After spending twenty years of your life in one place—especially when the span overlaps your son’s childhood and your career’s most cherished project (a tax-exempt educational charity)—it seems like moving out should be a somber occasion. Seems like you should be watching fond memories dissolve as you box up or throw away books and toys. Seems like the now empty, strangely echoing rooms where you passed so many Christmases should haunt you almost unendurably.
And when virtually none of that happens… isn’t the absence of sadness itself cause for sadness?
I haven’t enjoyed living in this town (which I’ll allow to remain nameless). Implicated in recollections of my boy’s very young childhood is the incredibly rude treatment my family received when I shifted him to another school in the fourth grade. The old baseball gloves and trophies and the pitcher’s mound and backstop I built in the back yard darken a little when memories of cutthroat Little League competitions (rigged draft nights, instruction in how to cheat, even purloining petty cash from the concession stand) drift over like clouds. A should-have-been gilded succession of high school achievements was tarnished by the wantonly vengeful spite of one powerful man during my son’s senior year. Just when I start to get choked up with a touch of nostalgia, I recall these episodes… and all the painful pleasantness of looking back vanishes, leaving only a black thread of smoke from diehard embers.
The worst of it all—the thing that keeps a fire in the dark heart of the ember—is that all of the people in question made much show of their Christian faith. They played it like a brass band. It was as much on display as a Fourth of July fireworks celebration. As a Christian myself, I find that especially infuriating. This town appears to be full of such types: whited sepulchers, clean and bright on the outside but stinking of death on the inside.
And how often was I told here that salvation is a “free gift” from God—that it isn’t compensation for good works, as if one might rape the whole wide world and then run to the “safe” circle like a kid playing a game? It is because I am a Christian that this kind of behavior among Christians so disgusts me. And this town, during my twenty years here—more time than I’ve ever spent in any one place—has abounded in such examples.
The man who poisoned my son’s senior year in high school probably felt some remorse afterward, though his pride would never let him volunteer anything so humbling as an apology. From him we drew a reference when my son needed a person “of the cloth” to speak on his behalf as part of the admission process at a Christian university; for the man is apparently a minister of some variety at his church, and I myself stopped taking my family to any church in this burg a while back. This, too, immensely bothers me about current Christian practice: the presumption that one’s faith is manifested by one’s attendance at some designated “house of God”—for it is an extension of the same kind of Pharisaism that induces people to mouth formulas without adjusting their conduct. Nevertheless, I will credit this fellow with wrestling down his devils to some degree from time to time. From the others I’ve referred to obliquely, I wouldn’t accept a sponge if I were on fire.
For I will not frame “tolerance” and hang it over my mantelpiece because it looks good there: I will not make a show of a virtue whose reality is spiritual laziness and cowardice. What I hate about the Left is the penchant of its minions to display virtues like medals on their lapel. I lately used the example of protesters on behalf of mustangs whose advocacy for free range must eventually starve out every damn horse on the prairie—but they have their precious cause on prominent display in the curio cabinet, and nothing else matters. So for fake Christianity; its practitioners let slide a foul deed whose perpetrator will now repeat it again and again, always with assurance of “forgiveness”, because the little saints must burn the candle of Tolerance at their altar of Self.
This town is full of such hollow humility, such hypocritical fraud—and so, increasingly, is our whole society. A Selfie and a Tweet send out into the cosmos the image we wish to project… and to hell with truth, consequences, and responsibility. That sickness has eaten away our moral fiber here, in my backwoods, bourgeois American enclave, ever since the first “exclusive” residential section rose out of the sweet potato farms and oil derricks. Now, however, the cancer has spread from our real estate into our pockets, and our hands. We carry it everywhere we go.
So… time to find some more boxes. I’ve bought twenty-five acres to raise my orchards… and the dust on my heels isn’t good for anything but shaking off.