O most merciful god, I a poor miserable sinner

Are zebras black over white, or white over black?  Black over white — you are at core good, with black stripes of evil trickling down.  That’s for all the denominations who believe unbaptized babies are saved and children are innocent.  White over black — you are at core evil, with stripes of good.  That’s the GLC, where unbaptized babies are damned and children have an evil, sinful nature.  Here’s the basic GLC prayer, memorized long before I could read.

O most merciful god, I, a poor miserable sinner, confess unto thee all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended Thee.  Every night when we went to bed, my mother would crawl in bed with us to hear our confessions for the day.  While other children prayed, “God bless grandma,” we said, “I didn’t come to dinner when you called me.”  Since it was all home-based, and my mother was the one who enforced the law, it felt more like confessing to her than to god.  She was my first image of god:  full of rules and yet lots of fun, withholding love when you’re bad but warm and happy when you’re good.

I justly deserve thy temporal and eternal punishment.  I deserve any bad thing that happens to me on earth or in the afterlife.   Non-GLC people said that “Jane didn’t do anything to deserve that kind of treatment.”  We knew better.  Whatever happened, you deserved worse.  Salvation was the only hope; life on earth would be grim.

But I am heartily sorry for them and sincerely repent of them  My sister thought we were saying “hardly” for “heartily” for a long time.  We were so bad, we weren’t even sorry for our sins.  I was very sorry for all the things I did wrong, and always had a long list at the ready.  I started then in keeping track of every way I fell short.

I pray Thee of Thy boundless mercy and for the sake of the holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death of Thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be gracious and merciful to me, a poor, sinful being.  Salvation was never earned, and no good thing you did would put you in good favor with god.  The only thing that mattered was faith in Jesus.  Any good you did was only because of your gratitude to god, and you deserved no credit for it.  When complimented on good works, the response was, “To god alone be the glory.”

And then, tucked into our beds, we fell asleep all forgiven for our little crimes.