Growing up in rural Western North Carolina, my soul was in constant danger and I walked around utterly ignorant of it.
Luckily, I met plenty of people who wanted to save it for me. At the very least, they would warn me that there was little anyone could do for me unless I let the Holy Spirit in.
Of course, this could only happen in crowded churches, where people were “saved” by sobbing away their sins and yelling “Amen!” and “Hallelujah!”
I once went to a service with my best friend in elementary school. Lou Lou’s family went to a church that was formerly a daycare center her mom operated. It was a one-level, gray building made of cinder blocks.
The morning we went, I wasn’t familiar with the routine of prayer and song, so there were awkward moments of lip-syncing and mumbling what I thought others around me were saying. But things took a turn for the worst when the “minister” with a hot face, sweating righteous bullets, screamed out, “I hate Jews, and they can all go to hell!”
It seemed to come out of nowhere, but, in all fairness, I had not been listening to him for at least 20 minutes and perhaps missed the incline to this odd climax. I probably wouldn’t have even noticed if it were not for his hand slamming down on the podium and shouting his declaration to the heavens.
It was common practice in my hometown to point out all the people going to hell for various reasons, relating them back to the truths of the Bible. The more I listened to the followers of the “Good Book” the more I thought it suspect, or at the very least, an oxymoron.
However, I still found myself trying to fit in somewhere in the faith and spiritual world.
So, I have searched in different places over the years to find a belief system that truly resonates with me.
But while I have found certain aspects of different religions that I could piece together to make something I could accept, there has never been “the one.” I don’t think there is one, at least, not for everyone. I think our ides of spirituality, of good and bad, right and wrong, are (and should be) too complicated to neatly wrap into one perfect bundle.
Regardless, one of the most important lessons I learned from one angry pastor decades ago is that it is not worth my time to hate a religion or the people who follow it.
I thank him, however inadvertently, for teaching me that.