Sit back. I’m going to tell you guys a little story about my youth.
It’s 1992. I am in sixth grade Sunday School class in a small town (population 7,000) Baptist church. The class consists of one sweet and mild-mannered teacher, a half dozen run-of-the-mill tweenage kids dragged to church by their parents, one folding table, twelve metal folding chairs, a corner cabinet with a few Bibles stuffed in it, and one Certifiable Asshole.
The certifiable asshole—CA, we’ll call him—was a towheaded brat who enjoyed a certain level of popularity at our public school during the week. A friend of mine once asked if she could sleep over at my house and go to church with me in the morning “because [CA] goes to your church and he’s really cute.” I think he played soccer or baseball or maybe both.
He was the adolescent equivalent of the guy at the office who “well actually”s all the women in a meeting and then repeats what they said verbatim.
Yeah, I know.
CA didn’t come from an Every Sunday™ kind of family like I did. He was in attendance at Sunday School, if I’m being generous, maybe 60% of the time. He was an entitled young man, prone to blurting rude, hurtful things at his peers. Whether to get a reaction or just make himself feel superior, I can’t say. What I can say, is that as a quiet, pimply, awkward 12-year-old, I preferred the 40% of Sundays I didn’t have to look at his smug-ass face.
“Your dad’s sermons are soooooo boring,” he once told the preacher’s kid, apropos of nothing.
“When are you bringing doughnuts and chocolate milk again,” he asked our teacher another morning. She had provided them as a treat once, and he either didn’t know or didn’t care that he was being rude.
“That dress is ugly,” he greeted me one rare Sunday morning when I was feeling particularly well put together.
See what I mean? Cer. Ti. Fi. A. Ble. ASSHOLE.
Our church used to have fifth Sunday dinners, a church-wide potluck held in the Family Life Center after the sermon every time there were five Sundays in a month. It happened a few times a year.
There was one lady who showed up without fail on every fifth Sunday. She was elderly and quiet and black. She dressed nicely, but you could tell she didn’t have a lot of money for clothes or anything. She didn’t appear to be close with anyone in the congregation. I mean, I never noticed anyone saying anything more than a polite good morning to her, but maybe someone did. It’s not like I was watching her closely, knowing I’d be writing this blog post 26 years later.
“Mrs. M is here for lunch,” CA said to our teacher one fifth Sunday. “She only shows up for the food, why doesn’t she ever come to church any other time?”
I waited for the teacher to say something about how Jesus told us to be kind to everybody. How maybe if CA wanted her to be at church every Sunday he should bring her something to eat instead of demanding she be at church every Sunday just to be deemed worthy of food three or four times a year.
The teacher took a book out of her tote bag and told us where we could find the scripture for the lesson if we wanted to follow along in our Bibles.
It’s been ten years since I’ve put even my big toe inside a church. Twenty since I’ve wanted to. It’s not because I turned bitter, either. It’s because Christians have gotten worse. Immigrant-hating, child-caging kind of worse.
Y’all m*****f****** need Jesus.