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no such thing as blasphemy

Go to a Christian school like the late, great Saint Thomas Aquinas Academy (pretentious name, if I ever heard one), and you must watch what you say and what you do. And, I don?t mean you must take care because the Lord will smite you if you sin or take his name in vain or that sort of thing, but because even the slightest of misdemeanors can get you thrown right out, back to public school with you, and all that.

By the way, the name?s Spencer. Until recently, I attended Saint Tommy. I was a good enough student and I didn?t make much trouble. I didn?t ace all my tests like Vivian Herschel and suck up to the administration like Paul Schroeder, but I also didn?t make waves? until recently.

It wasn?t like a switch went off in my head or anything. It wasn?t so clearcut as that. But Mr Jenkins assigned us a paper, Why I Believe in God, and my paper didn?t come off so well.

See, if he?d just asked me if I believed in God, I would have been right there, saying yes, sir, I do believe, sir. But, he had to go and make it into a paper, and explanation, a proof? and I just couldn?t find any proof in my head. I couldn?t find anything in me that cried out for the Lord and all his glory and thanked the Maker for my being alive. I couldn?t prove the Lord?s presence in my life to myself like Mark Shepard. I didn?t have that luxury (not that his paper could have made much sense to anyone with any sort of logic). I looked deep down inside myself and searched and searched?for all of half an hour, between my math homework and dinnertime, and I had nothing. There was no evidence of God in my life. My parents loved me, sure, but what parents don?t (godless, abusive pieces of shit excepted)? The world was a beautiful, complicated place, sure, but it wasn?t the watch of that old poem Mr Jenkins had us read, about the great watchmaker, or some such thing. Don?t get me wrong?that was a nice enough poem, but it didn?t have much more meaning for me than any of that Emily Dickinson stuff Miss Charles had us read in English, and I could barely stomach that stuff. I?d been blessed with plenty in my life, material goods and whatnot, and I got to live in the greatest country on the planet, but if that was supposed to count as evidence of the Lord?s presence in my life, did that mean all the starving nations of the world had done something to piss God off?

After dinner, I got back to my paper, and I asked myself, quite plainly, 'If you don't see evidence for God, why do you bother?' My immediate response was that my parents got me in private school and that was reason enough to bother. But, that answer didn?t hold up too well (and didn't turn into a whole page easy enough).

?What else do you believe in,? I asked myself. And, plenty of answers came to mind: that the Earth is round, that gravity makes things fall down, that Dana Sims? ass looked great in her PE shorts. But, what evidence did I have for any of that. Science books, and Mr Howe, told me the Earth was round and that bit about gravity. I hadn?t read anything about Dana Sims' ass in any schoolbooks, but I'd noticed plenty of other guys staring too, so I figured the literary mention would just come later. So, science books told me the Earth was round. What told me God existed, that he created us all and was waiting up in Heaven for us?

And, there I had it. The Bible told me that. And, all the teachers at Saint Tommy told me that. And, my parents told me that. I got out a fresh piece of paper and started writing. And, I had a page soon enough, going on about all the classes I?d had there at Saint Tommy since my parents had gotten me in, and all the sermons I?d had to listen to (though, in my paper, I didn?t word it like it was a chore) week to week when I?d been going to public school. And, I thought it was a genuinely good paper, an honest assessment of why I believed in God.

But, Mr Jenkins didn?t like it one bit when I read it aloud in class the next day. He even seemed to be toying with the notion of sending me to Principal Weathers? office, though he didn?t voice this notion to the class. He looked like he could send me to the Principal?s office or pray to God to strike me down right then and there or get the rest of the class to stone me. But, instead, he told me to sit down and said nothing more.

Later, my parents would get a call, and they?d sit me down after dinner that night to discuss ?things.? They did most of the discussing. I mostly just sat there and took it. I nodded appropriately in places and said yes sir, and no ma?am and promised to do my best in school (seems, my paper had scored me an F?how fair is that?). And, they wanted me to take part in more activities at school, maybe even go to our church?s summer camp program when the school year was out, to find the Lord in my life again. I told them He was in my life and I didn?t need summer camp and I?d pull all my grades up, they?d see.

And, somehow, I ended up in speech club and trying out for our school?s basketball team. I got stuck as the records keeper, with a small chance I might play sometime, if half the rest of our team fell over dead, for example. I got to go to the away games, and hear Coach Miller?s inspirational speeches in the bus on the way. And, he asked for my help in getting some other students involved in upping school spirit (his wording, not mine). So, I got a couple kids together, nerdy kids mostly, and we put together some posters and banners and arranged for at least a few of us to go to each away game, and all of us to be at every home game, to cheer our team on to victory. It should be noted that our school didn?t have any actual cheerleaders due to some complaints a few years before about how ungodly it was for the girls to be showing off their bodies and dancing seductively in front of an audience?initially, I thought that was a silly way of describing cheerleading, but, then again, the girls were fairly hot in those little skirts and tight sweaters.

So, anyway, to digress a bit, the point guard was a guy by the name of John Claremont. People tended to call him Johnny when cheering him on. But, one night, a silly little notion got in my head and I made a new poster. We?ve got the mighty JC on our side, it said, JC referring to Johnny, of course, but also Christ. Clever me, right? I even went as far as to put a crown of thorns on the big block letters J and C and the T in mighty made a fine crucifix. And, I put that poster in with the others for the game the next day after school.

We were playing against Delphi that day. We beat them most of the time pretty easily, so, of our ?spirit squad? (as Coach Miller was apt to call it, though I wasn?t the only one of us who didn?t like the name), I was the only one going to that particular away game. I took my new poster and a couple others and got on the bus with the rest of the team and off we went.

And, midway through the first half, I raised up my newest poster. At first, I don?t think anyone even noticed it. Away game and all, the audience wasn?t too interested in what I was holding up. But, one old lady spotted it and took offense. Funny thing was, when she came over to Coach Miller during halftime, her big complaint was that the ?mighty JC? was on all our sides, and we had no exclusive claim to him. That made me laugh a little. She didn?t get the pun, and that was okay. Coach Miller, though, got it, and he didn?t like it. ?That?s blasphemy, Spencer,? he said.

?How?s it blasphemy??

?You?re taking the Lord?s name in vain.?

?I am not.?

?Your poster is. You?ve ascribed JC, which everybody knows stands for Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, to Johnny, and that just won?t do. You throw that poster way right this minute and you and I will be having some words on the bus home.?

?But, it?s not blasphemy.?

?A crown of thorns and a crucifix and it?s not blasphemy? I don?t know about you, Spencer. I don?t think we need you on this team anymore, and I really think the spirit squad could do without this kind of thing as well.?

?I started the damn spirit squad.?

?You watch you language, son. And, I started the spirit squad. You just managed it. And, I mean managed, past tense. ?Cause, you?re out. I don?t even want you on this bench anymore. You throw that filth away and you find a seat in the bleachers. Your parents will be hearing about this.?

?Hearing about what? All I did was make a poster.?

?Oh, I know all about you, Spencer,? Coach Miller replied after a heavy sigh. Victor Jenkins has made us all quite aware of your proclivities.?

?My proclivities?? What the hell was he talking about, my proclivities? And, Mr Jenkins had made them all aware? What did that mean? Had Mr Jenkins spread copies of my paper around to all the faculty? Had they all been warned of the godless boy in their midst? Was that why Coach Miller had assigned me to the spirit squad in the first place, to help pull me back into the Jesus fold?

?Not now! Get away from this bench.? The team was gathering, and Coach Miller pulled them all together for a group prayer. More than one of them stole sideways glances at me as I walked away, offending poster in hand. Johnny Claremont looked a little disgusted when he looked my way.

I threw the poster in the trash and found a seat in the bleachers. More than a few times, I noticed Coach Miller looking my way and shaking his head. We won the game, as expected.

Through the second half, I tried to come up with something to tell him to make up for what I?d done. Thing was, though, I didn?t have a problem with what I?d done. I believed in God ?cause people had been telling me to for years. I didn?t place some great value on his initials, and I thought my poster was quite clever. And, who did Coach Miller think he was, anyway, getting mad at me for saying Christ was on our side when he prayed before each game that the good Lord would guide us to play our best and win (oh yeah, he always mentioned winning, not just playing our best)?

Of course, ?who do you think you are? didn?t seem like a good opener. So, when Coach Miller sat down by me in the bus, I didn?t say anything at all at first.

?What do you have to say for yourself,? he asked me.

And, I said the first thing that came to my mind, I swear. ?What if,? I said, ?I told you that I believed Johnny Claremont was our Savior come back to help us have a winning season??

Coach Miller looked like I?d just shot him, pale as a sheet, motionless, his mouth wide with shock. After several minutes, he got up and found another seat. I didn?t get the chance to talk to him after that. He was the first one off the bus when we got back to the school.

My parents were there, waiting to drive me home. And Mr Jenkins was there?his son, Hank was on the team. Coach Miller waved to Mr Jenkins, motioning for him to come, then marched right over to my parents. I tried to hurry out of the bus, to prevent whatever was about to happen out there, but the team was taking its time gathering its belongings and exiting the bus, and I wasn?t big enough to push the various players out of the aisle so I could get out.

When I finally did get out, Principal Weathers was there with Coach Miller, Mr Jenkins and my parents. And, my parents didn?t look one bit happy. They both were glaring at me as I approached, though they seemed to also be listening to Coach Miller, recounting the horror of what I had done all over again for Principal Weathers no doubt. They didn?t say a word to me. My father grabbed my shoulder, squeezed it hard, and led me to the car, put me into the backseat. My mother got into the passenger seat and broke down in tears as my father started the car.

?What just happened,? I asked.

My father snapped his head around and glared at me. ?I?d keep it to myself if I was you,? he said. ?No need to dig in any deeper.?

?Dig what any deeper? I don?t??

His glare went up a notch as far as the seriousness and anger, and I swallowed any words that were left in my mouth.

There was a meeting the next day, between all those involved, Coach Miller, Principal Weathers, Mr Jenkins, my mom and dad, and me, though I kept as quiet as I could. I didn?t say a word as they argued about what could be done about me, whether a special program might help, whether summer camp might help, whether there was even any hope for me at all? this last one being the one they spent the most time on.

I was suspended for three days. But, that night, it was decided that it would be extended to two weeks. The next day, it was decided that that wasn?t enough. I had to go.

I go to public school again now. It?s not so bad. They don?t ask me to write papers about God. And, that?s about the best thing I can ask for from a school, these days.