Or; When I talk to the sky, no one answers…
I didn’t do a very good job of explaining how I ended up back in the San Francisco Bay Area so soon after my last visit. I mentioned the youth group trip that Mollie is on, but I feel that I need to add a few details to fill in the gaps.
My wife is a member of a Christian church in San Diego. Her mother has been a member of that church for years. Mollie and Jessica were partially raised in that church. It is a good church full of good people. They are not judgmental, sometimes so nonjudgemental that I tease them that they are more of a clubhouse than a church. They are located smack dab in the middle of the gay part of town, and very involved in reaching out to people who are often made to feel less than welcome in most churches.
I am not a member of the church. I did work there as a custodian for several years. I even taught the bible study class numerous times, after convincing them that having an outside perspective would be a good way to start some interesting dialogs. I have actually read the bible from front to back, which is more than many so called religious people can say. I read it when I was 17 and in a Navy Brig for two months, and it was the only book you could read all day, on religious grounds. I am reading it again just because it is actually a pretty good book, and there are some very funny parts if you look closely. I was raised an Episcopalian, if you are interested, but I got over it fairly quickly.
Sorry, I am getting sidetracked, as you may have noticed happens with alarming frequency. So where am I going with all this, and how does it tie in with the youth group trip and my titles? The church had two big vans for the trip, which were big enough to hold all the people, but not all the luggage as well. Seeing as I have a huge Suburban, I volunteered to lug the luggage, as it were. On Sunday we drove all day through the central valley in a short convoy, and then I dropped off the stuff at a church in Oakland where the group would spend the night. I went to my mom’s house just North of Berkeley.
The next day, I was responsible for going back to the church in Oakland, to pick up the luggage, and join the group to take them all over to San Francisco to the little mission so they could begin their week of serving the homeless. When I say mission, I do not mean one of those huge adobe brick places built by the Spanish long ago. This is a little storefront in the Tenderloin district. It is not at all a nice part of town. But I am getting ahead of myself again.
I got in my car to go and join up with the group, and my phone wouldn’t even turn on. Okay, don’t panic yet. Then I remembered that my mom’s internet was not working, and only my brother Sid knows how to fix it. Still not panicking, but getting closer to it. I called my wife to see if she could google the church in Oakland. She didn’t answer the phone. Now I was only twenty minutes away from the time I was supposed to show up, and it was a twenty minute drive with no traffic, which never happens in real life. I realized that I was totally cut off from the satellites circling our planet. I was out of the information age. How did we used to get around before google maps and GPS? I was like Columbus without even a compass. Even if I could find a map, I didn’t see how I could read it and drive at the same time. I know we used to do things like that, but my eyes were better then. Those maps are full of really tiny words.
Then I had an idea. I just asked our neighbors if I could google the church and print out the driving directions. I got there just five minutes late. I was worried about finding the little mission without my cell phone if we got separated on the Oakland Bay Bridge. Mollie asked if I had tried taking the battery out and putting it back in. And sure enough, that worked. Whatever…
Not too long after that, I was dropping my 13 year old daughter and the rest of them off it the little mission. This neighborhood didn’t scare me, but if the adult group leaders weren’t a little nervous, they weren’t paying enough attention at all. And they were going to be living here for the next week. Now we come to the spiritual disconnection part of my title. This street was teeming with not only the homeless, the destitute, drunks, druggies, and the mentally challenged, but also a very San Francisco-ish combination of the gender confused and life style experimenters. Things that we who grew up there are not surprised by, but which might shock some of you. Guys with beards and boobs, girls with beards and no boobs, people in the middle of gender reassignment, people who hadn’t yet figured out which gender they were. And of course there were the usual tattooed, pierced, green mohawk sporting freaks, but these didn’t worry me. These are what we call ‘locals’.
So fine, I left my kid there and have been hoping for the best ever since. She is a smart kid, and has spent enough time in the Bay Area not to be too amazed. But here is the thing, because there has to be a thing, doesn’t there? I talked to my wife today, and she told me that one of the kids had put on Facebook a comment that said that there were other groups of young teens helping at the mission, and that these kids were spending a lot of time talking about how all these sinners were going to go to hell. Ain’t that a kick in the head? So here is where the spiritual disconnection comes in.
These fresh-faced young people were sent to reach out and help people in need. Not to judge them and tell them they are going to burn in hellfire forever. A lot of these homeless people are young kids themselves, who ran away from home because they were made to feel evil about who they were, even though many of them are too young to have any idea who they are yet. Now here come these self-righteous teen do-gooder holier-than-thou pompous, clueless, close-minded soldiers of the lord, telling them that god hates them and they should be prepared to spend eternity roasting like a marshmallow. These kids, who came here to help people, have been told by their church leaders and their parents all their lives that they are special, and they have all the answers, and so therefor it was okay to feel superior to some other people. Because those people were less than real people.
It must be nice to be so sure you have all the answers. To have spiritual leaders who are in actual communication with god getting all those answers, and doing your thinking for you. Hey, if that is the god you want to believe in, knock yourself out. But if I was you, and I am glad I am not, you might just once ask yourself if that is really god whispering those crazy ideas into your priest’s ears at night. Because if you really think about it, it could be that other guy… you know… the one that runs the place you are so sure all those bad people are going.