Mark from The God Article and Zac from Crazy Liberals and Conservatives are back with a discussion of Consumerism and Christmas, the Political Atmosphere in 2010, and a challenge to see God's Divine Gift everyday.
On this episode, Mark and Zac discuss the "Political Church," Capitalism and the Church, and the most interesting part, "The Sacrament of Conscience." TCLC welcomes the music of Daniel Bailey.
The following is the first in a series of stories explaining my move from the Right to Left. This story is certainly incomplete, but that's the journey of life. In any case, this is the first part that will provide my understanding from early on of what the 'Church' was. Enjoy.
I was once told that the best way to diagnose a problem is to understand it’s context. If you want to fix something, you must have know what’s wrong. What’s the background? What were the conditions? These are the mundane and absolutely boring questions that go into diagnostics. I don’t want to deal with these questions, not because I don’t want to answer them, but because I’m not diagnosing a problem. The Christian Right isn’t a problem. It isn’t some disease that requires a medication (though some would certainly argue otherwise) or an ailment that requires surgery. The Christian Right is a historical progression that cannot be dismissed or ‘solved’ in one word, or for that matter, one book. One should note, however, that if one wants to grow, one wants to change the world, they can’t rely on revolution. Sure, we’ve seen it happen throughout history, but most sustainable change occurs through evolution. My evolution, my change, begins in a small town on the banks of the Ohio River in western Kentucky.
My first memories are vague and unclear, as I suspect most people’s first memories are equally vague and unclear. The first memory was the time I busted my head open on the side of my oldest brother’s bed – suffice to say, it was bloody. I shan’t bore you with the details. Most of my childhood memories contain themselves within the church. We were the ‘anchor’ family of the church: every time the doors were open we were there. Indeed, it became and was truly the center of our lives. I couldn’t figure out where church life ended and my life began. Throughout my young life I would have friends at school, but my best friends attended my church. We were baptized together, in Sunday School together, and would get in trouble together. The idea of a life separate of Church didn’t enter my mind until much later – high school. My life in the church was my ‘function,’ my purpose in life, not because I wanted or chose to, but because I was born into it.
When I was seven years old, I cemented that belief as I walked the line. It sounds different without Johnny Cash singing, but I certainly walked the aisle. There was a merry band of young boys that walked the aisle that spring of 1995. I didn’t lead the march down the aisle, and I certainly wasn’t encouraging from the background. All I knew, was that I could present my sword (Bible) and find any passage you wanted quicker than anybody else. As I reflect upon that time, with the limited memory I have, I remember that there was a lot of pressure. Two brothers had walked the aisle before me and I lived in a place where you needed to be saved. Salvation and saved were only big words that adults threw around. I knew that after they were mentioned we would play a song, after the sermon, and occasionally people would walk the aisle. I always thought of salvation as some eternal dodge ball contest. There were these ‘evil’ things that could get you out. But, there was one who could call, “Olly, Olly, oxen free!” on your life. And, now that I think back upon it, it made perfect sense.
Sometimes, people that walked the aisle would recommit their lives. There would be tears, and great rejoicing. Indeed, to stand before 500 people and be heralded and gloated over would be quite intriguing for a seven year old – never mind the crackers and juice. After all, up until the second grade we had fed on Zesta Saltines and flavored juice every Sunday during Children’s Church snack time. They were planting the seeds in our heads: you see the adults eating tiny crackers and drinking grape juice, you’d want to do the same too! So, not completely understanding what I was doing, and thinking that I could die and be separate my family, I walked the aisle. Yes, I was scared. I didn’t know what was going to happen. All I knew was that this would get it over with, and I wouldn’t have to deal with this whole “getting saved stuff” anymore.
After the church had said, in unison, “Amen!” and accepted my public confession of faith, I stood down front and all the folks came by to congratulate me. Which I found bizarre and wondered where my trophy would be. The old ladies were the worst. They smelled funny, and, I swear to all the communion crackers in the world, put extra lipstick on before coming down front. When they kissed me they had to lick their thumbs and try to get lipstick off my face. Let’s just say, that was awkward. Through all the weirdness, and rush of the moment, I remembered seeing something in those folks’ eyes. It wasn’t until years later that I could actually figure out the look in their eyes. It was the look of hope. Some probably thought they brought another to the kingdom, while others were just glad someone would be there to carry on their legacy, their message. I hated walking the aisle, being in front of people, letting all the church know that you were a Christian, now. I didn’t understand that. I had grown up in it. All I wanted was juice and crackers. For a moment, however, I felt like a rock star, that all the eyes were on me. I don’t care what somebody says, but for people to spend extra time simply gloating over you is one of the most fantastic feelings in the world. Amen to that.
Weeks later I would be baptized. Now, there remained a bit of mystery around this whole ‘baptizing’ thing. Supposedly, I would be dunked into the water, and at that moment, I would be brought ‘into the fold.’ Indeed, when I came up out that water I would be washed clean. Washed away would be all the sin and degradation that a seven year old could attain. Needless to say, I was freaked. How would all of that work? Metaphors certainly work for older people, and I was beginning to figure them out, but I couldn’t understand all the wrong I had done. I simply didn’t want to burn in hell. I had burned my fingers a few times, but an eternity in Hell? Well, that sounded like hell. The best I could figure, the water I would be dunked into would be an eternal fire extinguisher quenching the flames and thus sustaining me into God’s will.
After donning my swim trunks and white robe, I walked up the steps that led into the old baptistery. My church had been built in 1896, and was quite old, but rather magnificent. It sat hundreds, indeed, I don’t even know that capacity. But, when it was built it was the largest sanctuary in the South. To this day I have not found a sanctuary of any denomination as beautiful and grand as this place. Yet, the baptistery was old, and seemingly falling apart. Though this mysterious place revealed took the mystery out of baptism. For example, I always wondered how the minister got from the baptistery to the pulpit so quickly. As I found out, he wore dumb-waders. He simply didn’t get wet! Amazing. As I walked into the water, my cohort in dunking asked me, “Is it cold?” To which I laughed, and responded, “No. It’s warm, like a bathtub.”
When it came my time to be dunked, I dog paddled over to the pastor. I stood on a ledge because I was too short – without it I would have died without being baptized, ergo no fire extinguisher. Some words and incantations were said over me, the handkerchief was placed over my faced, I gripped that pastor’s forearms with all my life, and down I went. Now, it’s not too easy to hold your breath when someone has a handkerchief over it. I guess the natural response is to gasp for air, which under regular circumstances sounds logical. Not when your underwater. That causes you to suck in water. I came up from the water gasping and nearly flopping like a fish. Then I dog-paddled over to the other side, walked up the steps, dried off, and walked sat with the family. It was over, or so I thought. This was simply the beginning of a life trying to understand what was going on that day, and what made that day so special, not in my eyes, but in the eyes of a denomination.