Christianity, or as I like to think of it, ‘Jesus -freakery’ doesn’t really exist with the same fervor in the UK as it does in the hinterlands of the US. I grew up with a notion of religiosity that meant some of my friends got to wear a white dress and tights one Sunday around the age of 8 or 9 and after that, everything returned to usual. My small village was home to an impressive church, actually make that about 3 churches, which served several difference flavors of God, but basically seemed populated by a singularity of blue rinsed old ladies and fervent pastors. Father’s in our village often talked of ‘going to church’ of an evening, not from conviction but as a way to pass an evening at least one of the 12 pubs which dotted the roads between Episcopalian, Methodist and Catholic buildings. Since the churches were largely locked outside of Sundays I did question my dad’s interest in religion, but since it came accompanied by the smell of beer and cigarette smoke, it was evident he wasn’t spending much time in a pew.
My school was across the road from the biggest and oldest church, but I only really thought of it as a place where we did brass rubbings around Christmas time and sometimes got to sing. The idea of a fatherly caretaker was pretty much filled by our headmaster (who not coincidentally, also served as the village vicar) and the whole thing seemed like something I’d pass by and not question (along with Hopping John our local crazy person who hopped 3 miles between two villages for the entirety of my childhood. What can I say, not much entertainment growing up in a small village in Wales). But back to church. When a few of my friends donned the white tights and lacy dress I do remember questioning what it was all about but received the simple and profound guidance from my mother,
‘God doesn’t exist’
‘.. and nor does Jesus’
Since my mother’s word was gospel in our house (way more than any hippy dude in sandals), I took it was given and didn’t really give it another thought. It seems fairly reasonable that a bunch of people believed in stuff I didn’t – it might also explain the popularity of Kajagoogoo.
I’d never been christened, nor baptized and it wasn’t until my mid twenties when I noticed several of my friends choosing to visit their local house of worship rather than hit the slopes. It always seem to coincide with their forthcoming marriages so I simply assumed that it was something that you needed to do in order to get married in the US. Go to church. The weird thing was that after the nuptials they kept going. I found it strange that for 4, 5 even 7 years these were friends who’d never mentioned God, never mentioned believing in a man in the sky, and yet they all… to a man, wound up at church. Did they suddenly get a visit in the middle of the night? Were they secretly praying all this time and just hiding it? Had I met them during their religious ‘holiday’? It was weird.
Never one to ignore a trend (well, after everyone else has adopted it) I decided to check it out and see what I might be missing. After singing along with the Episcopalians, moaning with the Baptists, swaying with the Jews and chanting with the Buddhists I have to admit I remain unconvinced. I would love to believe in someone or something that was looking out for me ( it might have saved me some terrible dates). I wish that I had the belief that even when things are really crappy, its all for a purpose. But I don’t. I can’t. I lack the ‘belief gene’. It seems to go along nicely with Republicanism, (not exclusively, but you can’t deny that the desire to shoot a gun and complain about supporting the poor seems to rise with strength of belief in Jesus. Makes no sense to anyone except those armed and bearing bibles). But I digress, I lack belief and I’m confused by the passionate majority who seems to get it while I stand around befuddled. This was especially apparent when I found myself at a Christian rock concert surrounded by kids clutching their crosses and swaying to the music. Nothing like a rock show with a prayer break in the middle. But that’s a whole other story.
Belief. Wish I had it and with its consistent absence for the last 40, I’m guessing the next 40 is pretty much more of the same. Ah well, less traffic on I70.