Nušić was the Grinch!

6 January 07

Branislav Nušić was probably the best satirist from this part of the world. In his autobiography, he wrote about his schooling, and particularly about his religious studies. At the time, that was called Christian science (nothing to do with Christian Scientists) – kids learned about Orthodox Christianity as a subject in school. Recently, this class was “reintroduced” to public schools in Serbia.

Excerpts of his description of those classes (my translation and Betsy’s proofreading) follow:

Christian science

I really grew to love atheism while studying Christian science. That is likely because the catechist, who taught us that subject in school, beat us in such an unchristian-like way that I still watch my back in the church, to make sure that a metropolitan or a priest doesn’t hit me…

Once, at the final exam in Christian science, the catechist asked me a question about Adam and Eve, whom I really liked, to help me improve my grade. I answered thus:

Adam and Eve were the first people… first people… Adam was the first man and Eve was the first woman. And, as the first people do, they lived in heaven. And they lived nicely, but one day, Adam bit Eve… he bit Eve, so the Lord broke one of his ribs…


Like I said, I put twelve Christ’s apostles into the Noah’s Ark; I said that Sodom and Gomorrah are two holy temples in which Jesus taught about “Love thy neighbor”; I also said that Christ spent forty days in a whale’s stomach, getting ready for his holy teachings; I said that Judah sold the Ten Commandments on Mount Ararat, and finally, when asked what I knew about Pontius Pilate, I said he was Moses’ son, that he conceived a large tribe and that once he was done with that job, he washed his hands.

Besides, I don’t understand to this day what was so funny about my answers. Christian science was for me, like for many Christians to this day, a big mess of weird and impossible stories and I don’t find it a terrible sin to have mixed all those stories like I did. I don’t see how somebody who knew all the stories as if they were written would have known more about Christianity than me.

To be fair, though, the catechist did not limit us to Biblical stories; he also dwellved upon the basic tenet of Christian science and that tenet has nearly killed us all.


— What is the basic tenet of Christianity? — the catechist asked one of the boys in the classroom.

The poor guy stood up and couldn’t say a word. The catechist, losing his patience, repeated the question.

The pupil firmly refused to answer, as persistent as one of the first Christians before the court of the pagan tyrants.

— What is the basic tenet of Christianity, you nitwit? — catechist kept repeating the question, while his fingers were forming a fist.

When the pupil didn’t answer, the catechist cried out:
— Clemency! — and he hit the boy’s head so hard that a stream of tears flowed out of his eyes.

The catechist then turned to the other pupil:
— What is the second tenet of Christianity?

The poor boy scratched behind his ear and kept looking at the catechist’s hand to see from where the second tenet of Christianity will hit him.

— Loving your neighbor, you fool! — the catechist kept yelling while the boy touched his nose, trying to figure out if the second tenet of Christianity was painted in red.

The third student, obviously, also couldn’t answer the question, about the third tenet of Christianity.

— Generosity, you good-for-nothing! — catechist yelled while pulling the boy’s ears like suspenders.

There were thirty-four of us in the class, and if by any chance Christianity had had thirty four tenets, we would all have gotten killed like first Christian martyrs, thrown into an arena, at the mercy of wild beasts.


  1. bSangs Zung lDan
    Jun 2, 04:22 PM #

    allow me to humbly suggest an alternative translation for the word “VeroNauka”, “Sunday School” . . . thank Yee

  2. mary rogan
    Apr 5, 05:22 AM #

    religious studies = veronauka

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