The House of Music.
It was sort of a crazy place, considering it looked like little more than a benign, quiet little piano store. A divorced couple and their adult daughter ran the place. They had one other employee, Duane, a very nice, pudgy young man who never said a serious word in his life (and to this day still won’t.) He was also a very serious, bible-believing Christian.
The family were believers in and practitioners of Ernest Holmes’ Science of Mind and attended the local Church of Religious Science, not to be confused with Christian Science or Scientology. Those are their own brand of nonsense.
The Science of Mind is really, among other things, just an earlier, less clever branding of the execrable Law of Attraction, popularized in the The Secret. So whenever the store was slow, they encouraged us to put more positive thoughts into the universe in order to draw more business in. As the days wore on, that turned into blaming Duane and I when business sucked, which it often did. I mean, how often do people just pop in to buy a piano or organ?
Another favorite pastime of mine as a child and youth was Dungeons & Dragons. I loved, and still love, quality fantasy fiction, from J.R.R. Tolkien to George R.R. Martin. One August day in ’85, Duane and I got to chatting about D&D and how it had been a long time since I’d played and was dying to get a game. He also hadn’t played in a very long time, so we decided to organize a game at my home, where I still lived with dear ol’ mom. With her blessing I invited a couple other past gaming friends, and he invited one as well. T was planning to come along for the ride, though her interest was weak, to say the least.
The day came, and one by one, all three of our invitees bugged out. As evening approached, we chatted on the phone and talked about just cancelling the evening. We both really wanted to get together. So T and I went to his place instead and had pizza and played it by ear. We decided to play a board game, and one of the games he had was a bible trivia game. I actually suggested it, thinking myself a little better than average at trivia, and with just enough recollection from catechism and my own reading to be dangerous.
I clarify these details to drive home the fact that I know Duane did not contrive the events of the evening. It was fortuitous, so to speak, or unfortunate, as hindsight would rather indicate, but this was not the Christian equivalent of an Amway Ambush pitch.
So we dug out the game and played for awhile. I actually surprised myself with how much I did know and remember. T also did well, but she had also done a lot more bible reading in her earlier days. She grew up Episcopalian and took it a lot more seriously then than her peers did.
I don’t honestly remember what verses or questions led to the conversation, but we wound down a game and got to talking about some of the verses. After a number of questions, next thing we know, the three of us are sitting criss-cross applesauce on the floor.
Duane has his bible open and is sharing the gospel to us, fire, brimstone, and all.
He tells us that all are sinners, Romans 3:23. He tells us that the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of god is eternal life through Christ Jesus our lord, Romans 6:23. He tells us that God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever shall believe in him shall not perish, but have eternal life, John 3:16. He tells us that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us, Romans 5:8.
The he paints the picture of what will happen if we don’t take the free and loving gift. There we are, after death, standing before god’s judgment seat. He will look for our names in the Book of Life, searching, searching, but alas, our names are not there. With great sadness and gravity, he will look us in the eye and say, “Depart from me, you evil ones, I never knew you.” Then we would be cast into the lake of fire, to endure neverending torment.
And I bet you know what pictures you know were flashing through my mind, right? You got it – that fucking Chick tract. This is why indoctrinating children with this bullshit is so terribly dangerous and, frankly, abusive.
I was sold. I wanted the gift. T was right there with me, though she felt that she’d always been a believer anyway and saw this as more of a dedication.
I prayed the prayer – God, I’m a sinner in need of saving. I accept your free gift of life through Jesus Christ, his death, burial, and resurrection. Please come into my life and make me your child. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
I was in.
That was a Saturday night. Sunday morning we walked through the doors of Santa Cruz Christian Church.
The fun had just begun…