Nicia and her Evangelizing Ways!
There are certain people that one meets that are quickly forgotten. Others seem to be remembered for a lifetime. I will always remember Nicia, this short, pale Latina woman in her late thirties who belonged to a charismatic, fundamentalist, Christian denomination. One of her strange ideas was that the Garden of Eden was still intact and that one could still observe the angels guarding the way to the Tree of Life.
Well, every Saturday, on schedule, rain or shine, she would appear at our apartment as if it were just a regular neighborly visit. After making small talk, she’d divert the conversation to religion. Finally she would ask why we were not attending church again yet. You see, my parents had once been regular churchgoers of her denomination, but had stopped attending. In fact, it had been approx ten years since the last time they had been at church. So Nicia felt it her Christian duty to bring the lost sheep back into the fold just as Jesus had told his followers to do. That in itself, of course, was admirable. However, what wasn’t admirable was the way that she went about it.
“So when are you going to attend church?” she’d say gazing intently into my father’s haggard face as he’d immediately gaze away tiredly. You see, my father was extremely averse to word and idea repetitions. If you said it once, to him that was enough and any repetition was perceived as pestiferous. If the same phrase was used too often in a commercial on TV, he’d jump up from his seat and change the channel. So Nicia’s constant repetitions were definitely grating on his nerves.
“One of these days I will attend.” he’d utter looking as if he was slowly being led away to be guillotined or being subjected to the infamous Chinese dripping-water torture.
“Don’t you know that your immortal soul is in danger?”
“Yes, I know!” he’d respond tiredly with an expressionless face and unblinking eyes.
“Then why aren’t you attending church?” she'd say leaning her ruddy face towards him as they stood by the kitchen entrance as my mother was preparing dinner.
“Well, you know, the job has me getting home tired. I work like an animal eight hours a day. Sometimes overtime to make ends meet. You know?”
“There are others who are tired from working the whole day and they still attend church.” she'd shoot back.
“True, but maybe they don’t feel as tired as I do?”
“Really? Look! My husband comes home exhausted and the very first thing he does is grab his Bible, get the kids ready and go to church! He even encourages me to attend if he notices that I am tired.”
“Well that’s him and this is me.” he'd reply in a monotone.
“Maybe you do it because you don’t really appreciate what is involved?”
“Oh I know what is involved. I heard all the sermons before-you know?”
“But you apparently never appreciated them, If you had you would not be so calm about your situation”
“What situation is that?” he gazed at her tiredly as if fearing that his question would trigger a prolonged response with no end in sight.
“The situation that your behavior is taking you straight towards, the bowels of hell where you will roast forever along with your family. That's the situation!”
“Yes roast! You see that oil on the skillet over there?” she’d point to where my mother had set the skillet ntending to fry some pork chops.
“Ever burn your finger in the frying pan? Eh? Hurts doesn’t. it? Well, that’s just a finger. Now imagine your entire naked body emersed in boiling oil while you are screaming in agony but unable to get out, asking for mercy but getting none-not just for a few moments-but you know for how long? Eh? For eternity”
“Yes, I have heard that preached at Church before. You know, at the Rose of Sharon Church that we attended for two years back in New York about ten years ago.”
“Ah so you know eh? Then you really have no excuse. If you were ignorant, then you would have an excuse. But because you are not ignorant, and you know what you are doing, you will suffer the consequences of eternal damnation.”
By this time the large purple vein on Nicia’s pale neck would be throbbing something fierce, and her face would be beet-red while my father seemed calmer than before her sermon had started. In fact, he looked downright sleepy and on the verge of keeling over. Actually, it had absolutely nothing to do with Nicia nor her particular way of preaching. Why? Well, because for some strange reason, any mention of religion would seem to trigger sleepiness in my dad. He’d beenthusiastically watching a TV program, such as The Twilight Zone or Combat and would be 100% alert.
Suddenly, the film the King of Kings or Jesus of Nazareth or the The Ten Commandments would come on, and he’d immediately start getting drowsy. Amazingly, just moments later he'd be sound asleep.
So if he was staying awake with Nicia, it must have been an enormous effort on his part. In any case, she seemed completely oblivious to his growing drowsiness and would continue even more fervently:
“And you know what?" she'd continue, "Before he sends you to hell to burn forever, he will send monstrous animals to sting you. And your tongue, that tongue that refused to acknowledge him, that rebellious tongue that refused to offer him praise? That tongue will rot in your mouth. And your eyes? Those eyes that refused to see his holy truth? Eh? Those eyes will waste away in their sockets! So are you going to go to church now?” she'd say after finishing her sermon and about to leave.
“I will have to give it some thought!” was the calm response she always got from my father.
As a kid I always listened to all this and just couldn’t accept that a just God would fry people alive in the way Nicia described. I suspected that the reason my father was rejecting her warnings was that deep down inside he didn’t believe it either. Strangely, he never explained why he wasn’t moved by to Nicia’s gory warnings. Just sat down, asked when dinner would be served, and began reading his newspapers after she had left.