Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Saving Another One for Jesus

In hindsight, it was that beatific look they all seem to call upon at will, save for the children. Children have their own deceptions.

The half smiles. The relaxed eyebrows. The tilted heads. The I'm-gonna-be-raptured-and-you're-not countenance. The unsettling expression hovering between certainty and smugness. The women's ruffled white dresses with little flower prints. The men's ill-fitting plaid shirts, tails flapping.

When I first noticed this gathering, I thought they'd arrived for a Labor Day picnic. But the way they'd lean in when speaking to one another and then glance around to see if someone were listening or watching raised my hackles a little. Still, I wrote it off to their scamming on one of the two picnic tables near the 35-acre lake about thirty meters in front my home.

The community owns and maintains the lake as a neighborhood amenity. Private Property and No Swimming signs ring the lake, not that a lot of people from the outside really care. They like to run/dog walk/baby stroll by a lake, and most of the time, the residents don't care, either. Security is loose and pretty much focuses on really bad situations. No sane person would swim in it.

The spaniel and I ambled down the path, occasionally glancing backwards at the assemblage. Foliage blocked our sight as we rounded the bend, but when I was finally able to peek through the willows, three young men were standing in the lake, fully dressed, in thigh-deep water, their audience looking benignly on.

Of all the thoughts that spewed like electrons in my brain, two still stand out: Omigod, they really are going to do that, and Do they know how dirty that water is? The inflow-outflow into the lake is weak, which means oxygenation doesn't mitigate the accumulated dead fish and goose poop and other organic crud that accumulates to create a swampy odor. 

I raced home to exhort everyone gathered for our own party to look out the window to see what was happening. Older son: OMFG. Younger son: YFKM (dear reader, you figure that one out). Older son: Quick, get some O Brother Where Art Thou music on. Younger son: Call security? At which point one of the men in the water, now shirtless, was plunged backwards into the water by his Blessed Companions.

As he waded ashore to the applause of the gathered, I wondered what would happen next and what, if anything, I should do. I thought to contact security, but I didn't want to ruin the security guy's holiday. Besides, I thought, who cares? No one hurt anything. Besides, it was possible one or more of The Saved could be a resident.

It turned out that at least one of them lived here. Half the group ambled off, while the other half, including the Newly Saved, headed for the community pool about thirty yards away. It's locked, and only residents have keys. But in they went, presumably to wash the lake crud off the guy.

Why, I thought, does Jesus need a chlorinated pool to clean off the guy? Younger son: Maybe we can walk across the water now. I thought his idea had merit, and tried, but my toe sunk. The water was definitely not holy.

Full disclosure, here: I'm an unabashed, even proud atheist. I do not believe in god. I do not believe in a higher power, not counting the IRS. I am at a total loss to explain why otherwise rational people secretly, or sometimes not so secretly, subscribe to some unseeable magician who rules their lives. 

I'm grievously distressed at the climate-change deniers who also claim god did it, but hey. Even some pit bulls are nice dogs. I do not fault people for embracing what appears to me to be lunacy. If it works for them, that's fine with me. Lots of people succumb to the sacerdotal mysteries of Miley Cyrus or Kate Smith or Dr. Phil or Deepak Chopra or boxed mac and cheese, and that's cool. Go for it, say I. That religion provides comfort and tethering to so many is undeniable.

I guess my biggest problem with the religiously-inclined is the way they don't just exclude everyone else from their group--hey, Sigma Nus and Tri-Delts and Rotarians and Junior Leaguers do that--but they declare outsiders to be inferior beings. That means Egyptian Sunnis get to kill Copts, Syrian Alawites get to kill Sunnis, The Sunni AKP in Turkey gets to jail Alevis, Burmese Muslims get to blitz the Buddhists, and so on. Our Side Is Divinely Blessed, and You, Outsider, are inferior.

This group had no compunction at all about performing their rite at a place where this kind of activity was obviously prohibited. They assumed that since their mission was so holy, no one else would, or had the right to, object.

What's really depressing as hell is that no one, save one woman, on the HOA board seemed to care. Which may mean that a plurality, if not a majority of homeowners, feel the same way. Fail to take down a dead tree or fail to make sure the pool is open at 6 a.m. for the one or two people who occasionally use it at that hour and all hell breaks loose. 

But when it comes to someone doing something really, incredibly stupid in the name of Jesus, it's all okay.

Fortunately, it was still pretty funny.


  1. In high school, I was told to stop swimming (I was on the swim team) so they could do a baptism in the pool. I rhetorically asked, "They need a whole pool for that?" and just kept swimming. Another case of "They assumed that since their mission was so holy, no one else would, or had the right to, object."

  2. Your comment is an example of why I'm intrigued with the Freedom From Religion group. What high school, by the way?