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That Old-Time Religion by Donal Mahoney


When I was young and randy,

I went to church every Sunday

to keep my parents happy.

"Almighty God has given us

the Ten Commandments,

not the Ten Suggestions,"

the old preacher used to say.

Now I'm old and randy

but I always go to church

yet I seldom hear a sermon.

What I hear now is something

preachers call a homily.


Homilies are nice.

They let you leave church

in a good mood, ravenous

for the Sunday roast.

But most homilies shoot blanks.

They seldom strike a chord.

Machine-gun sermons

when I was young and randy

sprayed words all over church,

and if they didn't hit you,

you were bobbin' and duckin',

the old folks used to say.


Homilies seldom mention sin

and almost never mention hell.

When I was young and randy,

sin and hell were the DNA

of any decent sermon.

Now, homilies explain

how much God loves me

and italicize that basic truth

over and over by quoting

passages from Scripture.


Few homilies, however, note

that God has standards

and expects His flock to meet them.

"The elevator goes both ways,"

the old preacher used to say.

His sermons often scared me

and I used to stay scared until

Monday afternoon at school

when I'd let Florence Puppo,

who was tall and fetching,

go upstairs in front of me.

God loves Florence, too,

I'd tell myself, so why not

let her sway her way

up the stairs ahead of me.


Homilies are reassuring

but I don't know if I'd be

going to church now

if I had heard homilies

instead of sermons back

when I was young and randy.

A good sermon can leave a scar

old men scratch when the years

go South for the winter.

"God's not playin' games!"

the old preacher used to say.

I'd like to see that preacher

in our pulpit now.

He'd use his blowtorch

of that Old-Time Religion

and let the flames flare.

He'd make the congregation

bob and duck every Sunday

instead of sitting up straight

and smiling on occasion.


a line, (a blue one)


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