Growing up in a small southwestern town with a church on every corner circa 1950s leaves a lot of room for religious confusion. We had our First Baptists, our Calvary Baptists a block away,our Church of Christ, our Church of God, our Seventh Day Adventists, our Methodists, our Presbyterians, and our Mexican Church….Catholics. I’m reasonably sure there were others scattered around that I don’t remember.
I do recall something of a family crisis when my oldest sister went with a friend to a ‘holy roller’ church. Traumatized the hell out of her, and she got baptized all in one fell swoop. I’ve often thought that might have been a piece of what led her to being the goody-two-shoes tattletale teachers pet holier-than-thou hypocrite she was all the remainder of her life I knew her.
But I’ve digressed.
My mother and step-dad were married in 1948 in the Church of Christ. So as a pre-schooler I went to Vacation Bible School there. Then, for reasons I never knew, we changed to the Calvary Baptist Church a while. Then the First Baptist Church. I never felt comfortable in either of those Baptist churches. They’d pass around grape juice and crackers that made my mouth water, but I never got any. I wasn’t baptized.
Then there came a day when I was in the fourth grade when my parents decided they wanted to change again and become Presbyterians. There came a knock on the door and Brother Doyle, preacher for the Baptists asked if he could come in.
“No I don’t want to sit.” The veins were bulging out of his scarlet face. “What’s this about you leaving the church?”
My mom explained quietly, and Brother Doyle began to shout and pace around the living room. Eventually my mom asked him to leave, but he just got louder, waving his arms around. “I WON’T SEE you there! You and your family will burn in HELL!”
I was unsettled watching all this, but my mom got angry and demanded he leave. “I won’t be seeing you there!” He kept shouting.
So my mom picked up the phone and dialed my step-dad at work. Explained it all while Brother Doyle kept stomping around, pointing at me, waving is arms around, veins bulging out all over his face.
Until Charlie, my step-dad arrived and told him to get the hell out.
Presbyterians seemed fairly low-key by comparison. No fire in their bellies. When they baptized people they just sprinkled a little water on their heads quietly. But of course, deep down, I knew those Presbyterians weren’t ever getting into heaven with that sort of wimpy foolishness going on.
So you can see, I had a lot of exposure to religion in my life. But I never got Baptized, and eventually I came to know I was sure as hell not a Christian.
I’d rather spend eternity in hell than in heaven with Brother Doyle and his ilk.
But of course, I don’t happen to believe in hell. Though I count myself a spiritual and to the extent I’m able, a righteous man.
Maybe I’ll write some more about this sometime.