When I was 12, I was “immersed” and in that moment, I became a member of my church and “one with the body of Christ.” It was an exciting moment for me. I was very into the idea of being “saved” although the question of Heaven was never part of my understanding of this moment or all the Bible study that had led up to it.
I was a very happy little Baptist until I was 18 and more-or-less was asked to leave my church. I liked my church; my best friends were there. I liked the “heavy” discussions to which religion naturally leads. I didn’t know then that there was a pre-determined end to those discussions, the place where doctrine conflicts with life on this planet or reality. I was asked to leave my Sunday school class when I said I thought the seven days thing was a story and that evolution was probably what happened. When I suggested the Buddhists were saved, too, why was having to hear about Jesus a requirement for God’s love? I was asked to leave again. When I asked why words such as “God dammit” had so much power when they were just words I was again asked to leave. (My dad was an inveterate user of colorful curses…)
I did not understand that the main difference between my church and many other Protestant faiths was the tub in the front of the sanctuary. My mom and her sisters had been immersed in the Little Bighorn River by Reverend Bentley on the Crow Indian Reservation. I thought that was amazing (I still do). It was an important thing, this immersion, and it set us apart from others, those who merely sprinkled and, worse, those who sprinkled infants.
Otherwise, we sang the same hymns, had virtually identical children’s Christmas programs, met at the same time on Sunday mornings, went through the same “radicalization” in the 70s when guitars became part of church music. I knew this because during my junior high days I was a member of a Masonic organization for teenage girls — the Rainbow Girls — and part of that meant attending the church of our Worthy Advisor. I attended the Presbyterian Church, the Methodist Church, the Lutheran Church and the Church of Christ and there was — as far as I could tell — no difference at all. Since the Masons are almost never Catholics (though they can be Jewish or Moslem) this never required I enter the doors of the dreaded and evil Whore of Babylon.
I don’t have any great summary conclusion for this blog post, unfortunately, no way to wrap it up neatly other than I don’t believe any faith or any doctrine has the corner on “divine truth.” I spent a year as an atheist and discovered it was impossible for me to do that without hurting myself, but I know that is a decision I made. I do not believe in religion, however, not Christianity, not Buddhism, not even Hinduism — though it does have the grace to include every perception of God within it. I am happy in the knowledge that I don’t know the answer to the GREAT QUESTION, and sometimes I wonder if the question itself is not God. I believe that “whatever gets you through the night” is all right, even if it’s a dunk-tank at the front of the church.