Five ninth graders sat around a table with me. It was the first meeting of the confirmation class. (Will you confirm—for yourself—the faith in which you were raised?) I had expected six confirmands. One was missing.
Suddenly the door burst open. Audrey (not her real name) stomped in, leaned against the wall, folded her arms across her chest, and glared. At me, at the room, at the world.
I had baptized Audrey. I watched her grow up. I admired her trademark stance. Defiance. A chip perched on her shoulder. Always.
I liked her.
Hi, Audrey. Welcome. Have a seat.
I don’t need a seat. I’m not sitting down. I don’t belong here. I don’t believe in God. My mom made me come. I don’t want to be part of whatever you’re doing here and anyway my mom said I only had to attend once just to see what it’s like but I don’t have to see what it’s like I already know what it’s like and I don’t like it. I’ll stay this one time but I won’t sit.
Okay. No problem. But as long as you’re here, would you mind telling us about this “god” you don’t believe in?
Distant. Old. Male. Bearded. Muscular. Angry. Fist full of lightning bolts. Smites the wicked. Drowns the innocent. Saves some. Damns most. Appeased by fawning prayers, obeisance, and bloody sacrifices. Egotistical. Narcissistic. Sadistic. Spiteful. Vengeful. Despicable.
No, that’s pretty much it. Except to say, if this is his house, I don’t want to be in it and that’s why I’m not coming back.
Actually, Audrey, I’m in your corner here. I don’t believe in that god either, or in a hundred other fickle gods like that one. Sure, gods can be fun in an epic tale. Just don’t let them out. No need to take Zeus, Jehovah, or Quetzalcoatl literally. Really!
Cool. So what do you believe in?
I believe in love.
Yes. And if there is a god, I believe god is love. And if there is no god, that’s okay. Love is still the way, the truth, and the life, no matter what.
Audrey took a chair and sat down.
Now that we’d settled the god question, we took up the love question:
What is love, really?
And that, as it turns out, is a complicated question.
See Paula’s “Cone of Silk & Spools-Lonaconing, MD” on the home page. Posted Jan. 22, 2023