Monday, March 20, 2006

keep the fellowship to yourself

When my parents told me I could stay with them, one of the conditions they made was that I had to attend church with them "at least" once a week. This is a little tricky, seeing as how I have tai chi class on Wednesdays and Sundays. But I can make the Sunday evening service. I figure it's a small price to pay for nearly-free room and board, and a minimum of questions about where I go and whom I see.

I've been to two services now. Mom and Dad are getting a kick out of introducing me to their friends. It's kind of a novelty, knowing my parents now have friends, and like me they tend to collect people of many different ages. They're all very nice people, generally smart and interesting, but of course they all live in a world far removed from mine. When I'm in that church I feel rather like an anthropologist among a primitive tribe, or one of those Victorian ladies touring the asylum. None of it seems real, with all the laughing and hugging and gushing and praise-Jesus-ing. I guess they would feel just as disconnected if they were to attend one of my tai chi classes or a party. At least I can manage to be amused at it. They would be appalled.

It's all in the word choice, you see. At the church it's "Praise God," or "it's His will." In class it's "must be your karma," or "you've got bad chi." Of course I roll my eyes, as well, when Heather or Mike start harping on energy and chi and holistic healing. It's just kind of amusing, to me, to hear how these two groups keep groping after the same metaphors, the same explanations for the inexplicable, and yet would be so totally hostile to each other just because of the vocabulary.

Of course I'm as ecumenical as they come, but I suspect even I will have to draw a line in the sand, eventually. Mom likes to make little digs at Buddhism and feng shui and the Chinese belief structure, as if she has the slightest knowledge about any of it. I don't embrace any of it, but I respect it, and I respect my teacher (who's about as much a Buddhist as I am a Christian), and I really can't stand hearing people pontificate on things they don't understand. Or those who think it's okay to embrace racist models just because it's done in Christian love.

Last night this old lady was delivering the sermon. She's a decent speaker, often funny, but her points are too broad and dependent upon shaky warrants to really hold my attention. At one point she was talking about performing God's will instead of just paying lip-service, and she illustrated with a joke about a Chinese convert. This convert, when asked how he kept spreading the word in the face of opposition, replied, "First I get on my knees and talkee, talkee, talkee. And then I get up and walkee, walkee, walkee."

"Amen!" said the church, while I sat there feeling dirty and furious. I have NEVER heard Sit say "talkee" or "washee" or any of the other cliches attributed to pidgen Chinese-English. He doesn't even drop his articles. Yes, his pronunciation can be strange at times, and I sometimes misunderstand him because of the way he strings verbs together; Chinese verb structure is different and simpler than in English. But he certainly doesn't speak pidgin.

I never was exposed much to stereotypes or racism as a child. If my parents had any prejudices they hid them well. If anything they've gotten more closed-minded since they've been in that church, but I guess that'll happen to anyone who adopts an exclusionary attitude toward the world.

One other thing I've got to tell about last night. This was only my second trip and I've already got a stalker. I'd guess he's a bit younger than me, clearly the product of inbreeding. Thin red hair, rough florid complexion, bad teeth, slightly retarded, at least socially. He kept trying to make conversation, and touched me a couple of times, to get my attention when I was talking with other people.

On the drive home I told mom and dad to keep him away from me. They said, "Yeah, sorry, we figured he'd come sniffing around--just be sure you keep wearing your ring." But I know from experience that that type is not bright enough to take hints. If he lays a hand on me again I may very well hurt him--I can do a joint lock without anyone noticing, and I may just for the fun of it--just a smidgeon of karmic payback for my having to be there. I don't suffer fools or fanboys the way I used to.

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