Monday, April 1, 2013

I Went to See A Man About A Donkey

We took the kids to church on Sunday.  It's not a habit (for Lily and I) because I need some warning or 'psyche up' time in order to mentally prepare myself to go and absorb religion and watch Lily and try to minimize the collateral disruption (although honestly, Lily's been really good at church lately), and I know that bothers Leslie and, to a lesser extent Emma, because the whole family "can't" be together.  This is shades of the theater post all over again, right?  We include Lily and some idiot makes some comment and  No, this isn't like that.  This is more about the problems *I* have in church rather than those that jackasses around Lily has.

I think part of the problem I have with going to church is that the person leading the service is just some guy. I think that the clergy, like any trade/career/calling, has people who answer its call who are just not that great at their jobs. I had brilliant chemistry professors in college who were just unable to connect with students; they were awful teachers. I've had doctors who just didn't seem that "into" medicine. I've had social workers working on Lily's 'case' who just can't be troubled to show up for meetings.  Sometimes we're just not cut out to do the job we trained to do.

My point in the rest of this post is mainly humor, but I find a lot of the time going to church just makes me mad instead of feeling like I'm communing with God, because I'm frustrated with the priest/deacon/whomever's inability to make me really want to THINK about God, and I get caught up in all the minutia that seem so ridiculous to me...the sing-songy chanting, the rote responses that I no longer can follow along with because they changed them (why the change?  I don't understand)...the ceremonial wiping of this or genuflecting to that...the message itself seems lost (at least to me) in the pomp of the delivery. And I don't mean to condemn organized religion, because I think it does people a lot of good...but it is hard for me to take seriously, and often just frustrates me.

We attended Easter Mass yesterday, and the priest/deacon...I don't know...I wasn't feeling it. For starters, and this is petty, he kept intoning the word "Tomb" like it was capitalized. It was filled with overly dramatic inflection. "When Peter got to the Too-umb..." like that.  Every time he said it. It was the only word he said like that.  He reminded me of the priest from the Simpson's who is more or less a caricature of every self important clergyman.  I'm not suggesting this guy was self important.  He seemed pretty nice, but his voice sounded like that.  And I get that this is a really big deal.  Their messiah was REBORN!!!  But it was sort of comically ridiculous and hard for me to take seriously.

Then the reading was about the yeast of malice and wickedness and how we have to clear the larder of all the lumps of leaven because a little leaven leavens the whole lump...and the whole passage about the yeast of malice sounded very much like a Tick episode to me.

From the gospel (Corinthians 5:6 - 5:8)
6 It’s not good for you to brag. Don’t you know that a little yeast spreads through the whole batch of dough? 7 Remove the old yeast of sin so that you may be a new batch of dough, since you don’t actually have the yeast of sin.  Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 So we must not celebrate our festival with the old yeast of sin or with the yeast of vice and wickedness. Instead, we must celebrate it with the bread of purity and truth that has no yeast.

From the Tick

"Yes, evil comes in many forms, whether it be a man-eating cow or Joseph Stalin, but you can't let the package hide the pudding! Evil is just plain bad! You don't cotton to it. You gotta smack it in the nose with the rolled-up newspaper of goodness! Bad dog! Bad dog!"

"Everybody was a baby once, Arthur. Oh, sure, maybe not today, or even yesterday. But once. Babies, chum: tiny, dimpled, fleshy mirrors of our us-ness, that we parents hurl into the future, like leathery footballs of hope. And you've got to get a good spiral on that baby, or evil will make an interception."

See what I mean?  The bread of purity and truth?  The rolled up newspaper of goodness?  Leathery footballs of hope?  You could plug any of those into a Tick episode and it works. just amused me too much and I had nobody to share it with.  

So then it was time for the homily and the priest/deacon (I think it was the deacon, but I'm not sure) tied this story of "Clover" the donkey into his message...and was explaining how the reading made him think of the story of this farmer and his donkey.  And here is the story as best as I can recall it:

There was once a farmer who had a donkey.  He loved the donkey very much and so he named it Clover (it was unclear to me at the time why him loving the donkey meant that he named it Clover...)  One day while Clover was out in the field, he stumbled into a well and fell all the way to the bottom.  The farmer tried everything he could to pull poor Clover out.  He tried to lift him up, but he just couldn't do it by himself, so he decided to do the only thing he could do:  bury it alive.  (I'm not kidding...the deacon's story essentially hinges on us understanding that there was only one solution to the problem of the donkey down the bury it alive)

So clearly the only thing that can be done is to bury
that damned donkey alive.

So the farmer made his decision and started to fill the well with shovelfuls of dirt.  Clover was crying from down in the well (my eyebrows are bunched together at this point trying to understand how this story ties into ANYTHING let alone the yeast of malice and the bread of purity, but also feeling a little uncomfortable at the torture this poor donkey is undergoing at the hand of his beloved master he wise farmer).  Clovers cries got weaker and weaker and eventually the farmer noticed that he could no longer hear anything from the well.  

He kept filling it though, until out of the corner of his eye he noticed movement, and when he looked he was astonished to see Clover standing upon the pile of dirt that had been filling the well (no more astonished than we were, however, that the farmer somehow failed to notice this throughout the hours of toil doubtless spent filling the well with dirty.)  The farmer threw more dirt into the well and saw that Clover would simply step on the dirt that he was throwing into the well in order to stand a little higher (At this point I whispered to my sister, "so the farmer shot him")...and with a few more scoops, he jumped from the well.  (Apparently he was completely unharmed in the fall).

At this point the deacon went on to explain what I thought was the very cool idea of using the dirt that others cast on us as a base to stand on, that there will NEVER be a shortage of dirt coming your way, and you can either be buried by it or use it to stand taller...I liked that part.  But I couldn't appreciate it fully because he'd fucked up the story so thoroughly that it was beyond ridiculous.  It was SO poorly told I went ahead and looked up, "donkey down a well" and came up with the story here..."The Donkey Story".

The essential differences are this:  1)  the donkey is very old, 2)  the well needs to be covered up, 3)  neighbors help.  

The message is the same...shake off the dirt people cast on you, and use it to stand taller...but his inability to relay the story properly wrecked the whole thing for me.  It was the whole issue I have with church made clear in a simple story...the message is amazing...the delivery is ridiculous.  

And again, I don't mean to condemn organized religion, but it's not like these guys come with references.  You usually don't get the opportunity to select your faith based on how eloquent its officiants are.  And obviously that's NOT the important part to someone OF the faith.  To someone of the overlook the shortcomings of the delivery and see through to the meaning behind it, the meaning you are looking to reinforce.  But to someone like me, who struggles with some of the church's teachings...or perhaps with people's interpretations of the church's's extremely important that the guy LEADING 10,000 parishioners NOT be a moron.

Again...I don't think he was a moron.  I just don't think he was a very good story teller, and it made it hard for me to want to hear the message through the static.

Leslie wasn't paying attention to me when they started flailing holy water into the congregation, so I wasn't able to tell her my annual, "It burns!  It burns!"  When she turned around to me I scolded her.  This too was comical, but it wasn't the deacons fault, apparently some of the congregation were just there to get their holy water fix or something, because there were a dozen or so people retreating steadily in front of the deacon as he flailed water this way and that, and it looked like nothing so much as him whipping them and driving them from the church.  When he had passed, my nephew didn't get hit by any droplets so I said, "Here," and wiped some off my face and onto him and he crossed himself.  

At that point, or shortly thereafter, Lily started getting a little edgy.  She was awesome the whole day, but it's a little much for her to be contained for the entirety of a church service, and Lily responds to "Shhhh, Lily we have to be quiet," with "I NO LIKE QUIET!"...repeated shushes are NOT recommended.  

So I took her out into the lobby and fed her Cheez-its.  It was better for her, and if I'm being honest...better for me.  


  1. Your church service makes me feel irritable. Imagine if I had actually attended!

    Oh, but it did give me an idea. If Lily ever fell in a well you could throw her Cheez-Its. Because I wouldn't want you to throw dirt on her, because she's pretty, and also she could eat some of the Cheez-Its and stand on the others. Win-win.

    1. Actually, then maybe I'd have someone to bitch about the service with...

  2. I'm a terrible heathen and don't attend church anymore so when we're dead you can look down on me from heaven and laugh and laugh. Maybe throw down some snacks or something.

    I used to hate Easter services. There were so MANY of them. So many leading up to Easter. And my family went to them all. Good Friday mass seemed to last for a month. So much up and down. Kneel, stand. Kneel, stand. Repeat, repeat, repeat. And no one appreciated when you acted out the part where the congregation got to be the Jews. Don't tell me I get lines and then tell me I can't perform them with verve. It's against my nature, dammit.

  3. haha I can see this escalating...but easter is for chocolates actually...not church and donkey stories.

  4. Dear God. I'm not quite sure what to say. This may be one of the biggest reasons I don't go to church.

  5. Not baked goods, Jim, baked bads! Mustn't... succumb... to the rapture of the bread. Begone, yeast of malice!

    1. out with the bad with the good!

  6. Do not become infected with the Sporns of evil?

  7. "At this point I whispered to my sister, 'so the farmer shot him'"<-- made me chortle.
    As someone who once thought she was called to ministry, I think too many feel the call and (unlike me) don't realize that it's a wrong number. It's part of the reason I, too, no longer attend services.

    Great post. Thanks for the laugh.