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It Ain't Necessarily So
Ernie said, "All right, lemme see if I got this straight. You say Adam was the
first man, okay? Then along comes God and He makes Eve out of one of his ribs,
right? Well, that makes two people, total right? Which one of them wrote the
story? Who else was in on it?"
Ernie was like that. He could get you tied up in knots. You thought you had your
facts down pat, and he'd throw a monkey wrench right in the middle of them.
"Then he said, 'Let there be light', right? Did he say it in English or Hebrew,
huh? Tell me that, would'ja?"
"Lemme alone, Ernie, okay? It's Bible studies, I have to go every Sunday
morning. If I don't my father'll kick my ass. I'm only tellin' you what the
Pastor's wife told us."
I could have cared less about Adam and Eve and the fooling around and getting
kicked out of the garden and all. But I had to go to Bible studies. My mother
made my father make me go. My father really didn't care either one way or the
other but whatever my mother told him to do, he did. What I did wrong, I guess,
was to tell Ernie about it. Ernie was Jewish and loved to argue with me about
religion. He said his father was a big wheel in the temple and he argued all day
long about these things. He used to say that God was a Jew and liked him better
than He liked me. He had doubts about the New Testament the New Testament was
all Mrs. Tremayne cared about.
"Jesus was Jewish, did you know that?' Ernie went on and on about the Last
Supper being a Seder and when Jesus preached, he preached in Hebrew. I was on
the point of asking him to please for God's sake come with me to my next Bible
study class and have it out with Mrs. Tremayne about this, because I didn't care
one way or the other. But I knew he wouldn't. What he wanted to do was to have
fun with me.
"How do you suppose Noah got all those animals in the ark? He'd have to go off
on safari, wouldn't he? How did he get to find the kangaroos in Australia, and
polar bears up in wherever .... huh .... answer me that, huh?"
Ernie started me down a long, unloved road of questioning. Faith does not hold
up well in the ruthless light of investigation. One by one my childhood beliefs
were exposed as fairy tales told to help me sleep the night away.
If I was able to get Mrs. Tremayne in a corner and ask her how was it that Adam
and Eve were thrown out of the Garden for doing something she and Pastor
Tremayne probably did as often as they could, she might have smiled indulgently.
Maybe she would have said, "It's only a Bible story .... it's supposed to teach
you a lesson." But I couldn't do that. Anyone could see she believed in her
Bible stories as faithfully as my mother believed in her soap operas. It set my
young mind to thinking, and goaded by Ernie and his penetrating questions, I was
fast becoming a doubting Thomas. Mrs. Tremayne would have given me up for lost.
Long ago when Priests chanted in languages nobody understood, and long before
people were able to read the scriptures for themselves, painters and sculptors
created idealistic visual illustrations of events to help them understand. First
of all there is God Himself, larger than life with a long gray beard. Had it
ever been black and well trimmed, like Mr. Margolis at the corner candy store?
God stares accusingly at us with his fierce blue eyes, dressed in a floor length
nightshirt. It gives Him an unmistakably human appearance, like an inebriated
Grandfather, and it isn't hard to believe that we are created in His image. If
His hair is gray, well, that means it was black or brown in his younger days. If
His eyes are blue, that eliminates the possibility of certain Slavic or Latin
ethnicities, and up there, unseen, in that Heavenly Host there must be someone
with a loom and a sewing machine to make His nightshirt.
That's what it looked like to me. But, all I had was Ernie; he was my teacher. I
couldn't take problems like that to my mother she would tell me. "Go wash your
hands, supper's almost ready." My father was on his back in the dirt under the
Model "T" and had problems that even God couldn't fix.
How many kids lose faith when their questions are answered by allegory and
moralistic fairy tales? Is there anyone brave enough to stand before a child and
say, "God is like nothing you've been led to expect. He's not like your white,
gray-haired and blue-eyed grandfather. His Kingdom is bigger than anything you
can imagine, and there is room in that Kingdom for all living things. You are a
fortunate little boy to be living in your part of it, but there's no free lunch
you have to make it on your own."
Young as I was, I think I could have lived with that. I might have been more
careful of other people's feelings. I might have reached out to help someone who
needed it instead of hoping that God would do it for me. I might not have cried
out to Him to ask, "How can you do this to me?!! Why this! .... Why that!"
I would have learned, more quickly the gospel it took me a lifetime to learn
that it's up to me. I was given a chance to make it, nothing more. God is not a
vaudeville magician to cast me upon the shore like Jonah, or sit unmolested,
like Daniel in a cage full of lions, and I can't expect a special place at the
table there are no place cards you sit where you're told to sit.
©Harry Buschman 1998
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