Biff America: Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition
I brought a weapon to church.
It wasn’t that I needed protection – it was only a Methodist service.
My buddy was delivering the sermon at a local house of worship, and I decided to go and give him moral support.
I had never been to a Methodist service before so, before I attended, I did some research. I learned that Methodists are open-minded, inclusive and seldom handle snakes. The pastor came highly recommended, and I wasn’t disappointed. But mostly I was there to lend support to my buddy.
Despite all that – I came to the service armed; in fact I go most places that way.
When my mate and I began dating, she was put off by the fact that I always carried a knife. When I explained to her it that is was not a weapon but merely convenient tool for cutting something (like dental floss or articles out of a newspaper), she questioned why the blade needed to be so long. The truth is, while I was growing, up most of my friends carried knives, and I never stopped.
My buddy’s sermon came late into the service. Before that there were several opening acts – hymns, greetings, a children’s sermon and more hymns. During one of the songs, the guy next to me grabbed my hand and held it over our heads. I didn’t feel at all threatened, but if I had, I would have been unable to defend myself because the lady on my other side did the same thing with my other hand. I have to say the gesture made me feel a part of the parish, but it did slightly tweak my bad shoulder.
There was a fair amount of fellowship greetings, and even a few hugs as part and parcel of the service. I found that rather pleasant; being raised Catholic, I’m not a hugger so I needed someone to make the first move. In a Catholic mass, the priest says: “Let us all offer each other a sign of peace.” That is a signal for all us uptight Catholics to feel awkward as we stiffly shake hands. When I was attending mass regularly, to avoid germs, rather than shaking hands I’d just throw a peace sign and a fist pump. Though many Catholics thought that subversive, I think they secretly considered it a welcome relief from physical contact.
After 12 years of Catholic training, ending at the age of 18, I have strayed from formal religion; my church attendance has been spotty at best. It is not that I don’t believe/hope for a higher power, it’s just that, in my opinion, humans have taken a beautiful message and over complicated it. Even more disturbing to me is when I hear one faith claiming to have the market cornered on divine provenance. When I was growing up, I was taught that, as Catholics, we were God’s favorite since we were members of the one and only anointed faith. I believed that until it dawned on me that the Lutherans always beat us in church league basketball.
Perhaps, if there was a religion that just stuck to the words of Jesus, rather than incorporating the various scriptures and of the Old and New Testament I could get into it. It is not that I don’t believe there are some good messages there, but the danger lies in the human interpretations.
Certainly we Christians are not alone in interpreting ancient writings to support our prejudices. Just as the Bible is used to comment on gay marriage, stem cell research and birth control, the Koran and other holy books are also used as inspiration for bad behavior.
I must say all of that was missing from my recent reentry into formal religion. The service I attended was welcoming, inclusive and free of dogma. By the time my buddy took the stage, the crowd was revved up and ready. His message was simple. He offered the obligatory scripture quote, but mostly he relied on the words of the messiah which, when translated to modern times, was “Let’s all just be nice to each other” – a message so simple yet often ignored by people of all faiths.
I was pondering this as I bicycled home.
“Let’s all just be nice to each other.” Is there any sermon more simple, needed or true?
But like many simple things it is not that simple. We all have preconceptions, prejudices and phobias often those are fueled by human misinterpretations of the divine. In truth, the most God, any God, can hope for is that we all just be nice to each other. Anything else is as superfluous as a weapon in church.
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on TV-8 and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at email@example.com. Biff’s book “Steep, Deep and Dyslexic” is available from local book stores or from http://www.webersbooks.com
Jeffrey Bergeron’s column “Biff America” publishes Mondays in the Summit Daily News. Bergeron has worked in TV and radio for more than 30 years, and his column can be read in several newspapers and magazines. He is the author of “Mind, Body, Soul.” Bergeron arrived in Breckenridge when there was plenty of parking and no stoplights. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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