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Doubt

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The Observer is, honestly, kind of a heathen.

We go to churches these days only for weddings and funerals. Even for those, we have to be cajoled into coming in out of the parking lot at the strike of the first piano chord. We got our fill of that business as a lad, hair slicked down with a wetted brush, threatened with dire punishments for misbehavior. Once at the neat white barn of God, we'd spend several hours of our precious childhood weekends either getting talked at by a virginal Sunday School teacher or parked on a hard pew with hands in lap, alternately fighting sleepiness and soul-crushing boredom. Even at that age — 11, 12, 13 — we realized that our little Southern Baptist congregation out in the white oaks of Saline County was never blessed with stirring orators. Instead, what we got was one dull sermon after another by earnest young men with piano-playing wives, young fellas who spent their hour remarking on the glassy, tranquil topwater of faith when they probably should have been considering the swirling murk of doubt at the bottom. Doubt is always where the action is, especially when it comes to Things Unseen. Don't ever let anybody tell you different.

Then again, what does Your Heathen Correspondent know? When the sermon was done, we'd note, the parishioners always lined up to shake the preacher's hand and tell him what a good job he'd done, how they'd pray on it, and God bless him for his inspiring words. He must have been giving them what they wanted, we figured, even though it seemed some awfully weak tea to us. Maybe weak tea is the name of the game.

The Observer's problem is that we've truly never been sure of anything, and we like it that way. Sky's blue? Looks a little gray over in the West, actually. In our experience, unquestioning, cocksure certainty about anything is the surest sign of a weak mind, sons and daughters, especially when it comes to what can't be seen or tasted or touched. Didn't even The Lord sayeth unto God: "Why has thou forsaken me?" If Big J.C. can let a little doubt creep in from time to time, then surely the pastor with the pretty wife and a 3-year-old divinity degree from Ouachita Baptist can do the same, can't he? Isn't that what people really need on Sunday morning? To be told that it's OK to ponder the absurdities of life and the mysteries of the universe without feeling like a backslider?

The Observer got off on this tear, by the way, because we were looking around on Dr. Zuckerberg's Book o' Faces the other day and ran across a comment thread on a story about gay marriage, posted to an Arkansas TV station's website. (TIP: If you want to keep your faith in humanity or the Arkansas education system, never, ever read a comment thread on a story about gay marriage in Arkansas). Predictably, immediately, The Faithful leapt in to cite scriptural prohibitions against The Gay Stuff, especially the one from the Book of Leviticus.

We would be remiss, brothers and sisters, if we didn't note that the prohibition against The Gay Stuff in Leviticus and elsewhere in the Bible is one of hundreds of things nixed in those pages, including divorce for a reason other than infidelity (Matthew 19:8), eating catfish, lobster, crawfish and shrimp (Deuteronomy 14:9-10), growing two crops in the same field (Leviticus 19:19), having a rare or even pinkish steak (Leviticus 3:17), getting a tattoo (Leviticus 19:28), not standing up when an old person enters the room (Leviticus 19:32) and eating bacon or ham (Leviticus 11:7-8). 

The Observer is a live-and-let-live kinda anonymite, but if there's one thing we can't abide, it's the Highlighter Christians, who disregard every antiquated prohibition in the Bible except the things that square with their own prejudices, then call the cut-and-pasted digest they've created The Word of God. That trait of some folks just crawls up our back and starts driving tent pegs.

Like we said, though: topwater sells. Still, it's something to think about the next time that divorced, tattooed friend of yours cites Biblical scripture to support their opposition to gay marriage, and then invites you to after-Church lunch at Catfish Hut or Smokin' Swine Barbecue.

Can we get an amen?

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