Friday, September 9, 2011

Encounter With a Door Knocker

© Linda Goodman 2011

              In September of 1971, I had been married for just over one year, and I was four months pregnant with my daughter, due to be born during the same month that I would be turning twenty.
                At four months, I was just pregnant enough that my clothes no longer fit.  I was a full-time student who had just been dismissed from my part-time job because I was pregnant (yes, that was legal in 1971), and my husband was a full time musician with a rock band.  On a good week, he brought home $15.00 (I didn’t say it was a successful rock band).
                There was no money to buy maternity clothes, so my sister, who was heavier than me, had given me a pair of her elastic-waist pants. That pair of pants, coupled with a few of my loose fitting shirts, was the only clothing that I could comfortably wear. 
                At a late morning hour, I was attempting to clean my small apartment without waking my husband, who was still sleeping off a late-night gig. A knock at the door interrupted me, and I opened the door to welcome a well-dressed older woman who said she was doing visitation for a church down the street from my house.  In other words, she was a door knocker.
                “We’ve just started a Bible study at the church,” she announced enthusiastically, “and we want to invite everyone in our neighboring communities to join us as we discover the joys and blessings hidden in God’s word.”
                I have always enjoyed good Bible discussions, even when they lapse into arguments, which they often do. The time mentioned was good for me, so I told her that I would be delighted to attend her church’s study.
                “Wonderful!” she exclaimed, as she clapped her hands together with delight. 
                Then her manner changed.   She looked me up and down before continuing, “By the way, you do have a dress you can wear, don’t you?”
                “No,” I responded, “at this particular time, I don’t own a dress that fits.”
                “No worries,” she countered, “we’ll just get you a dress from the church thrift closet.”
                “Why is that necessary?” I questioned her. “Can’t women wear pants at your church?”
                “No!”  She was quite firm, almost militant, with her answer.  “We voted that women wearing pants and men wearing blue jeans will not be allowed to enter our church.”
                “Do you think Jesus would have denied church entrance to those people?” I wondered.
                “Jesus preached in the wilderness.” She informed me. “He wouldn’t expect people to dress up in the dusty desert.  You don’t have to worry, though.  I am sure that we have several dresses in your size in our thrift closet.”
                “I do not accept charity,” I insisted.  “I don’t need it.”
                “Well, then,” she countered, “You will not be able to attend our Bible Study.”
                “I can live with that,” I replied.
                 Suddenly she was livid. “I will never understand this younger generation!  All the women wear pants, even in sacred places like churches!  And all the men want to wear their hair long hair! It’s disgraceful!”
                “Now wait a minute,” I protested, thinking of my husband and his waist long mane of blond curls. “Jesus had long hair!”
                She glared at me.  “We don’t know that.  All we know is that the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 11 verses 14 and 15 that it’s a sin for a man to have long hair.”
                My mind processed what she said and I could not help but debate the issue. “Do you agree that Jesus never sinned?” I asked her.
                “Absolutely!” she affirmed.  “Jesus was God incarnate and the Bible says that he was without sin.”
                “Do you have a picture of Jesus in your house?” I questioned her.
                “Of course I have a picture of Jesus in my house!” she said proudly. “I love the Lord. I have a picture of Jesus in every room in my house.”
                “Does he have long hair in those pictures?” I inquired.
                She paused.   I could see panic racing in her eyes.  “Well, yes he does, but –“
                I stopped her mid sentence.  “So you have pictures in your house of Jesus sinning?” I demanded to know. “Isn’t that heresy?”
                She did not answer that question.  She stared at me for a minute or two and then very slowly and calmly she whispered, “Your husband is going to leave you. You will have to raise your child alone. May God have mercy on you.”
                And then she left.  I watched as she knocked on the door of my neighbor’s house and began her spiel anew.
                She was right about some things.  My husband did eventually leave me.  I did raise my daughter alone for the first eleven years of her life. God has indeed been merciful to me.  But I still will not attend a church that discriminates against people for something as ridiculous as the way they dress or wear their hair. I don’t believe that God would be there either.