Sharpley and son revisited

“Better get a move on Paul – we’ll be late for church.”

“Uhh… if you don’t mind, Dad, I’d rather stay home.”

“Hmmm – hold on a second, Son… Grace! I’ve got an issue here – you go on with the girls and we’ll catch you up! Now, what’s the problem, Paul? You’ve never missed church before.”

“Well. To be honest, I just can’t believe in what goes on there week by week any more.”

“Surely you’ve not lost your faith, Paul? You were so keen to get baptized only last year.”

“Oh no, Dad, nothing like that. I still believe in Jesus, and the cross, and the resurrection. It’s just all the superstitious stuff I have problems with.”

“What? Do you mean evolution, Adam and Eve and all that? A lot of young people struggle with that one they get to start A-level science: I did myself at your age. But you shouldn’t let it be that much of a stumbling-block.”

“It isn’t – not that. That book of yours by that bloke Swamidass helped me to see ways round any conflict there. No, it’s more the mumbo-jumbo we go through every Sunday. It just sticks in my throat.”

“What on earth do you mean? We’re a Free Evangelical church, not a Tridentine Catholic outfit with bells, smells and a Latin mass! Personally I could do with a little more reverence and formality, not less.”

“I think I could handle candles and incense, at a pinch. At least they make some religious sense. No it’s the other stuff – the handwashing, the face-masks, sitting 6 feet away from each other…”

“Oh – you mean the COVID safeguards! Well, that’s just following the denominational recommendations to be safe. It’s based on science. And in any case it’s only temporary, not a part of what we believe.”

“But we’ve been doing it for six years now – I can hardly remember a time when we didn’t. It’s as bad as school. And you’ve got to admit people at church would get more upset if I came into a service without a mask than if I walked in arm in arm with another fellow. We’ll tolerate all kinds of wacko beliefs – and I’ve heard some weirdies in your house group – but breach social distancing and you’ll be hauled up before a church meeting, I shouldn’t wonder. Except that nobody’s ever dared do it.”

“I don’t know what to say…”

“And you talk about the science. That’s what’s got under my skin. You know Mr Barber, my biology teacher, always teaches me to look up primary research sources? He’s been showing me some of the science that was done even before, and certainly during, the virus thing back in 2020, and it shows that the masks, the distancing, the handwashing, the swabbing down of chairs, and all that stuff, was debunked right from the start. But nobody ever mentions that, and the church seems to take it all on board like mediaeval indulgences and the infallibility of the Pope. Incidentally, Mr Barber told me not to mention it to anyone – he likes me, but he says he’ll lose his job if they knew he was teaching real science. That’s like the Salem witch trials, and my own church is going along with it.”

“Wow! It has got under your skin. And if I think about it, I can’t blame you. Or Mr Barber. I’ve just got so used to it now I take it for granted.”

“Yeah – well you’re an old man, and you didn’t miss a year at primary school and seeing your friends like we did. Maybe I have more motive to question things. But it is superstition, because we even give it priority over Scripture. I just don’t believe that a cream-cracker and a grape in a plastic bag are ‘one loaf, and one cup.’ Jesus wasn’t crucified in a plastic bag.”

“I take your point. What’s the answer then? It isn’t any more Scriptural to stay by yourself at home, is it?”

“No, you’re right, as usual. My friend Brian – you know, the other Christian at school – says he’s going to this little group that meets in a house, you know, without publicizing it. They’ve ditched all the medical rituals, and he says they just have morning services in the old way. Most of them are C of E, I think, and they use the Prayer Book and sing old hymns – in the same room. He says it’s great.”

“Interesting. I suppose you know where these heretics meet? Do you think they’d welcome a couple of outsiders?”

The original Sharpley and Son, illustrated by Sue Ducat, appeared in 2005 and is linked here. Doug and Paul haven’t aged a bit…

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About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
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