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Friday, September 23, 2011


Religion was easy, growing up as a preacher’s kid. It was all laid before me. The only difficulty was in being devout enough and active enough to appease my Dad. Take for example the evening I didn’t want to go to the MYF (Methodist Youth Fellowship) meeting, and said so. Dad told me in many words how disappointed he was in me, but I stuck to my guns. After Dad left for the meeting, my brother Paul looked at me with a disgusted face and quietly said, “You don’t think much of Dad, do you?”

Then there were times that I overdid it. Methodists don’t have altar calls often, where people in the congregation are asked somehow to express their conversion before witnesses, but one day I expressed mine. Dad was elated. That week, while riding with Dad in the car, he stopped for a hitchhiker, and the fellow got in and sat down in the back seat. Dad felt the urge to witness to him, and began by saying proudly, “My son here just became a Christian.” All sincerity aside, I found myself cringing and sliding down a bit in my seat. As time went by, I slipped back into being the occasional disappointment.

Finally away from home, in the Army, in Korea, some correspondents I met through placing an ad in an underground paper sent me some gifts, including two books--Nausea by Jean Paul Sartre, and the Bhagavad Gita. Here were books differing with Christianity, and it was almost like, but not as fun as, coming upon a copy of Charles Addams’ Monster Rally in our barn. Jean Paul Sartre was an atheistic existentialist, and the Bhagavad Gita is a Hindu classic. I loved the way Nausea began, but, although I’ve tried twice, gave up trying to get through it. The Bhagavad Gita just seemed like a hard-to-read fairy tale, and I couldn’t get through that either.

Nevertheless these books sparked my pleasure of rebellion, as did my frequent drug use, and somehow I managed to learn of the Church of the Awakening, founded by John and Louisa Aiken in Socorro, New Mexico, and get a hold of their 83-page manual, Explorations in Awareness. This I could read, and, with no suggestion from them, felt inclined to donate $5 each month to their church through much of my tour overseas. But since LSD was hard to obtain in Korea, I eventually lost my enthusiasm for this religion.

Eventually I slid into relativity, and began thinking that whatever religion I choose for myself, is true for me. In other words, absolute truth does not exist, or at best, doesn’t matter. This makes as much sense to me now as being Tinkerbell’s disciple does, but you might be surprised to learn how many seemingly intelligent people actually believe in relativism.

Once a person gets into this mode, anything goes. I decided to be a Taoist. That sounded cool, and I felt privileged to learn that “Tao” is pronounced “Dow.” Of course I bought an English copy of the Tao Te Ching to study, and tried my best to make heads and tails of hubs and wheel spokes and flow like a river. Visiting an old friend after returning to civilian life and settling down with a good job, I tried to tell him about my new-found religion, and he just sat there looking incredulous and shaking his head. I resented that, but really felt like a fool resenting reason. All he had to do was shake his head a little bit, without verbally disputing Taoism, to plant the seeds of my discontent.

I realized I was, deep down, still more Christian than anything, and so happily got and perused Frank Mead’s Handbook of Denominations. This was really cool. It was like Christianity’s shopping center. I could make up what I’d like to believe, then page through the book and find a denomination that agreed with me. I could create God in my own image, and find a gang to hang out with who also liked my image. I could be a relativist and a Christian at the same time!

I got married during this confusion, and Micki and I ended up spending years church-hopping. We would think we found the perfect church, at first, but then things would begin to fall apart, sometimes to the point of ostracization. When a bunch of people try to create God in their own image, and then gather together, they become to each other a sort of annoyance and interference. Two people never draw exactly the same picture.

Somewhere amidst this mess, we ran across the sister of one of my childhood friends, who turned out to be Baha’i. When she later confided to me that she used to be afraid of my Dad, I should have known better. Nobody could be afraid of such a loving man. Anyway Micki and I got sucked into this break-off sect of Islam. Even Islamics hate and persecute Baha’is. And being in this young religion, we felt sort of like the disciples must have felt in the early Christian church, except that, in Baha’i, Jesus is relegated to merely one of a line of prophets, and the new and final one is a now-deceased man by the name of Baha’u’llah. There are many Baha’i books, containing very flowery writing, and most of them are somewhat pleasing. I’m very grateful that when I joined the faith the local Baha’is were generous enough to skip some of the more elementary books and present me with the Synopsis and Codification of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas (Baha’i’s most holy book). I won’t go into my terrible regrets and embarrassments, but suffice it to say, if you’re ever tempted to join this religion, you’ll save a lot of time and money and face by reading the Synopsis and Codification of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas first. After my disillusionment, and remembering some of my reading, I asked the sister of my childhood friend a question. Baha’i respects most all the prophets of the various religions throughout history--Abraham, Krishna, Zoroaster, Moses, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad among them--believing them to be honest and true messengers of God leading up to the last prophet, Baha’u’llah. So I asked, “Muhammad claimed to be the last prophet. Where does that put Baha’u’llah?” And the sister of my childhood friend said, matter-of-factly, “Muhammad was the last prophet of the Adamic cycle.” Micki and I left Baha’i.

I thought I could do better. I sat down and lay down and pondered over ideas, and finally came up with Gatrystarism. The word meant, to me, “Love Truth Harmony,” and this religion described God as that: The Harmony of Love and Truth. In a sense, it turned out to be a play on the Trinity, although I didn’t notice it at the time. After formulating a bunch of ideas and arranging them into some sort of form, I proudly explained my new religion to Micki. She listened patiently, then said quietly and simply, “If you can believe in that, why can’t you believe in Christianity?” Micki has always been very wise.

I went back into Frank Mead’s Handbook of Denominations and we hopped onward from church to church. After a lot of misery, we finally tried returning to my roots--the Methodist church--and I even wondered at becoming a Methodist minister. But there are some facts that Micki and I have taken for granted--one of them being the sanctity of life. And the United Methodist Church had become so “out there” in its acceptance of contemporary ideas that I, who owned a complete set of the works of Methodism’s founder, John Wesley, had trouble seeing Methodism’s continuity. Finally I learned that the United Methodist Church’s “pro-choice” position was the result of a vote in its general conference. I wrote a letter to the local Methodist minister, telling of our concern, and that you cannot vote on sin. He responded, by letter, saying how disappointed he was in me, having thought that I was a Spirit-led person in his church.

And so we hopped on, to denominations supposedly more loyal to John Wesley. Good grief.

I was in a bad way when Micki went on vacation to southern California where she grew up, where friends now taught her more about the Catholic Church. And, in months to follow, I was becoming an agnostic while she was becoming a Catholic. You can read the details in I Wrote the Bible.

Then you can read what happened in A Letter Telling of My Catholic Conversion. After a lifetime of confusion, I became tired of trying to find perfection in groups that had been presented with the fullness of Christianity but then threw out what parts they disagreed with or weren’t comfortable with, to become separate listings in Frank Mead’s Handbook of Denominations. Instead of trying to tell the truth, I accepted Truth. Instead of getting God, I gave myself to Him.

And so the Catholic Church is perfect? Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Give me a break. The divine revelation of God is perfect, but His church is made up of human beings, and perfect human beings are not on the highways and in the supermarkets of today. And it’s good finally to realize that I’m human, and that God is God.

If you liked this post, you may also enjoy the following:
I'll Tell You a Secret
I Wrote the Bible
For the complete contents of the Butter Rum Cartoon, click here.

1 comment:

  1. This is as good a description of the primary truth of the Catholic Church as I've seen. I had many similar experiences after my "awakening" to my spiritual self. If one is honestly and rationally seeking the True God, there is no place to end up but the Catholic Church. Cousin Jim