“Does everyone get to go to heaven?” a kid asked in my CCD class, the weekly bible study for kids.
The instructor, that day was a father of a classmate, answered solemnly. I admired him, because he was an airline pilot. That was a cool job to my 11 year old self. But my imagination of flying high above cities and oceans was abruptly halted when he answered, “No, not everybody. Only those who believe in God. Specifically Christians.”
A discomfort grew in my belly. A fire, perhaps, that spread from my inside to my limbs, to my finger tips, up my neck, up my scalp. It didn’t seem right. Heaven was supposed to be for all good people. Yet what was good if it was so narrowly defined by beliefs. I wasn’t sure if I believed in God then. I was following everybody else in my scared, fearful way. But I had decided way before I was 11 that morality is about equality. After all, that’s what all the movies said. That’s what TV said. The instructor, no longer a role model, was an adult spewing nonsense. Back then, it was the first time, but not the last, that I didn’t trust what an adult said.
Yet I said nothing. My eyes narrowed. And I knew then that I couldn’t finish the rites of passage. Even if it meant that I could be like everybody else.
Chris told me once that he wanted to believe, but heard nothing. I never heard anything. But it wasn’t that lack of action that dissuaded me from staying with a religion. It was the hypocrisy that I heard when I was 11.