Church and Christian Contradictions

The church of which I was a member sponsored each year a Minstrel Show, which attracted good numbers, and made a bit of money. During my High School years, I became one of the very best of “end men” for that show. In that role, I covered my face with burnt cork, widened my lips with very red lipstick, learned the stereotyped words and speech of degraded black men images. The role engaged me as a dumb, helpless, lazy “nigger”, responding stupidly to inquiries from the “m.c.”, who of course, was a bright, white man, always leading the audience in laughter at my antics. Whatever the role required, I played it well, even singing and dancing to make fun of the stereotyped black man. Each year I looked forward to this role; it focused a lot of appreciative attention, admiration, and loud applause. Years later, when I learned to put the “minstrels” in their racist context, I realized that I had to work to replace all that stupidity which that acting had put into my head/heart. I learned how to forgive myself, but I have never quite forgiven the church for condoning that conduct. That may have been the seed-bed of a later time when a more substantial disillusionment led me out of the church and organized religion.

The church also sponsored a Boy Scout troop; I went to one meeting with some friends, a session that was supposed to enlist us as members. All I remember of it, was that we stood in rows for what seemed interminably long, and I did not understand why. We were put through some simple “drills” barked by a man at the front of the room. I had no inclination or desire to repeat them. I did not return for another meeting! It was probably the foundation of later rejections of regimented activity of any sort.

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