When I was a little kid, my Uncle Zel teased all of his nieces and nephews with a fake holiness act.
“Holy, Holy Uncle Zel,” he’d say, walking into our library, which was really the TV room for us kids but my mother liked calling the library.
He’d stand right in front of the TV set where we were watching Saturday morning cartoons in those pre-cable days, clap his hands together in prayer, and look heavenward.
“Holy, holy Uncle Zel,” he’d intone in a sing-song voice just like a priest saying Mass. “He will never go to hell.”
“Uncle Zel,” we’d holler, “Move!”
“I’m praying,” he’d say, sanctimoniously, still looking skyward, pretending to be so focused on prayer that he could not hear us. I never saw anyone so unctuous until Ted Cruz came on the scene decades later. But at least with Uncle Zel it was an act.
(Once, when friends took him on a tour of their new home with a double story living room, he stopped in his tracks, clapped his hands together in prayer, gazed heavenward and said, in hushed tones, “I love a cathedral ceiling!”)
It made us mad as hell because we were too little to push him out of the way (although we’d try) and my mother would only let us watch cartoons until 10 a.m. But it was pretty damn funny.
Despite his insufferable teasing, Uncle Zel actually was religious. He went to church every Saturday night (although he would slip out right after Communion just as the priest said “to love and serve the Lord.”)
We didn’t talk about Jesus. We went to church and catechism classes. We helped take care of kids of migran workers picking crops in the fields. We worked church suppers and school fundraisers. But we didn’t talk about Jesus, we didn’t claim Jesus and to be frank, we were a little uncomfortable with our Seventh Day Adventist or Southern Baptist friends who talked a lot about Jesus.
And that made it really easy for less-principled right wingers to cloak themselves in religious righteousness and say that they were the true believers and anyone who didn’t agree with them–especially us Democrats –were gonna go to hell.