Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Woman I Might Have Married

I got your letter yesterday, and I'm
Not really sure what to say
So far gone, I think my job here is done
We used to be so close, we used to be so free, until the
Good Book took you away from me

--The Paperboys, "Salvation"

Perhaps that should be women...long before I met my wife, I was engaged to one person and might as well have been to another. But the particular woman I'm speaking of was my first love, predating either of them.
I met her the first day of grade ten. She walked into my second period music class wearing a denim jumpsuit she'd fashioned herself, and I was instantly and irrevocably smitten, all the more so as she grabbed a baritone and sat two seats down from me.
She noticed me right off, too: it's kind of hard not to notice a guy who's (a) instantly and irrevocably smitten and who (b) has not the slightest idea how to exhibit his smittenness in anything resembling a mature manner.

Somehow--maybe it was my own sheer force of will, but the smitten teenager I was thought it preordained--Darlene and I became friends. That only intensified my longing, nay, my torrid yearning. I've chronicled all this before, of course--the two-year chase almost but not quite culminating in an evening meadow--but I've never explained why things never worked out. Why I didn't pursue this woman past high school. And why--despite the fact we're still friends of a sort two decades later--I'm glad of that.

It goes without saying (but I'd better say it anyway) that I'm glad first and foremost that I met and married Eva. I haven't had a moment's regret on that score in the decade plus we've been together. I'm writing here of alternate realities, dimensions in which I never found the love of my life.

And in those dimensions, I might have married Darlene. If I had, I would have regretted that: of that I have no doubt.

It's funny, in a way. Just the other day she told me (on Facebook) she thought we were "kindred spirits"...and I agreed. After all these years, we still share an odd kind of telepathy. We can finish each other's sentences. Considering I haven't seen her since 1992, I think that rather remarkable.

But she's religious.

She always has been. But where I was once, and grew out of it, she's only grown into it...which is something I for the life of me can't understand.

It's like a full-on mental block. All the things she derives comfort from--the daily devotionals, the pretty much constant prayer, the whole shootin' match--make me acutely uncomfortable. Her blog has a link to Focus On The Family, a group I find beyond abhorrent, not least because their definition of "family" and mine don't match.

I got to thinking about her, again, this morning reading Michael Coren's latest diatribe against liberal Christianity. Coren asserts that people are abandoning the United Church in droves for more evangelical denominations. If that's true, it scares me. Because I've yet to meet an evangelical who doesn't cast the world in us/them terms, "us" being, of course, the narrow strip of people who believe exactly as they do.

If somebody put a gun to my head and told me I had to join a mainline Christian church, I wouldn't have to think twice before picking the closest United Church. Mostly because of all the things Coren decries: they by and large let people worship in their own way and concentrate on the world around them. Would that other churches could be so kind.

Religion, actually, frightens me in any context, even in moderation. I can almost always find common ground with anyone on politics, but religion occupies an entirely different sphere of thought to which I no longer have access. When I read that Stephen Harper is a lot more concerned by "God's verdict regarding [his] life than that of historians", my fear grows in leaps and bounds. Mostly, it's uncertainty. What is his God telling him to do? One never knows until the thing's done and the divine inspiration is cited. What is his God's attitude regarding unbelievers (like, presumably, Omar Khadr, Suaad Hagi Mohamud, and Abousfian Abdelrasik)? Or, for that matter, me?

Yes, it's fair to say I'm uncomfortable with religion in general and Christianity in particular. One reason is that so many Christians see fit to violate their own Scriptures in matters large and small, every day. I'll give you one for-instance that's not often thought of

Even the most militant of atheists is likely to know the Lord's Prayer, the one that starts "Our Father, Who art in Heaven..." Very few Christians can cite you chapter and verse where that prayer occurs in the Bible...and even if they can (Matthew 6), they're not likely to know the instructions Jesus Himself gave to His apostles immediately before He gave them the model prayer. Here they are, straight from the Saviour's mouth, as it were:


1 Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
2 Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.
3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,
4 so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
5 And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.
6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
7 And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words.
8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

How many Christians pray in public? I'm tempted to say pretty much all of them.

(I have met a few, a very few, individuals whom you'd never know were religious unless you asked them. My mother and stepfather are two such. I admire these people greatly, and have nothing but respect for the faith by which they live their lives. But I have no time for faith proclaimed publicly. Nor, it seems, did Jesus.)

It bothers me to no end to see people subsume their lives into a single interpretation of an ancient collection of song-stories, proverbs, political propaganda, and prophesy. It permeates everything: the Bible becomes the answer to every question. Which is patently ridiculous, since the Bible doesn't have anything to say, pro or con, on any number of things that might affect your life...and much of what the Bible does say has been historically and ritualistically misinterpreted down the centuries by people with various political and doctrinal axes to grind. (Go to and type "abortion" into the search engine and prepare to be shocked. Use any synonym you like: you won't find so much as a single verse.)

I couldn't live that life. I'd feel stifled, inprisoned. It boggles my mind that a woman, especially, can live a life in which her husband is always and forever the unquestioned head of the household. What century did that come from, anyway? That wouldn't work in my household and I'm the freakin' man.

It would never have worked out between Darlene and I, no matter how well our personalities mesh, no matter how much we're "kindred spirits". Because I grew out of my faith...and she grew into hers.


Russel Trojan said...

An interesting take on things, but somewhat disappointing. From my experience you generally attempt to remain rational, so I was surprised to read,

"How many Christians pray in public? I'm tempted to say pretty much all of them."

If you ignore the obvious fact that you would never see those who don't pray in public, then this might have some meaning. But when you combine it with the almost certain fact that your experience of Christians is limited to the point of being statistically irrelevant, a statement of this sort becomes totally irrational and as I said, disappointing.

Rocketstar said...

I just started reading "The Christ Conspiracy, the Greatest Story Ever Sold" which looks at the historicity of Jesus, the creation of the Bible etc... great learnings so far. it is truly the greatest 'STORY' ever sold.

I would bet most Christians know little of how thier book was created, the actual histirocal facts surrounding it etc...

Ken Breadner said...

Russell, thanks for dropping by, and sorry you were disappointed.
I have two stints as a Christian under my belt, the first from birth (well, baptism) to age 12, and the second and much more meaningful from 18 to about 22.
I say the second stint was more meaningful because I don't believe children can be Christians. I don't believe children can be *anything*, really, and fully understand what they're being asked to believe.
Anyway, in that second stint--where I was a member of a Lutheran church--literally every Christian I saw prayed in public, myself included: in church. And yes, I'd have to say that many of them made a show of their piety by one means or another. The same is true everywhere I look. Fox News is full of footage to that effect.
Really, if you take your Bible seriously, God is everywhere, but especially present "wheresoever two or more are gathered" in His prayer required.
Unlike Rocketstar, I still believe in a God. Just not the Christian one.