By Doug Dawson

            “Bless me Father, it’s been … three years since my last confession and these are my sins.”

            “Just a minute, my son … why so long?”

            “I’ve been very … busy, Father.”

            “Too busy to come to confession?”

            “I’ve been … doing other things.”

            “Have you been coming to Mass?”

            “I try to come regularly, but I can’t seem to stick to a schedule.”

            “When was the last time you came to Mass?”

            “About a year ago.”

            “Sounds like you’ve lost touch with your faith, my son. Religion should be a big part of your life – don’t you want it to be?”

            “Well, ah … it is, actually. I go to church all the time.”

            “I don’t understand.”

            “Can I tell you my sins first? I, ah … really need to feel like I’m forgiven. Then I’ll explain.”

            “So, what are your sins?”

            “We’ll the main one’s not coming to Mass and the other’s not coming to confession. The rest are all little things – you know, impure thoughts, I envy my neighbor’s money, his house, his car, his job, his wife …”

            “That’s enough, my son. Is that the worst of your sins?”

            “It’s a good start, Father. If you get me going, we’ll be here all day, maybe all night and next day too. You don’t want that, do you?”

            “You can say twenty Our Fathers and twenty Hail Marys and make a vow to God that you’ll come to Mass regularly … and confession too. Is there anything else?”

            “I think we’re OK now.”

            “That’s good. Feeling better about yourself is a start, but you must do more.”

            “Good bye and God bless you, Father – and have a nice day.”

            “That sounds like something I should say to you. I’m supposed to end the confession, not you. Before you leave, my son, could you tell me what’s kept you so busy you can’t find time for your faith?”

            “Well, I do go to church, just not to Mass.”

            “Which church have you been going to?”

            “I’ve been investigating other religions, other ideas.”

            The priest said “Moonlighting, eh?” with a little laugh. “What other faiths have you looked at?”

            “All of them!”

            “How’s that?”

            “Well, it occurred to me one day that Jesus might want to save me, all right, but suppose he can’t do it all by himself?”

            “Come again?”

            “Well, there are so many Gods – God of the Old Testament, Jesus, there’s Allah, the Buddha …”

            “Have you considered they may be different names for the same …”

            “Hear me out, Father. There’s Islam, Shinto, Hinduism, the Tao, there’s the Great Spirits the Native Americans worshipped, there’s …”

            “Now wait a minute. Let’s slow down and talk about this …”

            “And there’s the Church of Scientology, the Church of Mormon, the …”

            “I thought you were a Catholic, my son. That means you believe, or at least used to believe in the Church of Jesus Christ, as set forth in the Gospels.”

            “I do, Father, I do, I do …”

            “OK, then, where do all the other religions come in? Why can’t you just practice your own faith, instead of dabbling in all of them, like a jack of all trades who’s master of none?”

            “Father, I just don’t think any one of them can cover me completely.”

            “Eh?”

            “It’s like … insurance. You know, you got a policy on your home, one for each automobile, a health plan, life …”

            “Insurance? You mean a blanket insurance policy that covers everything? Jesus does exactly that – he’s all the insurance you need!”

            “Sure, sure … but suppose Jesus isn’t the only the God out there?”

            “How many Gods do you think there are? If Jesus isn’t enough for you there’s the Holy Trinity. It’s made of God the Father, his only begotten son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Between the three of them they’ve got you covered.”

            “Maybe they only got a piece of me covered, but I want full coverage.”

            “What the hell do you think this is … excuse me. If you try to practice all religions you won’t do justice to any of them … you’ll be like a man without a country. Jesus is more than enough to save you, my boy.”

            “Please don’t patronize me, Father.”

            “Don’t patronize you? This is the confessional!”

            “I know, I know, but I’m in terrible trouble; suppose I throw all my eggs in one basket, I go with Jesus all the way and then he doesn’t save me, after all the trouble I’ve gone to, practicing His religion and all, that’s why I got to pay attention to the other gods too. I got to think of myself. You probably think everybody in the world who’s not Catholic is going to hell.”

            “Well, we don’t condemn others, but we believe Jesus is the only way to heaven. Of course, religions like Judaism don’t see Jesus the way we do …”

            “Judaism! That brings me to my latest religious pursuit.”

            “What?”

            “That’s right. I’m going to be a Jew. They think I’m converting but I’m just adding them to my bag of tricks. I got to hedge my bets!”

            “Sounds like you’re turning the great religions of the world into you own betting parlor. You can’t do that.”

            “Sure, I can! I’m going to get my white butt saved. I’ll be a Catholic, a Protestant, a Jew, a Moslem, a …

            “Why don’t you change your name to Shlomo el-Abdul O’Reilly Santini Kioki – then you’ll even sound like a man who belongs to everything – and nothing.”

            “Very funny. You don’t sound like you’re taking any of this seriously, Father.”

            “Are you?”

            “Seriously enough to simultaneously belong to this church, a synagogue, a Moslem mosque and every Protestant denomination I could find in this city.”

            “Now I see why it’s taken you so long to get back to this church.”

            “Now you got it, Father. In fact, there’s two more groups I got to join, then I’ll be fully covered, so to speak. I’ll be with almost every church there is. I’m going to heaven, no two ways about it.”

            “You think so?”

            “I think so. Well, that’s all I got for you. Thanks, Father – you’ve been great. Some men of the cloth I’ve spoken to aren’t so understanding.”

            “I try to accommodate everyone who comes in here, everyone who wants to be saved … I don’t know what else to say, my son.”

            “Just say I’m saved for now, Father. It’s like I just paid the premium on my insurance policy and now I’m covered for a next couple of months. I won’t make it so long next time – I can’t afford to let my policy lapse.”

            “Have you asked Aetna and Met Life if they can write you a policy to save you?”

            “Please, no jokes, Father. This is serious business to me.”

            “I think your soul is sick, my boy.”

            “I’ll make a deal with you, Father. If I come back, say, once a month to Mass and confession … every three months at the outside, you forgive me and I’m saved ’till next time, right?”

            “You’re making a deal with God? I don’t think he makes deals. Either you follow His teaching and come to His church, or …”

            “Remember what I said, Father – I can’t trust any one God or else I’d be making a deal with just him to save me. I’m making the deal with you and every pastor, reverend, rabbi, ayatollah, medicine man and shaman I meet in every place of worship I go. You just do what you can for me and I move on as fast as I can to the next one. Deal?”

            “We don’t make deals here, son.”

            “I got to go, Father – there’s a new group meeting tonight. Be seeing you.”

            “What group?” asked the priest as the man left the confessional.

            The middle-aged man darted out of the confessional, toward the front door of the church. Before he could exit the building, he was a bit shocked to hear the voice of the priest shouting after him: “What new group?”

            “Jews for Jesus,” came the answer, as the priest followed the man out into the night, followed by “We got a deal, right?” as the man’s voice faded in the distance.

            The man heard nothing more as he hurried toward the bus stop. As the bus pulled up, he took a step forward and prepare to board it. He wasn’t sure, but just as he jumped on he thought he heard one word shouted from a distance:

            “Deal!”

One thought on “Hedge Your Bets

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