Sunday, May 01, 2005

While I'm an agnostic who counts atheists, Buddhists, Jews, a Wiccan or two and Christians of various stripes as friends, I'm beginning to see the simple logic and ignorant bliss of growing up in a godless state.
What brought this about was recent discussions with C regarding topics like Terri Schiavio and the newly annointed Papanazi/Panzerkardinal. Trying to explain the differences between the Old and New Testaments, Christians and Jews ("Yes, Jesus was a Jew, but...") Catholics and Protestants and the various Protestant schisms and denominations and that they're all "Christian" (but different) and why it's so often political in the US to someone with no similar religious/cultural reference points is boggling, especially as ultimately it's logically nonesensical even if you grew up in it.
But it has come to a head again regarding C's first friendship with a Westerner, who happened to be a female student from a small, obscure (and yet to be accredited, according to its website) southern Bible college in 1999. I'll call her old friend M. C had recently rediscovered a 6-year-old letter from her, as well as a New Testament Bible that M had bestowed as a gift before going back home to Hookworm&Pelegra, Georgia. M had been at C's college in Dalian, China as part of a three week program where she taught English and apparently also engaged in modest undercover missionary work.
C's flirting with the idea of reestablishing contact, which, thanks to the Internet would be simple enough. But beyond a letter to her last known address or finding an e-mail address via the college's alumni office, she also floated the idea of somehow arranging a reunion when we're in the US later this month. Based on what C had told me of M and after perusing C's college's website and reading her last letter to C which raved about the joys of being temporarily housed with 7 other coeds at school in a "four-bedroom, double-wide trailer, it's just like home!" and warned of the impending Y2K apocalypse, my flesh began to crawl a little at the thought trying to arrange a meet-and-greet that included my Volvo-driving, Kerry-voting kin folk.
She'd also shown me a photo, and while it's unfair to judge the proverbial Bible Belt white trash book by its cover, let's just say that M, while smiling and looking cheerful and healthy enough, also bore a striking resemblance to someone whose family has been in-breeding, handling snakes and eating clay for at least five generations.
"It's hard to explain," I said by way of backing into the explanation. "I know I've never met her and her friendship was important to you, but I think we'd all be pretty uncomfortable around each other except for you two."
I looked over at C's ma, the genial, retired Party propaganda dept bureaucrat who can still rattle off verbatim an arcane, post-Mao bit of socio/political hoohah called the "Three Represents." She was serenely watching Hong Kong capitalist multicultural TV: a Korean soap opera dubbed in Cantonese with Mandarin subtitles.
"It would be like if I invited a strong Tibet or Taiwan separatist to meet your mother. They would both probably not be happy."
C said she understood the comparison, sort of.
"Good, I'm glad. I'm also just glad that M isn't a hardcore Mormon."
"What's a Mormon?"
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