Immersion in Petty Detail

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 orΒ 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.Β 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.

14 thoughts on “Immersion in Petty Detail

  1. Fascinating. People tend to have interesting stories to tell about their journey through “the Church,” whatever flavour(s) that turns out to have included. And I agree with you that no one religion has the corner on Truth. Like the three blind men touching different parts of the elephant, we probably each perceive a different aspect of whatever the bigger truth really is.

    In the end, though, religion leaves me cold; I believe the spiritual life is far, far bigger than the dictates of some church.

  2. Interesting. My grandmother and her daughter were in a baptist church, although she was church of England originally. Anyhow they took me along once to a baptism. The pool was under the stage at the meeting place. First of all the “victim” gave up a confession and was afterwards submerged. Sorry, but I think that was the turning point in my religion and I was only about 11 years old at the time. There is a lot more to it with things that happened later, I am a convinced atheist although I have no problem with religion.

    • I think there are two factors. One, growing up, my church was an important part of my personal life. I liked it in much the way I also liked school. I like (some parts of) the Bible; it’s poetic and questioning. I like other “religious” texts, too, as much or more. They are all (for me) expressions of human’s search for the answer to the great question. I like that.

      Second, cutting off (for myself) the possibility of the existence of a Divine Maker felt (to me) as arbitrary as eliminating the possibility that there isn’t one. It felt nihilistic, despairing. But, as I said, I knew I was making a choice about believing in God. I’m content with the uncertainty, leaning in the direction of Yes. If I am anything, I’m a Panentheist.

      • It’s funny, it sounds like we had a somewhat similar upbringing, but drew different conclusions from them. I was raised by devout Jesuits, was immersed in the teachings and took great comfort in them, then took greater comfort when I concluded that I couldn’t believe in the irrational. I’m happy your own current beliefs bring you peace, though. πŸ™‚

  3. This seems to be the common problem that so many of us share. For the same reasons. It doesn’t make sense to me now and didn’t make sense to me 50 years ago.

  4. You said it so nicely…you loved your Church as much you loved your school. If I may add there are three things very key – Academic( School), Physical Fitness ( Gym), and Spiritual( Temple of one’s Faith).

  5. I was entertaining speaking volumes about this after studying comparative religion for over 50 years, something I had to do to understand the journey that had been forced upon me. But, the problem centers in the fact that nothing is really about religion, but about ‘some’ who want to control man through religion. In spite of that, some people function really well within organized systems of beliefs. My Dad was one of those.

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