Which One?


He strode through the bright morning sunshine. A car or two rolled past, but the town mostly slept.

It was Sunday, after all. It had been a hard week. The coffee pots were timed for three hours later than usual.

The steeple soared from the vaulted roof of First Baptist Church. "Where is God?" boasted the crooked letters on the marquee.

He shook his head. Good question. Did they really not know?

Jay's Hardware was opening for business, and beside it Chloe's Cafe fed a record breakfast crowd. Truckers and farmers bent over morning papers while sweating waitresses kept everyone's coffee filled.

He paused to look at them through the speckled window. A few looked back with suspicion, then returned to their papers.

Across the street, First United Methodist looked closed until further notice. One car sat deserted in the shade of the children's wing. The pastor had been arrested for propositioning an undercover officer. The flock was trying to decide between an openly gay interim or a female transsexual. The vote was dividing the congregation.

A stone's throw away, Antioch Full Gospel needed a paint job. Two windows were boarded over. Didn't matter. No one went there anyway.

He kept walking, eying the stilled bells in St. Matthew's Catholic belfry. He used to love the sound of those bells. Last year the city council voted to stop the bell ringing except on Easter. Disturbed the peace or something.

He kicked an empty beer bottle against the curb. A used condom rolled with it. Peace?

On he walked. Church after church dotted corner after corner. Mid-American Christianity at its finest. In a couple of hours, the churches would begin to fill. Everyone would be at his or her best, smiles properly adjusted, masks in place. Songs would be sung while stomachs growled. Pages would be colored in Sunday School classes, Bible lessons taught with all the enthusiasm of a study on peat moss.

In the livelier churches, guitars would shriek, hands would wave in the air, and moods would lift in direct proportion to the performance of the band. The gray hairs would complain about the volume and the young would leave as sin-encrusted as they arrived. No one brought a Bible. Everyone left just as they had come in.

He stood at the edge of town and looked back. The sun bounced off the peaks and steeples of two dozen empty buildings. Emptier than they knew.

The Son of God had come to worship with his people and he had nowhere to go.

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