Yesterday I thought I’d conduct a little experiment I like to call “let’s see if back-to-back kids’ activities will actually kill me or just put me in a shit-ass mood for a few days“. After a lovely hike where everyone only whined for a collective 150 minutes, we got ready to go to the Kids’ Expo at our nearby outdoor mall (from which we would then rush home to change for a birthday party, from whence we would race–only slightly late–to the highly-anticipated TEEN STAR competition, but I’m getting ahead of myself here). Let me add that we hit up the Expo every year, and one of my very dear friends is the brains and brawn behind it, and it’s always fun (in that day-at-Disney sort of way that makes me want to pound tequila shots the second I get home).

So. We’re at the Expo and you honestly can’t believe the scene. There’s a stage with singers and dancers and some crazy-awesome drum circle and there are speakers everyfuckingwhere so you might as well be wearing headphones. My kids are running from table to table scoping out the free schwag and I’m scrambling behind them quizzing them on the if-we-get-separated plan, but they are totally ignoring me since they can’t read lips and all.

It wasn’t long before they spotted the table of their little dreams.

MAKE A CIRCLE OF LIFE BRACELET!” the poster shouted, so loudly that I could even hear it over the music.

“Can we mom? Can we make a circle of life bracelet?” they bellowed.

“Well of course you can!” I said, picturing The Lion King and Broadway and mentally downing another shot.

The Jesus-looking dude behind the table handed them each a string and bent down so his beard was inches from their faces.

“So, are you ladies Christian?” he asked them. Of course he did. How fucking stupid am I, anyway?

They looked at me. I shrugged. Mall Jesus looked at me.

“No, actually we’re not,” I told him. “But we embrace freedom of choice and we respect all beliefs.” And we really just wanted to make ourselves some free bracelets so we could take them home and let them settle to the bottom of the toy box, so if you could just give us our pretty beads and get this party started, that’d be great.

Mall Jesus turned back to my daughters and handed them each a gold bead. I stood there willing my cell phone to ring so I could cry “EMERGENCY!”

God apparently was very busy working miracles elsewhere.

“This gold bead symbolizes heaven, because God tells us right here in the Bible

[holds up a shiny black bible] that the streets of heaven are paved with gold,” he informed my dumbstruck children. They slipped the heavenly beads onto their strings and waited for the lecture/bead-distribution to continue.

“Now let me ask you a question,” MJ went on. “Did you girls ever commit a sin?

Blank stares. Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Can I get a lifeline over here? Some invisible spray? A coherent string of words to come out of my mouth that would get me away from this table?

“A mistake. Do you guys ever make any mistakes? Like, maybe you lied to your mom or you took something that wasn’t yours from a friend. Did you ever make any of those kinds of mistakes?

We all make mistakes all the time,” I interrupted. “Of course we do! I like to say, if you’re not making mistakes you’re not trying hard enough.” Why was I still at this table? Why, God, why? YOU GAVE ME FREE WILL AND I AM STILL STANDING HERE. Damn you to hell, Mall Jesus, and your fucking table of temptations.

“Well that’s okay, because the next bead, that one’s red,” he stated. “Do you know what is inside of your bodies that’s red?”

Blood!” they shouted. Well, they like getting a right answer, even if it’s to a creepy Mall Jesus’s obscure question.

Did I mention that we were at a fucking mall kids’ expo?

“That’s right,” he said solemnly. “This red bead is a symbol of the blood of our Savior the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s only son, who he sent to earth to die on a cross for our sins–for your sins too–because he loves us that much.”

The girls took his pretty red beads of death.

“The last bead is green and that stands for growth,” said the man I very much wanted to karate-chop in the esophagus. “Because even though we make mistakes, God gave us free will. That means we get to choose whether we go to heaven. God says [holds up the Bible-prop again] that if we choose to believe in him and that he sent his son to earth to die for our sins, we will never die. Ever! We’ll live forever with God in heaven, on streets paved in gold.”

My kids turned to me. Mall Jesus turned to me.

What do you think about that, mom?”

I think I deserve a fucking medal for not running, screaming obscenities or running and screaming obscenities simultaneously.

“I think it’s not what we believe, but like I said, to each his own,” I replied calmly.

So you’re saying the truth is subjective?” he asked, raising his unruly brows.

“Look,” I said, hitting my boiling point. “We stopped here to make a bracelet. The first words out of my mouth to you were that we accept and respect religious diversity. I find it funny that you’re the one standing here preaching “God’s word” [yes, I used air quotes here], when only one of us is acting even remotely God-like. And I’ll give you a hint: It’s not you.”

I grabbed both of my girls and pulled them from the table. I realize it was about fifteen minutes too late, but at least I got the last word.

In the car I did my best to deprogram my daughters by explaining–for the eleventy billionth time–about religion. I talked about how lots of different people believe wildly different things and that they can’t all be right, even though they all absolutely believe that they are.

I didn’t like the way that man was talking to you at all,” my eight-year-old said.

“Oh honey, that’s sweet but it’s okay,” I told her. “He’s entitled to his opinion.”

“No, I’m not kidding. I actually wanted to punch him in the face. In fact, in my head, I did punch him in the face.”

“Did it feel good?” her six-year-old sister wanted to know.

“Totally,” she replied.

It’s appalling how satisfying it was to know that my oldest child imaginary-clocked Mall Jesus on my behalf.

I wonder what Mall Jesus’s blog post would look like.