The Sins of the Parents

Audio: The Sins of the Parents

Back when I was in the fundamentalist Christian church, I read the Bible a lot. It was a status symbol to have a bible showing signs of wear from heavy reading. Covers that fell off were replaced with a slab of thick leather. Center pages darker than the rest spoke of a fondness for the Psalms.

I don’t know what happened to the Bible I used back then, but I got a replacement about a year ago. I wanted the same translation, the same edition I used to read.

This one has pages marked with dust, not wear, and it smells like a damp basement. Nevertheless, it is familiar. I recognize the placement, the tone, the cadence of the words. My fingers know the thinness and strength of the onionskin.

The cover is brown, which is the version the men in that church carried. Most women carried the one with the caramel cover. Or, if they were feisty women, the red cover. Even so many years later, this brown Bible feels like one I accidentally picked up and rightly belongs to one of the men.

There is a verse in the Old Testament that sent a shiver down my spine when I first read it:

“…I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me…” Deuteronomy 5:9

I looked at my parents, and behind them, to my grandparents, and behind them, to the question of my great-grandparents on my mother’s side and the looming shadows of my great-grandparents on my father’s side.

I wondered about their sins.

If all their sins came down to me, that could be a lot of sin for one body to hold.

You could reassure me by saying that the verse is referencing “those who hate Me” but that would not be reassurance because in 1918, two days before Thanksgiving, my great-grandfather turned his back on God.

Chewing the Cud of Good

Red and white berries on a green plant against a gray stone wall

Thankful for the idea I had to make a Christmas present for my mother that I think she’s going to love.

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