Nacho mama's church

The air chilled my skin and I pulled my coat tighter about me. Around me, hanging out in the night, teenagers with spiked mohawks in a rainbow of colors -- red, blue, green. Beneath those tints, I could tell their hair was black, but not naturally black. Bottle black, topped off with bottle red, blue, green. The phrase "Taste the Rainbow" comes to mind.

Metal hung from their faces, like they had fallen face-first into a tackle box. I wondered if the term "earring" is accurate when it dangles from someone's eyebrows, lips, nose. One guy had "cheek rings (not sure if that's the right term, either) and I wondered if it made some sort of bit since there were identical ones on each side of his cheek.

I stand next to a security guard who professed to be raised Southern Baptist. He looks like many people I know -- jeans, jacket. I think he's bald, but can't remember. He did not have a mohawk in a new Crayola color, however.

"They don't want their parents' church," he tells me.

I'm interviewing the pastor, his wife, and anyone else they want me to for a story about homeless teens. The Rock, as their church is called, has between 100 to 250 teens and youth on Wednesday night and I can hear the praise and worship band from where I stand outside. It reminds me of the heavy metal I grew up listening to on the radio and cassette tapes. I've been told, by the guy with the cheek rings that about 10 percent -- 10-25 of the youth here are homeless. One told me she was abandoned when her mother moved in with her boyfriend.

No wonder they don't want their parents' church, I think.

They've seen their parents come to church, put on the show, and leave it at door when they go home. The security guard doesn't say it quite like that, but that's how I hear it. I know it first hand. When we first moved to Northwest Georgia, the only job I could find was as a cashier in a bar/restaurant. I lost count of how many suit and ties walked in, told me that they would not eat at this establishment because we served the demon alcohol and stomp out muttering something about burning in hell.

Whoo-hooo, what a way to win 'em to Jesus, I thought at the time, glad of my decision to leave the church. I was raised Southern Baptist too and got tired of hearing how I was going to hell. So, when I worked at this bar, I was agnostic, after trying Islam, Wicca, and "The-Way-According-To-Susan." But I felt sad, too, because I felt like something was wrong with the whole picture the church was painting. So, yeah, the security guard really made sense.

This church has endured the same tongue lashing from suits and ties. Other brothers and sisters in Christ have called them "Satanist" because most of the kids wear black -- other than their hair.

They will know you are my disciples by the way you love one another. No wonder they don't want their mama's church.

undoubtedly, some of the youth hanging outside the warehouse that has become a church are among that 10 percent. I guess if you're sleeping in your car, or trying to figure out whose couch your going to crash on takes priority over whether your clothes fit. When your clothes come from clothing closet, you can't be too picky after all.

The missing part of the picture was the color. Their mama's church was black and white. But is it really? Is heaven black and white? Or is it paved in streets of gold, with pearly gates and jewels so vibrant that it's literally breathtaking. Can God paint a Heaven so full of color, yet the people who live there be black and white? Can Jesus wash us clean, then make us vibrant, three-dimensional, full of color and wonder?

Can He do all that, yet leave our imaginations in black and white? (Did you really think this rambling wasn't going to tie into speculative fiction?). Did He show us His wonders and miracles yet forbid us from using our imagination?

Do I sometimes feel like the "Taste the Rainbow" kids? Yeah, I do. Maybe that's why Celisa Cooper is one of those kids in "Fair Balance." She didn't want her mama's church, either.