When I was born my mother was a devout catholic, she even lived with nuns at a younger age. Why she changed her denomination, I'll never know. It was a change that ruined religion for me.
I missed Kindergarten due to my penchant for fighting moving automobiles. I lost my first fight and it left me with a broken leg, but a doting girlfriend (more on that story later). When it came time for the first grade I tested strong enough to go into it directly. I was enrolled into St. Joseph's Catholic school in Marietta, Georgia. It was fun and I truly enjoyed most of it. Sure, it was very structured. There was reading of litanies, confessions and ruler wielding nuns to contend with. I can almost honestly say that I was sent to the principle's office on a daily basis. I was the bad catholic boy you see in movies.
My first grade was taught by Sister Emmanuelle. She was stern yet loving. You could not make it into or out of the classroom without some form of adoration. My second grade teacher was not a nun but a blonde diver that would bring in pictures of marine life that she had taken personally. She was my first crush on someone older that myself. I still can't remember her name though.
I was baptized at the school during my first year as was my younger baby sister, Dana. All was well in my spiritual life; what spiritual life a seven year old can have. I was told that Jesus loved me and that everything was going to be all right. He spread his wide arms and protected all of the little children. The newly ordained Pope John Paul the Second told me so. He preached of peace and love and harmony. What could be better to hear? God was not the old vengeful god that I later was told of. There is a lot of old dogma with the Catholic church and many other issues that I would like to fix, but we can save that for another letter, eh?
During the summer of my eighth year we moved. We also changed denominations. Such was the end of my un-conflicted, bright and peaceful childhood. It was not all to do with religion. But it was a sign to the end. Egads! Public school was a change too. Who were all of these new kids? Tons of them!
Without fanfare or even a say in the matter I was a southern Baptist. Pulpit pounding, hellfire and eternal damnation southern Baptist were we. I don't remember bucking the system too greatly; I was even good at Sunday school, since no one can teach gospels like a nun. I might have even won an award. Who can remember? Not I.
My eternal soul must have caught the eye of the minister. There were meetings with my mother. And decisions were made. Conversations were had. In some ways my mother is an incredibly strong woman, in some ways not. Resisting pressure was not her gold medal event. The intervention soon came.
We had moved to a three bedroom house in Mableton, GA. I had a cool bedroom and remember the twins, Lisa and Denise, with fondness (once again, a later letter is due). One night as I lay in the living room floor watching BattleStar Galactica on T.V. a knock was rapped upon our door. Who could it be? A friend? A family member? No! It was the preacher and a deacon. They had come for me and my precious little soul. I was excited at first. They had been nice enough to me up until that point. Dang Baptists, they're a sneaky bunch!
They sat down and began their shtick. I was going to hell because I was baptized as a catholic. The Catholic Church was a house of Satan. We had been fooled, swindle, bamboozled. Oh, the humanity! You would have thought that I was going to die the very next day. It was of the utmost importance that I be baptized again as a god fearing Baptist. No one, but no one was going to make it into heaven without accepting Jesus Christ in their hearts and as their savior. I definitely would not make it if I did not get baptized again in their fashion. Sprinkling is obviously bad and dunking is obviously the way to go.
I said no.
Eight years old and I had to battle with 3 adults for the future of my soul. Even at that age I had some very serious, and I thought, flawed issues with that kind of thinking. What about my imaginary Indian friend, Walking Stick? What about all of the other native Americans, Japanese or Africans? They had never heard of Jesus. What would happen to them? Where would the go? Were they doomed to burn in the fiery pits of hell?
Yes, they will. It is unfortunate.
That set me off. Thus begins my angst ridden and rebellious teenage years. Circa Age Eight. I pitched a fit and refused to ever be baptized again. If the first one didn't hold then so be it. I soon stopped going to church at all and could only see hypocrisy in organized religion. Falwell, Roberts…well you know what I mean.
On my own I walked a path towards spirituality and religion. I think I did okay. A little Buddhism here, Christianity there, Wicca way over there, even some Sun Tzu and Myoto Musashi fell in with a trip towards harmony inside.
Moral of the story: It's already there.