church guilt

My mom is currently giving me the silent treatment. Which is a bit of a misnomer because she still does speak to me, albeit as enthusiastically as she would a telemarketer. But essentially her communication to me is limited to necessary speech such as "pass the salt" and lots of Significant Glances.

I always tell my mom that she should really be Jewish because of her well-worn repertoire of guilt-trip strategies. She denies this vociferously, but Ignatius agrees with me and my father refuses to comment, which is quite often his way of agreeing. To be honest, I'm not sure whether she denies it because she realizes that admitting that she uses emotional manipulation as a parenting device would seriously undermine her authority, or if she actually doesn't realize that she does it.

The current situation involves church, or specifically my conspicuous lack of enthusiasm for such. This one is particularly fun for my mom because she gets to invoke not only her own personal wrath, but that of the Almighty as well. Righteousness: fun for the whole family! If you don't count the lavender sheep.

Since the dissolution of the previous church, my parents have ramped up their ecclesiastical involvement. Church used to be largely limited to a Sunday morning pilgrimage downtown; now it involves both morning and evening services as well as various weekday events in a Baptist church that lends the congregation space to meet until their expensive new building (which if I recall the plans correctly is just as big and plain and ugly) is built. My dad is a deacon and thusly also an usher; my mom is on several committees and very involved socially.

I used to be bored by church. Now I actively hate it.

I was raised Presbyterian, so it's not as if the austerity of the architecture and the worship is unfamiliar to me. But the old church was one of Terabil's historical features, so there was some wood carving and some vaulted ceilings to keep my visual brain busy. The Baptist building is almost painfully bare. It's all white with just enough crown molding to keep it from looking low-rent, wth the standard bench pews with cheap cushions. I spent one of the last services staring at the back of my former Spanish teacher's dress trying to figure out why it was cut like it was for utter lack of anything else to think about.

I used to bring my sketchbook and draw random pieces of the church and the backs of peoples' heads. However, not only did my mom start getting on my case about not paying attention, I realized that I'd run out of architectural elements to draw and every woman in the congregation has a simple variation on the same curly-helmet-shag hairstyle. (The men simply have one haircut and varying amounts of hair.)

I started bringing a book with me, but then I couldn't really claim I was even halfway paying attention to the sermon. Particularly not if I happen to be reading the Anita Blake series. Nothing says "I'm not paying attention" like covers that basically scream "Lookit me, I'm reading about vampire nookie!"

Today, I brought nothing with me and spent pretty much the entire service vaccilating between making snarky mental commentary on the sermon and staring in fascination at an old man with particularly protuberant ears.

(If you want me to pray for my sins you'll need to give me more than five seconds before the corporate intercession... wow, he's got big ears... Hmm. Why yes, I'm quite acquainted with the phenomenon of being in a philosophical minority and having to defend my position, but I don't think my quandary is quite what you're getting at... dude, I swear, he should be able to fly with those things. Like Dumbo...)

It's gotten to the point where I can't even attend with the possibility of getting something spiritual out of the service. I go purely because my mother makes life difficult for me if I don't. The entire experience for me is one of bitterness. After having my last journal with its inherent trust and vulnerability broadcast among the Good Christians and handed to my parents to beat me with, it's hard for me to view groups of gathered church folk as anything but a bunch of vicious hyenas waiting for me to let my guard down so they can drop-kick me through the goalposts of hell again.

Granted, they're vicious soul-footballing hyenas who mean well, but still.

So when my mom wakes us up for church on Sunday mornings, it might not be entirely an accident if I fall back asleep and I'm not dressed when everyone's ready to leave. And forgive me if I go out to the craft store or the bookstore and accidentally get back just a little bit after everyone's left for the evening service. Oops. Guess I'll attend the Happy Shiny Christian Borg Assimilationfest next week.

Obviously my mom notices when this happens, oh, three weeks in a row and starts giving me dirty looks of Why Must You Hate God And Your Mother So Much? So I dutifully drag my evil pants-wearing, blue-haired, grumpy self to Heaven's Vacant Lot and mostly refrain from fantasies involving nocturnal breaking and entering resulting in colorful Rococo triptych murals where the sinners in Hell are all prominent evangelical Republicans.

Now my mom is cranky because I didn't realize that "If you're living under my roof, you have to go to church" meant both morning AND evening services.

I'm not entirely sure this is a bad thing. If she really wants to leave me alone, far be it from me to disabuse her from the notion that this is a form of punishment.

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thus saith Liadan at 2:23 AM


Blogger Peterson Toscano saith at 7/31/2006 11:41 AM...  

eek, talk about weeping and gnashing of teeth type experiences. As if someone could experience the sweetness of the divine through coercion. And since when does one have to go to an organized meeting in a contrived structured in order to commune in the Spirit.

Thanks for you post and for sharing some of the source of the pain--betrayal. For all the love talk, church can be one of the most unsafe places on the planet. I know I have been betrayed, lied to, talked about and manipulated by church folks, and I find that even today when I pass a full parking lot outside a big ole white church, that some bile starts to rise.

Anonymous jen saith at 7/31/2006 4:01 PM...  

Granted, they're vicious soul-footballing hyenas who mean well, but still.

believe me... you're not the only one who deals with said hyenas.

could you perhaps take a journal with you and pretend to be taking sermon notes?

Blogger Brucker saith at 8/04/2006 5:56 PM...  

Similar to Jen's comments, it seems to me that you could get a lot of mileage out of church if you pretend to be taking notes but really are writing something else. Although I am generally happy with my church, occasionally, there will be a sermon that I don't 100% track with, and I'll take personal notes in order to illustrate the pros and cons of the pastor's position on the matter. Sometimes this causes my wife a bit of consternation as the pastor is preaching on Matthew and she looks over to see me thumbing through Ephesians for a supporting verse, but surely she's the only one noticing, and if not, I don't care so much.

Actually, as an artist, you could try something I do when I get bored, but you might be able to do it better. Take extensive notes, but challenge yourself to not take them in words, but sketch them out in rebus style. I always remember a health class I once took in which the instructor kept pronouncing "puberty" as "POO-birdy". I finally had to draw a little sketch of a bird taking a crap. "Autoeroticism" got a nice picture of a guy kissing his car.

Anonymous Anonymous saith at 9/04/2006 6:58 AM...  

Hi- just a random person here. I second the taking notes ideas (though I usually spent the time writing tortured poems:) Just had to comment after reading the anita blake comment- hah! My ending? Stopped going, guilt trips laid off after bout 8 months..

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