Wednesday, October 01, 2014

The First Church of Jerks

I've never been a religious person. No one in my family really was. It wasn't until my Grandma passed away that my family inexplicably started worrying about God and Heaven--at least openly anyway. Facing one's own mortality will do that, I guess. The most religious thing in my house for years was a picture of two hands holding what I thought was a chicken nugget. Turns out it was one of his thumbs and he was just holding out his hands. After all these years, I still see a chicken nugget.

My Mom actually tried to get me to go to church one summer. She signed me up for a some sort of summer school thing that lasted a couple weeks. It was something I thought I could survive. It was my first real experience with religion and church and based on everything I had heard, it was going to be a happy and friendly experience. I was in a "class" with about seven boys and three girls. It was an all day thing so we actually got snacks and a time for recess. You would honestly think that being with children who were regular church-goers would be a pretty pleasant experience but it wasn't and it was really the only true experience I've had with bullying. A neighborhood punk even ran over me with his bicycle and I didn't consider that bullying.

What I thought was baffling was that they passed the collection plate. Again, this was my first major experience with church so I didn't know what the hell it was and I just stared at it and the roughly five-to-ten dollars in change that the other kids had thrown in the basket. My mom didn't tell my that I had to give them money. The teacher then asked if I had any offerings (or something like that) and I said no which was a mistake as the boys then made fun of me for being poor which made the girls giggle. I was pushed into the grass during recess. To be fair, I was poor but we could afford fifty cents or a buck to throw in a basket. When I got home I talked to my Mom about it and she promised that she would send money with me for the rest of the school. At no point did anyone ever tell me what the money was for.

When I went back the next day, the collection plate was passed again but now I had money in various coin denominations that my mom had given me. I dropped the money in and went about my day. I believe my milk was stolen.

As the week progressed, I was done. I decided on my last day that I wasn't going to give them the money my mom had given me. When the plate came to me, I just passed it on. The teacher then said "Don't you have anything?" I said no and looked away. Then one of the boys that had been messing with me all week says loudly "Yes, he does! It's in his pocket!" Sure, I was keeping the money but I told no one about it. How did he know and what if I didn't have any money? The teacher stared angrily at me until I dropped the money in the basket. I don't think I was ever more happy to see my mom pick me up from someplace until a babysitter I had fed me a bowl of bread in milk for breakfast one morning.
I threw up a little in my mouth doing an Internet search for this.
The next summer, my mom wanted to enroll me in another church summer school and I said no. She said that we could look for another church and I said no. And that was the last time I ever went to church regularly. When I was in high school, a girlfriend wanted me to go to church with her because church was important to her. I went a couple of times before telling her that going to church wasn't me and that she should love me whether or not I go to church. We broke up soon after.

I've been to church only a few times since my terrible experience at that summer school and each time was a much better experience with meeting kind people and actually enjoying the service. I guess I can just chalk up those two weeks at summer school to kids being kids but you would think your first time going to church would be a more uplifting experience.

Until next time, I remain...