Monday, October 20, 2008

When church is hell

I went to church Sunday for the first time since Satan first possessed my 2-year-old daughter. The last time had been exactly like the chilling scene in “The Omen” from 1976 when devil-spawn Damien screamed as if he was being flayed by invisible whips at the mere site of the holy church.

I used to wonder if it was hubris that made me think our first daughter, Josie, was the perfect child. I wondered if I was one of those obnoxious parents who could find no flaws in a daughter that everyone else secretly thought was spoiled.

But she’d sleep peacefully through the night and would wake up smiling. With her, laughter was a habit. She was cuddly, well-behaved and blessed with a sunny disposition that drew smiles from strangers in places like grocery stores. What’s not to love?

That she is the perfect child led to the obvious egotistical conclusion: That, I, her father, am the perfect father and Val the perfect mother.

I’ve managed to stay awake in church long enough to learn that spiritual correction always follows excess.

It was two years ago in June that God gave us with the heavenly antidote to our foolish pride. Conveniently, we named her Lucinda Grace, a name that easily morphs into Lucy-fer, one of the top a.k.a.s employed by the Prince of Darkness.

I’m talking here like I’m possessed with a Talmudic wisdom in the ways of religion. That’s untrue. It’s an endlessly baffling topic to me. I want to believe in God and try to lead a good life that’ll ensure I’ll get to heaven.

But who really knows what that’ll be like? Some believe it’ll be reincarnation. Others say it’ll be an eternity of sitting around worshipping God, kind of like one of those obscure religious cable channels I breeze right past.

I have a friend who says that if heaven isn’t hottubs full of horny, naked harp-strumming supermodels he’s going to start looking around for the suggestion box.

Josie’s trying to get out of going to Sunday school because she says it’s more boring than staying home and playing in the leaves. And who am I to argue?

I really enjoy going to church, but must confess I spend more time thinking about God when I’m golfing in the sunshine (or deep, deep, in the luscious woods where I shank my drives) than I do in church.

In church I spend a lot of time thinking about screwing the sultry church organist. Now, she’s my wife and it was in that very Lutheran church that we were married so it’s all on the up-and-up, but I could see there might be a gray area in the lusty distractions.

Lucy has a similar sort of problem. She sees her mother sitting up there and wants to go play. She doesn’t understand why I won’t let her march down the aisle, around the pastor preaching in the pulpit and up onto the bench so she can start making a racket by banging the keys the way she does at home when Mommy’s trying to practice.

I respect our church, the people who are there to worship, and our wonderful pastor too much for that. So I drag her the hell out of there, her unholy screams nearly cracking the stained glass depictions of the heavenly saints performing their Biblical miracles.

Yesterday, she made it the whole way through without one Satanic episode. She sat beside me and Josie, colored and made playful babbling sounds that charmed without disrupting. In fact, you could say Lucy-fer was angelic.

Afterward, as they always do, everyone assured me she’s not a problem and that it’s important for children to receive a good religious foundation, the implication being that I’m failing her whenever she’s not there -- and that’s a lot.

I don’t know whether I’m doing the right thing or not. I’m just trying to be a good father and a good member of our little church.

I just know if I wind up in the afterlife and somebody sends me heavenly “Wish You Were Here!” postcard featuring a picture of a hot tub full of horny, naked harp-strumming supermodels, well, there will be hell to pay.

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