Monday, December 23, 2013

A Christmas Miracle: Me, the Religious Bastard

Keep this handy reference (ca. 1960) guide.  You may need it one day.

Cookie is, and I know that this will come as a shock, a bit of a religious hodge podge.

My father was the son of Russian Jews who came to the States so my grandfather could stop hiding from the Cossacks.  My father was an observant Jew.  Thats on that side of the family.

My mother, er, eh, that's a different kettle-o-fish.  Mom's side of the family is from the card playing school of Methodism.  They seldom drink, save a well earned beer after a hard day at work, but only after they hydrate with plenty of water.  Have another?  "Oh, no; it'll just make me sleepy."

But how Methodist were my mother's family? Well, Cookie's great great great great grandfather, who was raised Anglican.  However after hearing a circuit minister in 1805 who was preaching Methodism, and, as they say, "caught the fire of the Holy Spirit".  

This simply was not done in a good Anglican family. 

Things got so bad in fact, that a tear stained letter (held in collection at the Los Angeles Public Library) from 1809 written by his father talks at length at how she frightened that "Jeremiah will not receive communion with God in his heaven" because of this transgression.  Furthermore, my 5x great grandfather wrote in the letter that his wife, Jeremiah's mother, my 5x great grandmother, was so consumed with anguish that "walks the orchard at night sobbing "as not to disturb the other children" with this burden."

Pretty dire stuff, eh?

Back then, the Church was called the Methodist Episcopal Church.  The "Episcopal" part being that John Wesley was a member of the Anglican Church himself, so the M.E. church followers were essentially the equivalent of the religious "wild things" of the period.  

Our family is tied so tightly to the history of the M.E. and Methodism history that we have celebrations named for the family at major colleges and universities across the U.S.  And Cookie is a bit of an authority of on the Methodist Episcopal Church (1784-1939) and its schisms.  

Just to bring this current, in 1939 the various branches of the Methodist Episcopal Conferences came together and united, agreeing to heal the schisms.  What emerged was the Methodist Church, and the Episcopal part was dropped.  When you see an old church and the corner stone reads M.E. Church, now you know where that comes from.  In 1968, the Methodists and Evangelical United Brethren (EUB) Church united, forming what is now known as the United Methodist Church.  The problem is that the EUB are perfectly nice people and all, but they were derived not from the Anglican Church, but were at their core, Lutherans. 

Can you imagine - CALVINISTS!  Right here in River City!

In my mother's family, this upset the applecart - you simply can't undo 155 years of tradition.  Or could 

Turns out you can.  It's rather easy, at that.

So the family found the new union not the same, and entered into what I call the "Great Drifting"; and the policy of sleeping in on Sunday was granted to us when visiting my grandparents.  Church became a place for weddings and funerals.  And this made my grandfather happy beyond all reason, as after he retired from farming, he could pursue his favorite hobby, napping. 

But this wasn't the first bump in the road.  When my mother married her first husband in 1947, she converted to Judaism.  And that created a whole other elephant in the living room.  The term "your people" entered the vocabulary.  But it didn't work out and they divorced.  Maybe the people of Abraham was just something in passing, right?  

But then she went out and did it again: she met the man who would be my father, and my parents got married. I was born and they got divorced and remarried and divorced.   Eventually I developed a grudge.  If I ignored being a Jew, then he didn't exist either.  He hated that.  But Dad had it coming.  Payback for his smacking Mom around and getting his jollies with yours truly. 

I'm sharing this because it is salient to who I am.  I don't have bagged, I have a baggage cart full.

In Cleveland, I was Jewish.  In Central Ohio, not so much. So we got into the Christmas thing when I was little.  And as my parents marriage grew more violent and corrosive, and I felt I was drowning, the days in Central Ohio became the rare times I could come up for air and feel normal.  There was no yelling.  No screaming.  No one beating up my mother.  No one hurting me or sexually assaulting me.  Why?  My father simply wasn't allowed.  Not because he was Jewish.  But because they didn't like him.  

And then my Stepmonster, Shark, did the unthinkable when she proclaimed that my mother was very much of a "Jewish woman because she wasn't born to it."  Yeah, my Stepmonster is pretty much a cunt. 

So this explains a bit why I am a neither fish, nor fowl.  I am neither a Jew, or a Christian, or anything else. 

I am the spiritual equivalent to a half-breed.  

I am the one that the grandparents kept their eye on, looking to see, with suspicion what kind of person I would be when I grew up.  

Would I be like his people, or her people. 

Turns out, neither.  I am both.  You'll find me on the far right branch under radicalism.  It fits me quite fine.


  1. I was raised in a hodge podge of different churches different beliefs, and not a one of them stuck. I am a cheerful non-believer and it suits me just fine.

    Have a Merry Happy Christmas!

  2. A very merry whatever-you-choose-to-celebrate!

  3. Poor god must be so confused.

    The new year is right around the corner and the madness stops again for a while...

    Happy Happy!!!

  4. i say all religion is for the goyem,
    even judaism. steer clear's my motto.