One of my experiences with Christianity and kindness

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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. 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

Thomas Napers Added Mar 7, 2018 - 4:10am
Very sorry for your loss.
 
I’ve never once heard of the children of the deceased not being permitted to attend a funeral service.  I suspect your father’s new wife was the primary reason you were not permitted in. Or there are other facts surrounding this situation that you either don’t know or aren’t sharing with your readers in an attempt to smear people of the Eastern Orthodox faith.  For example, perhaps your brother insisted on having the Roman Catholic reverend lead the service at an Eastern Orthodox Church and they refused. One thing we know is that the behavior of a single church, does not speak for all Eastern Orthodoxies.   
Doug Plumb Added Mar 7, 2018 - 6:21am
Christianity is racially unconscious. Your father got into a bad sect of it and there are many.
Pardero Added Mar 7, 2018 - 9:06am
Mustafa,
I am sorry for your experience. I have had only positive experiences with people of the Eastern Orthodox faith and hold that faith in as high esteem as any. It could be that your step mother is a poor representative of the faith.
Mustafa Kemal Added Mar 7, 2018 - 9:07am
Thomas, re;
"Or there are other facts surrounding this situation that you either don’t know or aren’t sharing with your readers in an attempt to smear people of the Eastern Orthodox faith."
 
Indeed, you may be correct about facts that I dont know. As for an attempt at smear, as I far I know, that is not my intention. 
 
re:
"For example, perhaps your brother insisted on having the Roman Catholic reverend "lead the service at an Eastern Orthodox Church and they refused."
My brother is not Roman Catholic and I doubt he instisted on anything. It was not how we were raised. I think I would have known. Having grown up traveling the world together, being one year apart, we are quite close. Anyway, even if he had, i dont see that it would justify that.
 
"One thing we know is that the behavior of a single church, does not speak for all Eastern Orthodoxies.   "
 
That I can believe.  Thank God for that.
Mustafa Kemal Added Mar 7, 2018 - 9:09am
Doug, that is indeed what I suspect.
Thanks
Autumn Cote Added Mar 7, 2018 - 9:40am
Very sorry for your loss.  Is it safe to assume the title of this piece is meant to be sarcastic?
Mustafa Kemal Added Mar 7, 2018 - 9:43am
 
Autumn, re:
" Is it safe to assume the title of this piece is meant to be sarcastic?"
No, it was tale of this experience and how it relates to kindness.
 
Autumn Cote Added Mar 7, 2018 - 10:03am
But the experience was of Christians being unkind to you and your brother...hence why I consider the title to be sarcastic.  
Mustafa Kemal Added Mar 7, 2018 - 10:35am
Autumn, I see how you could have interpreted it in this way. I really dont like sarcasm, it is underjhanded,  and  I try to avoid using it. I do like irony though, but that was also not my intention here.
 
IMO, the subject of kindness does not necessarily imply positive examples are forthcoming. Likewise, I suggest that the subject of Christianity does not  necessarily imply that positive examples are forthcoming either,.
Benjamin Goldstein Added Mar 7, 2018 - 12:26pm
I wouldn't have left the chuch. Carry a gun! Ask them to call the police if they want you go away! Some problems must be solved with a certain level of rudeness.
Doug Plumb Added Mar 7, 2018 - 12:52pm
I wouldn't have either.
Mustafa Kemal Added Mar 7, 2018 - 12:56pm

Benjamin Goldstein, re:
" Some problems must be solved with a certain level of rudeness."
I disagree. 
 
Anyway, I didnt want to solve any problem here. 
There were many strange occurances that I could not understand. 
 
I will tell you one more. On the birth of my  parents third son, my father built a grandfather clock at the shop at West Point and brought it home to celebrate  his birth.  We lived with that clock since I was 7.
 
Now that he is gone, the grandfather click still tick tocks away in her house, without not only any of his children but none of his grandchildren.  This is also a "problem" that I am not going to "solve" I just find it  such strange behavior from such apparently pious people. Cant really get my head around it.
 
Morover, I have checked around and confirming Thomas Napers assertion, there have been no mentioning of this in Eastern Orthodox funerals that I can find.
 
 
Benjamin Goldstein Added Mar 7, 2018 - 1:43pm
So what we have is an ordinary family feud that has nothing to do with religion. Maybe the woman simply isn't as pious as she pretends to be.
Mustafa Kemal Added Mar 7, 2018 - 1:49pm

Benjamin Goldstein, no feuding going on here. Just observing and curious.
Dave Volek Added Mar 7, 2018 - 2:56pm
Sorry for this rather sad way of saying farewell.
 
I attended one Eastern Orthodox funeral service, and it was nothing like this. If nothing else, they made us non-believers sit through a very lengthy ceremony.
 
But there are different sects of Eastern Orthodox with different rules. And sometimes priests and ministers and mullahs make their own rules for their own congregation. It seems strange you guys got chased out.  
 
And when these kinds of things happen, it does bring discredit to religion. It's not hard to understand why many people are not friendly towards religion. 
 
It's unfortunate that family dynamics are often more complicated than they should be. I'm going through a battle myself.
 
Mustafa Kemal Added Mar 7, 2018 - 11:12pm
Dave, all the non-congregation were instructed to leave. Many were elderly and had traveled across the country to see their old friend off.
Since they didnt show up for round 2, they never got to say their farewells. 
 
Somehow I dont think this is family stuff. My brother and I havent made a peep ( until with this post).
 
 
Dave Volek Added Mar 8, 2018 - 12:10am
Mustafa
 
Sometimes it doesn't hurt to ask a few questions. The answers might confirm your suspicions, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Or the answers may give you a new understanding of the whole issue. I'm not sure letting it fester will help.
 
I hope you find some peace with this issue.
Autumn Cote Added Mar 8, 2018 - 12:52pm
Please note, it's against the rules to post more than one article within a 48-hour period.  As always, many thanks for your participation with Writer Beat!
mark henry smith Added Mar 8, 2018 - 3:21pm
Why are we so concerned about what happens to a dead body? You have your memories, Mustafa, and is that your Christened name? I have never understood that idea of only speak if you have something good to say. Good in what sense? Good, as in nice? Or good, as in necessary? And whose judgment gets to decide?
 
And as far as advice, someone asks for it when they say something stupid, in my opinion.
 
On my father's deathbed, he asked me to take care of my mother. I promised I would. Then, in the car on the way home, I started thinking, did he mean to take care of my mother? Or, take care, of my mother? I was going to ask him next time I saw him, but the next day he went into hospice care and neither of my siblings or my mother called me to let me know, so he died without providing further explanation.
 
Here's my motto. When in doubt, err on the side of caution. And when you meet a person who has no doubts, like the Buddha on the road, kill them. My mother has doubts.   
A. Jones Added Mar 8, 2018 - 10:00pm
As for an inheritance, that is what I got, the beer opener. 
 
But that was all you requested. You received precisely what you had asked for.
 
Had you asked, instead, for the house and the car, you might have inherited those.
Mustafa Kemal Added Mar 8, 2018 - 10:44pm
A. Jones, no complaints here. 
Mustafa Kemal Added Mar 8, 2018 - 10:48pm
mark henry smith, 
"Why are we so concerned about what happens to a dead body?"
I am not. But society is.  So  I found it quite strange and bewildering. The real question is "how could they ignore the fact that his friends  of a lifetime who had travelled to see him would like to see him off?"
 
And it was nice to see him one last time. The experience was quite powerful.  
Mustafa Kemal Added Mar 8, 2018 - 10:53pm
Dave, as far as I understand, I have been at peace with it for awhile.
But I thought it was worthwhile writing about.  I thought it was a good story, a good story for a writer. Maybe Mark Twain would agree.
 
 
Mustafa Kemal Added Mar 8, 2018 - 10:55pm
Autumn, sorry, I got carried away. 
The place is stimulating.
mark henry smith Added Mar 9, 2018 - 12:10pm
Mustafa, It was definitely one of the rudest showings by a group of "Christians" that can be imagined. But I've seen worse in my own life. It's an example of what I was saying on another post, that when people begin to believe more in their beliefs than in their actions, they're paving the path to hell one slight rudeness at a time.
 
Here's my saying on Christians. Do you know what gives Christianity such a bad name?
A. Jones Added Mar 11, 2018 - 5:34pm
Maybe Mark Twain would agree.
 
Then, again, maybe he wouldn't.
 
You're comparing your writing to Mark Twain's?
A. Jones Added Mar 11, 2018 - 6:10pm
No, it was tale of this experience and how it relates to kindness.
 
Your complaint clearly relates to the lack of kindness.
 
IMO, the subject of kindness does not necessarily imply positive examples are forthcoming.
 
In that case, the subject of unkindness does not necessarily imply that negative examples would be presented. Here's your story retold from that perspective:
 
"One of my experiences with Christianity and unkindness"
 
"My dad and I were super-close. I loved the guy: the military discipline constantly on display when he shaved; the expert way in which he tied his shoes (he always gave the laces a kind of military 'snap' when the knot was completed; God, I loved the sound that made!).
 
Years later as he lay dying, I asked him if he would bequeath his remaining rolls of Three Stooges toilet paper I enjoyed using (the sheets with Curly on them said, 'Nyuk, Nyuk!', which always made me chuckle). Although his breathing was labored, he managed to say, 'You betcha!'. After he passed, his widow — a member of the Baha'i Church — told me that dad (whom I always called 'Colonel Dad!' even though he was actually just a sergeant) had not only left me that special toilet paper, but had also bequeathed to me his house, his car, a 2nd vacation cottage that I never knew he owned, a secret harem he used to frequent (with the permission of his 2nd wife), a single-malt scotch distillery, a helicopter tour-guide business in Hawaii, and a small Swiss bank account.
 
Colonel Dad was the kindest, most generous man I ever knew. That's why this story is about unkindness. You see, I'm writing about the topic of unkindness by illustrating a real-life story of its opposite — kindness — thus putting my real topic (unkindness) in "high-relief" by means of extreme literary contrast. But don't think this was an example of irony or sarcasm. Sarcasm is underhanded and irony would've been inappropriate for such a somber topic.
 
I merely copied the style of Mark Twain's writing, which actually has nothing to do with what I've just written but I thought I would drop his name anyway, just to prove to any doubters out there that a mere drummer like me could also be a member of the literary cognoscenti."
John King Added Mar 14, 2018 - 10:43am
Mustafa: Sad story. Sorry for treatment you & your family received but I'd bet it had nothing to do with the Eastern Orthodoxy but the particular people who made the funeral plans.

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