“Please allow me to introduce myself, I’m a man of wealth and taste. I’ve been around for a long, long year, stole many a mans soul and faith.” – The Rolling Stones
Mobility issues make it obvious that I am disabled, which sometimes make me a target for mission-minded evangelicals – especially in the grocery store. If you think being approached by these people in the grocery store is rare, then you need to spend some time in my world. In fact, one day you should borrow a wheelchair (don’t use the ones the store provides) and go grocery shopping. The grocery store it is a favorite venue for the local mission-minded evangelicals to “go fishing for men,” and when the spot a cripple, well you’d think they just had a spontaneous orgasm…
Cleanup On Aisle Six…
So, I was in Kroger the other day, riding around in the handicap scooter, happily searching for a few things to bridge the gap until our regular shopping day. It was pretty late at night, and I was in the wine aisle looking for a bottle of Moscato when a woman approached me and asked me if I knew Jesus. I really wasn’t in the mood to have this conversation at midnight, so I politely told her I was an atheist, but thanks for asking.
Of course, she couldn’t let it go. She asked me if I knew who Jesus is. Biting my tongue at her totally improper use of a third-person singular present indicative of “be,” I politely told her that I am very familiar with Christianity, and having spent a considerable number of years as a Christian, decided that it just wasn’t for me. I chose my wine and rolled on to the bread aisle.
We’re On A Mission From God…
While contemplating whether or not I wanted to test the waters of Buttermilk bread (there was a great sale, a dollar a loaf), I noticed Ms. Church Lady rounding the corner between the doughnuts and the enticing display of Entenmann’s cakes. I guess she couldn’t resist, because she headed straight toward me – as if she was on a mission… Imagine that.
The sad thing is I had a pretty good idea of what she was going to say. Turns out I was spot on. I’ve written a lot about my disabilities in the past, and how the religious usually approach the subject of my condition once they find out that I am not only an atheist, but also a former believer.
Ms. Church Lady did not disappoint, and had apparently spent the time between the wine aisle and the bread isle rehearsing her spiel. Unbeknownst to her, there are very few things in my life that incense me more than a believer telling me that my disability is a punishment from god. This, combined with the fact that grocery store evangelicals are one rung below door-to-door evangelists on my ladder of the most annoyingly invasive people in the known universe, was a sure sign that the impending conversation was not going to go very well. Not for her, anyway.
Ms. Church Lady felt it totally appropriate to tell me, a complete stranger, that God is punishing me or has allowed the symptoms of my disability to continue to ravage my body to “get my attention” so that I may once again place my faith in him and allow him to “heal me” so that I may be a testimony to his awesome greatness, blah, blah, blah… I was not amused.
Same Old Song And Dance…
This is, by far, not the first time that a local evangelical has made a correlation between my disabilities and my lack of faith. Usually, though, they know who I am. I had initially thought she recognized me because I’ve been in the local news a lot this past week. However, she gave no indication at all that she had any clue as to who I was. This only served to piss me off more, and not due to vanity, but because it takes a special set of balls for someone to approach a total stranger in a wheelchair whom they know nothing about, and upon finding out that they are not one of the brainwashed battalion, to proceed to diagnose their illness as a divine bitch slap.
My politeness was quickly slipping away as this woman spiraled deeper down the rabbit hole of redundant batshittery in her insinuation that I bear responsibility for being a cripple because I turned my back on god, who caused my illnesses as a punishment for abandoning my faith because I was mad at God for allowing me to be a cripple, which I brought on myself because I had turned my back on God.
I stared at this woman, mouth agape a la David Silverman, wondering how the hell she managed to get through life without winning a gold medal for Olympian mental gymnastics, along with a special ribbon (complete with a shiny gold seal) for excellence in ignorance of her offer to pray for me to “see the light” and “come home to Jesus” so that I may be healed.
As I said, I was in no mood for this shit at midnight, in Kroger. I seriously considered de-corking my Moscato and emptying the entire bottle down my gullet before I offered her a hale and hardy “fuck off,” but thought it useless given the difficulty to hear anything when your ears are blocked off by the walls of your own anus.
Normally, I would have lit into her with one of my famous Hitchenesque diatribes about her religious ignorance toward the disabled and how Christian doctrine has been a detriment to medical research. I considered pointing out the ridiculousness of thinking that someone can be angry at a being they do not acknowledge to even exist, and how childish it is to believe in magic. I contemplated telling her exactly what I thought about her condemnations and judgments and wondered if I were able to recall Dr. Dawkins’ description of God being,
“…arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”
Not Tonight, Dear…
But I wasn’t in the mood, having been preoccupied with the rumblings in my stomach. So, I resorted to holding my tongue and told her it was nice chatting with her but I had to be rolling on. She insisted on giving me a tract, which had the name of the church she was evangelizing for. I happily traded her for one of my “Georgia State Director for American Atheists, Inc.” business cards, which after reading she said, and I quote, “Oh, my! You’re one of Satan’s henchmen!” She turned away, I grabbed my loaf of Buttermilk bread and headed for the self-checkout line.
I went home and enjoyed a few slices of toasted buttermilk bread, topped with some bleu cheese and a glass of wine, chuckling to myself at the likelihood that on Sunday morning Ms. Church Lady will give her testimony about how she did battle with a genuine demon in the bread aisle of Kroger, barely making it out alive, but managing to get the word of God (in the form of a Chick tract) into the hands of Satan, himself.