Happy Naked Trees


I split with religion at an early age. Being in the Unitarian church at the time, I suppose it’s arguable whether I ever had any religion to begin with.

I’m joking, partially. At a basic level, Unitarianism differs from other Christian sects in that it maintains that Jesus was not God. In other words there is no Trinity, only separate Units. This made it a good option for agnostics who needed to go to church to be accepted in society. At least that’s why we were there.

So then, at an early age I left one of the “easiest” churches over a drawing.

I actually recall very little about my days as a Christian. We’d dress up and go the church, which was a large and beautiful cathedral. Our parents would go to service, and my brother and I would go to child services. My brother’s four years older than I am, so he probably remembers a lot more about this but I wouldn’t know. We’re over 40 now, and we’ve never discussed it at all.

That’s not true; we had one brief discussion. I told him that I remembered his Sunday School class had built a submarine. He looked at me like I was crazy and said that never happened. I shrugged and took his word for it. The spiders had messed with my head a lot in those days, so the fact that I’d seen the submarine hull covered in blinking lights probably couldn’t be trusted.

But this really happened, and it’s my one distinct memory of Sunday School. Other than turning in tiny envelopes containing pocket change.

The “teacher” (babysitter, really) asked us to draw God. We were maybe five or six, and this woman wanted us to draw the ineffable. Sure, lady. Good plan.

In hindsight I figure that we were expected to draw Santa God: a friendly, bearded fellow in a robe, the pockets of which were filled with candy. You could take candy from him, but not from men in panel vans. There were rules about candy-taking.

I’ve always been a road-less-travelled guy, not because I’m particularly adventurous but because I scrutinize everything so closely that I tend to overlook subtleties like paved ground, the sound of many footsteps, and neon signs.

What does God look like? I pondered this with what little biblical knowledge I had acquired.

Exhibit A: God created Man in his image. From this I concluded that God looked like Adam. Adam, in my largely Polish subdivision, was a white guy with brown hair.

Exhibit B: Clothing came after sin. Adam was naked until the whole tree business, and he looked like God. Ergo God was naked.

Exhibit C: A dog is man’s best friend. God should totally have a dog.

My facts established, I grabbed some crayons and started to draw my masterpiece.

Picture of Naked God

Recreation of my masterpiece “Portrait of a Naked God (with Naked Dog)”.

Memory is weird. I clearly recall my reasoning, and although the drawing vanished long ago I have a general idea of what it looked like, but I don’t remember the specifics of the teacher’s reaction. I know that she strongly disapproved, and that most of the other kids drew robed men on clouds. There might have been a talk with my parents when they came to get me.

All I know for sure is that my logic wasn’t even refuted, just ignored.

So at the tender age of “very young” I broke with organized religion, because I couldn’t believe in a God that hid his shame.

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