Wednesday, February 22, 2006

"So um, you want to be a priest?"

Brown eyes. Blank stare. Thoughtful rub of stubbled chin. That's my friend Chris. He's been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in criticism and has the brooding classical beauty of a Michelangelo sculpture that'd been scolded roundly and sent to bed without dinner. In other words, he's every emotionally unavailable, brutally talented, too-tender-for-this-cruel-world guy I loved when I was 19 and stupid.

Since he likes my work, I asked him for me a letter of recommendation to the English Writing and Rhetoric department of a local private university. We met, by chance, in the mailroom this afternoon.

"So, um…what am I supposed to say in this letter?"

"I don't know, that you think I have potential as a writer or something" (note: I *wanted* to say "say exactly what you said at that party right before we started to do shots out of a ladle" except I wasn't entirely sure he'd remember calling me an "autodidactic genius" and it's not really the sort of thing that one wants to prompt.)

"I'm going to have to Google a form or something" he said.

"Well, if you don't want to that's okay, it's just that they won't let me into seminary without an undergraduate degree and …" I petered out

"Wait. Seminary? So you…want to be…a priest?" Confusion. Absolute bewilderment.

I wish I could have said "Yes. God has called me to a life of service in the ordained ministry and I figured I should damn well get to heedin'." But I didn't. Because Chris is an atheist (or at least a strongly dogmatic agnostic) and I didn't want him to lose respect for me or think me stupid I bunted.

"Yeah, well…I don't know if it will work out. There are a lot of committees and things…I really want to get inside the system and help people think. They're not doing themselves by believing what they're spoon-fed just because that's what the guy in the fancy collar says"

and yeah, I guess it's true. Generally speaking I think if you don't have to work and struggle for your faith, you're missing a whole big chunk of it, but even as the words were coming out of my mouth, I felt like I was denying a big part of Christ and his followers, and a lot of the faithful have earned a reputation for blindly following ridiculous biblical interpretations that they've pretty much earned themselves, but still. I felt wrong, and I felt ashamed.

This post was brought to you by Saint Peter's Rooster-brand Amnesia pills.


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