Wrestling With God

Paul Gauguin, La Vision après le sermon (The Vision After the Sermon), 1888

by Alaina Symanovich

  1. For years, I’ve been saying I’m writing an essay collection about God.
  2. (I’ve never in my life attempted an essay about God.)
  3. I’ve gotten as far as deciding that I should give God his capital G, but that’s more of an aesthetic choice than a spiritual epiphany. (It’s also because, in some garbled memory, a Sunday School teacher warned me never to capitalize satan’s name, lest he think I respect him.  (If God is out there somewhere, contouring his cheekbones with stardust or playing hacky-sack with comets, I don’t dare punctuate disrespectfully.))
  4. A significant hiccup in my God-essay venture is probably my reticence to ponder all things religious. God occupies the compartment of my mind reserved for such information as my BMI, my bank statement, and my daily aspartame consumption.
  5. In other words, God is unbearable to know.
  6. But God can exist without my knowledge/recognition/acceptance/capitalization. God is not the hypothetical tree falling in the forest.
  7. (Unless he is.)
  8. In which case, my capitalization’s all that stands between him and—
  9. (Microsoft Word dares me to fill this blank. It’s impossible to leave a line in a Word-formatted list blank; if I press “return” to skip to #10, the list aborts, serving me a left-justified cursor pulsing with judgment.  The only way to achieve blankness is to insert text and change its color to white.  But a white-colored wannabe-blank question mark will always be a white-colored wannabe-blank question mark—no matter what a hoodwinked reader sees, no matter what tree falls in which forest.)
  10. The night I lost my virginity, my virginity-taker queued an old George Carlin set on his laptop. The virginity-taker’s grins raced—and beat—Carlin’s punchlines as Carlin railed: “Religion has actually convinced people that there’s an invisible man [audience laughter] living in the sky who watches everything you do every minute of every day, and the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do [audience laughter].  And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever ’til the end of time.  But he loves you! [audience laughter] He loves you…He loves you, and he needs money!”
  11. I always picture God as straight, white, cis, male.
  12. (Okay, okay—and Republican.)
  13. The virginity-losing was like getting my braces tightened at the orthodontist’s: awkward, a little painful, one of those rites of passage I’m relieved to have behind me.
  14. (Though orthodontia has proven to be a far better investment of my time and effort.)
  15. Maybe it’s wrong to think of sex when I think of God. (It’s certainly wrong to think of sex when one thinks of Republicans.)  But maybe the type of God worth having has an off-color sense of humor, a penchant for scotch, and a backpack full of dildos (because he cares about his queer daughters).
  16. Maybe this treatment of God lacks solemnity, but I was a solemn, churchgoing child, and I don’t know how to be that demure anymore. Like the apostle Paul said: “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”  When I was a child, I watched Glee in secret and gasped when the cast performed the sacrilegious songs “Losing My Religion” and “One of Us.” But instead of putting away those sin-soaked images, I went to bed wanting to have sex with Quinn (Dianna Agron).
  17. (I still do.)
  18. Joan Osbourne: “If God had a face, what would it look like? And would you want to see, if seeing meant you had to believe in things like heaven and in Jesus and the saints and all the prophets?”
  19. That’s an apt phrase, Joan—“had to believe.” I’d rather no God exist than chance being saddled with an awful God.  Like, what if God turns out to be an old curmudgeon who condones racism or sexism or xenophobia or homophobia? I.e., what if God turns out to be exactly who Republicans say he is?  Then what’s a girl with a conscience to do? As Job’s wife said, “curse God and die”?  Or, as Republicans say (and I’m paraphrasing here), “curse women/POC/the gays and live”?
  20. What I was paraphrasing was “Make America Great Again.”
  21. God’s problematic if he comes with humans.
  22. (I’m not nearly as hardcore an atheist as I am a misanthropist.)
  23. Take modern Judeo-Christians out of the equation and I don’t know where I stand on God. Maybe he’s rad. Maybe his followers are, too. Maybe they’re a big merry bunch of misanthropists together.  (That’s an oxymoron. Right? Not a paradox? I can never remember.)
  24. Or maybe God’s people (whoever they are—the Buddhists, the Muslims, the Rastafarians—do any of the religions have it right?)—maybe they’re like Crossfitters: unblinking, white-teethed, a little unhinged. Or—scarier—maybe they’re the manic Atkins devotees who won’t even eat broccoli because of the excess carbs. Maybe they’re the righteous vegans in Whole Foods, or the hangry juice-cleansers, or the smug intermittent fasters. Whoever God’s people are, they’re probably arrogant in the way of all humans who’re convinced they’ve unlocked The Answer.
  25. (But is The Answer worth the asceticism?)
  26. What if we could all just agree that there’s no Answer? What if we discarded The Question, put on our fat pants, and went to Olive Garden? What if we just lived?
  27. Then I guess we’d have nothing to fight about.
  28. (Would we have anything to write about?)

Alaina Symanovich holds an MA in English from Penn State University and is pursuing an MFA in Creative Nonfiction at Florida State University. Her work has appeared in Sonora Review, Superstition Review, Little Patuxent Review, and other journals.


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