Thursday, October 01, 2015

My Last Time At Church

Speaking of church, I've never understood why any guy would want to go to church once he's old enough that he didn't have to. I had to go all the time, mostly at my mother's insistence, but quit around age 13 after getting in some trouble. My mom didn't argue about it. She just knew I didn't like it and realized it didn't seem to do any good for me.

I was a happy fellow on Sundays until '76ish when I went to basic training for the national guard. Off to Fort Leonard Wood, Mo I went. I'd asked a friend a lot about the army and basic training- he was a Viet Nam veteran. I asked about church, telling him how much I hated it. He said I'd want to go to church in basic as they'd put you on work details if you didn't go. I told him I'd rather be on details than go to church and never backed down from that.

The first week in training, Sunday came. The drill sergeant told the company we had the opportunity to go to church but, if you chose not to, just let them know and you wouldn't have to. He didn't say anything about work details, but that didn't matter to me. There was my opportunity, or so I thought.

Except then they ordered the company en masse onto buses and we were driven across post to some Catholic church. When was I supposed to opt out? No one ever asked. We get to the church and fall out of the buses into formation. I'm thinking this might be where they ask if you want to attend. Nope. Drill Sergeant calls out, "Files from the right, March", or some such, and we file into the church. 

Uh, oh. I'm trapped, and that early in the training cycle I was too intimidated to approach the drill sergeants while in formation about anything. Into the church I went. Oh, NO!

Once inside, nothing really new. I was raised Episcopalian, pretty much the same as Catholic except Episcopalian priests can get married. They had their little march down the aisle carrying the cross up to the pulpit, or whatever it's called up at the front. Then the prayers and songs. 

I didn't really participate. I stood up when everybody else stood up and knelt on cue, but I didn't say anything or sing. What really got me was the guy to my right seemed to be a church boy. When they'd do some song he'd move his hymnal over to me so I could read the words and join in. I didn't, but made it look like I was singing. I was hating it.

Finally, when I got the impression things were winding down, I'd had enough, got up and walked outside. Thank God that's over with was about the closest I got to saying a prayer.

That was the last time we did church en masse. After that they had it set up so troops could go to church but you went on your own. Not me, of course, and I have to wonder if I was the only one hating that first Sunday? As I recall after that, most everyone stayed in the barracks on Sundays having a nice, quiet day off reading the Sunday paper. Now that was pleasant.


At 8:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great mash-up. Church and the military have a common theme... stripping of identity and conformity to your leadership. Religious people might say their religion doesn't strip their identity, but I'll point them to every person who has ever thanked a god for the good things they've accomplished in their life, or thanked a god for the good things other people have done for them. When a religious person thanks a god for curing their ailment, I want to raise up every medical professional over the last few thousand years who has done his part to advance medical scientific knowledge and have 'em all hit that superstitious person upside the head.

At 9:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My mother decided one day to convert to Catholicism. Since I was only 7 at the time she dragged me along for the ride and installed me in the Catholic school in town to boot. First grade.
Over the next few years her religious passion ebbed and flowed. She, like a lot of other Catholic women she met, were very impressed by the oratory voice and demeanor of one or more of the priests of the parish which were always an integral part of their conversations when they met at our house for special projects they were working on.. Don't know what to read into that but that hero status of the priests was noticeable even to a pre-teen like me.

In the Catholic faith there is this rite or custom called a Novena. If you go to church in relationship to this Novena thingy for 9 times it's an automatic 'get out of hell free card'. Much like the protestant evangelical "I found Jesus" abracadabra.

Anyway, she dragged me along to one of these Novena deals at the local church. I was probably about 11. During this ritual there is a lot of standing, kneeling, praying and periods of absolute silence where you just sit there and do nothing.

I should mention that this particular Novena was not very well attended and those that were there - less than 50? - sat scattered all over a rather large church pew area. Me and mom had a whole section of pews to ourselves towards the front, but not in the first pew. That would be just too show-offie.

It was during one of those quiet lulls in the Novena action playbook when I just couldn't keep it in any longer and cranked out a big one which ricocheted off the pew and could be heard all over the church. Sort of like a long muffled squeak.

Mom was mortified but couldn't do a thing about it. The damage was done.

Needless to say, that was the last time she dragged me along to that Novena. I don't remember if she returned or not either. I was relieved.

I still continued to go to mass on Sundays, but, even before the end of high school my attendance was at best, occasional. Guess I'm not getting out of hell for free.

A Former Flatulent Catholic

At 2:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The only thing I got out of church in my youth was donuts one day every month during the church fundraiser. These days I don't need church. I can buy donuts at any grocery store. Progress is wonderful.

At 3:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

God & religion should be as separate as State & Religion.


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