When Caitlin is 12 and we live in town and are respectable, we start going to church. I have motives that have nothing to do with religion, its a way for Caitlin and us to live big in the community. We attend the high-class church, not the one for the poor Catholics or the brick church that has mostly blue collar Baptists. Our church has the most charismatic ministers, the whitest steeple, the best location on Main Street, most of the doctors and lawyers go there. It is the upward mobility church.
Having grown up with no religion myself, I hope that if Caitlin goes to church and has religion to guide her my lack of morality won’t be noticed, too bad my only exposure to God is in the movies. I never even read the Bible until I had to for a college course on the historical background of the Old Testament.
Then there is the leadership of the church, a husband and wife team, Ivy League educated, artistic, articulate, warm, a seductive combination of attractive traits. I look at them and think people that smart and cheerful can’t be wrong, I am willing to suspend disbelief and trust them and C.S. Lewis.
And there is this about Christians, they love new members, new believers, and as I find out, they really love Jews who find Christ. It is very nice to be so fervently welcomed.
So Sundays are on a schedule all of a sudden instead of just being lazy days to loll around doing the Sunday puzzle. We dress up and walk down the hill to church, sit on a bench and sing hymns, listen to the sermon, and then have coffee and rub shoulders with the rest of the congregation in the basement, a friendly time, I am full of Christian virtue. In the past hour I spoke the name Jesus Christ multiple times, I know I am a Jewish traitor uttering forbidden magic words. Of course Karl is at ease having been raised in this sort of church and Caitlin throws herself into the religion of her friends with enthusiasm, determined to get baptized, confirmed, to become a full-fledged member for life.
But Karl and I soon get disillusioned. I decide that I am not that crazy about making new friends who just like me because I am a convert, and Karl actually never understands why I think church is a good idea. We hang on longer than we might have because of Caitlin, but this is the thing that really gets me thinking, this thing about prayer.
At church, you’re always praying as if prayer has an effect. Please pray for Susan, they say, she is sick. Oh thank you God, thank you folks, Susan is better, thank you for your prayers. They say that we believers are not alone and helpless in this world, we have a savior to petition and this savior will step in if you just ask.
I just don’t get it. Six million praying Jews were murdered in the Holocaust and where was God? Babies die, children starve, mothers wail, bad things happen, if you survive why then God has saved you, if you die then God has something else in mind, I suppose. It’s all trickery and fairytale, but I am sad to give up my experiment with Christianity. I wish there was a heaven.
A few years later the charismatic husband minister was jailed for molesting a sleeping teenage girl. It’s a good thing Caitlin decided not to join the church after all.