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more belief

And we're back. As I see it, the third stage of belief (I'm not Kubler-Rossing here; her stages are progressively therapeutic. To my way of thinking the first stage of belief would be the ideal), after Enthusiasm and Zeal, is Bigotry. My way or no way. I love it, and everything else stinks. If Zeal is Enthusiasm on drugs, Bigotry is Enthusiasm after it has overdosed. There is nothing left to say.

Which brings me, finally, to (not her name) Kathy. On morning before class, back in the World Religions segment of high school history, she pulled me aside and whispered intensely, Why don't you accept Christ as the son of God? Now, I was happy to have Kathy's attention, because she was a nice-looking girl. But I had no idea where her question came from. Huh? I said, inanely. You, Richard. (Her eyes flashed. She had masses of dark hair, which she pushed away from her forehead. My heart went pit-a-pat.) Why can't your people accept Christ? My people? What she was talking about? Come on, you're Jewish, right? Why can't you accept Christ? Don't you want to be saved?

I don't know why she'd picked me. It was a downtown high school -- lots of different faiths in our class. A couple of guys wore kippot, for heaven's sake. Me, I had been brought up a strict atheist, so the notion of adherence to any faith was odd. The closest I had come to Judaism was playing Shylock in our production of Merchant of Venice. But what should I say to Kathy? I didn't want to cop out and deny being Jewish. And yet she was awfully pretty.

In the end I took her hand in mine, and stared into her deep blue eyes. Maybe, I said, you could ... help me find Christ, Kathy. Then I couldn't help myself. I burst out laughing. She flushed and turned away, and I never had another intimate moment with her. (Kipling talks about the inopportune mirth of the artistic temperament. I don't know about artistic, but I sure have the timing.) Kathy was not a Nazi, or even a terribly bad person. She cared about my soul. But she was a bigot, and it's such an unattractive form of belief.


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