General 3-10-2004

The Column: Christ at the Bank

Jean Sramek is our newest columnist; she will be doing "Letters from a Writer" once a month. She is an essayist and playwright from Duluth.

If I tell you that the name of this piece is “Christ at the Bank,” it’s going to sound like I’m sharing one of those long jokes on email that people forward to each other a million times and are worse for clogging up your inbox than the hoax about the Microsoft “teddy bear virus” and purveyors of intimacy technology pleading with you to increase the size of your penis GUARANTEED. Even worse, you might think that it’s the 1,547th debate you’ve read this week about the “historical accuracy” of The Passion of Mel Gibson’s Christ. But it’s not. It’s a true story of what happened to me at the bank a couple of weeks ago.

Like many small businesses, my bank occasionally hooks up with some worthy cause–usually for a local organization or a kids’ thing. (Yeah, yeah, I suppose large businesses do this too, but I don’t really think it’s necessary to gush about how charitable and civic-minded large businesses are, given the fact that you all secretly buy books from The Colossus of Barnes & Noble or for cheap on instead of from an independent bookseller.) The bank asks members to, if they choose, donate small amounts of money to the chosen cause or organization. In return, the donor gets to sign his or her name to a colorful piece of paper and they tape it up for display at the bank. I was standing in line, looking at all the colorful pink-and-white hearts festooning the walls, counters, and windows of the bank. They are pre-printed with something like “I GAVE SOME LOVE TO [NAME OF WORTHY CAUSE]” and are signed with names. Most of them are little kids’ names in little kids’ handwriting. “Kaylie,” “Daniel,” “Teesha,” “Jessica,” “Dylan,” and so on. A few are signed with the names of adults, or of groups of people–like a youth group, or a bakery, or the burn unit nurses at one of the hospitals in the neighborhood. But a surprising number, statistically speaking, had signatures on them that were obviously forgeries. Among those I observed:

1. “Jesus”
2. “Jesus”
3. “Jesus is Lord” (which I guess is his full name) and
4. “Jesus is Love” (the alternate spelling of his full name)

Wow. It’s a pretty small bank, so I was surprised how many people (4, that I could see) either thought they were Jesus, or thought Jesus should get the credit for giving $2 to Mn Artists. Some of them might have been pronounced Hay-seuss, but I don’t think so.

I think all four of these Jesuses (is the plural of Jesus “Jesuses” or “Jesuii”? Wow, it’s uncharted linguistic waters, since everyone knows there is only one Jesus—except for us atheists, who either know that there are zero Jesuii, or know that there was one guy named Jesus, but that he was just a garden variety bastard). Anyway all four of the alleged Jesuii were serious, and when I say “serious” I mean “not humorous.” As far as I could tell, the handwriting wasn’t sarcastic in an atheist kind of way. What does sarcastic atheist handwriting look like, you ask? Trust me on this one. You know, I felt kind of like these pink and white hearts were thrusting the whole Jesus-believing agenda in my face. I don’t care who they claim to be on paper hearts in the privacy of their own homes, but I wish these people would just keep their lifestyles private. The sincerity of these hearts—of these signatures—however, was undeniable.

I have no map leading out of this line of logic, but it does prove that Jesus is popular. Which I sort of knew, since in spite of being an atheist, some of my best friends, et cetera, et cetera. Most of them are the good kind of Christians, the kind with long hair instead of big hair. So I guess I shouldn’t get bent out of shape about people forging the Son of God’s name on a donation heart at my bank.

Standing in line, I then noticed another odd paper heart in the bank, taped up next to one of the teller’s windows. The money had been donated by “Bipolar Bob.” I wanted desperately to compare the handwriting on Bipolar Bob’s pink and white heart with the handwriting on the four Jesuii pink and white hearts, but it was my turn in line and I’m a busy person who cannot spend all day in the bank, doing performance art.

A week later, I went back to the bank and the field had narrowed to two Jesuii. One of the “Jesus” hearts had been removed, as had “Jesus is Lord,” leaving only a single “Jesus” (no last name) and the clear favorite, “Jesus is Love.” Maybe the hearts, improperly taped, had fallen off the walls and the windows. Maybe they had been removed to make room for more names that were people’s actual names and not forgeries. Or maybe … the real Jesus had stood, proverbially, up, and commanded the false Jesuii to remove their hearts, leaving only Jesus-no-last-name (who it turns out was pronounced Hay-Suess), and the one, true Jesus. Who is love.

Naw, they probably just fell off.

Next week, I’m going to the bank to donate $2 so I can sign a heart of my own with “Bipolar Bob is Love.” I’m pretty sure everyone believes in love.