Vanity Of Vanities

I was once married to a woman who pushed me into going to church.  Now I don’t mind attending any church’s services, if the organist has any real talent then the music is a pleasure all its own.  I only have about an octave and a half when it comes to singing and most music is not written in my key, so singing has become somewhat pain as an exercise.  If I was lucky the sermon was actually related to god and not social or political ideology.  I sometimes wonder where ministers get off making ill informed and often emotional judgments on matters they seldom understand.  Both my wife at that time and her minister, I say her minister because he wasn’t mine, worked on me for months to get me to join.  She drug me to the new members classes and despite my protests to that minister that I did not want to join, I had no intention to join, I was more or less forced to join just to keep the peace.  What does it gain a minister to force a man to join a church he does not want to be a member of?  I have yet to understand that action and if memory serves, its been thirty years since that incident.  But the ultimate crowning glory was when I was forced to be the junior and senior high school sunday school teacher.

You know what teenagers are like, most would rather sit in a dentist’s chair and have their teeth pulled.  I wouldn’t have minded so much but the materials given for teaching the class were absolutely horrid.  I took a glance through the material and knew at once that these kids were not about to sit around and talk about kum by ya moments.  The church members were typical touch-feely liberals without a scintilla of knowledge or wisdom.  Social liberals may have some sense of religion but it always takes a back set to their political ideology.  As I questions the kids as to their collective knowledge of this thing that underpins the christian church, the bible, the more it became clear to me that they knew little about its contents.  Mom and dad never read it to them as small children nor did the lower grades of sunday school express any interest in even trying to explain some of its contents.  If the bible is the core of christian belief then how can one call oneself a christian if one is ignorant of the bible’s contents.  One might as well be an arab who believe in islam and has never read the koran.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I am more an atheist than a fundamentalist christian, although I often what are the real differences between us.  But I’ve had my bible training, so to speak, much of it self taught through the obvious method of read the bible without someone telling me what it says.  My parents never got around to bible study until their late forties or early fifties, the time most religious folk start worrying about the existence of heaven and hell.  I don’t worry, neither exists, contrary to some opinions.  In my life i have acquired a few books of religious teachings and commentary.  I find then very elegant reading.  One of my favorites, which i used for the purposes of conduction these Sunday school classes was one on the old testament.  You know, those books that make up much of the old testament provide the basis for belief of the Jewish religion, the christian religion, and the Islamic religion.  The Christians and Moslems merely added a few extra books of commentary.  So I decided to teach these kids something about the basis of their beliefs.  We started with the old testament and skipped to the good parts.  Nobody cares about who begat who, they only care if they are doing the begatting.

So we picked out way through the good parts.  Noah is a great example of a parent with a few problems and faults.  He was a little forn of wine, perhaps that is why he built such a strange boat and did the animal collection thing.  From Noah, we learn about the problems of incest and estrangement.  His daughters, having no men around, remember, god drown all the available good looking hunks, get dear old dad drunk and screw his so they might have children of their own.  There you go, biblical incest and unwed mothers raising their children.  So they get banished from the neighborhood and have to live in shame as Samaritans.  You know, the bible really represents real life.  these are contemporary problems in our world today.  Okay, so not every father is busy building a boat in the back yard.  But a bit of possible alcoholism, a bit of incest, unwed motherhood, lack of family support, religious disfavor towards the miscreant woman.  Does it ring a bell?  Let’s move on to one of god’s stars, Joseph of the many colored coat.  So Joseph commits fraud and theft to steal his older brother inheritance, sounds like an evening soap opera like Dallas.  Then he moves on, creates a family and has sons who are not exactly civilized.  Their sister gets raped and is pregnant.  Well, we’ll force the guy who did it to mary our sister and all will be forgiven, right?  so the grooms entire family and extended family comes to the wedding, the groom does his part of stepping on the glass container (hey, it’s a Jewish story, remember?) and every one starts to drink and have a good time.  Then the brother strike when the groom and his family have had a bit too much to walk a straight line and kill them all.  Not quite the English system of justice as we know it.  Still, it illustrates that children, both male and female, have a tendency to get into trouble.  Now Joseph has to move out of the neighborhood.

We also covered Ecclesiastes, the great downer of a book, depressive.  Nothing new under the sun.  Wait a minute, what about social media and snap-chap?  Small towns were full of social media.  It was called the well where women washed and drew water for the household.  Gossip is the formal name.  Who needs an iPhone when every day we go to the well and the men who are working for a living are headed for the synagogue?  Well, what about talking with people removed to greater distances?  What, the Assyrians?  They don’t speak our language and don’t want to know us.  Well, what about the people in Jerusalem?   What, those stuck up busy bodies who think they are better than us?  Technology is irrelevant.   Once teenagers understand that people are the same regardless of the technology they happen to acquire then they can start to understand the humanism that applies to us all.  What a concept, what a discovery, people often act the same under similar conditions.

My final act of teaching was the field trip while the parents were in their service.  I took them to see Monty Python’s Meaning of Life.  It really was funny to watch them sit through the barf scenes with out the least feeling of squeamishness.  the film definitely provokes their thought and questioned their beliefs.  Actually, the Life Of Brian would have been better but I’ll take what I can get.  Needless to say I was relieved of my unwanted position I had been forced to take and the kids had a better understand of the bible and life.  Competence is not always rewarded positively.  I think it was Crosby, Stills, and Nash who had the perfect song, as far as a song can be perfect in such situation, to the problems of church teachings.  You, who are on the road must have a code you can live by.  And so, become yourself because the past is just a goodbye.  Teach, your children well.  Their Father’s hell did slowly go by.  And feed them on your dreams.  the one they pick’s the one you’ll know by.  Don’t you ever ask them why.  If they told you, you would cry.  So just look at them and sigh.  And know they love you.this is one of the great songs that bridge the gap between young and old.

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