30-Day Song Challenge, Day 14: A song nobody would expect you to love

I never got confirmed.

Even early on, my parents had to bribe me to go to Sunday school where, sure, I was game for making crosses out of matchsticks or singing “Zacchaeus was a wee little man / a wee little man was he” — but at the end of the morning, we had to go to McDonald’s for breakfast.

Years later, I started our church’s two-year “confirmation” track that was, essentially, once-a-week group hangouts interspersed lessons. I remember worksheets, but not actual work, and during the break we would walk to the local 7-Eleven and stock up on candy. Eternal reward with little effort? And Skittles? I was in!

The summer of my freshman year, we moved to a smaller town on the other side of the state, where things were different. I was new and had no friends — and, as my mystified freshman classmates soon discovered, not particularly disposed toward making them, either. And confirmation? Pages of individual work. For someone already veering toward being a nonbeliever, this was not going well.

In the middle of nowhere. Which, when a Montanan says it, means it REALLY IS in the middle of nowhere.

And then one day I learned that to be confirmed, the pastor required that you spend a weekend at his cabin in Nye — a burg I had never even heard of, some 64 miles away away from town.

“That,” I declared to my parents, “is never going to happen.” And I not only stopped going to confirmation, but stopped going to church altogether.

Nowadays, the only time I set foot in one is for a wedding or funeral. I respect my friends’ varying faiths, but remain steadfastly atheist. My year-end cards always bear some variation of “Happy Holidays”* and if you’re on my superfriends list, you’ll get compilation discs titled “holiday 2010” and “2010 bonus.” If you wish me a Merry Christmas I’ll thank you, because I still appreciate the sentiment behind it — but no heaven, no hell, no angels, no devils, no God, no Jesus for me.

Which made the fact that I liked “Only A Man” by Jonny Lang enough to download it somewhat perplexing to some of my friends. “You know, that’s really Christian,” they said when it came on in the car. “Really?” I replied. “I had no clue from lyrics like I fell down and cried, ‘Dear Jesus, rescue me again.’ ”

“So why do you have it, then?” I can still appreciate that it’s a beautiful song — the harmony that kicks in around 1:53 is great, and the call-and-response that follows is even better. You don’t have to be a Christian to enjoy it, just like you don’t have to be from Egypt to find the beauty in “Songs from the Victorious City.” (My favorite track is probably the sublime “Habebe.”) Or Hindu/Hare Krishna to enjoy “My Sweet Lord” by George Harrison.


* My favorite ones ever were from Urban Outfitters and came with 3-D glasses that made the snowman on the front and his “ho ho ho” look three-dimensional.

WHAT SAM WORE: 2-12-11
The sweater: Cotton V-neck sweater, on clearance at Banana Republic.
The shirt: Same as yesterdayshh!
The pants: Ditto.
The shoes (not pictured): Jack Purcell sneakers
by John Varvatos for Converse, from Nordstrom Rack in Scottsdale.

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