Heathen – A Short Story

By Arturo Vivante:

I was slowly walking down the main street of the Vermont town where I taught when a man aggressively came up to me and asked me point-blank: “Are you a Christian?”

“No,” I said, unwilling to be pigeonholed, “I am a heathen.”

“Who made that tree?” he asked me sternly, pointing to a maple near where we stood. “It made itself.”

“Oh, itself, did it? Well, let me tell you, God made it.’’

I looked at the red, flame-like, burgeoning buds that would soon turn into tiny leaf, rosy at first, then broaden into lustrous green, and finally in the fall turn to fiery red, and lines from a poem of D.H. Lawrence that I had read to my class came to my mind, and I quoted them to him:

“Even the mind of God can only imagine
Those things that have become themselves.”

“Do you pray?” he said.

“No, but I do a lot of hoping.”

He looked at me as at a hopeless case. “Take this and pray,” he said, handing me a pink flier. “Read it every day.”

I looked at the words that perhaps someone of his sect had written. “When I hope,” I said, “at least I use my own words, and no one else’s. I don’t follow any dotted line.”

‘’What’s wrong with these words?”

“They are impersonal, dated. Said over and over, they become almost meaningless, while hope is new and fresh each time, and isn’t attached to any sect.”

(via Friendly Atheist)