Bear
Bear

There I stood in front of a urinal inside a mental health clinic in Arvada. Someone had placed a religious tract behind the flush handle. Two things popped into my head:

• I wonder if this person who saw fit to pester me on how to get to heaven is one of those people who also doesn't want a transgender person in the adjacent stall.

• Putting a religious pamphlet inside a bathroom at a mental health office seems like preying on people already feeling low. It's like going to village full of starving Afghans and telling them that Islam sucks.

My religious upbringing was somewhat limited. I credit this in part to my mother and father having been brought up in religious households. My father, in particular, came up with a hellfire Baptist pastor, which turned him off on religion. It was weird to hear the nondenominational minister read psalms at my father's funeral because one of his favorite sayings was "Fuck God and die."

I visited my paternal grandparents in Wichita, Kan., when I was about 10 years old, and they took me to church. While I'm no religious scholar, the pastor opening his sermon with an invective about abortion being murder struck me as odd. Remember: This is the town where an abortion doctor was shot in the head inside a church.


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Before that, my parents took us to a Unitarian church in Albuquerque, N.M., for about a year. Unitarian churches are strange places. They had women pastors who performed gay weddings long before performing gay weddings was socially acceptable. You could say they started that whole "open and affirming" thing. (If you are an open and affirming church and disagree with this, send angry letters to the Colorado Daily. Att: John Bear's editor.)

Although Buddhists and Hindus and the occasional atheist came to church, it still had a Christian tinge to it if I recall correctly. We did a play about the story of Jesus' birth. I was one of the three wise men. We had no rehearsals, and the Sunday school teacher read us our lines during the one performance in front of the stained glass windows.

I was also in the chorus. What songs we sang elude me, but I wore a clip-on tie and I blew my nose onto the sleeve of my blue sweater. My parents must have been so proud.

My favorite memory, however, is snack time in Sunday school. One day in particular, they served strawberry Newtons. I was allowed only one. Finding that to be unreasonable, I ate one, grabbed two more and started on the second.

"How many cookies did you eat?" a girl asked.

"One," I said through a mouthful of cookie, obviously lying.

"You're lying," she said and turned away, yelling, "Teacher!"

I did the only thing I could think of. I ran. I hid beneath the slide and finished my cookies. I'm going to go to hell when I die. But I love Newtons, so it was worth it.

Read more Bear: coloradodaily.com/columnists. Stalk him: twitter.com/johnbearwithme