I had already gulped down my horchata by the time she handed me my change. I took my seat and began the wait for what could be called the skateboarders staple, a bean, rice and cheese burrito. Besides, I love the vending machines in this joint. They sell cool stickers with pictures of homies lifting weights and slinging ink and stuff. It seemed like forever until she called my number. I got my grub and went back to my little corner, hoping to have an uneventful lunch all by myself when some commotion across the street piqued my interest.
The scene was ever so typical; a group of skateboarders occupying an unused corner of a basketball court on a sunny and warm afternoon. It definitely wasn’t anything too menacing. They weren’t even performing the usual destructive skateboarder routine. No benches were ground, no wallride marks were laid, no stairs were chipped nor were any handrails slid. Just restless youth on a flat asphalt slab serving as the battleground where gravity would challenge their skills of flatground technical skateboarding wizardry. The only catch was, the particular portion of flat ground in question happened to belong to a certain religious institution known as the Roman Catholic Church.
Their session progressed. It seemed rather fun. In reality, they weren’t harming anybody or anything, but simply using that corner of the basketball court in a fashion other than what it was designed for. Alchemy, aside from its metaphysical implications, is the science of transmutation. I suppose in a sense the skateboarder is an urban alchemist, transforming the discarded and unused elements of the concrete jungle into usable form. About a half an hour passed. Many tricks were landed. You know, the ones modern skaters usually do on flat ground such as half cab ollies and nollies, 360 flips, switch backside 180s and kickflips. Some sort of Catholic preschool was going on a stone’s throw away from their activities. The skaters did not seem to interfere in the least.
Suddenly a police car pulled up out of nowhere, which was no surprise to the skateboarders. As they sat on their boards deliberating with the officer, a short little lady, Mrs. Piety, walked up accompanied by another member of the institution. They chatted with the officer for a good fifteen minutes or so. Neither of the ladies, who propose themselves to be Christ’s representatives, ever once even looked over at the skaters. After the escalating tension that usually accompanies such occurrences had subsided, the officer returned, in noticeably higher spirits than when he had arrived. He informed the skaters that they could be cited for skating on that little corner of asphalt, as it was apparently a pretty serious offense. Now, to an extent I can see the validity of the argument, as from a purely legal aspect the skaters were technically in the wrong. After all, church property is private property according to the law, so, from a purely legal standpoint, she was right. For some reason, the cop didn’t feel like citing them this time, so he told them to go find “somewhere else” to skate. “Somewhere else” must be one of the best skateboarding spots in the universe because everybody tells skaters to go there.
Mrs. Piety and her accomplice walked back into the ominously towering building that I presume houses the presence of the Lord or something. Whatever it is that they think dwells inside that building, they take it pretty seriously because that place is immaculately kept up and nothing short of elaborate, even more so on the inside. The skaters walked off, thankful that the altercation with the law had been nipped in the bud. No tickets were given and no boards were taken. That right there would warrant a week’s worth of hail mary’s if you ask me.
The unfortunate possibility was that the skaters, and the observer, left with a horrible distaste in their mouths for anything to do with religion. If indeed Jesus is who He claims to be, these kids are going to have a hard time accepting that on account of what happened that afternoon. After all, Mrs. Piety really didn’t reflect the unconditional compassion that our Lord is so well known for. I find it not only ironic but hypocritical that she viewed the skaters as nothing more than nuisances interfering with “church affairs” rather than three human souls whom God created and loved. The skaters were non-persons to her, nothing more than annoying obstructions preventing her from carrying out her duties. There was no compassion or no concern for them as people; nay, they were simply a threat to the religious routine and financial security of the church. Inside I was so disgusted I couldn’t even finish my burrito. I quickly got up from my seat and left, skating in the opposite direction hoping to avoid the same fate. I saw a car with some sort of religious bumper sticker and instantly I grew hostile, thinking of what had just happened.
I myself don’t understand it, as in my mind a church should welcome anyone onto their property so long as they don’t have subversive motives. Jesus mingled with tax collectors, prostitutes, “sinners” (aren’t we all?) and the flotsam and jetsam of that day’s culture because the church leaders of the time wouldn’t have anything to do with them.
But neither true religion nor true intellectual strength can be attained without the adequate exercising of the mind. And in this case, there was no exercising of the mind. I doubt if Mrs. Piety ever stopped to consider that one of the skaters could have been strung out on drugs or that perhaps one of them was secretly considering suicide because of a lack of love in their lives. In theory, she, like Jesus, possessed the ability to help them in some way, yet unlike Jesus, she refused to employ it.
However, what one must remember is this: when formulating our concepts of truth, we must evaluate the idea and not the institution. It is the height of ignorance and short sightedness to form our opinions about something on the basis of a few experiences with it. Many people skating nowadays mistakenly assume that skateboarding is all about who can do the biggest handrail, have the dopest crib, floss the hardest or get the most wasted. But skateboarding is much greater than these isolated misinterpretations of it. Unfortunately, in their quest for money, popularity, acceptance, etc. the skateboard ambassadors, the companies, and the media are failing to accurately portray the truth about skateboarding. If one who didn’t know what skating was really about were to walk into a typical 2002 skatepark scenario, they would look around at all the misled kids, those who think skating is about fashion, fitting in, Osiris D-3s, switch hardflips, and Wu-tang, and it would disgust them possibly to the point of never wanting to skate. Why? Due to their lack of familiarity with true skateboarding, they mistakenly assume that skating is all about handrails and phony images, because that’s all they see the kids doing. A lot of people get discouraged and quit skating, because they see how polluted it is with fashion, money and popularity. However, if these people had strong roots in true skateboarding, they would instantly realize that our modern day skateboarding is just a perversion of true skating.
Equally, any authentic reaction to Christianity is not necessarily about religion, money or rule-following to “get to heaven,” but most people never realize this because they’ve never read the Bible for themselves. Just like skating. These new school kids have never taken the time to check out Shackle Me Not, On the Prowl, (they don’t even know who the Nomad is) or look at a magazine from the nineties or eighties. Therefore, they depend on the modern institution, the skate industry, to define skateboarding for them.
Perhaps the biggest mistake one can make is to judge an idea by the actions of the institution that surrounds it. Regardless of context, this is the root of all stereotyping, racism and the like. Both situations happen for lack of thorough investigation. Not all institutions represent correctly.
It is up to you, the individual, to discern.