Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Due Credit

When I was a kid, my immediate family wasn’t particularly religious. We weren’t particularly unreligious either, more like religiously neutral. Except for the yearly encounter with that one aunt who was certain that we were all going straight to hell and felt it was her responsibility to verbally pummel us until we saw the error of our ways, it wasn’t much of an issue at all.

But then, after I left home, it seems like everybody got religion. OK, not everybody, but many of the key players did. And when I say “religion,” I don’t mean Buddhism or Judaism or Zoroastrianism. I mean that old-time Protestant religion, complete with old-fashioned choirs and full-emersion baptisms.

I don’t have a problem with that. I really don’t. I’m pretty much a live and let live person. As long as you’re not using your religion as an excuse to hurt other people, whatever you believe is fine with me. I’ll happily participate in any rituals where my presence is wanted. I’ll pray and sing and read along in any Holy book. Without straying too far from the point of this post, I’ll just say that I think we’re all trying to connect with the same thing and however you want to do that is OK with me.

But this shift in my family culture sort of left me feeling confused and out of place sometimes. Suddenly there were a new procedures. Like saying grace before eating dinner. I wasn’t trained to say grace as a child and it just doesn’t occur to me that it should be said. When Slag and I go visit my family and sit down to dinner, he and I have already finished our first helping of potatoes and are reaching for another roll when mom asks step-dad if he wants to say the blessing. Slag and I both drop our forks, swallow what’s in our mouths and look around guiltily while the blessing gets said, hoping we haven’t offended anyone by eating food that hasn’t been properly blessed. Then Slag gives me his sideways incredulous look, which silently says “Why didn’t you tell me?? It’s your responsibility to inform me of the proper procedures when we’re visiting your family!”

And then I look back at him apologetically, as if to say “Crap! I keep forgetting….”

It happens every single time we visit. If anyone has any suggestions about how I can remember that we have to say grace before we eat in certain places, please let me know. I’ll be eternally grateful.

The other thing that I don’t yet fully grasp is how the devil now gets credit for anything bad that happens and Jesus gets credit for the good stuff. It leaves me a little bewildered sometimes, but I’ve only had a problem with it once.

At my sister’s wedding reception, a family friend gave her handful of cash as a wedding gift. The gift was wonderful, but the wisdom of handing a large amount of cash to a woman who is wearing a strapless floor-length gown, with no obvious pockets of any kind, is questionable. She handed the cash off to my step-father who stuffed it in his pocket. Well, somewhere between the reception and arriving home, the cash disappeared. We all thought it probably fell out of his pocket in the large grassy parking lot when he pulled out his car keys.

The next day my mom and I had to go back out to the reception site to pick up a few final things and mom thought we should at least look around in the parking lot. I was sure it was a lost cause and didn’t want to waste the time, but after just a few seconds of driving around near the spot where their car had been parked, I spotted the wad of money.

“Stop! I see it!” I jumped out of the car and grabbed the money.

Woohoo! I was a hero! I was so proud of myself. I pranced into the house when we got home, waving the money over my head and obnoxiously singing “I-found-the-MO-ney-I found-the-MO-ney” and everybody was happy and relieved.

But then my mom piped up in the middle of my victory dance and said “Well, I said a little prayer to myself and I guess somebody was listening.”

Which left me standing there, all indignant, with my hands on my hips. WTF??

So that’s how things work now? Jesus gets credit for MY accomplishments?? *I* found the money, with my own two sharp eyes and she’s giving all the credit to somebody else?

That wasn’t right at all. I wanted the appreciation, the acclaim, the recognition. I spotted the cash, dammit, and I wanted ALL the credit for it. I was not interesting in sharing credit with Jesus for finding that money.

I made my displeasure known to everyone, as humorously as possible, and we all laughed. But I don’t think mom ever retracted the money-finding acclaim that she gave Jesus and bestowed it on me instead, as she should have. Nonetheless, Jesus and I both know who really found that money. It was me.

That’s the only major issue Jesus and I have had to date. As long as He is OK with not getting credit for my accomplishments and me sometimes eating unblessed food, I guess we’ll be able to co-exist peacefully in the family. But I was here first.


Blogger Schmoopie said...

You totally deserved the credit. I am friends with Jesus, Buddha, scientists who discovered the "Big Bang" theory, Darwin etc. I believe there is something to learn and take from all of their ideas. I have never heard of a family suddenly developing religious habits later in life. I can imagine that is quite awkward for you. Did they all have some kind of "meeting" where they said they would pray now?

8:11 PM  
Blogger Jazz said...

You deserve the credit. Absolutely. I'm thinking Jesus has more important things to do than find money for people, what with everything going on in the world...

D'you think they prayed and promised that if you left home they'd become religious?

9:36 AM  
Blogger Kara said...

If anyone has any suggestions about how I can remember that we have to say grace before we eat in certain places, please let me know.

You should tattoo yourself like that guy from Memento. And do the polaroids too. With notes. On post-its. Too much?

11:42 AM  
Blogger Jocelyn said...

Jesus has *totally* edged you out in your mother's heart. Obviously.

You, at best, can be a distant second. But then, if you factor in your step-father and such, you might be lucky to crack her Top Ten.

Damn Jesus. You were in her Top Ten for sure before he came along.

1:59 PM  
Blogger Whippersnapper said...

I have the exact opposite situation going on with my family. My mom was raised in one of those fire and brimstone Baptist churches, and while certainly no religious zealot, had never quite shaken off the influences of her upbringing. But recently she read "The God Delusion" and visited Cuba. She's now a hard core atheist and says she doesn't miss God because she has Che Guevara. It's really weird.

2:39 PM  
Blogger Em said...

My family got way more religious after I moved away, as well. Really weird visiting now! And they would tell you that Jesus was working through you and that's why you were able to see the money. Not sure how that works...but I guess you were channeling Jesus' eyes or something.

4:06 PM  
Blogger ian said...

You know, everybody thanks Jesus for their successes, but nobody blames him for their failures - "Yeah, I was driving along just fine...UNTIL JESUS MADE ME HIT THAT GUY!! He HATES me!"


9:51 PM  
Blogger Evil Spock said...

I prefer the saying, "Thank a wizard!"

Actually I never say that.

My family are all Catholic, and I'm agnostic. I feel for ya.

11:43 AM  
Blogger Sam, Problem-Child-Bride said...

If it were me, I'd prefer to look at the fact that when I left home, nothing could replace the void I left except a divine being. Not scrap-booking, not ping-pong - nope, only Jesus Christ himself could replace me.

8:22 PM  
Blogger Jill said...

schmoopie, No, there was no meeting. I wasn't consulted at all, nor even informed until after the praying had commenced. Totally unfair.

jazz, I think my leaving reduced the "heathen" quotient in the household just enough for Jesus to get a toe hold. He should thank me.

kara, I think the tattoo would be enough. I'll put in right on my hand. Something like "Pray before you eat!" or "Has this food been blessed?"

jocelyn, I *know*. I've been robbed of my rightful place in the top ten. There is no justice in the world.

whippersnapper, Hmm, interesting. Cuba and "The God Delusion" must be one lethal combination.

em, I know, they always find a way to give credit to someone else. Jesus was not channeling my eyes!

ian, Yeah, just once I want to hear an interview with a sports star after a losing game where he gives credit to Jesus for the loss. Just once. Then I could be happy.

evil spock, Oooh, be careful. You could get yourself damned to hell for comments like that.

sam, I like your approach. I'm stealing it for myself. That's right, they're just trying to fill the hole that I left. Perfect.

11:39 AM  

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