Religion is one of those things I think about a great deal. At times I obsess over it. Now, I’m not talking about faith. Faith is something I don’t worry about. I’ve got faith in spades, up the wazoo, coming out my ears. Religion, though, seems much more subjective.
As a kid I was exposed to opposing experiences in Christianity. Through my paternal grandparents I was introduced to the Pentecostal Church. Faith healers, speaking in tongues, arms raised in praise and dancing in the aisles to an exuberantly played piano, were de rigueur in Sunday services. Every time I visited I left a bit worried I’d be left behind in the Rapture that they assured me was coming any day. That’s a scary thought for a little kid. I had nightmares for years and flat refused to read that once popular Left Behind series.
In my maternal grandparents’ Primitive Baptist Church, services were much more restrained. There was no instrumental music, and every line of every hymn was intoned with what seemed a lack of enthusiasm. The sermons seemed interminable, as well, but I wasn’t allowed to complain or squirm–my great grandfather was the minister. And while there was some hellfire and brimstone preaching it was done more in lesson form, for the promise and security of predestination were deeply ingrained in all the members. I left church each time fervently hoping that I had more Primitive Baptist blood in me than Pentecostal, even if their services were much less interesting.
That’s the New Salem Primitive Baptist Church of Floydada, Texas, below, where I spent many Sundays.
To confuse matters further, my parents raised my brothers and me in southern Baptist Churches where services were much less somber than those of the Primitive Baptists, but a good deal more sedate than those at the Pentecostal meetings. In the Southern Baptist churches we had to get saved to go to heaven, and the Book of Revelation was mentioned quite often, but no one made me think that I’d be forgotten on the day the trumpets sounded. The organ and/or piano accompanied hymns were better, too. And instead of having to sing every verse, we generally only sang the first, second and fourth verses.
The carousel of religious choices in my life was often confusing. Why did parishioners in one church have to sing a cappella? How come we could celebrate in the aisles in one service, but would be frowned upon if we did it in another? Did God care how we worshipped? Was I truly going to be left behind or could I relax in knowing that my name had been written in the Book of Life from my birth?
As an adult I seldom go to church, but when I do I attend a progressive Methodist service. And, I love going to Catholic mass with my mother-in-law when we visit her in Texas. In both cases there’s a steadiness to the worship that calms and reassures me.
If you’ve lasted this long in reading this you might wonder what prompted my post. Well, on Monday afternoon I was driving home from Tallahassee as a thunderstorm threatened. Towering cumulonimbus clouds promised one heck of a storm, but there was a break in the clouds through which a golden column of sun shone through. My thoughts instantly went back to the days when I was pretty sure everyone around me was going to be gathered up and raptured into the heavens leaving me behind. I guess some lessons, especially those invoking fear, never die.
I’m still here. Are you?
(By the way, I found the amazing cloud photos on Pinterest.)