This week’s inductee into the “Overrated Hall of Fame” is … the phrase “a regular churchgoer who was active in his church.”
Every time some poor bastard gets hit by a bus, or every time some deranged wingnut shoots up a Burger King, or every time the cops find a dozen naked Boy Scout corpses in some fucktard’s crawlspace, the media can’t write one of their 57 follow-up stories about the incident without using some variation of that phrase. (When it’s applicable, anyway. The media is, after all, spot on accurate at all times.)
I guess that phrase is supposed to add a touch of irony or ratchet the shock factor up another notch or two, as if an untimely death is that much more tragic if Marge liked to waste her Sunday mornings listening to some closeted, collared pornhound go on about grace, salvation and keeping those philistine phags from getting married. Maybe it’s supposed to make a story even more shocking when the man who kept a collection of vulvas in his freezer was actually a member of the church choir and served as an usher on every fourth Sunday.
Well, being a churchgoer has never meant shit to me. I was dragged to church every Sunday until I was about 16. (I can’t say I went “kicking and screaming,” as I knew that had I resisted, my “regular churchgoing” parents would have beat the shit, or sin, right out me to get my newly bruised, compliant ass to church for that stirring sermon on non-violence.) I met many good people in church. My parents, despite the occasional apeshit crazy assbeating my mom delivered and my dad’s affection for VHS porn, were good people, too. I also met a few people there who gave me the willies before I even knew what the willies were. You know, those guys who send your creepo meter screaming into the red zone the moment they make eye contact.
One guy was named Ed, the other was Dave. They were single, adult men. They tried much too hard to get me to like them. They were greasy, skeezy characters who were overly ingratiating. There is never a need to be so obsequious with a kid unless you want to inspect the skidmarks in that kid’s removed underpants. I get queasy right now thinking about them. They were regular churchgoers. They were quite active in their church, teaching Sunday School and pitching in to help out with the Boy Scouts. As far as I can remember, I never got acquainted with Ed or Dave’s cock, but I’m sure they were just dying to set up a meet and greet. And eat …
I still know many people who go to church every Sunday. My in-laws haven’t missed a weekend mass in the 16 years I’ve known them. I know no better people. My friend Linda, whom I worked with for over 20 years, is more active in her church than the damn pastor. I’d trust her with my nuts, if they were detachable. But I also know a lot of total ramrods who treat people like shit all week, then think an appearance at church each Sunday mitigates their weekday cruelty, washes the slate clean and lets them call it all even.
Why can’t the newspapers ever include descriptions like this? “Johnson, a regular churchgoer who nonetheless was hated by co-workers because he was a heartless prick who never met a person he couldn’t belittle and make feel like shit, was found murdered with a communion chalice jammed up his ass. Co-workers expressed outright glee when they learned that Johnson, who was active in his church, was murdered by the jealous husband of the MILF he was banging, the slutty little skank who taught the Wednesday night Bible Study.” Now that would be some delicious irony.
And if we’re supposed to feel that the death of a churchgoer is more tragic and a crime committed by a churchgoer is more surprising, then why doesn’t the media describe everyone in church-attending terms. How about the next time some selfless hero saves six kids from a burning rowhouse, CNN’s report includes the sentence, “Tanner, a devout atheist who never went to church and used to express disdain for any organized religion, bitterly denouncing each one as cleverly concocted fairy tale whose main aim was to control the masses, died of his burns Sunday morning. Some sources report that he could have been saved had renowned burn specialist Morty McMoral not been at fucking church, praying to break par that afternoon.”
In fact, some of the nicest, most honest and trustworthy people I know are church-avoiding non-believers. I grew up next to a guy who drank himself out of three wives, two cushy jobs and one country club membership. I can’t remember another adult I liked more or felt more comfortable around. The dude was aces to me until cirrhosis got his heathen ass. I work with a devout atheist who goes to church only for funerals and weddings. If I had to take every cent I own and hand it to someone for two years while I went to prison, I think she’s the one I’d select. But I know lots of regular churchgoers who I wouldn’t trust to scoop my cats’ litterbox.
To many of us, seeing in an obituary that someone was “active in her church” is not any different than saying “he drove a Toro lawnmower” or “he played – and sucked badly at – poker” or “she was known as a jig-dancing yodeler.” Okay, I actually saw that last one in our community newspaper. Now that’s a cool appellation. I think I’d rather have that in my obituary than “Bitters, who was well known for his dual roles in curing cancer and bringing world peace, never learned to yodel or dance the jig, two specialties of the late Bertha O’Reilly.”
But no, being a regular churchgoer will continue to add some sort of bogus moral heft to a person. Take my old friend Tim. Had he died when he was young, they could have said it about him, because he went to mass every Saturday night, even in his early 20s. What they wouldn’t have included in the article was that churchgoing Tim admitted to going to Saturday night mass to pray real hard to get laid later that night. He’d leave church and go scour the bars in search of easy poon. Or that he once stuck his dick in a hoagie bun at the restaurant where we worked. (This nonchurchgoer made him throw it away.) Or that he once took a shit in the attic of the joint just because … hell, I never have been able to figure that one out.
I have one other story about a regular churchgoer. It took place when I was about 14. He was a priest. I wasn’t Catholic, but most of my friends were. One spring Monday night, my friends and I were working on our swimming merit badges at the downtown YMCA. (Geez, a priest, the Boy Scouts, and the Y … can this story get any gayer?) My friend saw one of the priests from his church that night. (Geez, a young priest at the Y on Boy Scout swimming night … can this story be any gayer?) He insisted on driving the four of us back to our borough. Our scoutmaster said it was okay, so we agreed to the ride. After all, he was a priest, and it was the 70s, so we could trust him.
He drove us to his church, then insisted we come in and see where he lived. He sat us in his posh living room, then we ended up at his spectacular dining room table, drinking Cokes. (See where all that tithing goes to, all you regular churchgoers?) I don’t remember how we got there, but at one point, all five of us were standing in his bedroom, and we all had to sit on his bed to see how great the mattress was. Nothing happened that night, but when we left, he wanted us to know that any of us were welcome to visit at any time. He made that very clear.
I’ll never know for sure, but the one kid who knew him best was always a little weird, and as we moved through our teenage years, he got weirder and weirder. He used to talk about Father Creepo a lot, but then he stopped, even though the good father was still at that church. I wouldn’t be surprised if this poor, stupid, very needy kid succumbed to the icky advances of this pasty, silken-voiced craver of kiddie cock, perhaps spending the darkest, worst hours of his life in the good father’s bedroom.
If that bastard of a priest ever got arrested, I hope that the media added in their story, for the sheer irony, that the good father was “very active in his church.”
Ned Bitters is, in fact, overrated. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.