A while back, I wrote a post about an experience from my days as a Christian Science Sunday School student. My teacher at the time was a man I call Mr. M. (I’ll keep his identity secret, although I believe he is now deceased). If you go back to my previous post, you’ll read all about his diatribes against abortion, but that’s only one of many for him. He had more, and worse, in his arsenal.
While Mr. M’s rant on abortion was shocking and disturbing to me, it wasn’t a turning point for me as far as any desire for me to get out of his class was concerned; it was more like a signpost warning of more turbulence ahead. I met his argument, and he didn’t change my opinion. I just filed it away and moved on–it didn’t stick to me, but I certainly didn’t forget it either. This post recalls another incident that happened sometime after the abortion rant, and this did stick with me.
One of my few other regular classmates was a kid (I’ll call him John–not his real name), who was a year older than me. John was a paraplegic with limited use of his legs. I believe it was due possibly to cerebral palsy, a condition that also afflicted my younger brother, although John’s case was not as severe as my brother’s. Unlike my brother, John could talk and relate as any other kid, and we became fast friends. John always had a smile on his face, and was genuinely one of the nicest people you could ever meet. He was just the friend I needed at the time, as I did not make friends easily when I was a kid. I recall that John came into my Sunday School class about when I was 10 years old and he would have been 11 (just before our tenure with Mr. M). Our parents facilitated our friendship by driving us around (we lived in different parts of the city), and we spent a lot of time together outside of Sunday School. John’s mother was a Christian Scientist, his father was not. His mother never seemed like an overly radical Christian Scientist, and I do know that John frequently visited the doctor, and during the time I knew him, he also underwent some sort of brain surgery.
Anyway, I vividly remember the day. John and I were seated at the table with Mr. M. I don’t remember what the lead-up discussion was, but I do remember Mr. M asking us what we would want if we could have anything we wanted. I was around 14 years old at the time, and I think I answered that I wanted a sports car or something like that. I was eagerly awaiting my 16th birthday when I could get my driver’s license. Typical stuff for a 14 year old boy. John’s answer was profound, but not unexpected. He expressed a desire to be able to walk normally. While John’s answer made perfect sense to me, Mr. M’s response was very unexpected, and shocking. In his loudest and most booming voice, Mr. M proclaimed to John that he “should be more grateful for what you already have from God!!” After all, as Mr. M pointed out, he had use of his arms, he could see, hear, and talk. It was as if to say, “what more do you want you ungrateful little brat?”
To say I was shocked would be an understatement. Others throughout the Sunday School also heard his rant, and I recall the room being somewhat silent for a minute or two. I really don’t remember how the rest of the hour went on, I just remember being in shock at it all and not sure what to do or say. John seemed the same way. I don’t remember him crying or being upset, or even what he said. I do remember that he stopped attending Sunday School not long afterwards, and I gradually lost contact with him.
This was the beginning of the end for me with Mr. M. I could deal with the difference of opinion on abortion and how he excoriated me for my opinion. He was just attacking me, and I could deal with that. But, attacking my friend was a different matter. I’ve always been the type who’ll tolerate attacks against me, but if you go after someone I care about, all bets are off. Mr. M had shown himself up for what he really was: an abusive, manipulative, egomaniacal asshole who should never have been put in charge of a Sunday School class. The fact that after this diatribe, which was heard by everyone in the Sunday School, nothing was done by those in charge of the Sunday School, sickens and angers me to this day. It wouldn’t be long before Mr. M was removed from his position in the Sunday School, but it wasn’t at the behest of, or with the support of anyone who heard his rant. It was thanks to my parents who stood up against a church membership that had been completely manipulated by Mr. M. But, that’s a story for a future post.
A few years after all of this, I ran into John at the mall, and we chatted for awhile over burgers and fries at the food court. By that time, he had graduated from high school, and I was in the midst of my grad year. I had my prized driver’s licence and a close-knit circle of friends, but the sports car hadn’t materialized yet, but I did have wheels. John still used a wheelchair, and was as happy and cheerful as he always was. The friendship we had shared was one I have always treasured, but somehow I guess we had both outgrown it now. I never saw John again after that brief meeting. My life took a different trajectory, and I ended up moving to another country two years after high school. As I’ve re-kindled old friendships from my high school days over the past few years since I’ve returned to live closer to where I grew up, I sometimes wonder what’s become of John. I’ve looked for him on Facebook, but haven’t found him. I hope he is well.