Dirty Word"Dear children, let us stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions."
John 3:18 NLT
When you're a nice, Irish Catholic schoolgirl, and it's 1969, you don't just go around dating random Baptist boys.
Not that I hadn't seen it happen beforeI had. My own Uncle Francisstill fresh off the boat!hooked up with a seemingly wholesome Baptist girl who'd been raised on a farm, no less. The second he said "I do," she started shouting "Oh, no, you don't!"
It turned out my aunt had unreasonably high behavioral expectations for her new husband, things like "No Smoking!" and "No Gambling!" and "No Dancing!" Francis tried to clean up his act to suit her finely-tuned Protestant sensibilities, but it pained him no end.
He felt the very essence of his inborn Catholicity draining out of him each time he snuffed out a Lucky Strike at her insistance or passed up the chance for a whisky with Father McInerny.
The clincher was when the familyFrancis's siblings and their progenyfound out that my aunt had been systematically destroying, before poor Francis could open his mail, all invitations to weddings and other occasions where frivolity would certainly take place.
"How could she keep him away from his own family like that?" we asked among ourselves. "Oh, well...that's what he gets for marrying a Baptist."
So it must have been more an act of charity than anything else when I found myself, during my sophomore year at St. Teresa's Academy (For Young Christian Women), dating a tall, red-haired senior who not only attended public school, but was also a diehard Baptist.
If it hadn't been for the fact that my best friend Beth and I worked for St. Luke's Hospital (which also wasn't Catholic, and why didn't that alone tell us something?) passing out dinner trays to patients, we never would have met the guys.
Larry was a cute blonde whose leg was mangled badly enough in a motorcycle accident that he had the casted appendage suspended with pulleys over his hospital bed for a couple of weeks. He and Beth hit it off right away, over a shared tray of meat loaf and canned peaches and succatash, if I remember right.
Shouldn't even the idea of peas unnaturally mixed up with cubed carrots make a Catholic girl in 1969 remember to ask, "Hey, no offense or anything, Larry, but you're not a Baptist, are you?"
But Beth was the very definition of compassion, and she considered it her religious duty to nurse Larry back into a suitable-for-dating condition. Her ministry would not be considered complete until she had witnessed with her own eyes that Larry had been restored to his previous status as a hunka-hunka-burnin-love.
That's where I came in. Beth wasn't allow to car-date, unless she doubled, and neither was I. RussLarry's best Baptist friendhappened to be visiting Larry one evening when Beth and I made the rounds with spaghetti and meatballs, Wonder bread, and fruit cocktail.
Before Beth could pull the tabbed lid from Larry's tiny cup of vanilla ice cream, a sufficient number of sparks had flown across the bed between Russ and me to melt the stuff.
And so the ecumenical double-dating began.
I'm going to have to go ahead and admit at this point in my story that one night, we nearly went too far. We'd been dating several months by then, and the four of uswho all enjoyed the advantages of homes with an abundance of adult supervision, thank you very muchchose deliberately to drive Russ's sedan into the empty parking lot of a Jewish synagogue for purposes which can only be described as non-religious in nature.
At first, Russ and I talked in the front seat and Beth and Larry in the back, but you know how these things go. The talking died down and things got pretty quiet in the car for several minutes. Russ had drawn me closer to him on the bench seat and we'd exchanged as many kisses as it takes for the windows to become opaque.
Suddenly, I got the "oh-oh" feeling, only it wasn't from wandering hands, since Russ's weren't. No, it wasn't something he didit was something he said.
Right in the middle of the most wonderful Catholic/Baptist kiss you can imagine, he blurted out, "So, do you tithe?"
"Do I WHAT?" I pulled away from him in revulsion. I had heard about guys like him, only he'd had me fooled. Russ had pretended to be such a gentleman until...this. "What kind of girl do you think I AM?"
Beth had heard the whole thing from the back seat and she whacked Larry several times for being best friends with someone as sick-o as Russ. "Take us home," she said, and Russknowing we meant businessstarted the engine.
I pulled out my Webster's in the privacy of my room, expecting the word "tithe" to mean something so disgusting that neither Daniel nor any of his successors would have dared to define it in print.
Needless to say, I was...surprised. And poor Russ, who must have believed my failure of his litmus test to be a sign from God about the ill-fated future of our relationship, never called again.
But that single question, put to me in good faith by a teen-aged tither, changed my life forever. Amazingly, a conscientious Baptist boy turned me on to the myriad of God-ordained acts of charity that can be accomplished through the simple decision to give away a tenth of my income.
And to think I thought it was an act of charity to date a Baptist.
Posted by Katy on 12/31/04 at 10:09 AMFallible Comments...
Page 1 of 1 pages