#739: A Pause by the Church Door

January 16th, 2017

I thought about the dab of water.

I thought about how it feels on the forehead, a bit too much and it dribbles down a bit. A perfect amount and it sort of stays there, giving the illusion of coolness as it evaporates into dry, marble-laden air.

Up, down, left shoulder, right shoulder. Sit, stand, kneel, sit, stand, shake hands and say “And also with you.”

The music curled out of the church as I walked by.

It was a Sunday morning. The doors were open. A lone woman with curly hair nowhere near in color to the gray it should be trudged up stone steps. I glanced over as she disappeared into the door, swallowed by the glorious tinny choir warbling songs of joy and love.

I wondered if I should go in.

By the word of God, I’m nowhere near a good man. I don’t pray, attend or believe. My faith is fact-finding, my cosmology one of black holes and big bangs rather than purgatories and “Let there be light.”

It’s a bad system of science and of ethics. Reward and punishment is a good system for training a dog, but it does not make a person good. It just makes one fearful of hell, greedy for heaven.

I also hate the idea of forgiveness through rosaries, that you can chant away a wrong you did another without fixing the problem.

I can’t hate gays the way Jesus’ testament commands in Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:9-10.

But still, I thought about the cool dab of holy water on my forehead and wondered if I should go in.

My lack of faith isn’t a source of joy nor is it a fount of existential despair. There’s no more emotion here than there is in saying trees photosynthesize. It’s just an is. More technically, an isn’t. I begrudge no one their solace and comfort, until they use it as excuse to take away mine.

The sign of the cross on my forehead and chest. The paper-dry taste of wafer on my tongue. A sip of wine that always makes me wonder when the germs of the faithful will transubstantiate into flu.

And that feeling I once had that the world is simple and God is good. A pious person making the noble choice of love. Or a lab rat happily pressing the button of kindness and charity in knowledge of an eternal treat.

I don’t know if I want my dad to read this story.

I walked away from the church, not going inside or daubing my head with blessings. I know I would have written about it. I would have been a spy in their world of faith. They would have welcomed me. That’s the part that made me turn away. They would have been kind to a dirty spy.

As I walked away, a passel of smiling children sprinted around the barbershop on the corner, near bowling me over in their race to those holy, music-laden doors. A mother-type yelled in Polish after them. She yelled at them to slow down, context said.

I smiled at their smiles, knowing the world is, at least for a moment, at least in one spot, at least on one street corner by a barbershop and Catholic church in Chicago, Illinois, happy. And just a little touch of good.

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