theological sandbox

Sunday, July 17, 2005

retraction of faith?, part one

At times, the way I was brought to "faith" in Christ makes me outraged and makes me want to retract my original acceptance and profess anew. I put faith in "quotes" because I'm not entirely sure that it was faith I was brought to (athough I am there now). I think I may have done it more out of peer pressure/emotional manipulation/sheer terror than anything. The kind of Christianity I grew up in was based in scare tactics, manipulation, and a bunch of teachings that I now find to be pretty much off-base. If I had a dollar for every time someone told me I was going to Hell, for every time I had to sit through a sermon on fire & brimstone, for every time someone cornered me about getting saved, or for every time I was reminded that Jesus was coming again soon and if I didn't get saved, I would be left behind to suffer (with no hope of repenting), I would be a filthy rich person. Albeit a filthy rich person who gives a lot of money to charity.

By the standards of many whom I grew up around, I held out for a loooooooong time. Twelve years, if you're wondering. That's close to or under the age that most children go through Confirmation or Bat/Bar Mitzvah. Conversions and subsequent baptisms at the age of five or six weren't too uncommon in my area. I don't know why I held out so long; maybe I subconsciously knew it was wrong, maybe it was the rebellious streak in me, or maybe it was that I was just stubborn, although I think it was probably a combination of the three. Throughout my life, I distinctly remember 45 minute sermons on salvation (although usually any topic could bring about this pastoral response) followed by prolonged altar calls, usually involving the pastor proclaiming "Someone needs to get saved! I can feel it, I can feel it! If you're under conviction -- and I know you are -- just walk down this aisle here and accept the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior!" while the congregation sings 17 verses of "Just As I Am".

I finally caved when I was about 12. Maybe 11, but at least 11 1/2. I know people that would be horrified that I cannot remember the exact date, time, year, and et cetera when I accepted Christ. I only know that it was a Friday night, sometime in the summer and that's only because it was the last night of Vacation Bible School: the night when the pastor gathers all the kiddos who seem to be old enough to decide to accept Christ (after a week of education, most of it about Bible stories and not about the Christian life).

Well, I thought I was going to make it without caving, and I nearly did -- I was one of the last (if not the last) to walk down the aisle. I went because I couldn't stand what the sight of about 15 of my friends (and not-quite-enemies) kneeling and sobbing in the front of the church did to me. I thought it was because I "wanted what they had" but looking back, what was there to want? Nobody looked any happier for it until someone congratulated them afterward with a humongous smile and let them know they should be happy. The sight of it all tore me apart and made me cry; apparently thinking that I could stop that feeling if I went forward, I left my seat and my sin. I'll not bore you with the details -- it was the pretty standard conversion, complete with The Sinner's Prayer.

Side note: out of everybody who got saved at the same time as me -- about 15 of us -- I'm the only one still practicing Christianity.. but PRAIIIZE JEEEZUZ we got some more souls into the Kingdom!

You may wonder (or sympathize) at why I'm so outraged at this method, so outraged that at times I feel like retracting that conversion and making a new commitment (I have no intentions on discontinuing my Christian life). It's because I didn't truly make a decision to follow Christ, I made a decision to follow the masses and to let my emotions dictate my actions. I wasn't really taught about what the Christian life entailed, nor was I until much, much later; neither was I seen as a full member of the church once it happened. I was "just a child", which was ok for a bit but particularly frustrating while I was a teenager telling off people for calling me a child; in my mind, teenagers are NOT the same people as three year olds and should be treated accordingly. This was also especially frustrating when I was 19/20 and my responsibilities had completely changed, but nobody bothered to tell me. It's also because once I made my conversion, I still had to go through these @#*^@&* altar calls on a frequent basis. The emotions and conviction didn't leave me; now I was still called to go forward in an effort to encourage others to go forward. In fact, I definitely remember being urged to "rededicate my life" if I felt the Holy Spirit's moving, which was supposed to feel like your heart racing. I think that's more of a medical thing, possibly high blood pressure, and most people probably had that "feeling" because of too much fried chicken at the last fellowship supper.

I think my rant has went long enough for one day and I'll continue this in a day or few.


  • I hear you, sister.
    I'm a cradle Southern Baptist who moved to New England as a young woman and developed a whole new theological identity in the United Church of Christ. There are many ways of doing church and being the Church, and you are truly engaged in a thoughtful exploration.
    My prayers go with you.

    By Blogger Songbird, at 3:22 PM  

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