Saturday, November 21, 2009

One Hundred Things My Mother Taught Me A Million Times - Chapter 18

#18 - "You should visit lots of different churches, because that will help you understand religion."

This morning, as I read through the list of one hundred things my mother taught me a million times (yes, there really is a list) trying to decide which to write about next, I sometimes caught myself smiling as I went from lesson to lesson and I sometimes caught myself feeling angry. Why? Because some of mom’s lessons are just so on the mark in life’s craziness that they’re funny, and then others simply piss me of.  Well, to be honest, the ones that piss me off are the ones I know in my heart-of-hearts are true, but don’t want to admit and am frankly a little embarrassed to even discuss. We’ll get to those eventually, but today’s lesson is easy: Religion. And she says to herself, “Just exactly what about religion is easy, SueAnn?”

I recently reunited with my four siblings for the first time in about two years. I should tell you that I’m the baby of the family and no spring chicken, so suffice it to say that we were a group (five of us altogether) that moved slow, wore lots of polyester, talked loud, and said “What?!” a lot. The whole experience was wonderful, and I really enjoyed seeing and being with my three older sisters and brother. It was also scary as hell as I saw my future in bent backs, slow gaits, stooped shoulders, jowls, thin white hair and heavy lids. Click on Read More Below...

Note to self: Stand up straight, stay physical, keep your hair dyed or consider stocking up on wigs, don’t gain any more weight, keep a standing annual appointment with a cosmetic surgeon and get porcelain veneers. Or, probably a less expensive and less embarrassing alternative and one that my best friend suggested, “Let’s just go to China and disappear into an opium den when the time comes.” The one thing that did inspire me about my aging sibs was their attitudes. They were all cheerful, funny, fun and positive, which will get you through a lot more than looks. Right?

Where was I?  Oh yes, so what does all this have to do with religion and mom’s lesson about visiting a lot of churches to have a better understanding of religion? Well, while we were gormandizing on Zentner’s steaks in San Angelo and discussing recent reads, my brother brought up a book that he remembers mother having and which made a big impact on his religious outlook, “The Great Religions of the World.” I was astounded because that book also had a tremendous impact on me, and I had no idea that anyone else in the fam ever even cracked the cover.

“The Great Religions of the World” was one of those coffee table Time-Life books that were so popular during the 50’s, the size and heft of a bag of cement and chocked full of colorful pictures. It talked about the ten or so most highly practiced religions of the world, and as a six-year-old I remember thinking, “Where are the Baptists?!” I had no idea that come Sunday morning, everyone in the world didn’t put on their best garb, grab the covered dish out of the oven, and head over to their Methodist or Baptist Church for Sunday School, then “Church.”

But, my oh my, there were dark-skinned women in iridescent saris, cows being worshiped, rooms full of prostrate praying men and no women, cathedrals draped in gold, men with curls instead of sideburns, and statues with many arms and one foot in the air as though dancing! What the heck? Who were these people? And who the heck are these Allah, Buddha and Shiva characters? And you say that there are millions and millions of people who do this? Well, if that don’t beat all! Needless to say it made me a little more circumspect about religion. I think it was about this time that I stopped worrying about going to hell, and decided that if 60-billion people couldn’t agree on the real deal, it was just beyond my little six-year-old mind to figure it out either.

It seems that mom was usually open to any invitation that would get me out from under her feet, so I often spent the night with my friends on Saturday night.  And where I grew up, you went to church on Sunday morning.  Period. So in addition to attending the Methodist Church, which I did religiously, I ended up going to the Baptist Church, the Church of Christ, the Pentecostal Church (that was wild), and the Christian Church. Not sure why, but my Catholic buddies were never allowed to bring me along and I really wanted to go. All that getting down on your knees and the pageantry just seemed so glamorous and exciting to me.

Anyway, the common thread of all the services I attended were, “We’re right, they’re wrong and they’ll go to hell for it, and you’ll go to hell if you’re not good, but even if you’re not good but you’re sorry, you’ll be OK.”

So, needless to say, what I got out of the deal was that there’s a lot of opinions about religion, everyone thinks they’re right, there seems to be a conspicuous lack of proof for any of their varied beliefs and, bottom line, everyone just needs to be nice, mind your own business and help when you can. This just seems a whole lot less complicated, and a pretty good bottom line. Honestly, I think the most important aspect of religion is that it does help people behave better (mostly) plus it is a great social network, and any supreme being that would strike me dead for saying all this is really just not a very nice being.

So, mom was right.  You should visit a lot of different churches because it will help you understand religion. I urge you to worship the religion of your choice, and I just wish everyone felt the same way.



  1. Love it! Great read - led me back to my childhood! See you soon -d

  2. Really liked this--you hit the nail on the head, you described our home town perfect--come Sunday morning all of us were in Church somewhere--like you this little c of c girl was a tad Boogered by the activities at the Pentecostal church. Loved the writing, descriptions, and humor! Can I go to China with you and your friend--Linda Sue

  3. I'm jealous I never made it to the Pentecostal church. Sounds exciting. I was actually a tad "boogered" by the c of c. I think SueAnn has the best approach, and it's probably closer to the true concept before all the denominations decided that everyone else was going to hell (except them, of course).

  4. Sign up now for the Gals - Very Smart Gals "Slow Boat to China" Cruise! Departing when we're 80, one-way trip!

    Ha! Thanks for your comments.