Sunday, January 30, 2011

That Old Time Religion

Now, those of you who don't know me may not realize that I am a very religious man. Even amongst the dedicated Christians of the Southern United States I consider myself a devout Christian. As a result I certainly don't think of making fun of the Lord as acceptable. Nor do I like making fun of Christians or Christian ceremonies as a general rule. However, the Church is made up of people and people do funny things. I believe it is perfectly acceptable to laugh at someone who does something funny whether he's a Christian or not and whether or not he's in a church building at the time.

I mention these things because the following stories touch on that old time religion. I wanted my views known so that I wouldn't offend anyone who's religious scruples are a little more sensitive than my own. I find humor where I find it and I certainly don't intend to offend anyone. Now that I have the disclaimer out of the way we can move on the the meat of the matter.

As young men Sam, Joshua and I would often discuss things of a religious nature. More times than not these conversations led to religious mysteries that no one alive can answer. I'm sure most of you are familiar with the old “How many angles can dance on the head of a pin?” discussions. (If you aren't familiar I would suggest looking it up. It's an interesting piece of history.) We would bring up similar questions and talk about the possibilities.

Sam, like many young Christians, was obsessed with the book of Revelations. It's depictions of Armageddon, and what most people believe to be the end of the world, have fueled the fires of many a young imagination. Sam was giving vent to those fires one night as we lay on the roof of the house looking up at the stars.

It was a warm summer night and we had stayed up until after Mom and Dad had gone to bed. For whatever reason the mood struck us to head up to the roof. As we lay there looking up at the sky the conversation naturally turned to the beauty of nature and from there it was a short step for Sam to move to Revelations.

He had a flare for setting your nerves on edge while he talked about the beast and the abomination that causes desolation. We had been discussing the subject for about half an hour when I decided I wanted to take a walk. From some reason talking about the end of the world filled me with nervous energy. We all three climbed down and started out on one of our usual romps around the neighborhood. As we walked under the street lights Sam continued the discussion. He had just introduced the subject of demons when I saw two points of red light shining out of the bushes.

“One sec bro!” I whispered, interrupting Sam mid-thought.

“What it is?” He asked.

“Am I seeing things or are there two red eyes watching us from the bushes?”

Sam took a careful look and replied “No, you're not seeing things. They are there....”

“What do you think we should do?”


“AHHHH!!!!” We all three screamed together as we ran back to the house as fast as we could.

Once safely home we discussed the situation and decided that if those had been demon eyes we would have all been dead. So, there was only one thing to do: We had to arm ourselves against any animal attacks and go find the whatever-it-was. We each took something with which to fight off whatever wild animal the thing might turn out to be and headed back to where we had seen the eyes hoping to pick up the trail from there.

We returned to find the eyes still sitting there looking silently out over the night. I had seen many animal eyes in the dark before. The reflective blues, greens and reds of dogs and cats and other animals. These eyes were nothing like those. They were a deep ruby red and they glowed more brightly than any eyes I had ever seen. I was also certain that they hadn't moved an inch. They were still where they had been, almost as if they had been waiting for us to return.

The three of us stood in a tight group and slowly advanced on the unblinking eyes with our weapons at the ready. Suddenly Sam stopped, squinting ahead into the darkness. Then he burst out laughing.

“They are reflectors!” He said.

“What?” I replied.

“It's those two reflectors on the sides of that driveway back into those woods. You must have seen them a thousand times.”

Immediately I realized that he was right. I had, in fact, seen them thousands of times during daylight hours. Josh and I joined in the laughter and I blamed Sam for the whole thing. He had gotten us all worked up about the end of the world until we thought we were seeing demon eyes. It was a lesson in keeping our imaginations in check. When the end of the world comes there won't be any question, everyone will know it.

This next tale opens years before our little demon hunt. We were at church along with a number of my cousins. We would all run around in what amounted to the church parking lot after services while the adults stood around talking. We had just come out of evening services and it was dark enough that the adults who were standing on the porch of the church building couldn't see what we children were doing.

Here I need to mention the fact that we were very young at the time. I don't remember what age we were exactly, but we were young enough to think that mooning was one of the funniest things in the world. If you don't know what mooning is I have to wonder where you've been all your life. However, so there won't be any confusion, I'll tell. Mooning is the art of dropping your pants at just the right moment to make someone look at your naked butt. As I say, we were young and this was something we found very funny at the time.

Somehow the conversation turned to mooning and how funny it would be if people driving past the church building were saluted with a row of children's butts. We all agreed that it would be hysterical because of all the places you wouldn't expect to be mooned the church yard is pretty high up on the list. After a few minutes discussion we decided to do it. A row of us lined up with our backs turned to the road. The next set of headlights that came along was greeted with a number of little wagging behinds.

We did it again and again as one car after another drove by. Each time we laughed a little harder. Now, this story doesn't end with any big bang. If you have read many of my tales you may expect it to end with us begin caught or someone pulling over to find out why we were doing that, but it doesn't this time. Nothing at all happened. A number of people were mooned from the church yard one night and we children laughed until we almost cried. We never did it again. Somehow when we looked back at it the thing wasn't as funny as it had seemed before. We had outgrown it. I suppose that's the real moral. You don't always have to catch your children doing everything you don't want them to so you can stop them. Some things they will just outgrow if you give them time.

Of course, there are things that are funny no matter what age you are. I have found, for myself, one of those things is someone trying not to laugh. The moment I can tell that someone is trying to keep themselves from laughing it makes me try not to laugh myself. The result is almost always that I laugh, which makes them laugh. This only ever happens when people aren't supposed to be laughing which makes the whole situation even funnier, at least to me.

I remember once when Joshua, Sam and I were serving The Lord's Supper and Sam had to try his best not to laugh. For those of you who don't know, The Lord's Supper is something that we Christians do in remembrance of Jesus Christ. Some Christians call it the sacrament, others call it other things. We call it The Lord's Supper. It's not a particularly somber ceremony, at least to me. In a very real way it's a celebration. However, it does celebrate the last meal Christ had with the apostles before being crucified, so one does tend to turn their thoughts to the crucifixion which is a very somber subject.

In any event, The Lords Supper is a ceremony where one doesn't often hear laughter. In fact, one doesn't hear much of anything. A number of prayers are said, but other than that it is mainly silent. It was a prayer in fact that caused Sam to have to try not to laugh. Joshua was saying one of the prayers and said:

“Thank you for sending your son to be murdered for us.”

Now, that isn't really funny at all and it is something we should be thankful for. However, it's not usual in a prayer like that to use the word murdered. The normal phrases are “to die for us” or “to shed his blood” or even “to receive our stripes”. If you're not a regular church goer you probably have no idea what I'm talking about, but trust me, “to be murdered” is something you hear very rarely.

It certainly wasn't a case of Josh being wrong to put it that way, Sam just didn't expect it. As a result he started to laugh. He caught himself immediately, but I heard him make a sound like an engine about to crank. Before I knew it I was making sounds myself. I had a huge smile on my face and I was very glad that everyone's eyes were closed.

Again, Sam made a sound, no doubt in response to mine and I had to do everything I could not to snigger again. Then I head someone in the crowd do their imitation of a car that wouldn't crank and that pushed me over the edge. I laughed, but just a bit. That, of course, caused Sam to laugh. Fortunately by that time Josh had finished his prayer. He said “Amen” and was met with waves of laughter. The entire congregation burst out laughing. Everyone in the crowd had been doing their best not to laugh during the prayer. Once it was finished no one could hold back any longer. As soon as the laughter died down we had The Lord Supper as usual, but there were a few more smiles than normal.

Now, there are some people that might think it was terrible to laugh during such a serious Christian ceremony. However, I disagree. God has given us many things to be happy about and Jesus laid down his life so that we could be together forever. The Lord wants us to be happy and what we were laughing at was one another, not anything Holy. Laughter is one of the great gifts God has given to man. I think it's wrong to mock the Lord, but not to laugh when our fellow men do something unexpected or outlandish. Not all Christians see eye to eye on this. It seems to me that some of them think of Christianity as a burden rather than a gift. For myself I can't help but feel that “My soul was lifted at Calvary” and one of the things that makes my spirit soar is a good round of laughter.

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