When I was twelve, I was “saved” and baptized in Jesus name in the Bible Belt of Texas. Hallelujah! I don’t remember the name of the church. I think it was Baptist. I remember crawling in a tank of cold water in a white moomoo the church had provided. I don’t remember the preacher, but he said some stuff, pinched my nose shut, and dunked me into the sin-erasing, Jesus approved H20. I was supposed to come up a new person, all holy and everything. But as the crowd clapped for me, I could only observe that I felt like the same old heathen I’d went in as.
I’d heard enough sermons and had been in enough Sunday school classes to learn the general gist of this whole religion thing. God loves us. Jesus died for our sins. There’s no way to heaven except through Christ. Oh, and you have to be baptized, too. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all one but not really. God hates sin and is an angry judge. God wants sacrifice and suffering in order to show Him we’re serious about this whole deal. We have to have faith in Him. We all killed Jesus because we couldn’t be good enough. You have to believe in order to gain salvation, and you can’t earn it, but you’d better behave yourself nonetheless. Even if no one else loves us, God does, and that should be enough by God! You’d better apologize to God a lot and mean it, not like the shitty apologies we give our parents or brothers and sisters. So in summation, God really loves us until you piss Him off, and then He’ll smite the shit out of you.
Well OK. The message was about as simple as herding cats. There were just too many inconsistencies in my mind. Here we have God, who set us up to fail just so He could come down and whack us for doing badly? Then – THEN – to add insult to injury, He has to send His only Son to die because we all suck at something that we had no chance of being good at? This was the most problematic of the whole thing for me - that God would kill his son. This made zero sense even though the preachers explained it over and over. Jesus had to die so God could forgive our sins and we could go to heaven. But why? God wasn't big enough to forgive us anyway? He just didn't have that in Him? God needed something to hold over our heads? There needed to be a sacrifice to cleanse us of our sins? Buy WHY was that necessary? Because, they told me. Because we said so.
That didn’t sound very legit to me, and I sure didn’t feel His love in my heart like everybody said I should. What I felt was fear, and while the biggest part of me didn’t understand all these things, I sure wasn’t going to be the sorry schlub that missed the heaven bus just because I didn’t believe in this nonsense.
After the baptism, I didn’t feel any different, and looking back I had no real concept of what I was doing. Someone said I should do it. The other kids my age were doing it. People looked at you in judgment if you didn’t do it. What I understood of being saved was that, where I’d previously been a heathen, I could no longer behave as such. I would feel convicted and turn away from all that fun sin to be holy and serious all the time. God would be watching me and keeping score, punishing or rewarding me according to what I’d done right or wrong. The new Father of mine was a strict one apparently, and I was really afraid to mess it all up. Immediately afterward and for many years to come I didn’t feel good about this "salvation". If anything, the experience caused me intense shame and low self-esteem, as I was unable to live up to these lofty, divine expectations.
Years later, when I was twenty-seven, I decided to give this saving thing another shot. I’d apparently done it wrong the first time. I was going to a church that gathered under the Fourth Street Bridge on I-35. It was a come one, come all, brings your hookers and drug dealers kind of church. I liked that everyone seemed to be accepted and not judged. I thought that’s where Jesus would be if He were here on Earth. I readily signed up for the next round of baptisms coming in the next couple of weeks.
When the day came, I joined the rest of the slovenly sinners down at the Brazos River. Finally I was going to do this thing, for real this time, and be the new person everyone had promised. I waited my turn in a long line of heathens snaking down to the water’s edge. I closely scrutinized the faces of each heathen as they emerged from the water, brand new children in Christ. They indeed seemed full of joy and apparently infused with the Holy Spirit. This was the real deal!
When it came my turn, the preacher took hold of me, said some stuff, and then dunked me in the frigid water of the murky Brazos. I came up gasping, anticipating the Holy Spirit to jump right on in at any second. But nothing happened.
I trudged my way out of the muddy river empty-handed. I stood by a tree waiting for the Holy Spirit to find me, but hypothermia set in instead. After a while I determined that I just must have done too many bad things for God to want to keep company with me. I was sure He was still watching me though, marking giant red F’s on my report card. Meanwhile, the prostitute just to the left of me looked positively giddy. She threw her hands in the air. “Praise Jesus!”
It’s not nice to give people the evil eye on the day of their seriously awesome salvation, so I took my cold, wet ass home and drank wine. I just didn’t get it. I believed all the stuff I was supposed to believe. God just didn’t like me.
My preacher framed the photos of my baptism and presented me with it at church the next Sunday. I never went back to that church, or any other for that matter, unless someone was getting married or died. I did hang the picture up in the hallway just in case the Holy Spirit decided to show up. It would look bad if that picture wasn’t hanging proudly on the wall. Every time I passed the frame in the hall, I’d examine it carefully. Did God not like what I was wearing? Did I not dunk properly? Did I not ask Him to save me in the right way? I quit doing that after a while, though. What was the use? I finally resorted to flipping the picture off every time I passed it. I wasn’t flipping God off, but rather, myself. I had been oh so bad – too bad, apparently.
You may be wondering what all this has to do with the Law of Attraction. Trust me, I'm going somewhere with this. Stick around for Part 3 of the Law of Attraction where we talk about the most non-religious salvation ever! Don't forget to put in your two cents, and have a happy Monday or else.