I lost my faith because of a house and Captain Planet. Not by anything he did, but because of what something others believed. He just wanted everyone to be nice to each other and the planet. Let me explain.
I grew up with faith in the Baptist church. Every Sunday I sat with my father, mother and sister in the thirteenth row of the First Baptist Church of Bannville. For the first ten years or so I played with my GI Joes until I made too much noise, read the Hardy Boys from the church’s library until I read them all, then pretended in silence that I had invisible friends that had great adventures all around me until I decided they were distracting me from the message.
That moment, the moment of faith in the message, came during a rather intense fellowship at a church sleepover. Man said “who has not been saved” and I guess I was feeling rather lost that day. The next Sunday I made the walk up the aisle to the preacher and my mother cried. Sunday after that they put me in a white robe and held me under water.
Boom, I was saved.
I still think the guy held me under water a little longer than he should have. Some folks have rattlesnakes for faith, we had Brother Eddie the drowning minister. Takes all kinds.
It was several years later that one man compromised all that time spent building faith in God and baby Jesus.
Brother Ron, a deacon in the church, the youth minister, lead the Wednesday night Royal Ambassador meetings. The RAs were a youth boys club meant to raise all us young heathens up right. They sorta worked, I guess. I can still do a pretty mean bible drill.
It was during one of those meetings that Brother Ron taught us about how wrong Captain Planet was. The main catchphrase of the show and the character, “The power is yours,” was inaccurate. No matter what, the power was always God’s, said Brother Ron. I had some questions.
Sure, the power is God’s, but is that what Captain Planet meant? I thought it meant something about not littering or putting oil on baby seals and stuff. We had the power to do that.
Nope, Brother Ron said, we were to trust in God.
Does it really matter what Captain Planet said? The message is still good and God is good so how could Captain Planet not be part of God’s plan?
Nope, Brother Ron said, God does not live in the television.
Does that mean I can’t start fires?
Brother Ron talked to my mother on that one.
Now, take this as you will, but do not really infer much on me. I was a pretty average nerdy quiet kid. I was not the class clown or the one who challenged all the teachers when something I did not agree with came up. I usually sat in the back and every once in a while made a comment that made my friends laugh. I dreamed in books and video games, staying away from the bullshit of real life confrontation.
But this was Captain Planet. I did not even really like the show (although I though Linka was pretty hot and to this day have a thing for blondes with Russian accents), but I could defend it. Even with a pretty standard Baptist belief system in place, I could not see Jesus giving two craps about the five multinational kids beating up on guys with names like Hoggish Greedly.
So I became discontent with my faith. Then a couple of years later, Brother Ron became Pastor Ron and kicked it right in the junk.
He did not touch me, if that’s what you are thinking. Just want to get that out there. He had always been a bit of an odd duck when it came to taking advantage, but that advantage was always fiscal and never squicky.
See, he was a preacher that drove a Cadillac. His kids did not go to Bannville High but to Bannville Academy, the prep school where the only prerequisite was a wallet and a certain lack of shade of skin. Finally, he needed a house.
Did God provide him with a house? In a way, I guess so.
When roof repairs on Brother Ron’s house became extensive, the congregation got together and voted to build the preacher a house. Most churches do. It’s called a rectory, vicarage, parsonage or just plain old “the preacher’s house.” The church, never to be outdone by the Methodists, decided their preacher should always live in the lap of luxury where no harm should come to him.
The committee meetings were the thing of legend. Money was no object. Should we have brick or wood floors in the preacher’s kitchen? Who should we get for the security system in the preacher’s house? Would the preacher’s have tulips or roses? Why not both?
Brother Ron and his family moved into the house within a year. They moved out a year later.
All told, Brother Ron had been with the church about a decade. He worked hard, I will give him that, and why not give him a parting gift? A nice watch or bible, something. Maybe help him with the moving expenses.
Brother Ron took the house. I guess the church signed it over to him for tax purposes or something, I do not pretend to understand. All I know is that the church built the preacher’s house and instead of giving it back when he was done, Brother Ron sold it and kept the proceeds to finance his leaving. I doubt he even gave the ten percent tithe.
I can pinpoint when Brother Ron announced all this, and the congregation nodded in approval, as the moment when my faith in Christian belief broke in two. One part myth, one part kindness. I kept the kindness. I questioned the rest.
So what do I believe in? Took years to work that one out.
I believe Superman never asked anybody to kill or be killed in his name. I believe Spider-man always told Aunt May the truth, or at least the bits of it that would spare her pain. I believe Huck Finn took Jim down the river because that’s what you do for friends, the costs be damned. I believe that if you question whether or not you are a good person, you have a decent chance at being one. I even believe there may or may not be a giant flying spaghetti monster hovering on the other side of the moon that favors little people and pirates.
When my mother asks me to go to church with her and Dad, I decline. So my mother invited the present preacher to come down to the library and give a little sermon. To me. More on that tomorrow.
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