When Roddy Piper showed up at the bank lobby in the movie They Live, his special sunglasses allowed him to see that some of the patrons, a teller, and the security guard were not the humans they were pretending to be. The glasses enabled him to see the skull-with-red-eyes that was truly the face of a conquering alien race. The aliens were able to somehow cloak themselves so that they could move freely through the population while folks went on blissfully unaware. So, when Piper, pump shotgun in hand, sees the room mixed with aliens and humans he famously says, “I’m here to chew bubblegum and kick @ss and I am all out of bubble gum”.
I really like that movie. It was exciting when it was new. It is iconic and funny in parts if I watch it today. Like the expression red pill, the sunglasses have been used to describe the awareness of men’s issues that are cloaked by the normalcy bias.
I finally had an empathetic experience with Piper’s character.
The past few weeks our church has shown a video to segue into the sermon. This has been done quite well. They make the videos themselves and it is usually someone from our relatively small congregation sharing some personal anecdote. Yea, I know, lots of churches do this. I was specious when they started. I had seen too many of these that were more testimonial adverts for the wonderful church or pastor than any truly God honoring expression of awe or reverence.
They have been great. For example, a man I know by face and nod only, who sits a few rows in front of my family, was featured a few weeks back. When he began to speak it was clear something was wrong with the moving parts that form voice. It was the result of one of many radical surgeries he’d had due to multiple recurrences of some form of cancer. He is 49. And he shared an experience that if it left anyone unmoved, they are already dead.
Good videos for several weeks. Then last Sunday I must have had my special sunglasses on. A thirties-ish attractive blond woman began to share how her trial was that in her divorce they had fought over custody of their child. She spoke earnestly that she was begging God to see to it that she won, that the judge would render in her favor. It seemed to me that when custody is at stake, that meant one or the other parent having custody. That the dad lives in another state, which she revealed, did give it a tone of gravity and consequence.
Then it got weird.
In the end she weepingly said things did not go in her favor. She explained (I paraphrase), “Child will be with dad three weeks in summer and every other Christmas…….so forth”. I was stunned. BUT, she added, since the child had subsequently accepted Christ, she (the mom) felt God was telling her that this custody arrangement was OK because the dad would have a little witness around him.
I was in shock. And I was alone in shock. “Custody” wasn’t at stake here at all. That is a clever choice of wording that a woman would uniquely choose for the drama and empathy inducing power it contains. What was really at stake was, a dad did or did not get to spend time with his child. Further, that the man is in another state, and not knowing anything about the case, we must assume there is not even hint of a reason the man should not have his child for significant bits of time. If there were any issues with the dad that could remotely be construed as harmful to the child, it was obvious the mother would have had those at the forefront of the case. Yet the judge said the dad gets some time with the kid.
Knowing how that kind of case skews statistically, I’m safe assuming we have a fit father who was going to be defrauded time with his child. If unfit, dad would have had zero chance.
So, the takeaway was that she was praying for God to win her case for her. That God would choose up sides in a case like this. Then, when God didn’t respond the way she wanted, it was God’s grace that settled on her allowing her to see that actually this is OK because the child will witness to the daddy and that is such a wonderful thing.
Until now there had been nothing irritating my man-nerve at this church. I couldn’t discuss it with anyone because no one would even understand what I was on about. I didn’t check, but I’d bet there were women crying and rubbing circles on the backs of husbands who managed to look sufficiently vicariously disturbed by the plight of the pleading woman.
I wrote to the pastor. Ive engaged him a few times on lighter topics. Never anything even relevant to the things of this blog. He may have been shocked when I opened with “The idea of a woman praying for God to render, via a judge, that a fit father be denied time with his child is morally repugnant.” I went on to state that I neither had, nor was a curious to have any back story. But, I told him, judges do not do what that one did if a father is unfit. they just don’t.Regardless the circumstances of the divorce, I cannot cede the point that this was not inspiration for the ending of some future made Christian version of Eat Pray Love.
My email was four or five paragraphs. Rewritten and edited many times to take out angry voice, remove redundant points, like that. The pastor replied the next day. He opened with “Thank you for your candor”. That was good.
I’ll not reveal any more of what he said, nor anything more about the subject family. But I do intend to try and have as conversation with the pastor about the bigger picture. In my email I left him with a question, and he answered it. My question was, “was mine the only email you received about the video, was it the only negative email about the video, and if the answer to the second part is yes, can you fathom what that is telling you/us?”
He didn’t answer that directly. Indirectly I could infer it, however, and plan that as my opener for any discussion we may have.
I didn’t think, “I’m here to chew bubble gum and talk to the pastor” had much moxy as a title.