’t a bad thing, as we got to celebrate Christmas AND Chanukah. As I grew older, (and this was explained to me later), my father wanted to go to church. He was, as it turned out, profoundly religious, and at one time had studied to be a priest.
So, one day, we all went to church, followed by Sunday school. This was a long time ago, and all I remember was confusion and anger and being scared. Being tossed into the deep end of a religion with no explanation is pretty traumatic; even more so if it’s Catholicism.
“Jesus died for your sins” – I sinned? When? How could Jesus know if I cheated on a test? I wasn’t even born when he died. It makes no sense.
“Jesus rose from the dead” – I knew about zombies, and I was having a hard time dealing with God being a zombie.
“In the name of the father, the son and the holy ghost” – GHOST! What ghost?
“Go up and get Communion, It’s the body of Christ” – You mean that is a piece of Jesus’s corpse? Yuck.
Each weekend for years, I went to the temple on Saturday and church on Sunday. At Sunday school, I was introduced to the “real” nature of Zombie Jesus, The Holy Ghost, and my Eternal Soul. To me, it was stifling and scary. At Hebrew school, we learned about all sorts of cool stuff, memorized and recited prayers, baked Challah bread, and it was fun.
Sadly, the longer this went on, the more I became disenchanted with both religions. Kids discovered I was practicing both faiths. The Jewish kids, who had once been my friends, now teased me about Zombie Jesus and the Holy Ghost. The goyim (catholic kids) called me Christ Killer and Jew Boy.
At one point, it was explained to me that the parents wanted me to experience both of my heritage religions, and this could guide me to make my own choices later on in life. However, moving forward, though, we would be a Christian family. I was gutted. To further drive home the point that I was now officially Catholic, I was sent to a Catholic middle school.
Under the council of my friend, Suzy (I will formally introduce you to her later), I was persuaded to “go with it,” “keep to myself” and stick out the two years. She was convinced that when High School came around, I would be allowed to go to North Miami Beach High School (where she went), and everything would be great.
This advice was ignored. I was an angry, rebellious asshole, and so I entered “Jesus school” with an impossibly lousy attitude.
I remember early on being asked to write a paper on “What Jesus Means to Me.” I concocted a narrative.
Jesus lives in a giant turtle bowl in the sky. The Holy Ghost was in charge of cleaning the bowl and feeding Jesus. Once each year Jesus would fall to earth on Halloween and go trick or treating with all the other children. He would go from door to door, asking for candy and turning all the wine in each house to water as a trick. After a while, Jesus would start to dry out and need to go home to his bowl. He would stay in his bowl waiting until the next Halloween when God would let him come down to play again.
The nuns did not appreciate this at all. Back then, corporal punishment was the rule, and I got bare-assed paddled until the welts bled. That afternoon I was given detention with one of the few teachers that weren’t a nun. She convinced me that blending in was the best for me and to “go with it.” I still contest that there is no wrong way to answer “What Jesus Means to Me.”
It took a while for me to get the message. Once, during some talent thing, I selected stand-up comedy. I wore nude pantyhose under my pants with a giant cock and balls drawn on them. I started my act my dropping my pants and announcing, “I’d like to share something with you all that I am very proud of.” I was drug off stage by the ear and beaten yet again. They just never got my humor.
Eventually, I was assimilated into the Catholic culture. They made me an Altar Boy, and I read the pre sermon thing. I also discovered dope. The second year of middle school was much better. I kept mostly to myself and learned that the wind blew just right behind the outdoor bathrooms, masking the smell of a joint. Add in some quaaludes, and middle school became acceptable. I didn’t have a girlfriend, but I did deflower a few girls. I had my first great crush, but the fact she had a 17-year-old boyfriend meant anything with her was off the table.
As my sentence (the school term) was coming to an end, I looked forward to joining Suzy at North Miami Beach Senior High. These hopes were dashed, though. My parents were so proud of how I had become such a good Christian student they were going to send me to a Catholic high school. They wanted to protect me from “the bad influences.” They didn’t know that I was “the bad influence.” I went to high school, and no one had any clue about my “origin story.” The “Offical Story” was that I was a Catholic, and that was it. Easy, straightforward, no conflict.
After high school, after marrying a Secular Pagan, after seeing all the horrible things people do in the name of God and their religions, and all the horrendous things that have I dealt with my life, I have settled on Apathetic Agnostic.
I didn’t know that was a thing until recently, but it fits how I feel; no debate without the word faith involved can prove or disprove “God.” To that regard, if there is a “God,” then great. If not, then that is fine as well. “God” has no direct effect on my life. If there is an afterlife, then “Yay,” otherwise, I will just be gone.
In spite of all my heathenistic and sinful ways in my past, today, I choose to live with only one goal; to be kind. If kindness were the predominant goal of corporations, bureaucrats, and individuals, most of our problems would be solved, and life would be joyous and beautiful for us all.