Thursday, September 22, 2011

Concord Grape tastes like Jesus

I didn't grow up religious. When I was kid, my parents were those kind of apathetic W.A.S.P.s who only brought up God if I was doing something that they thought was amoral but didn't have any other logical reason to back it up.

Age 6

Me: Why do I have to eat lima beans when I hate them and peas are just as good for me and we have some in the cupboard?
Mom: Because I said so
Me: That makes no sense
Mom: Because God said so
Me: Dang.

Age 10
Me: What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?
Dad: Can't happen
Me: How come?
Dad: God won't let it
Me: Oh...

Age 15
Me: I don't get why I can't date girls even though I don't like boys at all and girls are way prettier and smell better and I love them sooooooo much
Mom and Dad: Because God said so
Me: That makes no sense
Mom and Dad: It's in the Bible
Me: Hrmm...

In any case, this crazy thing happened when I was about 11. Overnight I suddenly became DEATHLY AFRAID OF HELL. The kids down the street went to church regularly, so I decided to tag along.. I started going to church every Sunday, then also to youth group on Wednesday nights, and Friday mornings before school. Seeing as how I grew up in Virginia, this inevitably meant that I became a full-on Southern Baptist.

Lemme tell you something that I quickly came to learn about this church - They hated err'ybody. If you weren't a white, middle-income, blue-collar Republican with two blond children and a dog named Buck, they would find some reason to hate you.

The other thing I learned about Southern Baptists was that their youth groups are dens of debauchery. They had the "love the sinner hate the sin" thing going, so we could pretty much do whatever we wanted, as long as we knew that the sin should be hated. I smoked my first cigarette at youth group. I stayed up all night and lived off of Air-Heads for three days at a Baptist camp retreat. I drank vodka for the first time at a church lock-in. I got to second base with a boy at a Christian rock concert. There was more swearing in the youth group meetings than I ever experienced at school. Cussing was allowed as long as you didn't take the Lord's name in vain. You could yell, "I $%&*@ LOVE Jesus!" and it would only be met with encouraging smiles.

My time with the church didn't last too long. For me, science, open-mindedness, and overall religious cynicism quickly won out, but during my time there I tried everything I could to be super involved so that I would avoid the fiery depths of Hell.

At one point, I even wore a little white robe and helped with the Communion ceremony. Baptists don't care about having their bread blessed by any higher authority, you can just grab it from the gas station. One Sunday a month, they would send me up the road to the Q-Mart to bring back bread and grape juice. They preferred to use Kings Hawaiian, because it looked like actual rustic bread loaf, and all the pomp and circumstance would be lost during the ceremony if the preacher tore apart a hunk of Wonder Bread. Their drink of choice to represent the blood of the savior, Concord Grape. I loved that stuff. When the communion ceremony was over, I would snatch up the extra and gleefully chug it behind the stage before anyone noticed I was there. Yesterday, when I sampled this flavor I had a flashback to my days of sitting on uncomfortable pews, smoking cigarettes out back of the old Baptist campground, and thinking of more ways to get in trouble and still keep my soul intact. Ha-lle-lujah.

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