Hair, Church, God and Me

Daily Prompt In Good Faith Describe a memory or encounter in which you considered your faith, religion, spirituality — or lack of — for the first time.

From, well, as long as I can remember, I had loved church. As a little girl, I loved getting dressed up and going to Sunday school. I loved the stories from the Bible and the groups of kids sitting around the table listening to the teacher. I loved memorizing Bible verses and I liked Tom Sawyer partly because kids in that book got prizes for memorizing them! I liked church, afterward, especially the old churches like the one we attended in South Omaha, Nebraska, and our church in Colorado Springs. They were big late-era Victorian brick buildings with beautiful windows and gorgeous light coming in. I loved the music, and though I never had a great voice, I loved to sing the hymns. I liked the people at church and the social activities for young people. My friends in high school were MOSTLY from my church. When we traveled around the state for speech meets, I didn’t ask to bunk up with teammates from my school, but with the kids from my church, most of whom went to a different high school.

I was twelve (the age of accountability) when my turn came to be “saved.” I went forward and accepted Jesus as my personal lord and savior. Then I was taught about my religion and more about the Bible. Ultimately I was baptized (immersed). I was very happy to become part of the “body of Christ.”

As a teenager I was very active in church activities. I was president of the BYF (Baptist Youth Fellowship.) I wrote a Christmas play based on the “Littlest Angel.” I organized “Watch Night” services for New Years Eve and weekly events for my youth group. It was one of the happiest times of my high school life.

Then I discovered I had a philosophy of my own that had not come from church. I had the belief that church was a place where young people could be exposed to life’s questionable bits in a safe environment. In that environment it would be possible to talk over these “bits” and come to an understanding of them. That was OK until I brought the album from the rock opera Hair to church and played it in my youth group one Sunday night.

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The adults — having their meeting upstairs from our room — heard the immortal words of the song “Sodomy” and the main deacon, and father of one of my friends, came running down the stairs, into the youth group room. He went directly to the record player where he scraped the needle across the surface of the album in his rush to be sure we did not hear any more of THAT. “Who brought this?”

“I did. It’s our activity for this evening. We’re going to discuss it,” I answered. Hair was extremely controversial in those days. There was a lot to talk about and there was a very dangerous world beyond the safe brick walls surrounding us.

“No. You’re not. You…” His face was red. His fists were clenched. “This is not the place for this.”

“It is the place,” I said, not getting it. “Here we can learn about it and discuss it and be prepared for when we…”

“Go. The deacons and I will discuss this and decide what to do. Take your record with you.”

I collected my severely scratched album, my boyfriend and a couple of the kids in my youth group who were outraged at the actions of this deacon. We went out in the Colorado Springs night, ending up on a bench in Acacia Park. I sincerely did not understand what I had done wrong. Truth be told, I didn’t even understand the words of the song…

A few minutes later, one of the other members of the group came out to tell me they’d (the deacons) had decided I would no longer be allowed to participate in the youth fellowship. I had been shunned.

That was the end for me. I didn’t leave the church right away, but it was not long before I decided that there was more to God than brick walls and pretty windows.

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Here’s the song — but remember, the Baptists didn’t like the words and you might not like them, either. And, when I was older, I understood why the deacons might have been upset — but I don’t think they handled it well. Probably too embarrassed. Still, it’s where I first learned that “simple” words can stimulate drastic actions.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/in-good-faith/

15 thoughts on “Hair, Church, God and Me

  1. I encountered something similar with my grandparents so-called religion. They were also baptised, but my aunt was not allowed to go to the cinema (it was sinful) and a few other things were banned. With time I realised that religion was not for me, no matter which religion, it is the people that are important. It is an interesting subject to read about but it is not for me.

    • It’s a weird thing — every Sunday my mom recited our “creed” which said “I promise to abstain from the use and sale of alcoholic beverages” then went home and had a beer. I have no use for it at all. And the more I learn about it working on the “Brudern Schneebeli” the more astonished I am by all of it.

  2. I grew up with no religion. I didn’t know my parents were Jewish because they neglected to mention it to me and we never went to synagogue. Or church. Or anyplace. We didn’t celebrate any holidays. As I got older, I went looking. I found some stuff, I moved to Israel, I found more stuff. I moved back to the States. I found stuff, then lost it again. Finally ending in the same place I began: I DON’T KNOW. Oddly enough, I’m okay with that.

    I still love hymns and old churches, though. I love most church music and enjoy singing it. Go figure.

    • Church music is beautiful, I think, as is much religious art. I can’t see anything more wonderful than praising the great mystery. I don’t know, either. Agnostic was one of the first big words my (agnostic) father taught me. 🙂

  3. I’ve heard so many of these horror stories, when people become outraged at what was a well-intentioned effort to bring some intelligent thinking and conversation into the situation. Sometimes we get so bound up in “the rules” that we forget something very important: Faith is not about rules. Faith is about a knowing and a relationship with God. RELIGION often degenerates into a system of rules. Faith and religion are not synonymous. Religion is a man-made thing. Faith is not.

    • I agree with you. The novel I’m working on now deals partly with the early days of the Baptist faith and from the very beginning and rules vs. faith was a huge point of contention. This deacon brought the incident up with the minister who thought the deacon had over-reacted and had reacted inappropriately. It turned into a big issue and though I got to come back, I could never really come back and I never did. I imagine the deacon (who knew nothing about the rock opera) expected to enter the room and witness an orgy.

  4. Hells. bells. that damn old righteous foggy. I suppose his body and mind were as pure as gold. It is a sad story but when you think it through, it is funny.

    I can not fault you for not going back. I would not have either. I don’t go to church. I was forced to go every Sunday morning until I left home for nursing school. My son is a strong believer, my daughter is agnostic. I waiver from not believing to believing the parts of the Bible that make since to me and that are relevant in the present day. I think most of the old testament was written to scare the hell out of folks. I bet the writers had a merry good time while embellishing what really happened. In my opinion, Adam and Eve is like a nursery rhyme.

    • I agree with you. If God is love, then he doesn’t need our praises. The Old Testament treats God as if he were an insecure ruler of a petty kingdom. I feel sorry for Him all the time — when he tries to talk to Moses through the burning bush and all Moses can do is keep asking God his name? If God decided to talk to me through a burning bush I’d have a lot better questions than that — or none. Maybe that would answer everything. I believe that there is a universal force for good that all religions teach (along with a lot of other stuff) and if humans could just get over themselves, those books would help all of us live better lives. Poor God. 😦

  5. I remember giving a copy of The Littlest Angel to my pastor. He then used it for a sermon–which gave me the warm-fuzzies that I had contributed to the lessons. I have good memories of my childhood church involvement. Lutherans aren’t terribly offended by much of anything–at least not our church. But, that didn’t stop me from questioning things that didn’t pass my ‘is this reasonable’ filter? I decided, as an adult, that religion did not suit me. It took me a long time before I could attend a church function–for any benign reason–without feeling like a spy infiltrating the ‘enemy’ camp. I don’t promote my views in particular, but I always notice when someone says something that strikes me as ‘true’ or that I can agree with. Thanks for sharing this link.

    • I realized Sunday when I wrote to the prompt that I feel like a hypocrite when I’m at church. I was raised Baptist and they’re a polemical group and at a certain point, I began to think that faith can not be defended or explained so I just shut up. I love “The Littlest Angel” and when I was in high school I turned it into a little play we performed in church. 🙂

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