Put on your church genes

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From the time that I was still being knit together in my mother’s womb with some defective parts God had left over after making my big brother (he made me write that part), I’ve been attending Southern Baptist churches.

In fact, one of the first known photos of me was taken on a Sunday morning in 1970 when I had recently been de-wombed and my mother was posing with me in the front yard, both of us wearing heavily-polyestered church clothes.

So I guess you could say that I grew up with red Vacation Bible School Kool-Aid coursing through my veins, and my Southern Baptist heritage has had a profound impact on my worldview–including the high value I place on a 9 X 13 casserole dish.

Here are a few signs that you, too, were raised in the nap-proof wooden pews of Southern Baptist (or similar) churches in the 1970s and 80s.

First, you were always excited about the prospects of a trip to the fellowship hall–because it usually involved red Kool-Aid and/or several 9 X 13 casserole dishes.

And speaking of food, you knew that “dinner on the grounds” was a sacred form of congregational picnic that featured, you guessed it, red Kool-Aid and several 9 X 13 casserole dishes.

And speaking of more food, you knew that when the Lord’s Supper was being administered in “big church,” the sermon might be a little shorter, and the Dallas Cowboys were probably playing at noon.

And speaking of even more food, you considered stale Certs mints and Clorets gum from your mother’s purse appetizers to get you through that fourth verse of “Just as I Am” before you headed to the fellowship hall, dinner on the grounds or home for a lunch that was probably baked in a 9 X 13 casserole dish.

Before any meal, you could say a blessing in the King James version because you could use “Thee,” “Thou,” Thine” and “Thy” without sounding like Daffy Duck.

During “big church,” you could do amazing sketch art with one of those eraserless pew pencils and the back of a complimentary tithing envelope.

When you ran out of tithing envelopes, you could play about 50 games of tic-tac-toe in the margins of the church bulletin with your dad when your mom­­­­–and the preacher – weren’t looking.

You knew the first, second and last stanzas of almost every selection in the official Baptist Hymnal – located in the back of the pew right next to the improvised art supplies. (The hymnal also served as an excellent lap desk for tithing envelope sketch art and tic-tac-toe.)

You also knew that “God,” “Jesus,” “Pray,” “Read your Bible” and “Go to church” were the correct answers to approximately 90% of all Sunday School teacher questions.

When the choir director told the congregation to “make a joyful noise unto the Lord,” some of us only paid attention to the “noise” part.

Seriously, though, I feel truly blessed that my parents exposed me to the gospel shared in church when I was growing up. I’ve often heard that going to church doesn’t make you a believer any more than standing in a garage makes you a car. But for the sake of protection, repair and general maintenance, a garage seems like pretty good place for a car.

And for an imperfect human like me, the church has been instrumental in helping me to stay aligned, balanced, and all those other car metaphors I might know if I wasn’t so automotively challenged.

A recent Gallup study showed that since 1999, church membership in the U.S. has dropped by a full 20%, which seems to explain quite a bit about the times in which we live. And although churches aren’t perfect places full of perfect people, America might be a different country if more folks still attended church, loved one another and recognized the value of a 9 X 13 casserole dish.

Copyright 2022 Jase Graves distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Graves is an award-winning humor columnist from East Texas. His columns have been featured in Texas Escapes magazine, The Shreveport Times, The Longview News Journal, and The Kilgore News Herald. Contact Graves at [email protected].