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.
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.
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.