I’m not a church-goer, anti-religious, an atheist or anything close. I just don’t go to church on Sunday’s. I don’t go to church because I’m lazy.
I’d rather spend Sunday mornings sleeping late, reading the Sunday paper, and enjoying a casual breakfast. When I say CASUAL BREAKFAST, I’m not talking about a bowl of Rice Crispies, I’m referring to the “sopping-up-sausage-gravy-with-a-big-biscuit, down-South breakfast. I’m pretty sure I’ll go to hell when I die, as punishment for thirty years of CHURCH HOOKY, but in MY opinion, sausage gravy is worth every bit of the risk.
After breakfast, I’m usually summoned by an inner affliction I refer to as the NAP MONSTER.
I pay great homage and have the deepest respect for NAP MONSTER.
I’m a big believer in naps. My father believed in naps. My dog believes in naps. Naps break up the day.
Over the years, I’ve developed nap-taking, to an enviable art form. In addition to my Sunday naps at home, I can car-nap in the parking lot while my wife is shopping. I can nap at the Doctor’s office. I’ve even squeezed in a nap or two at work.
Any naps longer than ten minutes or so, however, are accompanied by insatiable drool. Drooling in public can be unsettling, and I’ve learned to counter-attack nap-drool by setting the vibrate alarm on my watch. The alarm gives me a slight “start” and a couple of seconds with which to re-compose and wipe my mouth if necessary. My watch alarm has saved me immeasurable embarrassment.
Even though Sunday naps and sausage gravy have been the afflictions keeping me from church all these years, been it hasn’t always been so. I DID go to church as a child.
Growing up out in the middle of nowhere as I did, church was an important part of our life. In addition to being an obligation, church was considered to be a low keyed, country social event. It was a day when work would stop and a convenient place for the community to gather.
Our mother took us both, Sister and I, to church every Sunday morning. On those infrequent days when we would rather stay home, she could convince us very effectively, with a hickory switch, fresh cut from the old maple tree branch conveniently hanging next to the front porch. To this day, I’m glad my mother took us to church. Attending church created a lot of memories and I’ll always be grateful.
Unlike churches today, our small country church had no air conditioner, only windows, and paper hand fans. In the summertime, wasps flew in and gave us kids a source of amusement. I don’t think anyone ever got stung, but we giggled when a wasp landed on the back of a neatly tied lady’s hair bun, and by the same token, grimaced when a wasp landed on the back of a man’s bald head. Mr. Tarpley seemed to be their favorite bald head. They’d always singled him out, could be his “after-shave”. We never knew, but we could see him there, up front, in the second row, dodging and slapping at the air with his fan. It wasn’t religion that got a hold of him, like some thought. IT WAS A WASP. He never got stung. We always figured it was because he was a deacon in the church.
Don’t get me wrong. I still go to Church on days like Easter and Christmas…every other decade or so and on special occasions.
Due to my infrequent visits, the modernization of Churches has been more noticeable to me than would have been if I had gone to church every Sunday. The old “hallelujah” songs aren’t there anymore and in some churches, the piano has been replaced by something called…. ENSEMBLES.
The last occasion I had, for a church visit, was when my wife and I, met Sister and her husband at the new Baptist Church in town. It was a big church, bigger than any I’ve ever seen.We sat in the visitors pew and I immediately started thumbing through one of the hymnals lying on the seat, looking for some of the old songs remembered from my childhood. I couldn’t find THERE IS A FOUNTAIN FILLED WITH BLOOD or STANDING ON THE PROMISES, so I put the hymnal down and started watching the congregation, just coming in. I noticed that some of the people don’t dress up for church anymore so I guess the phrase “your Sunday best” has gone with the times, just like the old songs. I wasn’t wearing a suit and tie either, but at least I had my socks on, and they matched.
The church didn’t have a piano, or one that I could see. I did spot the choir section, however, and next to it, …a drummer’s throne (stool), a snare drum, a pair of cymbals and a guitar stand. In the back were lights hanging from the ceiling. Mounted on the walls around the church I counted three TV cameras, a couple of boom microphone hanging above the choir section, and seven flat-screened TV’s scattered here and there. Sensing my bewilderment, Sister whispered, “They do things different in church nowadays. Everything has gone modern. On the way out, you can even buy yourself a copy of the sermon to take home”.
The church program started and my wife shushed me with her elbow. The preacher, a big man with chubby red jowls, got up from his seat located about an arm’s length from the choir pit. He walked, or more precisely, strutted over to the podium, carrying the bible in his left hand, thumping it as he went. The low rumble of conversation from the church quietened down. Brother Billy Joe-Bob, a full-fledged, fire and brimstone spitting, Jackson County Preacher, commenced his sermon.
I’ve learned from painful experience, nine out of ten sermons, let loose by Baptist preachers typically last fifteen minutes longer than necessary. This act in itself has made me suspicion that the Methodists, instead of the Jews, the Baptists, Lutherans, or any of the other religions, are the actual, true, God’s Chosen People, simply because they let Church out fifteen minutes earlier than the Baptists. This, of course, provides the Methodist first chance opportunity at all the buffet bars in town. I can’t see how this would fit in God’s grand design, but who am I to question?
With the advent of modern technology, preachers nowadays have at their disposal, a microphone they wear on their coat lapel. This is known as a lavaliere mic and attaches to a “pack” worn on the belt. From there, the audio, or speech, becomes “wireless” giving vast numbers of preachers all over the world, the freedom to “strut and spout”, and both at the same time. Brother Billy Joe-Bob was no exception.
He took full advantage of this freedom, left his bible on the podium, and started a cadence with his voice, waving arms, and pacing feet. After about five minutes, he had a rhythm going, and it was making me sleepy. If I hurried, I could “get in” a good ten or fifteen minute power nap, lulled by Billy Joe Bob’s sermon. It would be like falling to sleep under a tin roof during a rain, with occasional lightning of course.
Brother Billy Joe-Bob’s “thees and thous” became fainter and fainter as I drifted between nap-stage one and nap-stage two sermon-slumber. I was just drifting off when my head bobbed to the left, shocking me back to consciousness. Using my watch-alarm trick allowed me to sneak a short look-see-around by squinting with my left eye. That way I’d know if there were any serious disturbances needing my immediate attention. If not, I could continue napping.
This time, I sensed that something “weren’t” exactly right. The hair on my neck bristled. Opening my left eye a little wider gave me cause for concern. My wife, Sister and brother-in-law had scooted to the end of the pew, leaving me alone on my side. My wife had her face buried in the church program booklet. Sister looked disconcerted, and my brother-in-law was red as a beet. I sat up quickly…wide-eyed. Wiping the drool from my mouth, I causally looked up, trying to appear unobtrusive. A big hairy hand was holding the Bible, greeted my “awakeness”. It was Billy Joe-Bob and he was thumping his Bible in a loud disturbing manner. He scared me so bad my butt cheeks clamped shut.
Apparently he had made his way down from the podium, preaching all the way, walked out among the congregation and took a “hard-left” down the aisle to my pew, where he stopped. I despairingly found myself in a close-up, drool and all, plastered on every TV in the building. “God help me.”
Brother Billy Joe-Bob was looking out over me to the congregation. Brrr, Brrr,….my watch alarm “went off” brrr brrr. I’d like to know………. and would gladly pay for the information; Who in the hell gave those Baptist Preachers wireless microphones, anyway?