Looking back, I can see that my feverish dabbling into fundamentalist Christianity lasted only about two years, maybe slightly longer. I was not really interested in going to church anyway, but went only because a friend asked me to, and I was lonely and bored, so why not?
After many sessions of subtle and not so subtle manipulation by the adults of the congregation, who made sure I was properly frightened into loving Jesus, I was 'saved' dunked into water and born again. After that I spent that year and a few extra months stoned on my own brain chemistry, and pretty much making an insufferable ass out of myself.
With every chemical induced trip comes the fall, whether that chemical be artificial or produced by the brain itself. And when I came to my senses, I found myself committing the ultimate blasphemy. I walked out of church in the middle of a sermon. I slammed the doors behind me, got into my car and drove away, spinning gravel all over their new parking lot. I drove to a small cemetery in the country, tossed my books and pamphlets into the trash and danced with wild abandon.
Throwing off the shackles of a religion that didn't suit me was one of the happiest moments of my young life.
The church congregation never came in search of me. And thirty years later, when I ran into the church deacon and his wife, and I offered my hand for him to shake (which was the custom) he looked at it as if I had shat into it. I think that they were as happy to be shed of me as I was of them.
The year was 1977. In May I abandoned the fundamentalist conservative church in favor of what they would have considered to be a life of apostasy. I considered it a life.
I had gone to college, had a part time job in the biology department. Made friends whose interests reflected mine. My new best friend was a member of a science fiction club, and her husband was into Eastern Religions. We talked until dawn about various Eastern philosophies, and martial arts. From him, I learned some rudimentary akido and t
My love for Kwan Yin was founded about that time as well.
My step mother was highly displeased with my fascination with Buddhism,(the college library had a small section that I raided and read what scraps I could find) and although she didn't voice it often, I could tell by the disapproving expression she had when she caught me meditating. Again, I used the excuse of Bible scripture to explain what I was meditating on. What I was really meditating on was the quotes I had, a few years earlier, taken from the monks from the television series Kung Fu.
What she did do, was demand I start attending church again. With her and Dad. They were members of a nondenominational sect of Christianity, which, to me stank of Pentecostalism. Which made sense to me, as both of them came from that background. The thing is, I really really hated the Pentecostal church and wanted nothing to do with it. Also, I finally tasted freedom from the Church of Christ and realized quite suddenly that God himself hadn't come down to personally slap the breath out of me. So life was good.
I also realized that at 18, I had come of age. I could legally tell my parents to get stuffed. Which I did.
So, when Mom came into the living room and saw that I was not only NOT dressed and ready for church, I hadn't bothered to get dressed at all, but was still in my jammies reading the Sunday funnies, she blew a fuse.
She demanded I get dressed. I told her flatly I wasn't going.
That's when she blew an entire breaker box.
I'm not going, I told her again, rattling the paper as I turned the page. I took a sip of coffee, and continued my reading, without realizing I had taken the exact same stance my father did when he stubbornly refused to do something.
I half expected her to yank the paper out of my hand and drag me kicking and screaming down the hallway, but she didn't. Instead, she made a helpless entreaty to my father, who told her to leave me alone. If I didn't want to go to church, I didn't have to.
That was a battle happily won. And Dad, for once, was firmly on my side.
Sure, the scared little Church of Christ girl inside of me felt all squeamish and guilty. Wasn't I supposed to honor my parents? Wasn't I going to hell for refusing Jesus?
I had already had that conversation with myself the night before I left the church for good. As far as the Church of Christ was concerned, as a female, I was never truly saved, only safe. And that safety could only be extended because I was under the care of my father. That safety would continue after I was married. I figured after my last set of prayers, that if I was going to hell simply for being female, then there was no real reason to be Christian at all.
So the newly minted adult me won, letting the scared little girl me whimper in the corner, until she figured out for herself that God was not going to blast me out of existence for defying my stepmother. Afterwards, she danced.
I figured there would be a full blown riot about it after they got home from church. But no such thing happened. Instead, my mom sat down with me and told me something that shocked me. She told me that when she was growing up, she had all she could stand of her parents religion. She was sick of the kids at school teasing her about her lack of makeup, super long hair, skirts to the floor and stockings. One day, she out of spite and rebellion, she went into the bathroom with a large pair of scissors and whacked off her hair. Her eldest sister caught her with her hair all bobbed off, and told her that Mother was going to kill her when she saw what T had done. About that time her mother stepped into the bathroom, saw T's hair bobbed off, the rest cast off onto the floor. Instead of losing her temper, she simply took her to the beauty salon and got her hair properly cut. She was also given modern clothes and makeup. She didn't have to attend church any more if she didn't want to.
She further went on to say she was very sorry for yelling at me. She had my best interests at heart, and told me that she understood my rebellion but to be careful in how far I went with it. (which usually meant that whatever I did, it better not result in a pregnancy.) I promised her it would not. And I returned to the practices I loved most dearly. Which I did, joyfully.
She knows I am Buddhist. She knows I love her totally and completely. She has accepted me for who I am. I know she's disappointed and afraid for my soul. Butshe has come to accept. I am so very fortunate to have her in my life. How she'll feel when she finds out I want to become ordained will remain to be seen. But I think she'll still love me, regardless. I'm still setting space that she'll be happy for me.
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