In my sophomore year of high school, I was doing so poorly in several subjects that I decided only a miracle would keep me out of summer school.
So I was pretty shocked when I walked into my home room class on the last day of school and found that I had passed all my classes—not by much, of course—but I was officially a free man until September.
“It’s enough to make you go back to church,” I said, marveling at my narrow escape. Of course I didn’t mean that. I had no intention of going back to church.
I was a smart aleck teenager who was much too cool for church. And I had suffered 8 years of abuse at Catholic school that would have had the Blackwater torture team screaming for their mommies.
No, I was just making a lame joke in a desperate bid to make people laugh. My luck ran out a few years later when I failed math for real this time and had to take it over again in summer school.
I had been going to lunch time services at Trinity Church in lower Manhattan for almost a year. It was close to work, I went on my lunch hour and, most importantly, I enjoyed it.
But I had let that slide recently. While I’m still within walking distance of Trinity, my current location is several blocks farther than before.
And, hey, I had things to do; the economy is collapsing, people are being tossed out of work. I just can’t get up and leave my desk. So I got into the habit of working straight through lunch.
Then I was surfing the Internet—I’m the busy guy, remember?--and I found a news story about a have a Yeshiva College study that found going to weekly religious services—regardless of religion--may lower your risk of death by 20 percent.
The survey’s authors believe the positive health benefits may stem from the sense of community that regular church-going offers.
Hey, whatever. All I know is that when I saw that bit about lowering my risk of death, I decided that was enough to make me go back to church. It was like Ebeneezer
Scroog seeing his headstone--only then does he decide to keep Christmas and make nice with Tiny Tim.
So I hiked down to Wall Street just before noon and took place at my usual pew. I saw some of my regular buds while Rev. Mark Francisco Bozzuti-Jones delivered a fabulous sermon inspired by the miracle of loaves and fishes.
The upshot of the sermon was that we all have great abilities within us.
“It’s all in you,” the reverend said. I was feeling better already.
But the best was yet to come. While I was kneeling down waiting for Communion, Rev. Buzzuti-Jones paused to give me a nice pat on the shoulder before giving me the Host.
No priest has ever greeted me like that before and I really think that Yeshiva bunch is on to something.
It’s fascinating that religion is both a communal and private experience. People all come together to doing something that is—to me, anyway—very personal.
The Reverend even touched upon this in his sermon, noting that attending church services is counter to the norm.
“Look how many people are outside on the streets,” he said, “and how empty the church is.”
Organized religion has long been a large part of the problem, with righteous fanatics of every stripe storm-trooping into our lives. From the Salem witch trials to the 9/11 hijackers, the holy rolling loons abused and misused religion while making life hell on earth for the rest of us.
Put Your Hand in the Hand...
In this country we’ve got the perverted priests and the “intelligent design” fruitcakes who despise science so long as it doesn’t involve widescreen TVs and using the Internet to spread their bilge.
I was just reading about a state representative in Kentucky who believes that the state’s Homeland Security office “should be crediting God with keeping the state safe.”
There are plenty of people whom I respect have no absolutely no use for religion, who would roll their eyes if they could see me walking into a church. (I find it hard to believe some days myself.)
Come again? You mean to say that in addition to all His other duties, God has to keep Kentucky safe?
There’s no mention of what happens to the rest of the country while the Almighty is protecting the Bluegrass State, but maybe God can check on the rest of us when He gets a chance. I wonder if He works security during the Kentucky Derby.
He could really clean up at the betting window, since He already knows the winner.
Last week a British newspaper weighed in with another survey, which found that more people believe in ghosts and UFOs than believe in God.
I don’t have anything against visitors from outer space. Hell, we’re all God’s children, after all, even the little green men.
It’s just that I don’t give them much thought, what with the collapsing economy, my vanishing retirement accounts, worldwide terrorist attacks, and people being trampled to death in Wal-Marts.
Many of the UFO beliefs have a Messiah-like quality where the faithful maintain the aliens will come down to earth and cure all our problems.
They’ll be our saviors and take us away from our lives of drudgery and pain, but they won’t weigh us down with any of those pesky commandments. It’s religion-lite.
Real religion requires work; you have to make a conscious effort to do good things and live a good life, whereas all you have to do to believe in Martians is sit on your keester and wait until they land in your driveway.
The interesting thing about the supernatural poll is that people who believe in ghosts and other paranormal phenomena don’t believe in God.
As someone who is terrified of flying, I have to say that I do a lot praying when I’m up in the air but it’s not to Casper the Friendly Ghost.
I always thought the nuns in Catholic school had come from another planet, or some dark corner of hell. Sometimes I think it would have been great if Sister Frances Josepha, my fifth grade teacher, had been abducted by a UFO, but then I wouldn't wish that psycho on anyone, aliens included.
If they were planning an invasion, they would booted her ass out of their flying saucer and hightailed it back to Pluto.
I love a good ghost story or tales about aliens, Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, the Jersey Devil, the Abominable Snowman, pixies, banshees, zombies, Doppelgangers, Jerry Springer, Ring Around the Collar, whatever you got, I’m down for it.
One of my favorite shows when I was a kid was In Search Of, where once a week Leonard Nimoy would “investigate” some bizarre incident, life form or activity, and marshal the “facts” until the freakish looked plausible.
It was entertaining as hell, but it wasn’t enough to make me lose my religion.
Astrology has been popular for ages, and while I don’t believe the stars have any say in our destiny, every now and then I get a little jolt.
On Saturday night I was doing my usual routine, where I sit in front of the TV and tell myself I should be going out instead of sitting in front of the TV.
Just before going to bed I made the mistake of picking up the Daily News and checking my horoscope.
“If you’re single,” my forecast began, “then it’s unlikely that your will meet someone wonderful by sitting home alone on the weekend, Gemini.”
This wasn’t so much a prediction as it was good advice—the kind of advice I routinely give myself and which I routinely ignore.
I have to admit, though that being called out by the horoscope page really hurts, but one of my friends told me that this is how the universe chose to give me the message.
I should mention that the supernatural survey was done by a marketing firm in conjunction with the release of an X-Files DVD, and details of how the poll was conducted were not reported. So the whole thing could be a marketing scam to benefit Mulder and Scully.
I came back from Trinity Church feeling quite happy indeed. That pat on the shoulder had a long-lasting effect and I plan on getting back to my lunch time routine.
I don’t think my company will be out business if I leave the office for less than an hour and I’m sure the bosses won’t object.
And if they do, I’ll get my buddy Sasquatch to beat the living crap out of them.