Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Book vs The Soul, Part 1

Caveat: I've been "Christian" all my life. I put it in quotes because I've both been a practicing and non-practicing Christian, a church attender and a non-church attender. The views expressed here are my own view. YMMV.

OK, I'm Christian. Not sure I was totally born into it but if not I got there by being adopted into a house of Christian folk with room for a child only one birth parent wanted but couldn't keep and other birth parent didn't give a rip or whatever. I grew up going to Sunday School, Vacation Bible School and, yes, Church-with-a-capital-C once and sometimes twice a day. Most of the time there wasn't anything called "child care" during the service. When you were a kid you either sat in church with the big folks or somebody stayed home with you. You learned early to sit and behave -- or at least amuse yourself quietly while grown-ups listened to sermons and sang hymns.

Age 8 brought me to the door of Christianity via baptism. It was something I felt I needed to do as a result of the preaching of an elder cousin who was a minister preaching at a revival at our church. Mama questioned my commitment and wisely made me wait to officially walk down the side aisle and tell the preacher (our own preacher, a guy who lived in our garage apartment and who had his knees under our dining-room table as often as not) I wanted to accept Jesus as my Lord and personal Savior. After a few ritual questions while the congregation sang yet another verse of the interminable "Just As I Am", I was officially introduced to people who had known me all my life as someone who was becoming one of them in a different sense. I was baptized about a month later and began the harder work of being Christian.

As a kid, I figured I was supposed to bring other people to Jesus so I didn't hesitate to carry a Bible around, hoping someone would ask me about it. They didn't. Heck, most of them either went to my church or other churches around the area. Living in the Bible Belt in those days, just about everybody was either a church-goer or looked at askance and with subtle hints that Jesus was looking for them in church. Anyway, I read the Bible, went to Sunday School and Vacation Bible School just as I had before my baptism but this time when I went to Big Church (our word for sitting through the regular service)once a month  I could have a little square of bread and tiny glass thimbleful of grape juice "in Memory of Me" as the front of the communion table carving said. Quite often Mama was one of the ones who carefully cut the crusts off the Wonder Bread or Betty Lewis Bread, as we usually had that kind (besides, Mama could use the wax wrappers to curl my hair on Saturday nights) and carefully pour the grape juice into the little tiny cups before putting them in the silver trays to be taken to the church the next day.

I did all the church-y stuff growing up --- Bible studies, prayer meeting, teen group, adult choir (starting when I was about 12 because musically I was ready for it rather than the kids' choir), taught adult Sunday School on what was our equivalent of Youth Sunday once a year, taught Vacation Bible School, helped Daddy (the treasurer) count the coins in the collection plate for the day (he counted the bills), the whole nine yards. I gave up carrying a Bible around and trying to tell people about Jesus but I could find my way around the scriptures quite quickly thanks to  the "Sword Drills" we had. You started with your hands on top and bottom of your closed Bible with no fingers hanging over the edge to give you a little time-boost,  when someone gave a book, chapter and verse. When told to "Charge!" you moved as fast as you could to get to it before anyone else. It was a sort of status thing --- you couldn't have any markers to help you, you had to know about where in the Bible a book was located and then how far to go to find the rest of the citation. Thanks, though, to the experience and the emphasis on studying the Bible, even if there were only one accepted interpretation and one accepted translation. It made it easier for me later on in life when I really wanted to study and from a number of different translations and interpretations. At least I knew OT from NT, what books were in which, what classification they were and about what they had to say.

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