Somewhere between the ages of nine and ten, I got baptized. It wasn't that I felt the need for it, it was just the thing to do at that age and in that church. Perhaps my parents or my siblings felt it was time, maybe even past time. I felt about as much need to be baptized as I did to have my soul saved. It just never made any sense to me. It felt off, like something people might do to feel better about themselves but I couldn't see how that involved me in any way. For the most part, I felt fine about myself.
When the call to the altar came one Sunday and salvation was nigh, my cousin Shelley, who was sitting next to me, decided it was time and stepped forward. I, however, hesitated just a bit too long and next thing I knew the time for repentance was over. For that week. The next week, there it came again, same call, same altar. I felt no need to go, but with my cousin nudging me (apparently she felt I had the need), I walked forward with the others feeling foolish and small. I can't articulate exactly what I felt, but it didn't feel right.
After I went to the altar and they prayed over me, asked if I wanted to be saved (I thought it best if I agreed at that point), they took me into this small side room along with everyone else who came forward, talked to us some more about our personal salvation, read some appropriate Bible verses and what have you. I remember almost nothing about that except the way I felt and it wasn't good. For the life of me I couldn't understand the need, what the hoopla was all about. I didn't feel saved. I didn't feel better. As a matter of fact, I felt worse. Diminished somehow. Of course, I didn't reveal these feelings to anyone. I may have mentioned not feeling all that much better about myself to my sister, Jane, but when cousin Shelley asked, insinuating how much better I surely must be feeling, I quietly nodded. At least she felt better.
The salvation thing happened when I was about six, possibly seven years old; the baptism took place a couple of years later. I suppose I needed to prove myself worthy, which I managed to pull off long enough to get a dip in the lake. This was before I went to Bible camp and gave evidence to the contrary. That story is here: http://teresaevangeline.blogspot.com/2010/07/camp-jim-mama-tried.html
My baptism was in a local lake on a Sunday afternoon. Rainy Lake is a pretty little lake not far from where I live now. I've taken a dip or two in it since but not for baptism purposes. I can tell you I felt better than I did that Sunday afternoon when the pastor held my nose, one of the deacons held down the turquoise skirt my mama had made me, and gently pushed me backwards into the water. Afterward, I walked to the shore not feeling anything but wet.
Here's the baptism scene from, "Oh Brother, Where Art thou?" with Alison Krauss and, "Down in the River To Pray." One of my favorite movies and one of my favorite singers all rolled into one. Speaking of one, I think that's where the salvation thing comes in. We're all One, all connected to the divine, nobody needs "saving." It's a fun scene anyway: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pgVL-rBq9Fw
okay, I see you get it. I was baptized in the Baptist church sometime during grade school. I guess I thought I was a sinner in my little short 10 year career. It's funny how we get our "Earth" feelings mixed up with our "spiritual" feelings. I think in our hearts, we always know what is right. Don't we? (an unequivocal 'amen' from the peanut gallery)ReplyDelete
Michael, Same church. And yes, we always Know. My inner compass tells me so. :) Thank you much.ReplyDelete
You right well. I know it dosn't matter how one spells, not reelly, but three times in one sentance is too much. The main thing is to be undrstood. I wouldn't altar a thing.
Love from another Michael. And Hanne...
Thank you for sharing your feelings on this. Spirituality is such an individual thing. We all have to do what we feel is right for us. That being said, I was raised Catholic, and was baptized at one month of age. I don't understand the phrase "being "saved. My husband's religious background adheres to this concept. But I feel that if you live a life of kindness and good, you are already "saved". There isn't one definging moment of salvation, for most people.ReplyDelete
Thank you. I knew it didn't look quite right, but my editor was out to lunch.ReplyDelete
LadyCat, It is an individual thing. Very much so. The only thing I need to be saved from this morning was a misspelling. And Michael and Hanne saved me.ReplyDelete
I can't weigh in on the baptism thing - no experience with it - but I can say that I am forever indebted to my parents for allowing me to choose, after around age 8 or so, whether or not I wished to continue attending Sunday school and church services. They did their part; they gave me the opportunity to learn about the faith, and experience it. The rest was up to me.ReplyDelete
I didn't know that I was being baptized when I was baptized. I just howled. As babies do when they have cold water dripped on them.ReplyDelete
I love the song, so comforting even if the words mean little.
Funny isn't it how many religious ritual across faiths and laws concern hygene, washing, food hygene etc. I have a friend who is equally concerned with such things, although he isn't religious. He has OCD. There are lots of ways to make sense of the world... and having been brought up a muslim and turned over to atheism I make my own sense of the world these days, a bit like you. Nice post. MedReplyDelete
Maybe that brief moment started your thoughts about what you do think and observe. I went to an outdoor service last Sunday to see what it was all about.It was unique.ReplyDelete
Hi there. Interesting anecdote. I spent a lot of time in churches as a youngster and when they went through the recruitment rituals to try for volunteers I was sometimes tempted ... plenty of social pressure to stand up and walk up there piously with the others. After seeing it a few times it was clear there were plenty of praises and pats on the back as rewards afterward, too.ReplyDelete
I wondered a lot during that time period whether the going through it would trigger something in me I didn't feel when they were calling them up, whether if I'd just belly up to the bar I'd find it wasn't phony, faked, at all for me, but rather something I'd be glad I did.
Your story suggests to me it probably wouldn't have.
At a later time, completely outside the context of a house of worship, outside the context of the Christian doctrine it did happen to me, what I figured happened to those 'saved' Christians and I had no doubt what had happened, what it meant on a grand scale. But down where the rubber meats the road I felt a need to fit it into a doctrine.
24 hours later I was in a bus station in Albuquerque, New Mexico waiting for a bus that wouldn't leave until 8:00 am trying to make sense out of what had happened in some way involving human shared experience. Got a pocket full of dimes and started calling preachers, finally one agreed to come out and talk to me. I wanted to know whether I was a Christian now.
We spent a lot of the night him listening carefully, then asking the obvious questions from the Apostle Creed.
My only possible answer was, "No."
He shrugged. "I don't know what your are, but you're not a Christian." We shook hands, he wished me luck and went home.
I found I didn't mind not being a Christian. What had happened was a pivot point, changed my entire life thereafter. No hustle, no bustle, no sitting around churches every Sunday watching Christians on the nod.
Mine did, however, meet the criterion you set out in your last comment. Mine qualified as an individual thing.
Thanks for sharing your story.
Oh I love this post.. as a 'born' catholic I have similar experiences but I followed the You Tube link.. and stayed with the Soggy Bottom Boys longer than I meant to.. thank you!!ReplyDelete
I've left you an award at http://blueskiessunnydays.blogspot.com/
Sorry, but I haven't figured out how to do a link within a comment yet. :)
I have to come back and read your post.
Sounds a weird experience. And a baffling one. InterestingReplyDelete
We just watched that movie last night (coincidence? I think so!) We're on a Coen Brothers roll, and I think OBWAT just passed Fargo on its way to #1 in my heart.ReplyDelete
Grew up in an evangelical Christian sect, where baptism is eternally binding. I unbound myself.
What a great post, Teresa, but, I had to giggle a bit. If you had come to my house that long ago summer, you could have been baptized with the parakeet at the concrete altar. tee heeReplyDelete
I love this movie, this scene, and this song, especially rendered by Allison Krause. Thank you.
I think when I was "saved" and walked out of the baptismal was when I first became an atheist. I was told God would come into my heart and when he didn't I can remember asking "where is God?" Ah well...ReplyDelete
I was "save" by Billy Graham SIX TIMES. Glad to know you, Teresa. I also wondered at the time why I felt so weird... :-)
Teresa, I've often thought water is far too easy a path to salvation. For example, if John the Baptizer had baptized Jesus by pelting him with dates until he screamed, "Hallelujah, I see the light.", would we require that today as the only way to God? What about popcorn? All of this shit is nonsense and your point about how you felt as a child was because children KNOW they don't have a damn thing to atone for and resent being told they aren't loved by God. Reminds me of "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson. I would tear down every religious shrine in the Middle East and turn the land back to God and the little kids who are freshly here from HIS/HER presence.ReplyDelete
I had a similar "salvation" experience in the eighth grade, where I kind of got tricked, and felt not good.ReplyDelete
Fortunately, the god of my understanding makes more sense.
Li, It sounds like you had some slightly more aware parents. How fortunate that you were able to start your own journey early on.ReplyDelete
FRIKO, I've never seen a baptism, in person or in the movies, in which the baby didn't howl. That should tell them something. Yes, I find that song oddly comforting, too. Alison has the voice of an angel. That might factor in.
MED, Nice to hear from you. I'd not yet been able to find the connection, so thank you. It is interesting how water is used to cleanse and purify, as though we are dirty. Not true, and not an auspicious way to begin life's journey. Thanks, again.
STEVE, OOTP, It no doubt played a role. I knew what I didn't want. And I knew if this was a good thing, then that's how I should feel, and I didn't. And, I wasn't that bad of a kid. :)
Jules, Thanks for sharing your own "being saved" story. It sounds like what you did is save yourself from the need for any doctrine. That social pressure is an insidious thing and causes so much damage. It basically teaches people not to trust their own innate feelings. Certainly not to listen to them. It's the greatest gift we can give ourselves, to listen to and heed our own Inner Knowing. Everybody has it. Thanks again for this. I always appreciate your openness and honesty.ReplyDelete
Joan, Aren't those Soggy Bottom Boys something? I love that sound. Fun listening.ReplyDelete
Linda, Thanks. I'll be over to take a look-see.ReplyDelete
Jenny, I can imagine how strange it must seem to those who didn't grow up with this tradition. It really is an odd little ritual.ReplyDelete
Duck, Don't mind iffen I shorten it, do ya? OBWAT takes it by a nose. That's a close one. Love that you've been watching it. Yeah, the trouble with being bound to something is, well, it's so binding. Until it isn't. congratulations. :)ReplyDelete
Penny, Life on the cutoff: Will you hear my confession? I saw your post and it triggered this idea. I owe it all to you, but I wasn't sure how you'd feel about being tied in with this, so I forged on without a nod to you. But, I do thank you, belatedly. Confession is good for the soul. :) Now. Does that altar still come with zinnias? And just for the record, I also have a parakeet story, one I'm not sure I'm ready to divulge just yet.ReplyDelete
Linda, I think we look for God in all the wrong places.... just my opinion.ReplyDelete
DJan, Billy Graham? Six times? And none of them stuck?!? :) We Are soul sisters.ReplyDelete
Cletis, Maybe if they'd used dates, I'd have shown more interest.ReplyDelete
I am so glad we recognized each other here.
I was thinking about "The Lottery" recently. Besides the short story, there's a B&W film that's harrowing, to say the least. I still recall how I felt walking home after viewing it. Physically sick.
"And a little child shall lead them...."
Linda, It feels good, doesn't it, when we discover we can find our own way?ReplyDelete
I suspect I was baptised - in a very restrained, hands-off Church of England way. I must say it meant nothing then and it means nothing now. I seem to have survived sixty-odd years without ever, for a single moment, feeling a need for any "religious" experience. Not sure what that makes me - other than content.ReplyDelete
Alan, I think contentment speaks for itself. It may be the key to life.ReplyDelete
Thank you sweet JesusReplyDelete
For saving a wretch like me,
The heathens rejoice.
Teresa, no confession necessary, but, I'll say "bless you, child" if it makes you feel better. This is what we do. We write, we share, one idea bounces into another. I loved this and have no problem whatsoever. You just keep writing and spreading your thoughts like seeds in the wind and good things will grow. Maybe even zinnias. I will wait, for as long as it takes, to hear your parakeet story.ReplyDelete
I'm so glad I discovered your blog through Joan as Sempiterna so many months ago.
Penny, Sweet absolution!ReplyDelete
I was dipped under at a swimming pool in Piqua, Ohio when I was 9 years old. Too young, some said, to know what it was all about. I often forget about it until I read something like your post.ReplyDelete
I did write once, about people who grew up in a Baptist home become Baptists. Catholic homes have Catholic children. Jewish homes have Jewish children. It is hard for anyone to break out of that mold. Yet I did it and, according to the religious leaders of my time, I am wandering around lost though I don't feel that way.
Hi Abe, A holy swimming pool! Who knew!?!ReplyDelete
It's my sense that more and more people are breaking away to find the path that speaks to them.
All who wonder are not lost? tee hee
Super great post, Teresa! I've never seen a river baptism. However, when we lived in Israel, we did visit where John the Baptist is reputed to have baptized Jesus. That stretch of the Jordan River turned out to be narrow, muddy brown and inspiring/spiritual only in that it was a hot afternoon and I felt like lying under a nearby tree and taking a snooze.ReplyDelete
In a comparative religion course I took some years ago I learned the ritual of water in Christianity was absorbed/adapted from the Hindu religion (trade routes that criss-crossed).
I highly recommend Michael Grant's "Jesus", published in the UK, but probably available on Amazon. It's a paperback, a bit slow out of the blocks (scholarly book - Grant's a respected scholar), then covers much. (Hint: operative word is 'scholarly'.)
Returning to normal here; that bug kicked me - and hope to scroll back and read your previous posts - I love what you have to say!!!
Kittie, So good to hear from you and I'm glad you're feeling better.ReplyDelete
I'm curious what Grant's sources were. I'm always a bit suspicious of books on Jesus. So much speculation, how could it be anything else? But I will keep my eyes open and see what its tone is. Thanks for the info.
I think there were many things that created a cross-referencing between Hinduism and Christianity, both of which still intrigue me.
I think sometimes we need to be saved from ourselves. Baptism is a ritual of the church and man, not so much God. I don't think for a minute that, for instance, if you believe in God, heaven and hell that if for some reason you weren't dunked in the lake/river/drop of water placed on your forehead that when you die, you would be sent to Hell regardless of a relatively sinless life. Excellent post and I love the blog.ReplyDelete
Confessionista, I agree, saved from ourselves. The notion that somehow water would "save us," just never caught on with me. It's absurd.ReplyDelete
Thanks for reading and commenting.
I get what you're saying about the baptism thing.I look forward to the day when rituals that involve baptism fade away.ReplyDelete
That George Clooney....mmm....what a hunk! Thanks for the eye treat. Alison Krauss is pretty good too.
Can I get a hell yeah!
Karena, Yes, so do I.ReplyDelete
George is a hunk, but Tim Blake-Nelson seems a bit more trustworthy. Never can tell though. These things can be tricky.
I was born into Catholicism and had enough religion in my childhood to last me a lifetime. Haven't been in a church since, except maybe to take photos of architecture or stained glass windows.ReplyDelete
I remember in grammar school I asked Sister Mary Rene "If God is all loving, why would he send all the children who weren't baptized to Limbo to stay until he returns, Why couldn't they go to heaven?" She couldn't give me an answer. I persisted asking how long they would stay in Limbo, she persisted with till God returns. In my child's mind it just wasn't right letting all the children born, who then died before being baptized, being sent to Limbo and not heaven. That was the end of religion for me. I think she said she'd get back to me about that question, that she'd check with the priest, but she never did get back to me. It didn't matter to me anyway, I'd already made up my mind about religion.
Baptism is right for some and I guess if you have a good feeling after, then it has merit.ReplyDelete
I think that parents should share their beliefs with their children but the child should grow up knowing that it's a choice. Religion can be so exclusive and damaging.
I just don't know what the answers are. Religion is man made and man has given it power.
I will have questions until my dying day.
This is one of my favourite films, it gets me foot-tapping and jiggling about in two tics! The music cd is on my wish list.ReplyDelete
As to baptism, hmmm! I was baptised by a priest who later ran off to live with his house-keeper, perhaps that explain's alot! ;) I have three kids, two grandchildren only two baptised and not on my watch. I wanted to let my kids choose for themselves, plus I always thought it ridiculous that God-parents have to renounce the devil for this tiny baby.
I really like your posts they always get people thinking and writing!
LINDA, I was not Catholic, but that question always concerned me greatly, too. How could someone believe babies should be left in limbo? It flew in the face of the Bible's teaching that "God is Love." Many other things did, too. Too many paradoxes for me. Thanks for commenting.ReplyDelete
FARMLADY, I agree. Everyone should make up their own minds and it's their own business. I don't wish to judge others or their choices. But children get indoctrinated into their families belief systems. It takes a strong individual to question it, and either become comfortable with it, claim it for themselves, or break free and discover another path that speaks to them.
These are questions old as "time." I am grateful though, that I broke from tradition and found what feels right for me. Everyone should feel free to do so.
It is the exclusivity that is most troublesome to me. "Religion is man made..." Exactly. I continue to explore my spirituality, it's the focus of my life, but it no longer centers on a religion or doctrine.
I do feel people need to question why they do things and why they make the choices they do.
Thanks for your thoughts on this.
HHITS, JANE, Love that moniker. And I love the movie, too. In my top 5 probably.ReplyDelete
The notion that children are born into "original sin" is the stuff that any thinking person Has to question. What kind of malarky is that? And we are all thinking people until we decide to let others do our thinking for us. "There's the rub."
Thanks so much for bringing your thoughts to the table. Much appreciated.
I almost missed this Teresa. I felt nuch the same and had no choice in these matters and despised and hated every moment.ReplyDelete
There should be a law.
We are no different at all from any other crazy ass country where insane religious dogma rules.
It's getting worse.
One Fly, As Cletis mentioned, children Know. I think it's the "insane religious dogma" that seems to be ruling the minds and hearts of far too many people that is the biggest problem in this country and in the world.ReplyDelete
It's good to find peace of mind wherever we can in our individual lives. We're not going to find it out there.
Thanks for reading and commenting.
Hell Is Other People's Religion.ReplyDelete
You have a good point, Tony, concise, too.ReplyDelete
Terrific post. Felt like I was along on the ride. I know you have a great memory for past details in general, but do you feel they have been enriched by returning to your starting place? When I go back home, so many forgotten things seem to return.ReplyDelete
Oh Brother is one of my top favorite movies as well. “Gopher Everett?”
Group pressure has taken many innocents into the "purifying" waters of godly protection, if old enough to be pressured. And others willingly. I had a touch of the water to my temple at twenty two; drawn by a comfort in ritual and the promise of everlasting folk music.
For a while there the Monterey Episcopals (episcopalis with a nod to OBWAT) had me. However, three things quickly became apparent: 1) folk mass wasn’t going to be everlasting at that church, 2) the oft re-written little black book and I couldn’t find a meeting of heart and mind, and 3) I needed to lead with my left brain more often, rather than diving into quicksand simply because it had sandcastle potential.
These days my heart serves as my spiritual compass, and keeps good time. An internal folk music of sorts. And the greater spirit? I’m pretty sure I hear it when the breeze is in the trees. Smell it in the flowers. Trust my instincts. And when led to just the right places, like your blog. And Alison of course.
Chris, This is probably the best response I've ever received for a post. It's beautifully written. I love what you've shared of your own experiences. "The promise of everlasting folk music." Love that. ditto the sandcastle potential. Chris, you need to write more. I remember your post on your grandmother and how beautifully written it was. You really have a wonderful voice and style.ReplyDelete
I agree, the Church of the Blue Dome, as Opus and Steve called it. It's that sense of being led flawlessly when we Listen to our hearts that spells Spirit, to me. Thank you so much for this, dear friend. Big Hug.