I have heard it said that you judge a religion by its book and whether that is appropriate or not I do not know. I am more interested in people and how they relate to one another. So, I am going to relate to you one of my experiences with Christianity, one which profoundly affected my brother. Me, I thought it was kind of funny.
Anyway, to give it the proper background I should tell you about my father, because it will involve his funeral. My father was a West Pointer and served two tours of duty in Vietnam, the last as a battalion commander of a mechanized infantry battalion in 1968
in the Mekong Delta. As Army Brats we moved every year and lived all over the world. He was an extremely gentle individual and according to the turnout at his funeral apparently respected as a commander. His radio control operator told me “I was with him when he got that silver star, you dont get those for nothin” He had some basic axims which he lived by:
1) if you dont have anything good to say, dont say anything at all
2) if I want your advice, I will ask for it
3) find something you enjoy doing, learn to do it well, and things will work out from there.
And he lived by this for most of his life, as did his children, and all profited by it. For most of our lives my father appeared like some kind of saint. We grew up Roman Catholic and were altar boys, I was an altar boy at the Catholic Church in West Point when MaCarthur gave his “Duty Honor Country” speech. One son became a professional mathematician the other a drummer.
A tragedy in the family eventually cause my parents to divorce, and eventually he remarried. His new wife praticed Eastern Orthodox Chrisitanity. My father joined up and while working a full time job, after his retirement from the military, he also built a church for the congregation, with some help. He planned it, guided it, did the electrical and the plumbing and delt with the subcontractors. But we noticed strange changes. He started speaking badly of people, see (1) above. He started giving unsolicited advice, see (2) above. He demonstrated something that appeared like being shameful of his sons. I think it may have finally dawned on him that one son married an hispanic and other a black. Maybe it was because neither of us were Christian. We do not know.
As he was getting ready to die, I asked him “Dad, you know what I would like from you? I would like that Homer Simpson beer opener” When you used it, Homer would say MMM, Beeeerr. After he passed away, the funeral was to be held at an Eastern Orthodox church in Stockton, Ca. My brother and I attended and the church was full. We, the two sons, along with all other non-congregational visitors, including many old military friends from our youth, were put in the entrance way to the church. When the service came to a certain point, the nonmembers were instructed that we needed to leave now and that what was left was for the congregation only. You should have seen the look on my brothers face! We hadnt even been allowed to see the body. He was horrified. This father of ours, this saint, who we not only loved, but was one of our favorite people on the planet, we were not going to be able to see at his funeral. Nor were we welcome for part of it.
The following day was very strange. You must understand, we were raised with military discipline so we did not express our displeasure. We maintained our civility as if all were normal We were at his wifes house having tea and she brings out this beer opener and gives it to me, then quickly says “and thats all” with a stern wave of a finger. The strict disciplinarian of justice it kind of sounded like. We made no mention of how wierd the day before was for us and our displeasure with regards to the outcome. But apparently some of these people realized that something was just not right. They came upon the idea that they would have a second service, one in which we might be able to view our father and say a few parting words to him. So, after standing through another service we did get to do that on the next day.
As for an inheritance,
that is what I got, the beer opener.