Fake WorshipI’ve been thinking about an encounter I had with a lady at my cousin’s funeral last week. For context, I just want to say that when you’re outside of all major religious thought and practice, you learn to recognize “high-steppers” early on. All faiths have them. These are the people who are as convinced of their own piety as they are of your likely damnation. These are the people who swoop down upon the hurting and the grieving like vultures to take advantage of weakened states, cajoling the suffering admonitions that only God, Allah, the Goddess, etc, can ease their pain. I had a guy at my mother’s funeral tell me that if I ever wanted to see my mother again, I should get right with The Lord. He seemed genuinely shocked when I told him, “I’ve never responded well to extortion.”

Anyway, back to the lady at hand. Needless to say, this lady was a high-stepper. That’s the phrase I’ve always used for people who are impressed by their own piety, and make a show of it. My wife has a better, but longer, phrase. She calls them “people who are too heavenly-minded to be any Earthly good.” You know ’em when you see ’em. They pray a lot. They preach a lot. But they don’t do much, except go around pissing people off with their presumptions that they know more about God that anyone else.

Well, this particular lady I really only know because she has, through the years, seemed obsessed with harassing some of my cousins in North Carolina on their Facebook profiles. I’ve bumped heads with her many times. Mostly because she thought she could light in on me like she did everybody else when I said something she didn’t like, but then got indignant when I wasn’t having it. And yeah, I’ve taken up for my cousins on occasion (who’ve largely been too polite to tell this lady to mind her own business). You know the type. She wants to say her piece, but thinks you’re disrespectful when you say yours.

Anyway, with all that being said, while I was at the church last week, wandering around trying to find out exactly what I was supposed to be doing and where I was supposed to be as a pallbearer, I wound up talking to a cousin who standing with a couple of older ladies. My cousin introduced me, and one of the ladies literally said, “Oh, REALLY?”

Yeah. It was THAT lady. Lacking basic class and dignity, she went on to say, “So YOU’RE the one I keep arguing with on Facebook?”

I thought, “Great. THIS lunatic,” but instead said, “Yup. Nice to meet you.”

“Bet you didn’t expect to see me,” she snarked. She looked at the other lady, and said, “He doesn’t like me very much. We argue on Facebook a lot.”

I told her, “I don’t have a thing in the world against you.”

Between us, she’s not even a blip on my fucking radar. And she especially wasn’t that morning. As I spent that morning looking at my cousin laying in his coffin, and talking to the funeral directors about where I should be for the funeral and how we were to do what (I hadn’t been a pallbearer in almost 30 years), this lady’s existence never once crossed my mind.

I won’t bore you with the rest of the short conversation. Suffice it to say she seemed genuinely surprised that I didn’t scurry (like the cockroach she seems to think I am) under her righteous, withering glare. Sorry, but it’ll take more than a self-righteous high-stepper from a small, unimportant town in North Carolina to intimidate me. She basically said her piece in the expected condescending way, but sort of retreated when I told her something to the effect of, “I think it’s a damned shame people can’t have discussions anymore. I miss the old days when people could disagree and still get along.”

That was pretty much all there was to the encounter. I didn’t think another thing about it, or her, until after the funeral when I was heading back to my hotel room. Then it kind of made me mad. What sort of piece of shit shows up at a funeral talking smack? I wished I had said, “What the fuck is wrong with you, lady?”

In the end, I think the entire thing can be summed up by the fact that after I walked away from her, I didn’t think about her, or the conversation, a single time during the funeral or the graveside service which followed. She could have been standing on the other side of the canopy glaring at me the whole time for all I know. On that difficult day, the games of this petty little woman were meaningless to me. I not only didn’t give a single fuck that she might have ruffled feathers, but I never once even thought about her. At least not until I was headed back to the hotel room, when it struck me what an asshole thing it was for her to challenge somebody at a funeral. The only thing that mattered to me that day was my cousin in that coffin, and his grieving children, brother, and mother.

Sadly, I’ve known a lot of people just like that woman in my life. In regard to character, they’re always tiny, tiny people who inflate their own sense of worth by filling the vacuum in their skulls with religion. Without their obsessive focus on Jesus, or Muhammad, or whoever, there’s not much of a person there. People like her never send care packages to disaster areas, but they sure make a big show of praying about it. Yeah. I’ve met her like before. Many times. As ever, I remain unimpressed.

Anyway, here’s to the lady who went out of her way to be an asshole at a funeral. What you did says a lot about you. All you did was demonstrate to me, in person, how shallow your faith is. In that one moment you couldn’t act with even a smidgen of grace. While you may wave that Bible around and quote scripture like it’s Shakespeare, you’ve proven to me that while you may follow a savior, you’ve never really met him.

I’m sure you’ll continue to harass my cousins on Facebook. You’re welcomed to. If they’re weak enough to fall for your predation, they’ve made their choices. For my part, I’m going back to forgetting you even exist. I’m glad you were given an opportunity to fluff up your sense of self-importance and righteousness. But to me you’re just a tiny lizard puffing yourself up to seem impressive, but only really pulling off “cute”. It’s sort of sad that someone so tiny thinks they matter so much. Between us, I’m a little ashamed I wasted this much time talking about you. But it’s not about you, is it? It’s about every encounter I’ve ever had with a high-stepper who thought they had some inside line to The Divine that no one else knows about.

Yeah. I’ve seen all this before. I’ve known your betters.

“If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.” ~ James 1:26