Infancy – Age 10, “Be a good little girl or you’ll go to Hell”
It started with the infant baptism “just in case,” then to Baptist preschool to teach me how to be “moral” person. Weird thing was, my parents weren’t religious, and didn’t go to church themselves so why did they baptize me and send me to a religious preschool?
My mom was a cultural Christian and when I asked her what religion we were she said “Presbyterian,” though her dad was a non-practicing Catholic and mom a non-practicing member of the Church of England.
My dad was an ex-Mormon (and is now a Mormon again). I never figured out the whys and hows of my dad’s exit from the LDS church but he must have done something really bad to be kicked out (like marry a non-Mormon, perhaps?) Regardless, there was the Book of Mormon laying around and a painting of praying Caucasian Jesus that I voluntarily put above my bed when I was a teen.
Regarding the Baptist preschool, my mom took me out of the school after she saw that I was being taught that I would go to Hell if I wasn’t a good little girl. She would tell me later, “I thought it was a bit much for a preschooler to take.” Ya think?
Ages 10 – 14, Religious Friends expose me to church
I don’t remember any significant exposure to Christianity between the ages of 5 and 10. Around 10 years old I started developing close friendships and between the ages of 10 and 14 it seemed as if nearly all my friends were Catholic, with some Jewish friends mixed in there as well.
I got invited to religious services a lot. I went to mass. I went to temple. Once I went to a Protestant church. My parents weren’t too fond of my going to church and that was okay with me because I hated it. It seemed…fake.
My friends kept hinting that something was really wrong with my parents not taking me to religious services. One girl told me I needed to let Jesus into my heart and that freaked me out. I thought she was delusional and it scared me. It was scary.
I annoy my parents with philosophical questions
It got me asking questions, though. I annoyed my parents with questions such as, What is the meaning of life? Does God exist? Who made God?
My mother was dismissive. My father seemed to not want to talk about it, although he handed me a Book of Mormon. My mother, seeing my dad’s Book of Mormon in my room said, “No, don’t read that. Here, have this” She handed me her King James Version Bible that was given to her by her grandmother. I talked with my friends and they all told me the Book of Mormon was weird and that I should read the Bible, so I did.
Reading the Bible
I should say I didn’t read it because my friends told me to. These were the same friends who were insisting I go to the religious ceremonies that made me so uncomfortable. I was mostly just insanely curious why it was such a popular book and whether it held the answers to life.
I decided to open up my KJV Bible after I saw the movie Ben Hur, which very much moved me. So, at the age of 13 and 14 I read the complete Pentateuch, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes (which was my favorite), and Revelation, KJV style. I had no idea what the hell I was reading or any of the context. I think I just…liked the way the language flowed, maybe?
It got to me asking more questions such as, What is ‘circumcision’? My mom was supremely uncomfortable answering that question.
And What is an ‘idol’? And Why does God keep killing people? My parents did not answer these questions to my satisfaction so I kept reading.
I asked my mom, If you can’t answer my questions can you buy me that teen Bible I saw in the store? She asked, Wouldn’t you like this poster of Leonardo DiCaprio instead? I said No. I was obsessed with finding The Truth. Leo could wait, plus I was more an Elijah Wood fan anyway.
Ages 15-17, The decision to “accept Christ”
Being a military brat I moved around a lot and moved across the country from a midwestern state to a southern state between 9th and 10th grade. As I didn’t know anyone I felt relieved when a girl I kept seeing at the bus stop starting talking to me.
She invited me to her Nazarene church 5x and each time I had told her No. I really had had a bad impression of churches throughout my childhood, but I craved friendship so much, and was so lonely in this new place that was a cultural shock from my time in the midwest that I gave in.
We quickly became best friends and it was clear to me she only went to church because her parents made her and she wanted a friend to keep her company. For a couple years I went to church with her just once a month (just enough for church folks to not harass me for not going) but I hated it. I hated it because I’d ask intelligent, critical questions in Sunday School but got laughed at for not knowing the “correct” answers, and also because I didn’t know any of the songs nor the correct terminology.
Between 10th and 11th grade I attended the one-week overnight church camp because both my friends were going. I found the pastors to be goofy and out of touch with my interests (yes, I was a bit of a snob about the world revolving around me as a teen -shocker!)
During that one week many hours were spent pumping into our brains that Jesus, this perfect man, was tortured because of our sins. I kept asking myself what I did wrong that deserved that. My heart and mind was begging to understand. The songs about Jesus’ sacrifice poured on and each day there was an altar call. I never went to the front but with tears streaming down my face I told Jesus, “I accept you as my Savior.” I wanted the Truth and I wanted to fit in.
After that I felt changed, like I finally “got” what this Christian thing was about. However, I was a little odd in that my peers wanted to check out the guys while I just wanted to stay in my room and listen to DC Talk, Point of Grace, and read the Book of John. I had never read the New Testament before and I just ate it up. I was in an ecstatic frenzy. I could barely sleep! For the next few months I devoured most of the New Testament and all the Christian books and cd’s I could get my hands on.
Next time I’ll continue my conversion story, which is where I’ll write about becoming “born again” and my religious experiences as a Christian…