A conversation last night with a new acquaintance led me to think about the preachers kids I have known in my life. There is a common thread with each one of them. Different views at each level of my life have left me with the same conclusions.
I knew Trudy in high school. Why I remember her name is a miracle. Her parents named her Gertrude after a grandmother, who I am sure was a saint because no one in their right mind would name a child Gertrude. Trudy was the proverbial blonde haired, blue eyed, golden girl. Everyone circled around her charismatic personality and charm. Her daddy was the pastor of the Presbyterian church. In a WASP, steel town, blue collar community, this was a big deal. It is as though there was built-in celebrity status. She wore the latest trends in fashion, drove a new car in 11th grade – I believe it was a Mustang, and was invited to the upper echelon homes for dinner. I remember thinking that new car came from the dimes and nickels little kids took to Sunday school for their church offerings. My siblings and I shared a Chevy that was 10 years old when we received it. Trudy was a flirt. She danced on the edge of bad girl status. She never got into trouble for “necking” in the halls at school. She was never wrong when confronted about the flag being stolen off the big flag pole in front of the high school. Her reputation was sterling because no one had balls enough to question it. She ended up marrying some old fart right out of high school and was rarely heard from again.
John was a child who lived across the street when we were first married and raising a young family. John’s father was saturated in faith at the Lutheran church, where his wife was a teacher at the Lutheran school. John attended the Lutheran school and was a Boy Scout sponsored by said church. He was not allowed to associate with “outsiders”. Our innocent son, at about age 9, asked if John could go to the community swimming pool with us one morning. When his mother was asked if John could go, she informed me she would have to call his father at work to ask permission! Permission was denied because the last time they went to the pool, there were black kids there and this was not the element they wanted their child exposed to. It has taken me 20 years and I have never gotten over that statement. John grew up in his cocoon environment with the morals and upbringing of a caged dog. When he was 17 years old and a senior in high school, he came to us because he was seeing the 21 year old “assistant youth pastor” in the evenings at her apartment. God knows what he told his parents he was doing – bible study, choir practice, sharing the good word? He obviously was sharing un-church-like conduct. John was very upset because the assistant youth pastor was pregnant. He came to us because he stated in no uncertain words that if his father found out, he would kill him. I believed him. He came to us for guidance – the worldly heathens. After extensively discussing all possible options, John and the assistant youth pastor attended counseling sessions and an abortion was performed. This became “our little secret”. One thing heathens and worldly people are known for is keeping confidential information, confidential. We don’t write the daily news in the church announcements and ex-communicate people for mistakes.
I recently met a young lady, Carol, who lives on the same street as her aunts, uncles and grandparents. Her father is a preacher and according to her, they live a “good” life. She describes her father’s passages of faith as old school baptist. Carol and I were discussing the fact she is in her mid twenties and her mother wishes she would find a good man to marry. I made the off hand remark that it would be better to just live with a man you’re committed to instead of a formal marriage agreement. She promptly informed me her father would forbid that. Their morals are extremely high. I took this as a judgment of my morals. I asked her what is the difference between a personal commitment to another human being, to love them and cherish them forever and a $75.00 marriage license and a $100.00 fee to the preacher? I received no answer. I also left unsaid, when was Carol going to grow up and make decisions for herself? She’s a sweet girl but I am afraid she is going to live with mom and dad until she’s 50, unless they can find a programmed robot for her to marry.
Paul was the pastor’s kid at the church I attended when I was young. He was ornery and real. He was in my Sunday school and confirmation classes. During choir practice he would be accused of “not trying” because the poor kid could not carry a tune. He did sing loud and excruciatingly bad. Paul and I were always put in the front row for church services. We were both habitual talkers and at times, his dad would stop midway in the service and tell Paul to be quiet. This was an unpretentious family without regard of holding up a front or being something they were not.
There appears to me to be a lot of leaning on religion. It is an excuse not to think for yourself. The religion thinks for you and human beings can not always follow the rules. If a rule is broken, you are judged, ex-communicated and not allowed to take communion. Yea, baby, that is taking care of your own. Don’t get me started on the Catholics.
Reflecting on my own previous observations, it appears to be a money making machine. I know it is big business. Follow the scriptures and you will follow the money. I know young families almost starving to death due to the economic collapse, unemployment and recent recession, but they still “tithe” to the church. Their children don’t have decent clothes to wear to school and soap is a luxury.
During the initial collapse of US Steel in Pittsburgh, every church sermon was geared around getting my friends and neighbors to come to church. If money was not put into the offering, the church would not have enough bucks to pay the electric bill. My relatives and friends had been laid off from US Steel. Their homes were being foreclosed on, they were standing in food bank lines and their cars were being repossessed. I don’t think they were worried about the church’s electric bill. They were already sitting in the dark at home. They didn’t have money for gas or a vehicle to get to church. A church is only as strong as the membership. I quit going to church so I could get additional hours at work and a second job to assist my family members.
Don’t assume people who do not participate in organized religion are “bad” and “immoral” people. Get off the pulpit and open your mind. God doesn’t judge – Why do you?