I’m sitting at Panera Bread right now, having a spot of late lunch/dinner, staring at a cute boy who just sat down in the booth across from now, smirking as his mom and dad sit down to him and they all quietly close their eyes and bow their heads to say grace. Figures. It’s not a quick nod either—I have my headphones in, listening to Florence + The Machine (Lungs is my current favorite album), but it lasts a good twenty seconds. Not that I’m counting. It looks so quaint (mawkishly so) to my newly-minted apostate eyes, though my former believer self feels wistful and nostalgic, like an expatriate recalling the fond memories and the days when he was happy in his home country, before something happened to displace him.
Fact: This is my first Holy Week as a non-believer/skeptic. It’s rather sad considering how significant a part of my life Lent and the Easter season has been for the past twenty-seven years, and that now it’s practically insignificant. I used to take it pretty seriously, actually. Every year I would 1) decide on something important to give up as a meditation; and 2) download the daily Lenten scripture readings from the CRI/Voice Institute and write them into my calendar. In the last five years I’ve been fortunate to attend and work for churches that valued the Arts, and have had some quality musical experiences on the high days, such as Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Easter Sunday. Those are days when they bring out the brass and percussion, and the rousing hymns and anthems—good times for a musician.
Today, however, it wasn’t until they mentioned it on MPR (for non-Minnesota readers, that’s Minnesota Public Radio) that I even remembered that it was Palm Sunday.
I told my parents a few months ago that I wasn’t a Christian, but it wasn’t until a few days ago that we had our first real face-to-face confrontation over the issue. It wasn’t a fight, per se, but we each made our positions known. My younger sister (who is married, just had her first kid back in August, and the pride and joy of my parents) was there too. I love her dearly, but she’s swallowed the religious propaganda. My dad took the standard evangelical line, saying something to the effect of, “Well, I guess you want to go to hell, then,” which made me realize all the more that it was fear that drove me to Christianity in the first place—fear of hell, damnation, eternal punishment, etc. My mom is the only one who is willing to listen, dialogue, and not jump to ex-communicate me, which I appreciate.
But overall, it’s a rather lonely place, being a skeptic in a nation of Christians at Eastertide, just as I suppose it will be at Advent and Christmastide.