In 500 words today I want to talk about the sweet little black lady I saw at the grocery store on Friday. In ordinary circumstances whether she was black or white of rainbow striped wouldn’t matter to me, It doesn’t really in this circumstance either except the she herself made her ‘colour’ integral to the story and exposed something more intently disturbing to me than racial bias.
We were sharing space around the ‘big deal’ bins just inside the front entrance of the grocery. The ones you bash your cart into because there isn’t enough space to steer directly into the produce department. I was choosily scouring for perfect peppers (three bumps for eating, four bumps for cooking). Across from me the sweet little black lady was talking to a young couple (of like complexion) about her fabulous church. They, (and I because I love listening to people talk about things they love) listened intently as she extoled the virtues of her congregation and their pastor. She talked excitedly about their celebrations of faith, church picnics, and ladies lunches. I listened while she encouraged them to join her on Sunday. I eavesdropped as she explained that they may have to ask someone to find her because she was most often in the back busy working at some project or another for after service fellowship, but that everyone knew who she was and where she could be found. The sweet little black lady explained that her church was warm and welcoming like that and that they would feel right at home.
Then the sweet little black lady lowered her tone just barely above a whisper, donned her very best Christian voice and proceed to explain to her young prospects that the congregation ‘unfortunately’ was mixed, with the substantially pale contingent or ‘whites’ accounting for about half of the worshipers. “It’s not ideal of course.” She explained “but everyone is nice.” I didn’t drop my peppers but I truly wanted to chuck one at her head, and then at the heads of her audience who didn’t say “that doesn’t matter to us” who didn’t say “It sounds like a very welcoming place.” Who didn’t sideways glance at one another and bulge out their eyes in a “Can you believe she just said that?” fashion. No, they just all stood their discreetly nodding in unison their Christian acceptance of misfortune.
And I thought—This is what is fundamentally wrong with Christianity, they allow people to work in the back who in their heart fail to practice the very principles, doctrines and commandments that are being preached from the pulpit. And yes, I know that this is not a flaw specific to Christian ‘faithful’; perhaps I should have reworded my former statement to read ‘This is what is fundamentally wrong with religion.’ Because without a doubt and every single day we run into people who lower their outside voice to reveal their true nature, to contradict themselves, expose their 6 day a week selves to others who they confidently believe clearly hold the same core beliefs. What you can say about ‘Sunday Christians’ (as my cousin cleverly calls people who live differently Monday through Saturday then they practice in the pew) can just as easily be said about Saturday Jews, Ramadan Muslims, Watchtower Jehovah’s and virtually every other organized society of subscribed belief.
It makes me a little bit insane that we hold one another up, judge and condemn based on teachings and fail so miserably to live to the same standards. It is the reason I refuse to subscribe, to attach myself, label myself and belong to any one specific religious practice. I can’t find one where flockers are the same on the outside as they are in the middle. I can’t find one where what you believe is what you get and where it’s okay to be the same person in the grocery store that you are in the choir.
I can’t do it.
I want to worship in a place where people love people because that’s what they say they will do, where honesty is important all the time not just when it fits with the deal on the table. I want to worship in a place where it matters more how you behave everyday than how well you can recite the rules or beg for the forgiveness. I want to celebrate my blessings with people who I know are the same in their Sabbath suits as they are in their bathing suits. I want to worship in a place where we preach what we practice.
So until my kids choose their own religion and beliefs, they worship with us at the dining room table; over bowls of mashed potatoes and plates of green pepper, where we celebrate the many ways we are blessed, sing the praises of one another’s good acts, encourage one another to live happily and pray for the courage to always be the same on the outside as we are in the middle.
I screw-up sufficiently in our practice but it feels like the rightist approach for me. With a little luck if I’ve got it wrong Hell has Merlot.
I think I broke the pump handle and over-shot the 500 target by about 360 words. Must have needed them to put out a fire.
No peppers were actually hurled during the writing of this post.