At The Nervous Breakdown: Liar, Liar
published @ The Nervous Breakdown:
When I was fourteen, I stood before the deacons of my church and lied.
The deacons sat in a half circle of red and gold armchairs that seemed incongruous with the church’s Puritan ancestry. A small group of my peers sat behind me, waiting for their turn to speak, truth or lie. I told them all I believed in God, that I believed Jesus was the son of God, and that human beings were made in His image. The head deacon knew I was a liar, but he liked me. When I finished my statement of faith – required for confirmation – he threw me a few softball questions. One deacon tried to catch me in the lie. She asked me why I hadn’t talked about attending church, about the congregation, in my statement.
I told her, and the rest of the room, that I believed in the ability of the individual to navigate his or her own way through the complicated, conflicting, confusing world of faith and belief. For me, independent inquiry and intellectual and spiritual curiosity were more important than participation in a congregation. I quickly added that I did acknowledge the value of a pastor’s leadership, and the ability of the congregation to infuse my own spiritual quest with needed energy and knowledge. Lying again. They let me in.
On confirmation day, the pastor grabbed my arm. “Listen to my sermon,” he said. “You’re its inspiration.”
The pastor, at the pulpit, told the congregation that one of its newest members had inspired him to grow as a Christian in a way he had never considered before. He said that the independent spirit of this young person had moved him to preach that day about individual curiosity, introspection, and honesty. Don’t say what you think is right to believe. Say what you believe, listen to others, and you’ll grow. I was beaming. I had fooled them all.