As God tossed Adam and the erstwhile rib for conduct unbecoming, First Tarheel Baptist last week commenced banishment proceedings against members who have voted Democratic or spoken less than reverentially of the deified W. Those nominated for exile might be allowed to stay on if they repented and vowed to go and sin no more, the rev. said, which was whiter of him than ol’ Yah in the Eden deal, but there were no guarantees. Our Sunday School teacher read the clip and polled the class for reaction. Mostly it was anti but nobody was surprised, the way church and state have been goo-gooing of late over there on the starboard extreme. Two or three of the class yellowdogs were pretty hot about it. Our Spiro Agnew distant kin said it sounded just fine to him. Of course I had to put in my two cents. One of the ol’ moi pennies was that any Democrat, or other sane person, who had sought sanctuary and salvation in such a goomery in the first place didn’t deserve copious amounts of sympathy. Run with nitwits and they’re going to expect some conformity. Congregational mavericks make them look bad, like they don’t have minds of their own, which of course if the shoe fits etc., etc. Their only strength is not in their character or conviction but in their unity, and the last thing that United We Stand types want is diversity of opinion. Excluding the occasional ill-fitting sensible person is their right. They can worship whatever and whoever, including mammon and the deified W., obviously, and you can take your disapproval and go to hell. But they can’t make you like it, or join in, or sign up. At least for the time being they can’t. It’s still your right to beg pardon and decamp, and if you spurn that option, the Not Quite Ready for the Home Sunday School class is going to want to know why. Could I get an amen? Well, no, but there were Not Quite Ready murmurs, and I interpreted them as appreciative, at worst benign. I still had a penny’s worth of sputter coming, or thought I did, and was about to launch when a deaconess with a flair for the non sequitur cut me off. Wouldn’t you just hate to be God these days? she posed. Every time you checked your answering machine, it would have 20 calls from Jimmy Swaggert on it. And 20 million of the ilk on hold, figuring to flatter or lobby or cajole you into giving them something, from eternal life to some new hubcaps. The great coarse mob bawls after him 24-7 (or however he calculates it) like he’s a rock star, and you have to feel a little sorry even conceding that he might’ve brought some of it upon himself. Bad enough already but now they were calling in old and surely fraudulent IOUs from him for picayune political endorsements such as whomping gays or Iraq. Now they wanted his God Hancock on a party loyalty pledge. The whole thing was just terrible. Embarrassing. Could SHE get an amen? Indeed. Not Quite Ready huzzahs all around. Not Quite Ready had a visitor this day, our first in ages and blows. A stranger. He laughed about the Bapublican ‘heels, but macrocosmed. Imposters, sholy, but weren’t we all? How so?, we queried. And him: Ain’t no Christianity in America. You know it. Admit it. Not nare Christian on the continent entire. Reason is, we don’t qualify. Even if we wanted in — which we no-question-about-it don’t — we couldn’t get in. Because Christianity is a faith reserved for poor people. For people who are despised and miserable and sore oppressed. It’s not for rich people — which, let’s face it, all of us in this country are. It’s for people who don’t have anything else, and it’s not for people who do have something else. You could look it up. Where it says a camel will squeeze through a needle’s eye first. Where a certain young rich man asks what he must do, and the founder tells him, give up all that you have, then shoulder a full-size light pole for the rest of your life. “Whosoever forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.” That’s the checking and savings both, the TV and the fridge and the dinette and the beds and the car, the family, the friends, the job, respectability, ambition, hope. Then the hopelessness too. Shuck it all; give it all away; then come back and we’ll talk. It’s just too hard. Unless it’s all you got, and you know it’s all you’re going to get, it’s just too hard. Here and now not even possible. Some awkward silence. No amens for this guy. Remainder of the class we were all a little bummed. Not much starch left in the Not Quite Ready, though agreeing he had to be the asylum escapee we’d read about in the morning paper.

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