Friday, January 11, 2013

Inevitability (Part the First)

I figured this day would come. It was inevitable. And the topic of "Religion" has been much on my mind lately. So let's jump in and see where this goes. I have an idea about where I want to take this topic, but sometimes these things have a mind of their own. Who knows where we might wind up?

I stopped going to church when I was around 18 years of age. The age where you are absolutely sure that you know everything and are amazed that those older than you have either forgotten the things you know, or never knew them to begin with.

Of course, my parents were not pleased. My Dad in a pro forma kind of way, as he was most definitely what is known as a "C & E" - one who goes to church at Christmas and at Easter, period. Unless it's for a funeral or a wedding. And that doesn't really count.

So Dad was primarily displeased because Mom was displeased. Dad said nothing, knowing full well that his smart-a$$ oldest son (that would be me) might throw it back at him. Though both of us knew full well that for me to do that would incur my Mother's wrath. Odd, looking back, how as a very young boy, I feared the anger of my Father. As I got older it was almost a rite of passage to incur that anger.

But my Mom, I would never, ever knowingly make her angry. Not out of fear, but what normal boy would ever want to anger his mother? Mom, the one who nurtured you, fed you, comforted you when you were sick. Perhaps it's a son to mother relationship. I don't really know.

All that aside, my outright refusal to continue to attend religious services hurt her deeply. I didn't know it at the time. I know now.

So for many years, Sunday was just another day of the weekend. Another day to sleep in and, in the fall, watch football. Until that day, not long after I retired from the Air Force, when the Missus Herself announced that we would be attending divine services on the coming Sunday. Your Humble Scribe was a bit stunned by this seemingly out-of-the-blue statement from the woman I had married.

YHS: Uh, what?

TMH: You heard me, we're going to church this Sunday.

YHS: Umm, where? And, uh, why?

TMH: I saw this lovely little church down on the town common. We're going there. Because I want to. (And yes, our little New England town actually has a real live town common.)

YHS: You want to? (As you can see, my side of this conversation was lacking. In so many ways.)

TMH: Yes. Since you retired things are different. I don't know anybody in this town and I just feel lonely. I need something. So we're going to church Sunday.

YHS: No, we most certainly are not! (Good idea. Get angry and raise your voice. That "always" works.)

TMH: *Unbelievable glaring stare*

YHS: *Deer in the headlights look*

TMH: *The look an African lioness gets just before the gazelle's last moments of life play out.*

YHS: Okay. If it means that much to you, we'll go to freaking church. (Oh, nice touch that last bit. I can be SUCH an idiot at times.)

TMH: Let's get in the car. I'll show you where it is.

Get in the car we did. Show me where it was she did. Grudgingly I had to admit that it was a very nice looking church. It is a small stone chapel built in 1811, apparently from ballast stones from cargo ships (so the local story goes).

To make a long story short, we went to church that Sunday. And for many Sundays thereafter. But for a long time we wouldn't go downstairs to the "Fellowship Hour" after church. In those days I was not very keen on meeting people. Well, not just any people, I had absolutely NO desire to meet (ahem) civilian people.

Perhaps after 24-years I was just not interested in talking with people who hadn't served. Or more properly, whom I assumed hadn't served. This was one case where the old saying about that word "assume" applied. At least partially, for I was definitely being an ass, no other parties were involved in my assumptions.

One day, the Pastor (more on him in a moment) mentioned the military service of many of our parishioners. I kind of sat up and took notice. The Missus Herself was shocked, nearly stunned when I leaned over to her during the service and suggested we "go downstairs" after the service. Which we did.

Again, to make a long story short. We began getting to know our fellow parishioners. Many of whom were indeed veterans. We got along famously and we all became fast friends. I don't exaggerate when I say all. These folks are now the nearest thing to family I have in the local area. In fact, regardless of the lack of blood ties, they are family.

Now that Pastor, Pastor Fred Gilbert as a matter of fact, and his wife Betty became two of our greatest friends here in our little coastal town. Though they were both rather older than we were, at the time we were in our 40's they in their late 60's-early 70's, we got along famously. Went to dinner, a lot, and would get together for other various and sundry events.

Church was now a highlight of the week. But it was a social thing, not a religious thing. That was a problem, though not a problem I recognized at the time. And it was only a problem for me, no one else. But, as the WSO likes to say, "at least Mom got Dad to go to church!"

Then Fred retired. We got a new pastor, a younger fellow. He was very high-energy, very much the evangelical type (not that that's a bad thing). Church was booming. Lots of people at the services, lots of energy in the service. Your Humble Scribe started to have aspirations of actually becoming a member of this congregation. An actual, on paper member of a church.

Something which had caused my 18-year old rebellion all those years ago. Which went a little bit like this:

YHS: Sure I'd like to join the church.

Church: Excellent, we'll be starting a new class next week.

YHS: Classes?

Church: Yes, classes. Is that a problem?

YHS: Yes, it's a problem. What the hell do I need a class for? What was all that Sunday school stuff for? More classes. No. No thank you.

Yes, I had an issue at the time with having to go to a class in order to join the church. Of course, I had no idea what it meant to be a "Congregationalist" and also had no idea what all that was about. Mom and Dad were 
"Congregationalists", so I would be one too. What need have I of a class? (Uh, so you know what being a "Congregationalist" means. Dumbass.) That's something I know, now.

So when I broached the topic of joining the church with the new pastor, I was not shocked to discover that a class would be involved. After all, I kind of knew what it meant to be a Baptist, but most certainly didn't know all of the requisite details, doctrine, specific beliefs, secret handshake (just kidding on that one). So the Missus Herself and I were scheduled to attend this class along with another couple and the pastor's wife (she came from a different denomination, you know, different secret handshake and all that. I'm kidding already!)

Now apparently there are three ways to join the Baptist church: by declaration of faith, by letter of transfer, by baptism or by having a fanatical devotion to the pope. Uh, four ways, uh no...

Just the first three: declaration, transfer, baptism. That's it. Just. Those. Three.

So the pastor asked the Missus Herself and Your Humble Scribe which of the three we would prefer. The following ensued:

YHS: *Right hand raised, about to speak...*

TMH: We want to be baptized.

YHS: We do?

Pastor: *Looking from one to the other, very puzzled* Uh...

TMH: Yes, we do.

YHS: Yes, I reckon we do. *Shooting the Missus a quizzical look*

TMH: *Shooting me the old "shut up or die painfully look"*

: *Quietly sits back and says no more, being highly desirous of continuing to live*

So that decision, having been collectively made (HA!), we attended the class. We learned what it meant to be a Baptist (much to my delight, it's very simple and easy to remember, why it took four classes is beyond me, why I (SLAP), uh right. Yes, Dear. Back to the story.)

Anyone out there know why they call us Baptists? Anyone? Don't all talk at once. Alright, I'll tell you.

One of our core beliefs is that of total immersion baptism. No sprinkling. No wet fingers making crosses upon foreheads. None of that. Put your robe on and climb in. You are going to get wet, very wet.

Now I'm not sure how other churches do it, but we have a Baptismal pool. It sits under where the choir normally sits (and no I've never envisioned pulling a lever to cause the choir to fall through a trap door and into a tank full of... (SLAP). Okay, maybe once or twice.)

No wandering down to the bay or to a river or to a lake or some other outdoor (unheated) body of water. We have a pool. Which sounds like a good marketing thing. Until people also ask if the church has free HBO. Which might attract the wrong sort. (Or maybe the right sort, hate the sin, love the sinner and all that.)

So on the 2nd of February, in the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Three, I was baptized (again, as I had been sprinkled as a babe-in-arms, which doesn't count, for a Baptist) into the Baptist Church. Shortly after that, things went completely to Hell. Sort of.

Which I will continue in Inevitability (Part the Second). As this particular post is getting a bit, shall we say, longish. It's getting too big to manage, or to digest in one sitting. So I have determined that a second part is not only "nice to have" but mandatory.

Stay tuned.


  1. I envy people of faith, and I mean that. I'm more akin to your 18-year-old self than anything else. That said, I call myself a Buddhist (and was officially recognized as such by an act o' the US Gub'mint). The Second Mrs. Pennington, she who knows me BEST, in a comment to one of my Buddhist posts said "In the strangest ways, you are Buddhist."

    So, there ya go.

    1. Heh. If it's on your dog tags, then it must be real. Mine said "Protestant", to which my Captain remarked, "There's the truth Sarge, you protest everything. Too bad they can't stamp "Asshole" on your tags, even closer to the truth." But I was younger then. Much younger.

      For grins I did the book thing, FWIW, "Huck Finn". Very pleased with myself I am.

    2. That "What Book Are You?" quiz thingie is one of my all-time favorites, and I do a lot of those quizzes. EIP's readers liked it, too.

  2. Sarge-Too funny. Looking forward to part deux. Love your comments by your Captain :-)

    Buck-you might appreciate Jesus before other Gods by Ravi Zacharias or his most recent book Why Jesus. I highly recommend both. He grew up in a nominally Christian household with marked Hindu overtones since he was born in India.

    1. Thanks jib, I really appreciate that. Think I'll check out those books too, they sound interesting.

    2. Thanks for the recommendation, jib.

  3. Happy reading you two. The first Ravi book I read was Deliver us from Evil. Also a good book


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