I’m toying with the idea of a memoir eventually, just for myself. Rather than scratch little memories in notebooks that will get lost, they’re going here.
Do you know what the Rapture is? It’s something I’d heard about nearly every day for my entire childhood, so it’s surprising the number of friends who say, “The WHAT?” when I mention it. The Rapture is a fundamentalist Christian belief that one day Jesus will come to earth again (the “Second Coming”… which just sounds dirty to me, and now sounds dirty to you and YOU’RE WELCOME). I’m fuzzy on the logistics, but basically, he comes down, and then, I guess, bounces back to heaven, taking with him all of the Christians on the earth and leaving all the heathens to wallow in a cloud of drugs, booze, homosexuality and extra-marital sex (which kinda sounds like fun, actually.)
It wasn’t until age 16 that I started to believe the concept of the Rapture was probably crazy, but at 14 or so, I wavered between being scared of not being good enough to ascend to heaven and worrying that the rapture would happen during my period, resulting in the unsaved masses seeing my used maxi pad left laying in the sidewalk as I left my clothes behind and hurdled towards the clouds. This was a deep-seeded, traumatizing, legitimate fear of mine for YEARS, and I’m annoyed now with all the time I spent worrying about it. I should have been making art or something with that energy. Is this not the stupidest thing you’ve ever heard?
I was never cut out to be a Christian.
Ah, this week was a good one. I had two elopements at City Hall, both couples that were in New York to get married because they are not allowed to where they are from. The ladies from Nevada told me that the second they stepped off the plane at home, their marriage would be invalid, so they were going to walk around New York City enjoying legal wife-and-wife status while they could.
And my heart broke.
I had a moment this week, walking to my second wedding from the subway, where I wished I could photograph myself and send the shot back to me at seventeen. (Sadly, there is no app for that.)
I would like to show her that the inkling she’s recently gotten – that gay people are not wrong and sinful and in need of religious conversion like everyone around her is saying – has blossomed into a full-on conviction (and then mellowed into a matter of course of thought, so much so that when people make a stand against gay people, they are easily dismissed with a mere head shake). That she owns a business, and has business in Manhattan if you can believe it. That she is wearing designer boots, gotten on sale, but designer boots none the less! She would have liked to know all this.
The end of the world is happening tomorrow! (But not really.) Actually, by the time you read this, a good chunk of the Faithful should have been raptured by now, and subsequently, that time zone should have started to succumb to earthquakes. Supposedly, every place on earth gets a one-two punch of rapture-earthquake at 6 p.m. local time on Saturday May 21. In other words, Christmas Island (aka Kiritimati Island) should be gonzo about now. Australia, too.
I feel bad for the people who believe this. My parents got sucked into something like this once and it was a weird time for our family. Some old preacher guy with a lot of followers called for the rapture to happen in September 1994 (I don’t remember the actual date), and they believed it (or, at least, I remember a lot of weight being put into that prediction).
Update: I just did a little research. It’s Harold Camping that’s calling for a May 21 judgment day, and he was the same dude that called for it in 1994. I’m astonished people are listening a second time.
The worry over if I was a “good enough Christian” to go to heaven was heavy on me constantly, even though I was skeptical of the entire concept of the rapture and “the End Times”, predicted or not. Horror stories of what would happen to non-believers post-rapture were hurled at me from the pulpit every Sunday morning, but I never quite believed them. When nothing happened that September (I was 12), it started me down the road of thinking for myself, although it would be several years before I would be un-entangled from the trappings of religion completely.
There are young teenagers who are going through the same thing right now, and they’re scared and lonely like I was. It’s a really awful place to be when you’re raised in an environment of fear, and my heart breaks for them. As much as I’d like to laugh off the nutters, I’m just plain angry at them for being so stupid.
So a message to the young faithless who are scared of their own natural skepticism: it’s OK. Really. There is peace without the insanity of your wild-eyed preacher screeching at you to adhere to a moral code you find ridiculous. And, if Dan Savage will forgive me for stealing the phrase, it gets better.
Image from here. I would have taken my own – there are plenty of these around in the subways and on the streets – but I can’t quite help feeling awkward about pointing my camera in their direction.
You know I’m not going to talk about other people’s life experiences much, but I’ll say this: the funeral was beautiful and it was hard, but good, to be there. I’ll talk about MY experience, though, which is that my own personal and unexpected reaction to the whole thing (or, at least, one of them) was that my need for a larger, like-minded community got slammed into the light.
I grew up assuming that by this point in my life I would live where I always had lived, be married to a nice man, go to a nice church and be one of the casserole-making, other people’s baby-holding, after-church coffee drinking, ladies Bible study attending, pool party throwing women with a kid or two. It’s ok that I don’t have children yet and it’s awesome that I at least have the “marry a nice man” down pat, but I don’t have that community of kind and generous people that goes along with all that other stuff. It might sound bananas-level corny to you, but it doesn’t feel that way to me. It feels essential and woefully missing. Clearly, though, going to church isn’t an option.
Of course, there are secular and atheist societies, but my problem with joining any sort of group that defines itself solely as non-theist is that I would be joining with other people with whom the only thing I have in common is that they happen to not believe in the same things I happen to not believe in, too. To me, that is as silly as joining a community of people who don’t collect stamps, so we can talk about our non-stamp collecting ways together.
Thus I must figure out what I actually AM and find people based on that which, for me, has always been (even before I knew it had a name) an ethical humanist. That’s something I can say with pride, that I feel makes me a nice person, and that defines my belief system for what it is rather than what it is not.
I hadn’t thought about it that much (ignoring it, maybe?) but it’s been creeping up on me more and more, especially as Rob and I are inching closer and closer to starting a family. Then, suddenly, when I witnessed first-hand how a community of like-minded and good people can come around two folks going through the worst of bad human experiences, and be there for them with a level of selflessness that I’ve only ever seen in churches and other religious communities, I know I can’t go on ignoring that I need that, too. (Minus the religion, of course.)
Do humanists make casseroles?
“when i hug people i leave room for the holy spirit!”
Oh, the Christian rap! We use to bump this shit on the way too and from church camp on the bus. There are sects of fundamentalists that say this stuff is wrong (“it sounds too much like those sinners and their music!”) but my church was not one of them, and we, the young folks, were encouraged to embrace this genre as a way to get our hip hop fix without listening to the morally bankrupt messages the “worldly” stuff had. It should be noted that I never actually needed a hip hop fix – I generally preferred to rock out to NPR’s classical afternoons because I was SO COOL – but we catered a lot to the “inner city youth” who were “lost” which is another word for “not following our religion”.
We learned the “side hug”, which is a way in which unmarried guys and girls can say, “I love you, but like a brother or sister.” While standing, you wrap your right arms around each other while bringing your right shoulders together and keeping your torso – and genitals – far, far apart. We wouldn’t want to arouse any passions inappropriately. We practiced, too, in awkward, giggle-filled sessions on Thursday nights, just to make sure we were doing it right.
Now these two elements of my 15th year have combined. Of course! Here is the rap about remembering the Christian side hug. You too can be a “rough rider” filled up with Christs’ love.