Iowans are simple people and have a simple faith. We believe in the land and we believe in making things grow. Whether we use Christian symbols and Republican moral imperatives, or liberal thought experiments laced with atheistic flavors of actual thinking, we all basically accept that we should believe in the land and make things grow.
The church in the Paffooney picture is a real church in my real little Iowa home town. Once it was the Congregational Church in Rowan, the second location. The first Congregational Church building that stood on Main Street burned down before I was ten. But it didn’t remain pure Congregational. Little Rowan was not really big enough to support two different churches. So long about the time when I was wrestling with the fact that I had lust in my heart, and looking at the pretty Congregationalist farm girl two seats ahead of me and the Methodist Minister’s son on the school bus made my soul hurt, the Methodist Church and the Congregational Church were forced to become one church. They used both church buildings on a weekly rotating basis, using the same minister for both. It was the Methodist minister, my best friend’s father who got the job of spiritual leader for the entire community. And there was hell to pay. Congregationalists hated the idea that the minister was no longer speaking Congregationalist approved Biblical ideas. And Methodists resented the fact that they had to have their immortal souls saved in the same church building as those unclean Congregationalists. Heckfire, they didn’t even like taking cold showers as much as Methodists did. They took them, all right, but didn’t really like them enough. So religious wars were fought in our little town for decades. But only in the manner of Iowegian Christians. Silent wars employing laser-focused glares of righteous disapproval. Attacks on the other side committed solely with clucking tongues and expressed only to members of the same congregation in places where the other side will never hear of it. And of course, as children tackling the full range of punitive forces and concepts associated with puberty, we were completely unaware of what was going on behind closed doors. Fury of Biblical proportions was disrupting the digestion of nearly one quarter of the Yoke Ministry of the United Churches of Rowan, Iowa, and causing innumerable bottles of Milk of Magnesia to be consumed in the middle of the night. These two Midwestern flavors of Christianity were just too different to co-exist in the same building. Of course, I couldn’t tell you what the differences actually were. I still can’t. But I learned the tremendously terrible and atheistic notion that all Christians are the same, and they all worship the same God, and they are all equally worthy of love.
The scariest thing of all is this. I went on from the religious wars of Rowan, Iowa in the late 1960’s and the early 1970’s to living in a community in South Texas where the two sides were Hispanic Catholics versus Southern Baptists. I got married to a Jehovah’s Witness, and tried very sincerely for a while to be a Jehovah’s Witness. I taught kids who were Catholic, Baptist, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist. And scariness comes with the realization that I still believe “they are all equally worthy of love.” Atheists too, for that matter. I am sorry that atheists are not crazy enough to actually talk to God. There is comfort on so many levels with the ability to speak to an invisible mythological father. And I speak to Him daily. So what is my real religion? I am not sure. But Valerie Clarke in the church Paffooney agrees with me (because I totally created her and she has no choice); the church parking lot is a great place for skateboards.