Twenty-five years after Praying the Prayer, when my new life was supposed to snap in place like elastic, the smell of crisp, store-rack cotton propelling me to run with endurance toward a finish line I could not see,
I lie on the couch with a sour-smelling terrier curled in the crook of my leg. Today I will bathe him, punch through three Keurig cups, run a trumpet book to the grammar school. No martyrdom here, no preaching in the streets, though tomorrow I might plant another bag of daffodils so in April I can kneel in the gold and thank All Things New once more.
But now I turn my eyes to things above in the window, squirrels gibbering in the canopy of my backyard maple. I doze and wake to their claws skittering down the trunk, mentally etch the face of Christ in the bark.
He doesn’t need me. He wants me. Neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, tired nor on fire. I will slip into newness again, fluff the shaking, sodden dog in His name as He drapes me with his soft and silent weaving.
In a huge hotel where the concierge told me there had been count them Three weddings the day before, which is why they erected the epic tent. I got there early and watched people file in. The tall guitar player asked Me if I was the minister. The minister turned out to be a lady who once She got started talking never really stopped except for the music. When The songs started everyone except me stood and held hands and swayed. I am a Catholic man and we only hold hands with children and we don’t Sway. I tried for a while to figure out what species of church service this Was but you just could not tell. There was swaying, which seemed to Be Baptist, and discussion of sacrifice and fasts, which seemed Calvinist, And there were tall people with excellent teeth who seemed Mormonish, And there was talk of the Spirit and the One and suchlike, which seemed Unitarian to me, but then I heard the name Christos . . . Greek Orthodox? For a minute there I wondered if there would be snake-handling or maybe A sudden burst from the Koran, or a pause while we discussed the Torah, But the service stayed determinedly undeterminable. In the opening salvo Of this service I was amused, thinking that it might be something offered By the hotel for its guests, an attractant, some expensive consultant’s idea For adding value to your stay at the hotel, and I marveled at the marketing Brilliance of it—welcoming everyone, offending no one, proffering ritual Without trademark, adding bonus usage to the rent of the tent, as well as Excellent community relations. But soon I stopped being amused and was Moved, despite the endless blather of the minister. People had come to be Moved. They had come to hold hands and sing. There were bright ribbons On the folding chairs by the aisle to signal the bride’s or the groom’s side. There was a man’s green tie knotted to a tent stake. There were tiny babies In their mother’s arms. There was a man hunched in a wheelchair. Why do We ever bother to argue about religion? All religions are the same glorious Wine, susceptible to going bad but capable of quiet joyous gentle elevation. They’re all useful and useless, mesmerized and ruined by power, but always Pregnant with the possibility of humility. They are so easy to ignore. You’d Be wise to sneer, with every reason imaginable for the curl of your knowing Lip. Yet here I am, on Sunday morning, in the wedding reception tent, agog; Not so much at the earnest idiot of a minister, but at everyone, sweetly, else.
Study war no more
Mar 18, 2011
Michael Izbicki grew up in a nondenominational church in California. A National Merit Scholarship finalist, he chose to go to the U.S. Naval Academy out of a sense of duty to his country during a time of war. At the naval academy he began to doubt whether the career to which he had committed himself could be squared with the tenets of just war doctrine. He got in trouble when he responded no to this exam question: "If given the order, would you launch a missile carrying a nuclear warhead?" After a four-year legal battle, the navy discharged him as a conscientious objector. Izbicki may have to reimburse the service for part or all of his education (New York Times, February 22).