Pox Populi…the Sequel!

I’m finished feeling sorry for myself, at least for the next day or so. What better way to celebrate the event than to than to address one of the topics suggested last week. This one comes from an honest-to-goodness family member, my brother Gordon down in San Luis Obispo.

How’s about a riff or two on the appearance of zombies world-wide today with strange plus-signs on their foreheads. — Bruddah

This comment was posted last Wednesday, on February 21. I have to admit that I had no idea what my brother was referring to. Zombies? Plus signs? Was he talking about an SF street fair for perverts that I somehow had missed?

After work, I called him to find out. His answer was “Pedophile priests marking their prey for easy retrieval. You know, Ash Wednesday.”

Of course, I thought. The smudge on the forehead serves as a gentle reminder as to where to rest the belt buckle. Ah, a little Catholic bashing courtesy of my own flesh and blood. Why not? After all, my brother and I are both lapsed Catholics after a fashion. However, the lapse occurred a couple of generations back. My knowledge of how all this went down is hazy, gleaned from snide comments our father made while we were growing up.

“The Irish traded snakes for Catholicism and they still think they got the better end of the deal,” Dad would say, showing equal love for the Vatican and his own ancestors. This does not mean by any stretch that he was a big fan of the Protestant faith, or any other for that matter. He regretted not urinating in the baptismal pool and would often opine “religion rots the brain,” pausing a moment for the subtle nuance of those words to sink in.

As best I can make out, my paternal grandmother Cornelia Jennings (née Conley) ditched the mother church for one of those low-rent denominations that sprang up in rural America as fast as one could pitch a tent. I don’t know if this particular congregation was of the fun-hating fundamentalist variety or if they partied down in full charismatic splendor, complete with the minister speaking in tongues while faithful young lovelies danced with serpents, ankles up for the glory of God. Dad would have taken a dim view of either type of service but if I were in his shoes, I would have surely preferred the latter.

None of this matters for either my brother or me. We were raised with a cynical variation on secular humanism: no higher power will save you from your own stupidity. The only comfort is that there are bigger idiots than yourself who, if you’re lucky, will foul the sword of fate so you can survive another day.

While this take on life has held up under the scrutiny of my own experiences, it is nonetheless pretty bleak There are times I wish I had a spiritual base where my intrinsic worth would be unmarred by my ne’er-do-well nature. I love music so if I only has the proper hymn, I could break free from this atheistic funk. The problem is that the church songs I know of pitch an impossibly virtuous savior to the most tepid of sinners. If you need some Pollyanna to keep you from sleeping past sunrise or saying “Dang!” around the womenfolk, I suppose that works. As for me, I need a God I can relate to and who is willing not only own up to but embrace the imperfections of His own creations.

I have therefore decided to come up with my own hymn. I have borrowed the melody from a traditional song in the hope that the recognizable tune will help others who have lost their way.

Christ had a huge erection
While hanging on the cross
From Mary Magdalene’s G-string
That fit like dental floss

Oh, Susanna, don’t you cry for me
I’m coming down my pant leg
With your daughter on my knee

Amen. I feel saved already. See y’all in the Kingdom of the Lord.