Just before the FundyLand Community Chorus™ sang Mendelssohn’s Elijah, one of the soprano soloists got sick. Upon hearing the news, a voice in the chorus rang out, “Let’s have a group prayer!”
Something deep inside me began to sob. If this went down, I would have to “out” myself as an atheist to everyone who didn’t already know. Every single time I’ve “come out” to a Christian, I’ve been rejected on some level. The first and worst time, my friends tried to cast a demon out of me (no, I’m not kidding) then abandoned me. I’ve never fully recovered. Like all old, very deep wounds, this one hurts like hell every time I think about it.
Lately I’ve decided to pick my battles, but this was a battle my conscience would not let me ignore. FundyLand Community Chorus™ is funded by the state. A group prayer would violate both my civil rights and the establishment clause of the First Amendment of the US Constitution.
As the familiar burning sensation of remembered rejection seeped from my heart into my thorax and throat, I prepared myself. Oh god, this was going to suck.
My singing buddy (the only black person in the chorus and one of the few black people in FundyLand™) shouted, “Yeah, let’s do it!” She doesn’t know I’m an atheist. What would she say if she found out? What would she do?
I glared at the chorus director. He and I have had our own problems over religion and from my perspective, he owes me a huge-ass apology: an apology I’m likely to receive about the same time Harold Camping accurately predicts the rapture.
My eyes said, “Do it and you’ll be hearing from the ACLU tomorrow.” His eyes met mine for a split second. Was that guilt I saw in them? I hope so.
“OK, chorus,” he said, “I want to look at ‘The Fire Descends’.”
“That’s right, you little Ned Flanders clone,” I thought. “That’s right, you little fundy fucker. Move along. Move along.”
I wasn’t in a very charitable mood. Thinking about it again just now, I’m still not in a very charitable mood.
Chorus members were dropping like flies due to some godawful bug. During the rehearsal, I asked the alto soloist how she was doing.
“OK,” she said. “I’ve had a few issues with my voice, but I had my husband pray for me and anoint me with oil.”
Anoint you with oil????
I envisioned her husband dumping an entire quart of high-viscosity Pennzoil 10W-30 over her head.
“Hey, that’s wasteful!” I imagined telling him. “Just baptize her in the Gulf of Mexico, why don’t you? Hire a helicopter pilot to fly you out to the Deep Horizon plume, tie some weights to her legs so she’ll be certain to make it to the proper depth and give her a little push. While you’re at it, why don’t you take the entire church? You can ask some of the other churches to join you. Turn it into a big ‘Anointing with Oil’ party. Hell, take the whole fucking town! It’ll be just like the rapture!”
Maybe then I could have some peace of mind. Maybe then someone halfway interesting would move into this god-infested town and actually stay for more than six months.
After the final concert, I was sitting in the church’s reception room frantically erasing notes I’d made in my score (it was a rental). My singing buddy, Louise—the one who had seconded the “Hey! Let’s violate the first amendment!” motion—gave me some mammoth ivory and some lovely beads for my web store. It was a very sweet thing to do. I was touched.
But in the back in my mind, Atheist in FundyLand™ was on the warpath: “What do you think would happen if she found out you’re an atheist, hmm? Do you think she’d give you beads then? Would she still want to sit with you in chorus? Would she even want to be in the same room with you?”
Experience tells me she would not.
Louise had brought the beads in a little black shopping bag that said “Sephora” on the side. As cramps began to creep into my hand, a pair of fellow altos started talking about their churches and made plans to visit the church of a pastor who was in the chorus. By that point I was fundied out. I just wanted to erase my score and get the fuck out of there.
Another alto approached me and read the word on the bag. “Sephora…isn’t that the name of the village Jesus helped build?”
I nearly wanted to scream. While Church Chat was going on in one ear, I was being “Jesused” to death by a third fundy in the other. This was the same fundy who once told me scientists had learned the carbon in potassium decayed at a much faster rate than previously thought. (If you don’t immediately know why this is batshit crazy, take a look at the periodic table of elements.)
Sephora? I’ve never heard of such a thing. It’s certainly not in the bible and it’s not in any history I’ve ever read. What I wanted to say is there isn’t a whole lot of evidence Jesus even existed, but you can guess how that would have been received. Personally, I believe there was some crazy-ass sonofabitch running around Israel circa 30 AD and the religitards of that time attached their own mythology to him (See The Life of Brian). But it hardly matters. Jesus, if he existed, was not the son of god. He didn’t walk on water. He didn’t turn water into wine. He wasn’t born of a virgin. And he most certainly did not rise from the dead.
As the nosy fundy prodded, I became VERY engrossed in erasing my score.
When she finally walked away, I took an objective look at the chorus. Every single person—except for a couple of college students—is older than I am. Most have gray hair.
I peeked into the auditorium and took an objective look at the lingering audience: White, gray and blue hair dominated. Nearly everyone was caucasian.
I’ve come to the conclusion that this town is dying. Maybe religion will die with it, but in the meantime I’m trapped here.
As always, this is Atheist in FundyLand™ saying, “Won’t you please, PLEASE, PLEASE send help?”