Validating heaven

Ed Smith
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When I was a child, I was forced to tell the truth about whether or not I went to Sunday School on any given Sunday.
Consider a beautiful summer's afternoon when the sun was warm and the girls were in their frilly dresses and the boys in their new long pants, and the air was thick with temptation for other activities.
Who wanted to waste an hour listening to stories about the various Johns in the Bible? I always got them mixed up, anyway. There was one fellow who was dressed in seal skins and ate beeswax. Another John acted like his main diet was magic mushrooms because he kept seeing things, and worse still, writing about them. Then there was the fellow we called Sissy John because in the big picture of everyone sitting around the table at Easter, he looked like a girl.
Actually, you were as well off in Sunday school because you weren't allowed to do anything more interesting. You couldn't go swimming in the brook. You weren't allowed to go catching tomcods off the government wharf or the stagehead. You weren't allowed to pick berries. You weren't allowed to play ball.
We learned early that there were more don'ts levied against Sunday than were covered by the 10 Commandments and Leviticus combined.
We learned a little later there were interesting things to do that strangely, neither your parents nor the Sunday School had mentioned. At the time we thought that was because no one had thought to tell us, but later we realized it was because they were afraid to discuss such things with us.
At any rate, off to Sunday School we trudged like good little Christians with decidedly heathen yearnings in our hearts - sometimes for the brook, sometimes for the berry hills and sometimes for each other. The latter weren't indulged that much because most of us knew God would get you good and proper if you did that stuff on a Sunday.
Our parents had no such qualms and were more than happy to get the kids out of the house for an hour or two on a Sunday afternoon.
In a small community where everyone knew everyone else inside and out, one of the Sunday School teachers was sure to tell your mother in church that night if you weren't there that afternoon.
Since explaining where you were would be more difficult and perhaps more dangerous than actually being there, most of us simply went along and sang some really silly lines such as "Dropping, dropping, dropping, dropping/Hear the pennies fall/Every one for Jesus/He shall have them all". That was really stupid because we knew the money was supposed to go to Darkest Africa to save the souls of little heathen children and not to Jesus.
The souls of heathen children, we decided, came pretty cheap when they only cost pennies to save. We didn't know at the time that little heathen children who had been dragged across the seas generations earlier to slave in the cotton plantations of the American South were valued about the same as we treasured sculpin.
I don't know what we would have thought had we known. That might have been a Sunday school lesson worth the learning.
My thoughts were steered in this direction because of something I saw in the news today. I normally don't pay much attention to things that happen in Catholic churches in Poland but this sort of caught my eye.
It seems in order to be eligible for confirmation classes in this particular Church, a child must attend mass a minimum number of times. If the quota isn't met, the youngster has to write an exam in order to qualify for confirmation.
I don't know what happens if the kid flunks the exam. I suppose it's reasonable to want someone who's about to join your organization to know something about it.
Anyway, the priest in this church has come up with a novel way to make sure he knows who's attending mass and who isn't. Previously he had each child simply sign in, but that, of course, is subject to abuse. You can sign for me and I can sign for you and vice versa.
So what has the good father done? He's fingerprinted every last kid and when they come to church has them press their thumbs against something or other as evidence that they indeed had been there.
I think the fingerprinting idea could be incorporated into churches in our own part of the world. Let me explain how.
There's probably not a clergy person in any small church anywhere who doesn't know who makes up the regular congregation, face by face. But it's different in larger churches where the congregation is measured in hundreds rather than fractions thereof.
How will they know who's there and who isn't? The answer would seem to be fingerprinting. As you go in the door you press your thumb on an ink pad and then on some kind of register.
After the service, the prints are checked electronically, just like at the police station, and the results sent to the minister. The more credits you get for attending church, the less you have to fork over in church givings. And the less it costs for hatching, matching and being put under fees.
It would be nice if there were some way to accumulate credits for the Other Side, too, because there are those who believe strongly that you're better off in the afterlife by going to church all the time down here. Therefore any process that validates your attendance can't be all bad.
The fingerprints could also be used in these terrorist times to identify bona fide churchgoers.. You simply slide your print under the church door and if they identify it, they open the door and let you in.
It may be an idea whose time has come.

Geographic location: Darkest Africa, Poland

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