Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Cross In My Pocket

I've been a religious cynic since the teen years. Hatred of hypocrisy is wound up in this as well. Part of this attitude was created by prosthetising classmates. The sect they represented had a preacher who was more concerned with building numbers. He had his parishioners telling the rest of the community that we'd all be going to hell if we didn't convert. That their religion was the only true religion that would gain entrance into heaven. That their Bible was the only true Bible - the rest were corrupted by the Devil. And so on.

Well, that didn't set very well with me, or a lot of other people. A lot of excesses were marginally tolerated, but it also helped make me a major skeptic to anyone preaching any version of Christianity other than Catholicism - which is what I was and still am. It made me question a lot of things my own church did, too. Also, this was a heyday of sorts for television evangelists - the ones who talked old widows living on cat food to send in money so they could save the world in the style they were accustomed to.

This sort of thing tends to bring out the worst of hubris in people. If you belong to the greatest church evah, well, then , you are a superior sort of being above and beyond us mere mortals under the sway of the Dark One. They think they do you a favor by preaching and informing in your general direction their prejudices. This behavior really reveals their own insecurities and fears - if they were so dedicated to Christ as our Savior, why indeed would it be necessary to tear everyone else down to their level? Forgiveness? Tolerance? Never heard of it - rather, those concepts didn't apply to someone like me - only the Chosen who Belonged to the correct sect. Not that my own church is innocent in this regard, either. The whole thing left a sour taste in my mouth early in life.

And while I'm piling on - this is exactly the kind of person who sends the "94% won't forward this email, the 6% who love Jesus will" emails. Some are explicit - if you don't forward it, bad things will come to you. So, the obverse must be true - if you forward the thing, Jesus will love you and you'll be At His Right Side on Judgment Day. As far as I'm concerned, these reveal the senders' insecurities more than anything. They fear that they're not among the favored, but by falling in line and taking the directions of some anonymous email author, they've improved their social stature in the religious community and shown themselves superior to "the 94%."

Yep, I can see my Judgment Day - "Jeffro, we didn't mind you taking the Lord's name in vain, or the Matchbox car you shoplifted back when you were eight, or even looking down Sally's blouse and thinking lustful thoughts when you were sixteen. What's sending you to Hell, son, are all the emails you DIDN'T FORWARD, so you obviously must love the Devil. Hope you like it hot!" Shooooom! Off to Hell I'll go.

Now, I may burn in Hell for all eternity anyways, but I'm sure it's gonna be for far more egregious offenses than not forwarding crappy emails. Or maybe that's just me. Funny how I've never seen much of anything in the Bible about chain letters or emails sending me to hell. I guess I haven't looked very closely. Disclosure - I don't attend Mass regularly. That right there is biiig deal.

Plus, have ya noticed these same people are the ones who forward the "this is the most dangerous virus evah it's all over the news panic and run to the hills it's gonna eat your zero sector of your hard drive (where all the important data is kept) and make you a mindless cripple" emails?

What it all boils down to is that I just don't trust people who claim to have my best interests at heart. This includes politicians, too. It seems rare to find that some people do have my well being in mind.

My company buys a lot of stuff from Lee Supply of Tulsa. They sell special pipe, fittings, flanges and so on that we use in manufacturing our tanks. They sell stuff for just about any sort of industrial plumbing. If one of us has delivered in the area, we generally have an order of goodies to be picked up there on our way back, as was the case Friday. I was busy securing the pipe we'd purchased, waiting on the order of flanges to be pulled when another truck needing loaded parked next to me.

It was a hotshot rig piloted by - well, he looked like a Norman Rockwell idealized grandpa. Tall, long face, white hair, neat mustache with a bit of curl on the end, and the deeply engraved laugh lines etched into his face bore testament to his positive attitude. I'd just bet he is a treasured grandfather to some of his descendants. We chatted a bit, as truckers are wont to do. My pallets were loaded and the yard guys were loading him, so we went back to work. After I had everything fastened to my satisfaction, I climbed in my truck and fired it up. He came walking around the front and spoke to me through my open window: "Do you mind if I give you this?" It was the aluminum cross pictured above, plus a card with a poem on it. "No, I don't mind - thanks and bless you!" I told him.
I carry a cross in my pocket
A simple reminder to me
Of the fact that I am a Christian
No matter where I may be.This little cross is not magic,
Nor is it a good luck charm
It isn't meant to protect me
From every physical harm.It's not for identification
For all the world to see
It's simply an understanding
Between my Savior and me.When I put my hand in my pocket
To bring out a coin or a key
The cross is there to remind me
Of the price He paid for me.It reminds me, too, to be thankful
For my blessings day by day
And to strive to serve Him better
In all that I do and say.It's also a daily reminder
Of the peace and comfort I share
With all who know my Master
And give themselves to His care.So, I carry a cross in my pocket
Reminding no one but me
That Jesus Christ is the Lord of my life
If only I'll let Him be.
-Verna Thomas, Agora,Inc.© All rights reserved

That cross is nothing but a cheap, stamped piece of aluminum. Nothing fancy, for sure. Of course, I looked the company up - they are available from for sixty cents each. I might have even mocked something like this many moons ago.

But today, not so much. It's just a symbol - albeit a powerful one that has meaning for those who call themselves Christians. Us Catholics are all about symbols - heh. Perhaps that gentlemen was prothsetising - but it was not in any way demeaning me or my religion, or much of anything else, for that matter. Frankly, I've gotta hand it to him - he has found a way to spread a concept - a thought - in a small, inoffensive way. Certainly not "in your face." No ostentatious displays - it's just a tiny reminder meant to be carried with the change in our pockets. It's not an expensive gold cross necklace encrusted with diamonds or even as public as a lowly bumper sticker. It's private - between my God and I - not something to bludgeon or impress others.

I often feel like Linus fearing he has chosen a pumpkin patch that isn't sincere enough for the Great Pumpkin when it comes to religious matters. But this little cross? In my pocket with my change, and the card in my billfold. It meets the sincerity test.


drjim said...

Great story, Jeffro.
I'm with you 100% on the religious stuff. Used to work with a bunch of zealots who looked down their nose at anybody who wasn't in their sect. To me, that's just not "Christian".

RT said...

The only one you need to concern yourself with is God. Man likes to make rules and spout his own flawed "wisdom". God is good...people are crazy. Well...some are and the rest aren't like the folks you encountered.

Earl said...

Lot of words, good ones but I am glad I stuck with you to the end, seems I have almost the same cross on my snap link with my keys. The poem has more to say about it than I thought, but it is exactly right. Good post, thanks.

Jinglebob said...

Great post!
Got a book you need to read, if you are a reader. It's called "Triumph" then in smaller letters, "The Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church" "A 2000 year History". by HW Crocker III.

MY son, the Catholic priest, gave it to me for Christsmas.

Now, I am not a bible thumper or even a very good Catholic perhaps, so I wasn't real keen on reading it. But.... I started and the farther I go the better I like it! Great stuff in here. All the history of the late Roman Empire and the Renaissance and all that took place in Europe. Names the names and the places we all read about in history and it makes sense.

I would strongly advise anyone to read this book. Great eye opener, written by a man who was an Anglican. He doesn't pull any punches towards anyone or anything.

Anyway, after reading this post, I thought you might enjoy this. Let me know what you think if you read it.

Jeffro said...

Thanks for the heads up on the book, Jinglebob - it's available on Kindle, so I downloaded the Kindle for PC and am reading it now!

Jinglebob said...

Let me know your thoughts, please. Maybe I am the only one who thinks it's good.

Dad Bones said...

Very good post. Too many zealots promote fear, greed, and especially emotion as religion.

I think the word you wanted was proselytizing. Nine times out of ten I'll trust your choice of words over mine, so I didn't expect to be right when I looked this one up.

Jeffro said...

Dad Bones - you are right - that is the word I wanted. I have trouble remembering proselytizing for some reason.