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It’s A Sin Issue? (Short Story).

February 14, 2019

cropped-12301412301.jpgThe Church parking lot was slowly emptying as the light snow fell in early February.

Eli was listening patiently as the other guy was still talking; in the back of his mind he was hoping Stephanie was doing better, getting the rest she needed, feeling a little better than she had lately.

“It was unscientific gibberish, Eli, and this was simply a waste of my time…” It went on like that for a while noted Eli since he picked the guy up at his condo. “Evolution is a scientific fact. It’s not some materialistic or naturalistic human philosophy, Eli…” The finger pointed at him, the face was of course angry with Mark Wilson. “I agreed, Eli, to come to this to humor you and your beliefs. You actually thought I would like to listen to that wacko nut-job for two hours while he rambled on and on about the false science of evolution! Evolution is a fact, Eli. A scientific fact…” Adding with a look, “I was almost going to get up and simply walk out of that room…”

Still in good humor, “I am sure you were, Mark.” He pushed the key into the ignition, “But you did come…”

Interrupting, “Why did you even think I’d even like this in the first place?” The tone was of course demanding as if there was no other way to talk to anyone was Eli’s thought on the subject, “Good grief, Eli. Two hours of religious prattle and pseudo-science and trying to tell me that there is no evidence of evolution anywhere…” He was now staring out the front windshield with that same look Eli knew well; did the guy ever look like he wasn’t looking for a fight with someone? “I stayed to be polite but it was pointless.”

“Well, Mark, he did make a few valid points to me.” He watched a car pull of out its place and navigate out of the church parking lot he was still sitting in. “I think he made a valid point about why most people don’t believe in God or want to. People really don’t like being told how to live their lives…” He could see the interruption coming a mile away, “I am just saying Mark that the guy had some valid points about why people believe or don’t believe in God or any religious belief. People don’t like being told how to live their lives. It’s understandable, we live in the age of the me first generation….”

Another car pulled out and left.

“I agree with that aspect of his message. Human’s don’t like to be told how to live or what is right or wrong. He’s correct, human nature does not like the idea that we are responsible to some higher power or in his case a God. If we are simply facts of evolutionary processes then we owe nothing to anyone but ourselves let alone a God or gods of any kind.”

It finally came.

“There is no God or gods or heaven or hell, Eli. Points! He made no points at all. It was gibberish!” The voice of course rose as he looked at Eli, “What points? He didn’t prove a damn thing. This is what happens when religious mythology is taken for fact let alone for real science. Many mythologies have stories of floods. It proves nothing that the Bible says it was…” He studied the young man a second before returning to looking out the front window, “It was religious gibberish what he said about billions of dead things buried all over the earth is proof of a global flood called Noah’s Flood. There was no Noah, he didn’t build a big boat, and rescue all the animals on the earth…

He had to say it, “Well, Mark, most of those dead animals do look as if they drowned…”

Grunting annoyed at the comment, “He proved bloody nothing, Eli. Not a damn thing. Humanity is the result of evolution, Eli, not religious wishful thinking or pie in the sky mythology. It’s not some unscientific  act of some god who doesn’t exist in the first place…”

Eli wondered why it was that atheist’s always sounded so angry at someone who they claimed wasn’t there in the first place to be angry at.

“I liked hearing his views on the subject of origins…”

Interrupting with a slam of his open hand on his thigh, “He proved nothing and had even less to say on the origins of life. The origin of life is billions of years old, not a few thousand years.” His tone said it all, “Six thousand years! What absolute gibberish and too many people believe that unscientific crap….There is no evidence that God or any god did anything. Claiming that the night sky declares the handiwork of his God and is enough proof of creation. Bull crap! I deal with scientific facts of evolution. Him  and his kind need to create their own sciences and leave real science to those actually interested in facts and not religious wishful thinking bullshit! Keep religion out of my life, I don’t need it nor do I want it…”

Eli noted all the cliches with a slight smile.

“…All life began billions of years ago and we have the fossil records to show it.”

He had to say something as a couple and their three kids walked to their car next to his; he nodded at the woman who smiled at him as she shuffled her three young daughter’s into the minivan, “Well, Mark, I thought the guy had some valid and good points about why there is a conflict between creation and evolution and why people do not like the idea of the fact that if God is their creator He does get to call and make the rules about life….” He again could see the anger and interruption starting up in the other man’s older features, even the vein on his temple wasn’t happy, “I’m just saying I can follow his thought process on his belief that if God is the creator then He is also has sovereignty over His creation…”

The snow was still falling and to fall heavily; he flipped on the window wipers to removed the snow. Ah, Eli thought, Minnesota in February.

The grunt came with a vulgar remark.

Eli ignored his comment as the car next to him slowly left it space; he turned the key in the ignition of his truck.

“The point, Mark, is that I agree with some of what he said. It’s either a humanistic world view of life and people or it’s a God-centered world view. There is really only two world views to what life is or isn’t in this universe and it’s purpose. We are either a evolutionary product of billions and billions of years of life and death and change and even more life and death as the speaker said or simply put, Mark, God created man and woman as stated in the Bible. We either go somewhere after death or we die into nothingness and oblivion….”

Angry of course, “Which it is.”  Adding somewhat calmer, “The snows really coming down. Typical Minnesota before Valentine’s Day of course…”  Looking at Eli with that same look, “Look, I don’t believe in life after death anymore than I believe in God. Once you are dead you are dead. Nothing after and no one there to help you understand death. Death is just a fact. People die…”

More cliches thought Eli; the guy certainly had quit a few of them.

“…I fought in the Vietnam War, Eli. I saw plenty of death and dying….”

Interesting he thought, “I didn’t know that about you.” And he knew the guy for five years. Though he could have guessed he supposed but it never dawned on him to do so.

“I don’t talk about it too much, Eli.” He shifted a bit in the seat, “I was a medic during the Battle of Hue in 1968. I saw plenty of death and never once saw God there or His so called Son. I saw a few religious guys when they first arrived, the war cured them of their beliefs about God and the after-life. I saw Vietnamese people simply being killed on both sides because they were in the wrong place….”

He was listening as this was a rare moment of the guy telling anything about his life.

“I saw the injustice of war and the horror’s inflicted on people by humanity. Little kids homeless and some were simply dead with coal black dead eyes lying in the rice paddies….”

He wanted to ask questions but refrained from doing so.

“I never saw God in any of that war or His Son. I saw human’s killing humans in the name of some country or ideology or for the simple reason they liked to kill people….” He sighed but it was also angry, “I was trying to save a young Vietnamese girl who had stepped on a mine, I had an officer order me to leave her and let her die.” Looking at Eli with a look that said much, “I remember protesting that I should at least try and do something. He still ordered me to leave her to die and let her and I quote, ‘let her damn commie god take care of her.’ He even threatened to shoot her if I didn’t walk away…” He studied the snow falling, “I left her and I walked away. He was a good Catholic boy as I recall he never missed the Chaplin’s call for Mass to be said…” Looking at Eli was a cold look, “I saw God walk away from that poor child dying from loss of blood and simple descent humanity…” Adding, “I sometimes can still see those little dark eyes staring at me begging for me to take away her suffering…she might have been eight years old; she’ll always be eight years old and dying…you don’t forget something like that, Eli, and you certainly don’t believe in some loving or merciful God after that…”

Eli simply listened.

“Eli, I saw hell in that war. I saw enough of what people will do to each other all in the name of something real or imagined. I saw the value that humans place on each other…none!”

“I don’t know if I completely agree with that. Life is important. Where we came form is just as important, Mark, and I think that was the speakers point…”

The snow was letting up a bit; it wouldn’t last long and the heavy stuff was coming.

“…I was nineteen when I went off to war, Eli, I bet that speaker never saw a day of death or dying…” He was certain of it, “He can preach all he wants about his so-called God and anything else he wants to babble about but keep it to himself…” He seemed lost in a thought for a few seconds, “I saw plenty of guys with Bibles and I don’t remember a single guy having it still after their tour of duty was up. Somewhere throughout Vietnam Bibles have rotted into the landscape and are long forgotten, Eli…”

Eli wasn’t sure if he was really expected to answer, so he simply listened. He did notice the man’s features seemed to show signs of actually wanting to forget what he was telling Eli. Softness thought Eli? Was that the word he was thinking of the brief moment of possible softness? Eli wasn’t sure it was but at least it showed there was a soft side to the gruff fellow.

Another car pulled out of its space and heading out of the parking lot.

Mark was still talking, “…Life has no real purpose but to be born, live a bit, and then die the best we can. I don’t make life more than it is anymore than death. Death just is the end. The physical world is it, nothing more or less about it. I saw way too much death of guys being shot or blown apart to believe that there is a purpose to it that your speaker babbled about….” Looking at him calmly, but there was something else about his look that said something else to Eli, “I’m fine with just living and then oblivion. I have had no need of religion up to this point so I don’t need it now.”

Eli spoke up, measuring his comments, “I think the speaker would have said as well that religion isn’t his answer or his point, Mark. In fact he seemed to make it a clear and a direct point that religion isn’t the answer either. He seemed to imply that religion is indeed a human construction and not a personal relationship with God…”

The hand sharply went up, “It’s all religious bull crap, Eli. It’s still all a bunch of religious nonsense to help people cope with life’s realities and that is we die in the end. We simply die and simply have nothing after. People are afraid to die, Eli. It’s that simple. Fear of the unknown, fear of death, fear of simply being forgotten as we slip into oblivion. Sounds very realistic to me to simply view life as I do.”

“What about the spiritual?”

“You can’t use the senses to see the spiritual, Eli.” The gruff Mark returned, “The spiritual world is for fiction writer’s not the real world where the senses can see it, touch it, taste it, hear it. That’s the real world….”

“So, Mark, unless the senses can be involved it’s not real?”

“The scientific method works for me just fine, Eli. I live my life with the idea that there is no God, no spiritual world, or after-life. I saw too much in Vietnam to believe that anything good comes from spiritual people…”

“Nothing came from spiritual people, Mark? History is full of spiritual people accomplishing great things…”

He ignored the comment for the most part with a hard look, “Look, Eli, I am an atheist. Been one my whole life even before my little tour of Vietnam. I see no real reason to change anything about my life now. The speaker proved nothing to me except his religious anti-scientific wishful thinking about God and the after-life. That wasn’t even closer to real science that he was talking about. That was called ignoring and misrepresenting the facts of Darwin and evolution.”

Had to ask, “Ever read Darwin? Huxley? Even Stephen Jay Gould?” But he probably knew the answer.

The annoyance came into his voice of course, “I don’t have to, Eli. I have read enough to see that Darwin was correct and the creationists are idiots. I listened to that guy and heard nothing but very bad science being spoken and real science being labeled wishful thinking? Evolution is a fact of science and has been proven over and over that it’s based on fact. Look, Eli, religious people simply don’t like it when their God or gods is reduced to scientific facts and not some spiritual mythology about their favorite deity….”

Eli wondered what books on the subject the guy had ever read; he knew that Mark liked Stephen King of all authors, played a little golf, and not much else of relevance.

“…Look, Eli, evolution is a fact. The fossil evidence alone proves that point…”

“Well, Mark, he did make some good points about the fossil evidence and he made a good point about human evolution particularly about the Piltdown Man…” He could see the interruption coming a mile away, but he kept on talking, “It was a hoax, Mark. It was bad science to prove a theory that still has not been completely proven…” He could see the volcano starting to rumble beneath the features of the older man, “It was hoax from the very beginning, Mark. It was created to prove human evolution because they needed something to prove the theory of evolution was true. That’s not science, Mark. That’s a lot of wishful thinking and hopeful thinking that went into the belief in the Piltdown Man. Those scientists went out of their way to see evidence that wasn’t there and ignored the evidence of the fraud that was there. So, Mark, the speaker made some good points.”

Grunting in disgust before interrupting, “Eli, the guy proved nothing.” He looked outside at a few falling snowflakes, he seemed lost in thought as he noticed the road across the parking lot with the cars driving as if it had never snowed in Minnesota before. He seemed lost in thought a long few seconds before he started up again, “What he proved is that people will believe in whatever it takes to deny the realities of life let alone the evidence. Science is a fact, Eli, not a bunch of picking and choosing of what one wants to believe to make one’s life more bearable…” He looked over at Eli with the same hard look, “Human’s evolved from some unknown ancient ancestor. That’s a scientific fact proven by the fossil evidence. Look at all the fossils they find and all the proof they are discovering through those bones their finding…” He coughed a bit, “Damn cold, going to catch something. Always do every winter….” Looking out the window at the family walking up to their van, pointing at them, “Do you know that family?”

Eli had noted the Edgers, “Yes. Why?”

“Do you think they ever question what they are taught in this place?”

“I’m not them, but I am sure Mike does, maybe even Oona does…”

Frowning, “Oona? Her name is actually Oona?”

“Yes, Mark, her names Oona Edgers, married to Mike, those three kids are their’s as well….” Adding, “What’s wrong with her name?”

“Never heard it outside the daughter of Eugene O’Neil.”

He had to lightly laugh, “We were talking about the speaker, Mark.”

Still watching the Edger’s get their three son’s in the car, “Look at them, Eli. Do you think once that those kids get to ask questions about their so-called religious beliefs? Look at them, all smiles, all look alike on some level….” Again gesturing with his hand, “Look at the oldest kid…”

“That’s Geoff, good kid. Play’s the cello in kid’s choir.”

“He may be a good kid, Eli, but has he ever been allowed to question his parent’s beliefs or even doubt them? What do you think they would do if he dared to question their beliefs let alone stop in believing in them. What do you think would happen to him?…” The voice grew a little agitated, “I listened to that speaker, I heard his prattle and psuedo-science trying to prove in creationism and that the Flood of Noah was a world-wide event. I’ve heard it all before…” He grunted again, “Look at them, Eli, a simple-minded life they live and not once are they going to question anything they are taught. Look at them, Eli…”

“I see them every Sunday, Mark. I don’t appreciate your evaluation of their lives as you don’t know them. You’ve looked at them one time and summed up their lives…”

“I recognize the type of life they are living…”

“I don’t understand, Mark, explain.”

Still observing the Edger’s as their van pulled out from the space in front of them.

“I don’t mean to be rude or insult your friends lives, but I stand by my statement, I know the type of life their probably living…”

“How would you know?”

Frowning at an unpleasant thought, his tone angry, “My father, my parent’s actually, were missionary’s…”

Taken back, “A missionary? Your parent’s were missionaries?”

“Ya, we were in Japan for a few years as I remember…” The fist’s clenched a bit, he didn’t want to talk about it was obvious to Eli, “I think it was ten years of wasting time and life, Eli…” Looking at him, “I was a missionary kid for a bit. I hated it but I put on the fake smile and did as it was required of me as the kid of the pastor….”

Eli wanted to interrupted but didn’t.

“…I started disliking it pretty early, Eli…”

“Hold old were you? You were born in Japan?” Something seemed off thought Eli.

“No, no, I was born here in Minnesota. I think I was seven when we first arrived in Japan. This was his first time on the missionary field. It was too long ago for me to remember everything and I don’t want to….I turned eighteen and the Vietnam War solved another problem.”

“Okay.”

“I simply started having doubts about their strange religious beliefs. I began to find them fanatical, they seemed pushy to me, Eli.”

“Fanatical? In what way? And how were they strange?”

The snow was starting up again; most of the cars in the parking lot were gone; a few stragglers here and there.

“Look, Eli, I simply saw what they were doing as fanatical. Leave it at that. I didn’t see what was so wrong with the religious beliefs of the Japanese. I never quit understood the point of changing from one religion to another, Eli. All I could see them really doing was forcing their religion on others and scaring them to so it as well…”

“Scaring them?”

“Hellfire and damnation, Eli. Believe on our god or be damned.”

Uncertain of the subject itself really, “Well, Mark, they were missionaries, that was the point of being in Japan.” He sounded so damn lame, “It’s not a subject I am well-versed on, Mark. But that is the point of being a missionary was to preach the Gospel…”

The hand went up, “The people in Japan were fine in their own religious beliefs without my dad ramming his beliefs down their throat. Scaring them into believing in some God of hell and damnation all because they don’t believe as they did…” The anger was there, “I don’t remember them being any better or worse in their religious beliefs than the Japanese praying at their shrines. I thought it all a waste of time…”

“And this turned you against their faith?” As for Eli it was only recently that he and Stephanie had started their own Christian life so he honestly felt unable to defend much; so why did he feel guilty? Maybe he should feel somewhat guilty not really being able to explain anything? “You lost your faith…” But wasn’t there more it than just not being able to defend his beliefs he asked himself? But then again this wasn’t really the time or place to discuss his or Steph’s reasons for returning to church.

“I never had any faith, let’s be blunt about that. I never really felt any inclination to believe in their Jesus or god or their way of life. I may have been young, Eli, but I noticed things. I start actually reading other books…”

“Awfully young to start reading books that turned you against their faith?” He was beginning to suspect this was all a story he repeated to not talk about the real reasons; he was sure the Vietnam part was real and he wasn’t sure why but that part of it sounded factual. But there was something just too much a story to the way Mark was talking about the Japan part. Maybe the location wasn’t as important as the actual reasons for his loss of faith as a missionary kid? “What books?”

“It doesn’t matter, Eli, I simply did. It all seemed like a game of some kind. A numbers game just like your speaker tonight.” He rubbed his eyes, “I simply stopped believing and I am fine with that. My parent’s aren’t of course and neither are my sisters or brother…”

“Didn’t know you had siblings?”

A slight softness came over him but only briefly, “My brother is older by three years, Jason works for the church of course, teaching kids I think. We don’t talk much and we don’t say much when we do. He has his beliefs, I have mine.”

“Your sisters?”

“Abby’s a nurse at St. John’s Hospital, Allie’s teaches second grade at the church my family still attends. We also don’t talk much.”

“Not close to any of them?”

Looking out the window at the thickly falling snow, slowly answers back, “I live alone, Eli, been married and divorced twice, so I live alone for a reason.” Adding with the same tone, “I simply don’t have the time to see them, I’m busy and I don’t need to be around them knowing they think I am some kind of atheist monster on the way too hell. I stopped showing up for those occasions that required family to meet…”

He noted the look in the older man’s eyes, “Sounds lonely, Mark.”

Looking out the side window again, the shoulders shrugged, “Your speaker proved nothing, Eli. All a bunch of religious prattle to scare people into a belief that has very little to do with reality. I learned that a long time ago in Japan…”

“What happened really in Japan, Mark, make you reject your faith?”

He took a bit took look over at him, the look was cold, hard, angry, slowly he responded, “Her name was Kimiko, me and her were about the same age…pretty girl of course. She had started attending our little church and for a while she seemed to like it, even started believing in it.”

“What happened?”

“Kimiko seemed always sad about something, Eli. Took her a long time to start talking about herself…”

So far he was following more so than he wanted to admit at the moment.

“I think she suffered from depression.” Correcting himself, “Kimiko did suffer from depression.”

“Still following.” Ah, yes, depression he understood.

“I made the mistake of telling my father about her feelings of depression. I thought he would help, I thought I was doing the right thing for her, and got her to talk with him…” He looked away briefly then returned to Eli, “My father, the preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the preacher of John 3:16, told her that depression was a sin problem, that she was simply suffering under the conviction of the Holy Spirit and if she gave her life to Christ, she would no longer feel depressed. He blamed her beliefs in Shinto, her beliefs in her culture and it went from there, Eli.” Adding, “I sat there watching her being crushed under him blaming her depression, her sadness, even her tears, on some mythological sin problem!”

He nodded in understanding as he had no idea what else he was suppose to do or say. He did understand some of the aspects of what the guy was saying; painfully aware.

“He sat there behind his big desk pontificating on his belief and certainty that her real problem was a sin problem and only a sin problem best cured by believing on Jesus Christ….” Looking at his hands, “I wanted to punch that man right then and there. There she sat literally being berated for feeling depressed and being accused of being some terrible wicked sinner before some angry God of his. She needed help, she needed someone to simply help her through this unhappiness but instead she was attacked and blamed for her feelings she seemed to have no say in having or not having.”

Not sure what to really say, “I am sorry.”

“I remember Kimiko finally sobbing and looking at me. I will never forget that look of complete loss and pain; I saw her die inside, Eli. I saw the destruction of a human being because she was depressed and a sin problem was blamed on it….” He opened the car door violently, he wanted to get out was obvious to Eli, looking at him over his shoulder, “A fourteen year old girl killed herself because of a sin problem, instead a man of some god preached at her that it was all her fault and a few days later she hung herself…” He got out of the truck and turned and looked at Eli, “Your speaker was no different than my father as far as I am concerned. It’s all about numbers, all about making a point, all about being more religious than the next person but never actually being a human being…” He stood rigid, trying to regain himself, “Look, Eli, I have my reasons for not liking religious people let alone your speaker tonight. My father sat in his office that day blaming a fourteen year old girl for her depression. He did nothing else but blame her and then had the idea that she needed to be preached at as well….”

He looked ridiculous standing there with the snow falling around him and unto his shoulders and bare bald head but Eli simply listened as it seemed the best course of action. What was bothering him was his own hesitation in being far more blunt than he was being at the moment.

“…I can still see her sitting there, dark eyes tearing up and him, my father, the pastor of his religious beliefs held this girl responsible for feeling unhappy as if it was within her unhappy frame of mind to stop feeling like crap. She sat there alone, depressed, defeat and there the old man sat like the God he preached about blaming the victim for something beyond their ability to help or fight against…” He stopped abruptly, wiped the falling snow off his dark blue trench coat, “There’s a reason I don’t have much to do with him, Eli or their religious lives or beliefs. My father was very good at saying things he didn’t like or want to deal with as the other person’s sin issue…” He shoved his hands into his pockets; Eli thought he looked very tired all of a sudden. “Kimiko killed herself, Eli, because of a sin issue? No, she died of a religious man afraid of his own shadow and unable to deal with depression outside of it being some damn sin issue because he couldn’t stop the girl from crying in his office….” He could still see him standing over her demanding she stop this crying and repent. Repent of what?

Eli could see the man’s fists were balling up in the trench coat. “I’m not sure I can say anything that would…” Was that really true? No, it was not but he wasn’t sure if saying anything would help the guy see what Eli was or would try to tell him.

Cutting him off, “Don’t try, Eli. I don’t think you or your beliefs have any help to offer not when people are attacked for being unhappy as if a sin was being committed. He sat in that office, unsmiling, fingers pointing, prattling verse after verse on the human condition being sinful and fallen and a deserving of hell…but not one moment of basic human compassion for a hurting girl.”

He felt ashamed of his lack of knowing what to say or anything at all to say; why was he hesitating? He understood the man’s pain all too well so why was he struggling with saying anything helpful? He felt stupid.  “Mark, look, I’ve only been going to this church a couple of months, I don’t have any answers, but I am understanding what you are saying the best I can…”

He cut him off again sharply, angry, “Save it, Eli. There is nothing you can say to me to see any value in what your speaker said or what you could say if you knew what it was.”

He spoke softly, “I wish I did, I should know…” He sounded stupid and knew it, “I am not good at this…” Maybe that was the problem?

“Well, you don’t, and I wouldn’t care anyway because all I hear is the sobbing of a young girl who killed herself when you or any of you religious types start preaching about the love of God. There is no God and there is no God of John 3:16 that my father loved to preached about. My father preached about the love of God the very next sermon that Sunday; I sat in the pew glaring at him. He paid no attention to me as usual.”

He had to say it, “Why don’t you get out of the snow…”

He frowned, “I’ll take the bus, their still running this late in Roseville I am sure. If not, I’ll walk home.”

“You don’t have to, Mark.”

To make his point, “Yes, I do….”

To argue was pointless and Eli knew it.

“I once asked him if he ever thought about Kimiko and her death. Do you know what he told me with a complete cold face? He spoke with that edge I knew so well.”

“What?”

“The conviction of the Holy Spirit was so powerful that she simply refused to listen and killed herself thinking she could escape that conviction of the Holy Spirit. She was only depressed because of the conviction of God’s hand on her heart he said with that same steady unmoved look of the self-righteous condemning the innocent…I will never forget the look he was giving me as he spoke….I will never forget that look of someone who  never believes they were wrong about anything and believe me, Eli, he doesn’t. He still doesn’t…”

Interrupting as best he could, “I don’t believe that depression is a sin issue, Mark.Depression itself is not a sin.” He knew more than he was saying but he wanted the guy to talk so he could figure him out and where he was going, “Depression is caused by the Fall, I am certain of that…”

Grunting angry, “Don’t care what you believe, Eli. I simply don’t want to hear the excuses for condemning people for being depressed and unable to fight it as you people seemed to think is best for them. Blaming their condition on some outdated sin problem!”

He had to say it because it was bothering him, “Well, sin is the problem because it’s caused the human condition into the mess that it is…” Adding before Mark could really interrupt, “Mark, hear me out, I’ve listened to everything you said and I didn’t interrupt. Hear me out.”

Mark stood rigid, “Fine, I’m listening.”

Eli really wished Mark would get back in the truck, but he knew the guy was going to walk home no matter what he told the man, “Listen, depression exists because sin entered the world and corrupted everything and I do mean everything and one of it’s fruits is depression…” He added softly but not sure it would do any good to mention it or that the guy would care, “I know this because my wife suffers terrible bouts of it, I understand depression just fine…” He saw no real reaction in the dark eyes that stared back with it’s own anger, “She’s been fighting it for a while now.”

“Didn’t know that, Eli.”

“Most people here don’t. One or two people know. Pastor Nelson does and he’s been very helpful in helping me deal with it and certainly helping Steph with a support group in the church…” He wasn’t sure he if Mark was really listening or simply humoring him, “I’m one who is living with someone who suffers depression…”

“You have kids?”

Softly, sadly, “no, sadly, Steph can’t have children…”

He frowned a bit, still annoyed, “Well, I’m sorry for what you are dealing with but it changes nothing in my opinion. Religious people like to blame people for their lives on some imaginary sin issue as the problem. Depression is real, not some damn sin issue that needs the help from some God to fix.”

“I agree, but depression is real because of the sin issue. Sin has destroyed true mental good health, Mark. That is how Pastor Nelson explained it. One of the fruits of sin is depression. Depression is not normal, Mark…Sin causes depression because it corrupts the human life…”

“What corrupts the human life is religious people blaming depression on some kind of sin issue that the person has no control over, Eli. I refuse to see that some imaginary eating of an apple in a garden somewhere is the cause of depression….”

“It started there, Mark.”

Slamming a hand on the hood of the truck, “Bullshit it is. It’s depression, not some sin issue created by anything other than chemicals in the brain, Eli.”

“Corrupted by sin.”

He glared, angry, “This is religious bullshit because you refuse to see that my father’s God was too busy to help a fourteen year old girl from killing herself…” He again slammed his open palm on the hood of the truck, “She needed compassion, not to be preached at, Eli! He preached at her and you should have seen the look in her face….” Looking down at his feet buried in the falling snow, “I saw a devastated young girl die right then and there before she ever tied that rope around her fourteen year old neck. That look….that terrible lost look, Eli, I will not forget it….I can’t. Have you ever seen that look?”

“I have. I’ve seen something like it in the face of my wife more often than I wish, but I have seen it.” He struggled to know how much was safe to tell and what was best kept personal. He could understand the guys pain and anger very well but would he care to know that Eli understood? He hoped Steph was getting some rest.

“Damn it, Eli, he sat at his damn desk and preached at her. He might as well have leaned over his desk and slapped her for feeling sad and having no idea why she was sad…He preached at her when what she needed was an act of compassion, not a damn sermon on sin issues!” He slammed the truck door shut and simply walked stiffly through the snow toward what Mark was sure a bus stop; it was obvious he was an angry man.

“Sorry, Mark….” He studied the falling snow briefly, took notice of the Cedarholm Golf course completely covered with thick snow, and watched as cars fought to drive down the snow clogged road; one lone walker on the side walk struggled against the falling snow. Life went on he thought.

The cell phone buzzed him with a jolt; he softly, sadly smiled at the caller ID.

He spoke softly, calmly, “Yes, Steph?…..Yes, I know, running a little late…….well, it didn’t go very well….” He watched the lone figure slowing vanish down the street and turn the corner toward a bus stop, “No, I’ll be at the hospital in a couple of minutes….yes, it’s snowing pretty bad, I’ll be fine….yes, I love you too…” He turned off the phone and headed toward St. Johns Hospital where his wife lay in a bed after another attempt to kill herself, “Yes, Mark, I understand the sin issue….it kills people you jackass…”

 

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