Wednesday, February 25, 2004
The Drink of God
If you believe my mother, she had wanted to be a minister when she was younger. And she sang in her church’s choir which, considering how tone deaf she’s been for my entire life, seems impossible. I don’t know where her faith lies today; none of our conversations touch on God or Jesus, except as they relate to politics.
I don’t know much about my father’s religious background, other than he was seemingly raised in a pagan world where worship included rolling around in the hay (literally) with the looser girls of rural New Hampshire. This continued into his early years with my mother (I’m, of course, referring to his screwing of loose women). But somewhere along the line, perhaps a decade or so ago, he found religion . . . kind-of. His brother found it first, and tried to spread the Word to my father, likely through his new wife, who was (and still is) a hardcore, 100% conservative Christian. But, lately, I sense he may have strayed from the Path. Again.
I was steered toward God early on. My first memory of church is when my parents sent me (at age five) in a van-load of strangers to one of the largest churches in Tallahassee. I distinctly remember freaking out and crying after the service. The church was huge, and I was afraid of getting lost. Soon after, I started attending Sunday school at a smaller church closer to our house.
In conjunction with this non-parental-participation religious upbringing, I was sent to summer camp. The first year (after fifth grade) was at a standard camp. But the next three summers, I went to camp at the First Baptist Church complex in downtown. Most of the time, it was just an ordinary summer camp with the expected activities. During the group functions, there would occasionally be a group sing-a-long of reverential standards, but it was mostly innocuous. Until the week they had Vacation Bible School. I think that might have killed any enthusiasm I ever had for organized religion.
For those five days, there was no swimming, no game room, no roller hockey, no racquetball, no field trips. It was all God, all the time. Now, I had excelled at Sunday school because, at my particular church, the Scriptures were taught in fun and interactive ways. Vacation Bible School was the antithesis of fun.
Maybe I wasn’t giving it a chance. I was, after all, in middle school. But deep down, I don’t think I was getting it. At about the same time, I’d moved on from only going to Sunday school to also attending the general church service. The pastor at the time was very charismatic, also serving as chaplain to the FSU football team. And as engaging as that was, I was slipping into apathy and agnosticism.
One Saturday when I was 12, I told my mom I wanted to stop going to church. She asked why, to which I replied, “I don’t think I believe in God anymore.”
It’s sad to think that this is all there is and that, as one of my friends once said, “we live, we die, and we rot in the ground.” I’ve always thought there was something more, but I’m not sure what that is, exactly. For a while, much of my beliefs centered around reincarnation and the Thousand Points of Light. Maybe they still do. In high school, I had a short-lived relapse after reading a book based on the predictions of Revelations.
So, now, with the new Mel Gibson flick out today, I’ve wondered if seeing that would be a life-altering experience. Would I reconsider my faith? Would I want to take a more active role in Mia’s religious life? Or would I just think it’s a gripping movie about the great man and prophet named Jesus?