Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Gird Up My Loins

My first semester of college I took a course called "The Human Situation." Basically, it was a world literature/philosophy course, or something like that. We read Nietzsche, Primo Levi, other stuff I didn't care about at the time, and the book of Job from the Bible. When I saw it on the syllabus, at first I was offended. I'd never seen the Bible as literature. I mean, I had just come out, but I still hadn't realized I wasn't Christian. I thought I was supposed to be upset that we were reading it as a story and not the word of God.

If you haven't read Job, or you don't know the story, it's pretty simple. Satan and God have a bet: Satan says if God fucks with someone enough, he'll turn on God. God picks Job, saying that he's, like, the best follower of all time ever. Satan kills his kids, burns his sheep, blows his house apart and does something to his oxen and camel and she-asses. Through it all, even his friends telling him that he must've done something wrong to piss off God, Job is faithful. In the end, God gives Job a lot more kids, sheep, oxen, all that.

* * *

Tonight Mindy put our cat, Sinatra "Snot" to sleep. I didn't watch like I did with Lady. We'd already had that discussion. You see, Lady and Snot were the same age, around 17, and they'd been together their whole lives. I had to put Lady to sleep just days after Mindy went into the hospital; it was less than 2 months ago. Like Lady, Snot just started walking funny and sitting very still. She declined in a few days. Mindy brought home an i.v. pump from work and she was getting fluids for three days. She didn't get better.

So, Mindy brought home the juice. I cried over Snot and left the room. I sat on the porch, the breeze blowing my tears and I read, for the first time since I was 18, the Bible.

* * *

I've mentioned many times that I'm not Christian. That is, I don't believe in God and I don't believe Jesus was the son of God. I don't believe that Mary was a virgin. However, I do believe Jesus was a guy, probably a super cool BLACK man.

People have said to me, since March 4, that you know, "God tests our faith sometimes." I try not to be sarcastic when I respond, but I can't help it. I don't believe that someone or thing is in charge, up there pulling my strings. If there was, he'd be a real dick.

You might wonder what I do believe in. I believe in love and kindness or at least, leaving people the hell alone to do what they want. I believe faith is not worth warring over. No one is right.

So, once again, we have offered up a life for a life. So far, the universe has required two beloved pets in exchange for our son. Our family has been destroyed, but it will be rebuilt. For those of you who kept saying that having a baby would change our lives forever, boy, do you feel silly.

* * *

I told Mindy tonight, while we inhaled our margaritas over dinner, that I suddenly felt old today. She said I was probably old when I was eight. It's true. It's like there's this feeling in my body. Did you ever stand in the doorways, pressing your hands to the frame, then step forward? It's like, all that pressure, and then suddenly, your arms are weightless and floating. Towards the heavens.

* * *

When I did believe in God, I couldn't imagine him being mean. I still can't wrap my mind around why people would believe he'd actually make this wager with Satan, to see if the most righteous servant could handle the boils and terrors. I get it, though. The writers of the Bible were fond of hyperbole. Job was probably a real guy. He probably had some bad shit happen. His friends probably told him that he must've deserved it (why else would horrible things happen to good people?). In the end, he was probably, like, "Can you fuckin believe it?"

* * *

I'm tired. I'm exhausted. I've lost weight and then gained more back. I've slept in and not slept. I've drunk too much and sometimes nothing. I have cried and I've stared into nothingness. Sometimes I just smile and laugh.

* * *

I believe that old people die when their loved ones have already passed. I've heard those stories, after a month or two, the other person goes. Dies of loneliness, they say. Snot and Lady were born a week apart and they died less than two months apart. Tomorrow I will drive to Portland, the first time I will have been home in months, since before the trials, and I will dig a hole beside Lady. I will put Snot in that hole. Ashes to Ashes and all that. Then Mom and I will walk to the bar, across the road, and eat greasy cheeseburgers. I will drink a PBR.

I will start walking to the river and it'll turn into a sprint. Right up to the the goddamn banks. And I'll stop. I will want to scream, but I'll just stare into the currents.

"Oh that my grief were thoroughly weighed, and my calamity laid in the balances together! For now it would be heavier than the sand of the sea: therefore my words are swallowed up."
Job 6:2-3


  1. :(

    But what a lucky kitty to be missed by you lovely ladies.

  2. Excellent piece Christine.

    When I was about twelve years old I was attending a Sunday School class in the basement of the Church of the Nazarene in Patchogue, New York. The teacher, a lay gorilla with too much Brylcreem in his hair and the aroma of tobacco smoke on his breath was reading from one of those Bible story books with illustrations that make all the righteous guys look like Hollywood leading men with their square jaws and well-laundered threads. Jesus had blue eyes, of course.

    That week's lesson was on poor old Job who was as far as I could tell, literally Godforsaken. I raised the issue in the same terms your brief essay above does: I characterized the situation as a bet between God and the Devil in which God was betraying all the principles of morality we were supposedly being taught in our weekly Sunday School classes. Job was a chump if he retained his faith in a God who had cruelly killed his wife and children and covered his body with running pustules. I was told to shut up--and not for the first time.

    For some time prior to that particular Sunday, I'd begun questioning the more obvious hypocrisies the Bible is so replete with: the charitable Jesus healing the sick counterposed by imagery of fiery lakes and all that. Nothing exceedingly intellectual or anything, mind you, just the normal observations and inquiries of a reasonably bright kid beginning to take seriously what he was being taught in my secular grade school and applying it to the biblical narratives. Although I cannot remember exactly what was said verbatim, things came to a head that Sunday causing me to move on beyond Christianity and never look back.

    I objected to being told to shut up and I wanted the Sunday School teacher to explain to me why it was immoral for me to play Go-fish with a deck of cards while it was okay for God to wager with Satan by destroying Job's family. Yes, it was in one of THOSE fanatical congregations that banned children playing with cards, dancing, or even reading fictional literature--as if the Bible itself was not a fiction!

    Anyway, I persisted and the guy sort of grabbed the backside of my skinny neck and pinched pretty hard. I resisted and he squeezed harder. It really hurt. I swung my whole body around with my arm leading the way, in effect knocking his arm off of me. The look on his face told me--and the dozen or so other kids in the class--that he was shocked by my overt defiance of his authority. He slapped me, hard, and it knocked me out of the chair I was sitting in. I got up, my face flushed and with tears streaming across my cheeks, shouted "Fuck you!" I then ran out of the room and up the stairs that led out of the basement and right out the double doors at the entrance to the church.

    I walked home alone, crying the entire way--my brothers Billy and Kevin had been in the class with me, my sister Carol in another class in a different room of the basement. They would take the school bus which had brought us to church that morning so that they arrived home before I did and told my mother what had happened. She was angry at me but angrier at the Sunday School teacher. Even so, after talking to the pastor of the church, she wanted me to go to Sunday School the following week. I refused despite my mother's threats to punish me with grounding and withholding my meager allowance. Although I was always one of the smaller kids in my grade school cohort, I was too big at twelve for my mother to impose physical force on me. From that day on in my life I admitted my disbelief and no amount of cajoling by my mother, a future wife, or dozens of arguments with the faithful in the intervening years would get me into church as a believer. I've been willing to attend the occasional wedding and even a funeral service or two but never again purporting to be a Christian.

  3. I think it is important for us all to find ways to be good, to treat all who cross our path decently, lovingly even. I hate war, the greed that fosters it, and the ideologies that justify it. I do think morality is important but it is a non-theistic morality that refutes the hateful prejudices that so often seem to dominate the consciousness of your typical monotheists. And by that I most assuredly include both Judeo-Christianity and Islam. Having said that...Bless you and your beautiful family Christine, with all my sincerest secularity.