Jim? Well, Jim was a tel-evangelist but no camra follerd him. He went town to town preachin da gud news of sein and reepentance. He come from a biiiig ole family Even as a grown up man Jim had a big family. He and his wife Agnes had a whole mess of children, 12 of em.
Yeah, I mean he luvd em, but he wuz a busy ma-en, and he was gone a lot, travelin and preachin.
Oh me? I’m Ron, and I knew his oldest, Jerry. When we were kids, Jerry would say “My Daddy told me that God loves us, but we are all too stupid to know it.” Jerry told me his daddy had big talks on stuff. Yeah, he dang near had the whole state of Texas lined up to hear him. He was dynamic… he was vocal… he was always… well, I don’t know if that man could ever shut up. One night he went on in a prayer at the PTA meetin, and my Mama came home and said, “That Brother Waters. It’s always his way or the highway.” She was two shades of red. But that was Brother Jim; stubborn, obstnate, in need of a soul to save. One day we kids was playin basketball and Brother Jim come out and up to me, he said, “Boy, have you accepted Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior ?” Look, I just wanted to play basketball. I could only answer, “I don’t know, Brother Waters,” I choked.
“Welllllll, ya aught ta. Let’s stop foolin around he-a; it’s time for you to get saved!”
I tried to figure out what he meant, but no sooner had I breathed than he had pulled that little wadin pool up, and rolled up his sleeves on his white dress shirt.
“Come on Ron. Boys git my bible.” He had a glint in his eyes (like a hunter aiming on a deer at dawn). It was all ova in just a blur to me. I was dunked in that cold wata, baptized and Jim stood triumphant (while I shivaed in my wet jeans and t-shirt.) He stood over me like that hunter ova a fat carcass of a fresh kill.
“So I’m saved now?” I asked my mama later.
“He shouldn’t go just baptizing people,” my mama said, all angry and indignant-like.
“Oh Rita, that’s just Brother Jim,” my daddy mumbled between puffs of his pipe. “Besides, it’ll be good, him bein saved. Ron can talk to St. Peter for us.”
“Who is St. Peter? “
“The one at the pearly gates, son,” my daddy said like I would know what he was talking about. I didn’t even know there were pearly gates. I decided to ask Brother Jim.
“Brother Jim? Do you know about the pearly gates?”
“Oh Ron, is someone in your family sick?” He was packin his car for a trip, but he took a few minutes to talk to me.
“No sir. I told my daddy about me gettin saved, and he said that was good cuz now I can talk to St. Peter at the pearly gates.”
“Well, Ron, that’s not the true gospel message.”
“Oh, you have the true message?” I waited wantin to hear it.
“Yea, I do. I got a couple of minutes. I’ll explain. come along boy.” He shut his trunk with a click and spun around on his soft leather very modern shoes. Yea, I can see as an adult how goofy it was that he believed that in only a couple of minutes he could tell me what there was to know about faith, but he had charisma and he was nice. People liked him; most everybody did. He was polite and well-mannered, and shoot even his wife was lovely. Their house was just picture perfect. They always were smiling, like they was real happy there.
When Jerry and I just started college, the dorm phone rung on some miserable dreary November day. I remember that day too well. On the phone was our friend Toby. “Ron“, he said. His voice was a crackin. “Ron, Jerry’s hung hisself. We’re all headin home for the funeral. Since you’re on my way, I thought I’d see if you’d ride with us.”
“Jerry Waters?” I was stumped. I kept thinking about his ideal childhood and his preacher daddy. Why my breath barely sustained me. “Why would he do that?”
Toby said pretty blunt, “I guess he was a homosexual, him and his daddy been fightin.”
I immediately knew what that meant to Brother Jim. Couldn’t bring myself to hear the funeral sermon. I knew there’d be a alter call and a condemnation of Jerry, and Jerry was a good person, like a brother to me. I couldn’t be no Christian no more if that’s what it meant, seeing young men full of potential wither in the eyes of that God it took 2 minutes to explain. Yeah, I got a nephew – he’s gay and I try to let him know we love him, we think he’s wonderful because shoot, we’re in the Bible belt, and his parents aren’t gonna tell him, but I’m not gonna have that on my conscience. Life is too precious to waste it worrying about everyone else’s sins. I wonder if that Brother Jim ever even for just a second realizes that. I mean, I’m a father now, and I can’t even imagine. Oh, I can’t imagine!